What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Friday: Green living.

26 April 2017

V is for Vontz #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

On Easter Sunday my friend Susan willingly participated in a day of "hey, I need to gather some pics for my blog," and we drove past this building that I'd never properly looked at before. All I read of the sign was "molecular studies," so I asked, "Is that building supposed to be shaped like a molecule?"
From what I've read: no. It's just some cool Gehry architecture. 
So, because reading the entire sign is for other people, I said something about how it was too bad I hadn't seen it before my M day, and Susan said, "You can still use it. That's the Vontz building."
Hey, what do you know! It's right there in great big letters.
By the way, Susan and I have this recurring habit of introducing ourselves to visitors at church at the same time, after which I have an unfortunate tendency to say that we don't usually travel as a two-pack of Susans, because I have yet to learn the art of saying hello and then shutting up. Also this:

Anyway, I don't actually know anything about architecture--my appreciation for buildings mostly extends to, "hey, that one is pretty!"--so for further anaylsis you'll need someone else. The Vontz Building is part of the University of Cincinnati, and is across from the UC hospital, so lots of cool and smart things are happening here. The building is already in need of some repair/renovation, despite being less than 20 years old. Bummer.
But seriously, how great is a building that looks like it was built
by one of the Animaniacs?
Outside the building, there's this:
I saw it and thought, "Wait, that Sabin? The polio vaccine guy?"
So, good job, history teachers! I hadn't realised until now that
Cincinnati was Dr. Sabin's home.
And this:
Great plaza space that was being used by approximately zero students,
But since this area is where science students learn things, I presume they're all
studying hard for finals. Or maybe they just don't like going outdoors that much.
I want one of these:
It's a giant leaf. I can't believe no one was sitting on it.
In the department of less-spectacular things found nearby, there's this ridiculous sign right at the intersection where the Vontz building (and the hospital!) is. I certainly don't want to ascribe ill will to the hardworking city planners and traffic engineers of Cincinnati, but who looks at an intersection that will be serving thousands of students and transit-dependent folks and thinks, "Let's not bother with a crosswalk on this side"? I mean, seriously.

Welcome, pedestrians! Please enjoy your walk all the way around
the intersection instead of going in a straight line. We certainly
hope you're able-bodied and not at all in need of the hospital's services.
People cross midblock near this intersection all day long, and who can blame them? I did the same thing coming back because I couldn't be bothered waiting for three light cycles instead of just one. Get it together, Cincinnati.
It's all the more egregious when you consider these things are within
a few feet of the "no pedestrians" sign. Talk about your mixed messages.

25 April 2017

U is for Union #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

On a trip to Cincy last summer, we were rolling along the interstate and my mother asked, "What's that building?" Being as I hadn't moved here yet, I said, "I don't know."

It's a much more impressive sight when it's not behind a fence and
heavy construction equipment. Not that I know that from personal
experience, but I've seen some lovely pictures.
That building is, or rather was, Cincinnati Union Terminal. These days it's the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, with the heyday of rail travel long behind it. Just one lonely train comes through three times per week (in the middle of the night in both directions--yes, I've looked into it), connecting Chicago to New York via many Midwest cities.

Poor dear looks like a kid that's had a bit of a skateboarding incident.
Renovation is meant to be finished in 2018.
Union Terminal first opened in 1933, unfortunately arriving just after rail travel had peaked in the U.S., so it came to be seen as a boondoggle before many years had gone by. Before the station was built, though, Wikipedia says: "intercity passenger traffic was split among no fewer than five stations in Downtown Cincinnati, requiring the many travelers who changed between railroads to navigate local transit themselves." Y'all. I can only hope local transit was easier to navigate in the early 20th century than it is now. I'm very good at transit and I find the local system nearly impossible.

Gotta love old train station font.
Union Terminal has been the subject of a few preservation movements in its many years, which is basically the only reason it's still standing. And thank goodness, because wow, what a loss that would be if it were gone. It was placed on the National Register in 1972.

I'm looking forward to getting a better pic of the mural and the rotunda
once the scaffolding comes down and I'm allowed inside.
So, here's a cool thing I just learned today: Winold Reiss created a bunch of mosaic murals just for Union Terminal, depicting life and industry in Cincinnati in the early 1930s. When part of the terminal was torn down in 1972, fourteen murals were moved to the airport (nine of them have just been moved back downtown in the past year because of demolition and construction at the airport), a couple were moved within the terminal itself and eventually made it to one of the museums, the ones in the rotunda remain, and alas... one was destroyed along with its home, being too large and expensive to move.

