Showing posts with label city. Show all posts
Showing posts with label city. Show all posts

17 January, 2020

from Louisville: Another city on the make


There's a coffee shop walking distance from the shelter. These days I haunt coffee shops like I used to haunt bars. I went to Freddie's on Broadway because it was a cheap, cash only dive bar that asked no questions and only required people not to offend the general atmosphere. That place was also a wonderful archive of all things masculine from the 20th Century: hand drawn wrestling posters, beer steins, collector booze bottles from the 1970's, I hung out at Rubbie's because it's a neighborhood bar close to home, the happy hour prices are good, and the well bourbon was tolerably good. That bar was also a good bell weather for the last Presidential election.

Angry white men
trying to hold back
a changing world
like they grip their beer

Now I rotate between a handful of coffee shops in the city. When I'm scribing for pay or working on my own words, I go to noisy coffee shops, like the one close to where I live, or the one close to the shelter. When I'm meeting people, I go to one of two Heine Bros. On Bardstown Road because the white noise doesn't distract my ears from conversation. When I want to hang out and read, or talk to people who have also either stepped off or were pushed off the wide path , I go to Highland Coffee. They each have a thing I like better there than any other coffee shop. Heine Bros serves a turmeric chai with black pepper I really like. Highland has a nice selection of herbal teas and makes a cup of coffee. Sunergos, in my neighborhood, has the best cappuccino in the city and serves delicious cheddar chive drop biscuits that make for a good lunch.

Pockets of warmth
in an increasingly chilly cityscape
regardless of the season
regardless of the temperature.

Please & Thank You on Market and Shelby is a short walk from the shelter. They have wonderful herbal teas and the best blueberry lemon muffins in the city. I go there to scribe or to work, and to eat a muffin after I finish my short shift in the shelter coffee room. Lately I've run into K, a woman I met when I volunteered with one of the local homeless outreach organizations. She's usually sitting out front, a few steps off to the side away from the corner. When I can afford to, I get her a cup of coffee. Sometimes she's flying a sign. Sometimes she's waiting for her boyfriend J, who is always either off trying to find work, off trying to do some good deed that will, when he tells the story, never be repaid in kind. J has a demon in his gut like I do. When I see her I ask whether J has been drinking, so I know whether I'll see him or the demon. They are always in a state of emergency... being moved on, lost a tent, stuff stolen, scrambling to avoid snow, rain, cold, heat. Their home camp in Butchertown was bulldozed a few years ago to make room for a soccer stadium. The investors through money at the city to house the residents of Camp Campbell quickly for the good PR boost. Nearly all the former residents of Camp Campbell are no longer housed now. But there aren't any news cameras around to notice.

Erasure – delete a line
delete a camp
delete a person
a collateral damage
for the marketing collateral

Part 1 posted on Instagram. Check it out!

06 April, 2012

Porkopolis Unbound: Opening Day 2012

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power, /And my own will....  - Percy Bysshe Shelley Prometheus Unbound

I want to play music when I want, write a song if I want or watch a baseball game if I want.
-- John Lee Hooker

Although I have lived in and around Cincinnati off and on for years I have never before been downtown for Opening Day. I'd heard there was always a parade and that it had long been something of an unofficial holiday for the city; so naturally, this intrigued me.  The last time I'd been near downtown when the city was actually letting it's tightly curled hair down was the last time I went to RiverFest (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Proctor and Gamble) ... which was probably the last year they sold beer. The year after, the city went "family friendly" and restricted the sale and consumption of booze... which of course, meant all the people who drink and who also have kids stayed home, watched the fireworks on television, and drank for a lot less money. Keep in mind, however, that Cincinnati has a history of hammering down on anything that isn't WASPY enough to pass... unless they figure they can make a buck off it.*

Baseball has long been thought of as America's game... though to some people it does look an awful lot like the English sport Cricket.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings/

Early Cricket Batter. I sort of like the hats.

And in spite of its history of problems -- from racism in the early days to the more recent steroid abuse problems and everything in between... not to mention the evil wrought on the game by the New York Yankees (Curse their Name!) --  people -- baseball fans, at any rate -- still think of it that way.