I wonder what's in there.
It has museums in it, so it's a safe bet this will not be my last trip to Union Terminal. Plus, y'all know how obsessed I am with transit. Sooner or later, I'll be getting on that train.

In the spirit of the word "union," here's a thing that has nothing to do with Union Terminal: the building where I go to work every day was the home of the International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink and Distillery Workers (a name which makes our org's somewhat convoluted name seem downright boring by comparison) before they merged with the Teamsters in 1973. Their legacy remains in the building, though:
Just one of many union touches.

24 April 2017

T is for Tyler #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

The Tyler Davidson Fountain, despite having a gent's name, is actually a lady, also called The Genius of Water. I will say this for Cincinnati: they're very good at giving credit where credit is due for the city's growth and prosperity. First to the pigs, now to the river.

The lights on the fountain change colour a bit. We don't have nine of them.
 The Tyler Davidson Fountain is in the middle of the appropriately named Fountain Square, which (if the frequency with which people mention it is any indication) is certainly in the top five of most beloved spots in the city. The fountain was in the opening credits of WKRP in Cincinnati (I remember the show, but I'm pretty sure I remember it in reruns. Also, I just watched the title sequence for the first time in about 30 years and the city hasn't changed a lot).

On one of our three snowy days
last winter. I'm not complaining:
that's exactly the right number
of snowy days.
The fountain has been moved around a bit since her dedication in 1871, and has been in her current location since 2006. She was placed on the National Register in 1979. The water is switched on every spring (after being off for the winter months) in time for the Reds' first home game.


Also on Fountain Square: some nice landscaping, an enormous Christmas tree at Christmastime, an ice skating rink for a few months, a stage the rest of the time, tables and chairs, big signs with all the rules for the plaza. And an alleged bike rack. Seriously, bike parking is listed as an amenity on the Fountain Square website, and they are mistaken.

I think you misspelled "disgrace" on that website, y'all.
But at least there's a Red Bike station just off the square, so all is not lost.

On a chilly but well-lit evening last weekend.

23 April 2017

Keep it as a Treasure

I was rolling along this morning on a pre-church errand (when church doesn't start until 11am, you can get a lot done in the morning, especially if you're an early riser), and enjoying the glorious blue of a sunny morning, which was a nice contrast from yesterday's grey and overcast. And also from right now on Sunday evening, as I sit and type this, in fact. Apparently that little bit of sun has to tide us over until the next sunny hour.

There's a song from a musical for everything, y'all, and this morning's "nice day" soundtrack was Oliver, which I haven't though about in years: "Who will buy this wonderful morning? Such a sky you never did see! Who will tie it up with a ribbon and put it in a box for me?"

I seem to have rather a lot of cloudy-day
photos. Maybe Oliver was right and
 it really *can't* happen twice.
It's a rare nice moment for Oliver in the musical, especially since everything is about to start sucking again as soon as the applause for the song ends, but the song itself has always felt strange to me. London street vendors are hawking their wares, needing to make enough sales to keep despair at bay for just a little longer, and in walks a kid who is, at the moment, full of hope. He sees a beautiful day and streets filled with activity. He of all people knows how bad life can be, but for the moment it's great. For the moment.

"There'll never be a day so sunny," he says, "it could not happen twice." An oddly cheerful song with not-entirely-cheerful lyrics right in the middle of what is a fairly dark story, and also an odd song for my brain to fix upon on a Sunday morning. We live in a world that is filled with despair, and it's easy to look around and see no way to make it better. The sunniest of days can't brighten a life that's filled with darkness.

But in Jesus we have hope, and that's what makes "Who Will Buy" such an appropriate Sunday song. Hope mingles with the despair and brings light to dark places. The sun shines into a life that sees more bleak days than beautiful ones.

It's easy, in the busyness and bustle of life, to forget to be a light. But be the light we must, because the world has plenty of darkness. To make the sunny day happen twice, to tie it up with a ribbon--this is the gift God has given those of us who call on his name, and it's a light we carry within that doesn't darken when the clouds roll in. And that's worth singing about.

Post title is a line from "Who Will Buy".

22 April 2017

S is for Smale #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

Today was going to be about Cincinnati Shakespeare, but being as I already gushed about them here and here, and shared a pic of their piggy here, I decided to go with this excellent park instead.
Sharlie was just happy to pose with all the things.
She's the best park-exploring buddy there is.
Behind her is the Labyrinth that appears to not be named after anyone,
which is unusual in public-private projects like this one.
Like most things that serve the public good but aren't for cars, this park was in the planning and funding stages for a looooong time. (In fact, if you look at Smale Riverfront Park on Google maps, the satellite images of the western side are still from when it was a parking lot & stretch of ugly dirt.) The first stages of the park opened in 2012 and it was finally completed in 2015.