I remember when my Dad stopped watching baseball. He never forgave them for the 1985 strike. It lasted 7 weeks, between June and August; the 25 games that weren't played ended up being made up later in the season.  From his perspective, professional athletes had no excuse to squawk about how much money they made. (The strike actually had more to do with the sixteenth player problem tied to free agency and the reserve clause.**)

I suspect that the disruption pissed him off more than anything, though, and like a lot of kids who grew up playing baseball, he couldn't understand why people bitched when they got paid to do something a lot people dream about doing.

As for myself, I was never particularly good at baseball. I was never particularly good at any sport, really... which I suspect was something of a disappointment for the old man, who, of his two sons, ended up with not a one who exhibited more than a glancing interest in playing a sport.

But over the years I've grown into a sports fan. And while the sun rises and sets on football season for me, the love of baseball has grown on me. And in Cincinnati, home to one of the oldest teams in baseball, Opening Day is more than the first day of the season. It's a celebration for a city that would rather do anything but celebrate.

My plan was to check out the parade. Affording a ticket to the game was out of the question; and while I still had friends in the city, the ones who might possibly have tickets wouldn't have any spares, and the ones who didn't couldn't afford them anyway. But I figured I could go downtown, take in the insanity, and then retreat back to the burbs where I'm crashing in relative obscurity at my Madre's condominium home.

It was a plan. 

I took the 24 bus downtown, which, because the burbs is considered Zone 2, cost me $2.65 instead of the Zone 1 fare of $1.70. (Both had gone up since I last lived here in 03-05. Consequently, the buses themselves have not improved all that much.) The bus started out relatively empty... just me and three other people, all of whom were going down to see the parade, and one of whom was actually going to stay for the game. The closer it got to downtown, though, the more packed the bus became until I was a wash in a sea of red and white.

I was not decked out in team colors. I had no particular reason for not, other than the fact that I didn't put anything with those colors on when I rolled out of bed.

When I disembarked at Government Square, people were already milling about. Some had come early to lay claim to the best seats along 5th Street for the parade and were sitting at the gutters in lawn chairs and on blankets. On any other day, someone doing that would be taken for a vagrant and summarily punished-- if not by the cops... who continue in a long tradition of harassment, rudeness, and a general apathy towards anyone who doesn't "look" right ... then by the amorally indignant downtown business elite... most of whom flee to the burbs at quitting time; on Opening Day, however, such social rules are overlooked, as in the carnival days of medieval Europe. 

At that time, Carnival was an even when, among other things, lepers and retards, and the mentally ill were elected Kings of the Carnival (which is one of the early roots of our semi-Democratic process and with amazingly similar results) and people could be found copulating in the streets like pagans before the interference of Catholic missionaries.  

Alas, it was too cold downtown for public fucking. And since it was a brisk 55 degrees, there would be next to no chance in the forecast for a storm of drunken topless women. 

Not downtown. And if it was, I'd never point out which is me.
On the upside, the cops seemed to ignore the open container law as long as people put their beer in a brown paper bag -- yet another action that would normally be a sign that you are homeless, shiftless, unemployed, or all three, and therefore not worth being treated with human dignity. 

I tried going to the beer and food bins set up along the edge of Fountain Square, but the lines were never less than 20 or 30 people long and I had no intention of waiting that long in line for warm $5 beer in a plastic cup. Also, I had no desire to be any closer than I had to be to the live band playing; they were OK for a bar cover band. But the mixture of Beach Boys and Soundgarden covers made me slightly nauseous. So I wandered around, bought a hot dog with kraut and mustard from a street vendor, and thought about where might be a good place to stand and see the parade.

[And by the way... and this goes out to all hot dog vendors in downtown Cincy... if you're going to offer sour kraut as a free condiment, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY will you please be more liberal with your dashing of kraut? Pretty please? A few strands of cooked cabbage on top of  a hot dog does not make for a true dog with kraut. Just a suggestion...]

Since I was downtown, though, and I had some time to kill, I decided to visit Strauss and Company Tobacconist, on Walnut about a third of a block away from 5th Street. Strauss's  was one of those places I used to frequent when I lived in the Nati, and it was a place I missed after I moved. You don't really appreciate what it means to have access to an honest to jeebus tobacconist^ until you don't have it. And YES, I managed to find one in AZ.... but it required me driving to Scottsdale once a week instead of hopping a bus. 

Plus, I just liked Strauss's store blends better.

While I was there I bought an ounce of their Losantiville^^ blend and splurged on some cigarillos^^^ from Holland. After I lit one up, I stepped back out onto the sidewalk and took note of the crowd. It had grown significantly, and there was still 45 minutes until the start of the parade. People were walking up from the river, probably having parked at the Great American Ball Park+. All of the gutter spots were full, and in some places people were standing two or three deep. The cops were beginning to block off the street, and the buses were already being diverted. There was no getting out until after 3:30pm, just in time for the commuter express bus that I planned on taking back to the burbs.

I stood around on the corner of 5th and Walnut, allowing the growing tide of baseball fans and families of fans engulf me. People gathered and crowds on all sides went from 2 or 3 people deep to sometimes 5 or 6 people deep; the crowd eventually seeped out into the intersection. Children sat down in the middle of the street like they were sitting under a tree in the park. I had to keep moving around because I was technically standing at the cross walk. Pretty soon the sidewalks themselves became impassable; the few homeless who were out got pushed into the doorways to make way for out of town fans and people who probably rarely spent more time downtown than it took to drive off of I-75 or 471, take an off ramp, and park at the stadium. 20 minutes until the parade procession was supposed to leave Findaly Market at 1 pm, and people were walking down the middle of 5th Street just to get from one place to another. I could tell from the ebb and flow of red and white around Fountain Square that people were getting set for the parade. 

Then I thought about how long it might take the parade to make the 1.2 mile stretch (that number doesn't take into account any turns or stops in the parade route. And then I decided that I might have a better chance seeing the parade from the television at bar than having to look through the people standing in front of me, nearly all of whom were somehow magically taller than I am.

At that, I broke through, crossed 5th Street, broke through the blockage of people standing there, and made my way up Walnut. At 7th Street I turned right, and then left at Main. When I reached 8th Street, I crossed the street, walked a third of the way down the block to Arnold's... a bar that I used to spend a lot time at when I lived here before.

It was crowded, but not too much. People were milling around, and I figured the back patio was full. I managed to find a seat at the bar. After waiting what seemed like entirely too much time, I was finally served. They changed the taps since I was last there and were now serving 3 brews from the newly re-opened Christian Moerlein Brewery. I tried two of the three: The Northern Liberties IPA and the The OTR Pale Ale. I passed on the Friend of the Irishman Stout for pragmatic purposes -- stout beer isn't something you switch back and forth from. I did, however, try the Roebling Porter, brewed by the Rivertown Brewery, a new (to me) microbrewery and the lager from Listermann Brewing Company -- also a local brewery (and also the Brewmasters Store where I used to go, along with my friend Bret, to buy home brew supplies.)

I also had a shot of Maker's Mark... couldn't be helped.

And though I did watch some of the parade on the very small television in the corner, mostly I thought about how different the crowd at Arnold's was and how I didn't know anyone who worked there and how no one knew me anymore. 

On the upside, the beers were all amazing. Those German roots serve you well, Cincinnati.++

[Thanks for reading. And remember, if you like it,
  1. Pass the link on. Copy and Paste. Go ahead. 
  2. Click the donate button and help keep me traveling. 
  3. Thanks to the generous support of readers and other sympathetic folk, I was able to purchase a Greyhound Discovery Pass, which will allow me to bump around out west unfettered. And thanks (again) to all those whose continued support makes my travel and writing possible.
  4. Also: A brief note on Operation Europe: This plan entails me making it across the pond for an indeterminate amount of time. My plan is to continue traveling around here, growing the blog and including more individual stories along with my travelog and general observations. I plan on doing more of the same in Europe... but it's nice to have an excuse... the gods know I rarely need one, but sometimes customs officials of foreign countries do... I've signed up for an online course that will certify me to teach English as a foreign language. Given my background in education, this should come as a no-brainer.  The next steps include a) obtaining a passport, and b)the cost of a one way ticket. But I have a year or so to work on those things. More on this as it happens and as it approaches.

Thanks again for reading and for your generous support.


*WASP = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Around the time of WW1, the city fathers decided, as point of blind patriotism and out of fear that people would assume all Cincinnatians were German sympathizers, to erase any hint of the deeply ingrained German Heritage that defines so much of the city's past. Names were changed. Festivals cancelled. Around the late 1980's, it occurred to some that immigrant heritage might be a selling point and that money might be made off remembering the Germanic roots of the city. 

**Reserve Clause: Contractual slavery. Read about it here

^Tobacconist: a purveyor of fine tobaccos, cigars, and accessories. Not to be confused with the corner gas station.

^^Losantiville was the name originally given to the settle that later became Cincinnati. The term is a mash of four terms from four different languages that translates roughly to "the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River."

^^^cigarillos: literally tiny cigars... which means they're hand rolled, the way cigars were meant to be smoked. No filter, no tobacco paper (the shit they make regular cigarettes and mislabeled "little cigars" out of.)

+The Great American Ballpark: After Riverfront Stadium was demolished the new ballpark was named after it's corporate sponsor, The Great American Insurance Company. Not that the Capitalist overthrow of baseball is anything new... because nothing in this country could become "America's Game" unless some fat bastard was making a greasy buck off of it... but something still strikes me ill when I think about it. The new stadium has better seats and makes for a better game experience... though it also meant the city is stuck with Paul Brown Stadium, a wholesale rip off of tax payers by Bengals owner Mike Brown.

++Cincinnati: Comes from Cincinnatus, the name of a Roman Dictator who, surrendered his power back to the people when he felt it was time and returned to be a simple farmer. This is something that no one with political or corporate power in Cincinnati has ever thought to do. Nor will they. Ever.

26 January, 2012

Another Coffee Shop Poem

[Dedicated to Lou Schau. Also to John Briscoe, Tim, Steve, Ed, and Vaughn (aka The Graybeard Round Table). Also to Heather Houzenga.

I am not pretty enough for this place.

The cut of my clothes or my weeks old beard
gives me away. If I didn't have money for coffee
they would shoo me away in spite of the rain.
It doesn't take long for those urbane airs
to rub off; only two and half years
in corn and god country where they do not tolerate
too much polish (except for Sundays,
and even that must be the right kind and cut)
and they do not trust urban attitudes
and they do not forgive when you are not smart enough
to notice the difference.

Two people in line ahead of me.
Most of the tables are occupied
and I spy one empty seat:
one of the coffee leather chairs
in the corner. A business man
with next generation's iphone
and designer eye wear takes it first...
laying claim to it by laying his
expensive looking brief case
(also leather) before he
takes a place behind me in line.
If I am very lucky,
the barista will get his order wrong.
But I am not lucky, since she is too perky
to be incompetent.

The first one, a large woman in stretch pants,
pays in cash
    • exact change –
The skinny bitch in designer shoes behind her
taps her foot impatiently. When it's her turn, she steps up
quickly orders coffees with too many qualifiers
(half caf decaf slim skin super latte with a mother fuckin' twist)
pays with plastic, then moves forward. We have learned, have we not,
the way the conveyor belt works...

I step up, order a medium coffee
with an espresso shot, pay, step to the right. Skinny Designer Bitch
is waiting on a multiple order and his hogging the small round counter
with the cardboard coffee cup cozies.

My coffee is done before her order.
So that I do not burn my fingers,
I am forced to growl “Excuse me”
before I reach in front of her
to grab a cozy. (She looks up horrified,
briefly grabs her expensive purse
for fear I might steal it, use her
husband's credit cards
to order a breakfast sandwich.

She storms out not long after.
By the time I turn around,
a table has opened up,
and I sit down, trying to avoid eye contact.

There's only so much I can put up with
before the coffee kicks in.