Yeah, Cincinnati, I'm going to be needing a few more of these
around town. Great touch to an already awesome space.
Among other great things, Smale Riverfront Park is home to the Cincinnati Bike Center (that I have not yet been in), a playground I desperately want to try if I can find a time to visit when every kid in town isn't there, and restroom facilities that are called the Portland Loo. Y'all. I swear some days this entire city was purpose-designed for me. Then I remember all the miles of bike- and pedestrian-unfriendly, car-dependent sprawl, and all the places I can't get to unless I get a ZipCar, and that feeling passes.

More great stuff. I may spend my entire summer in this park.
Also in the neighbourhood: the Ohio River Trail, which will one day stretch all the way west to Indiana and all the way east to the Little Miami Scenic Trail (!!! Yes, please), and then onward to somewhere not important to me. (No offence meant to those who live farther east, of course. Please feel free to not care about where I live, either. It's only fair.)

This mural reads, "Hats off to Cincinnati," for the local support of the park.
At the far eastern end of the mural are the bike racks that serve
the Great American Ball Park. I don't think a lot of people ride to Reds
games, but enough do that the racks were full the night I was there.

21 April 2017

R is for Reds #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

I very nearly skipped right over R and went straight to S, because even on my best days the alphabet and I aren't really on speaking terms, and today... is not one of my best days. So. Here we R.

Today's post is, in fact, an homage to person you should either thank or blame, depending on how you feel about me living in Cincinnati. For all the people who ask, "How did you end up in here?"--well, I almost didn't, but at some point my friend Bill said, "Have you thought about Cincinnati?" and went on to tell me about all the stuff Cincy has that I enjoy, like a whole bunch of theatre and a growing bike culture. And while it's gratifying to have friends who remember things that I like, I think it's even more true that Bill knows and loves Cincinnati well enough to know that a wide range of people and personalities can find a home here.

So! That being the case, and since Bill is a huge Reds fan, this post is for him. For me, well, I literally am surprised anew every time I see their logo, y'all. Can't remember what it looks like from one day to the next. Barely even remember what sport they play, most days. But I made my way down to the riverfront earlier this week on a game night, not on purpose, and when I texted a couple of the pics to Bill he said, "I'm watching it right now!" (I was not, but I was downtown long enough to hear the fireworks go off when something good happened. Bill said it was probably a grand slam. I had to think for a second to remember we weren't talking about tennis.)

Front door. A little girl in full-on Reds gear gave me a weird look
as she passed me, possibly because I was standing on the Reds' doorstep
wearing a Wizard of Oz t-shirt. 
I did just enough research to know that the Reds are the oldest franchise in Major League Baseball, and also that I probably should have been paying closer attention on Opening Day. Y'all... I keep finding stuff out a couple weeks too late. This has to be some sort of malady that can surely be cured with... I don't know, a better calendar? Friends who will just presume I don't know anything? Google alerts?

Round the back. Those mini-murals on the wall are to do with the
Flying Pig Marathon. They're great, but nothing to do with this post.
The local bikeshare system is called Red Bikes, but unlike the Pacers Bikeshare system up the road in Indianapolis, the Red Bikes don't seem to have anything to do with the baseball team. They're just red. Why, I don't know, because it seems like a fairly critical missed opportunity.

This dude has a plaque with his name on it, which I immediately forgot.
He's probably tired of holding that bat up.
I'm sure if I live here long enough, I'll go to a game eventually. Preferably with someone who will tell me what's going on, since this isn't tennis and that's pretty much the full extent of my baseball knowledge.
Wait, they sing? Y'all may be speaking my language
after all. Do they also build barricades?
Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is in honor of somebody.
Who? No idea.
There you have it--my thank-you post for the person who told me Cincinnati was worth looking into. Turns out he was right.

20 April 2017

Q is for Queen #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

Wikipedia says cities that are large/influential/etc. in a region, but are not the capital of the region, are often nicknamed "queen city." That being the case, it makes sense that Ohio's boom town of the 1800s would have been called the Queen City. Whatever the cause, it's a name that's certainly stuck.

Given that I sing pretty much all the time, this shouldn't be a problem.
Just because I haven't heard a definitive answer on this one doesn't keep it being appropriated for local landmarks and city tours.

Isn't this fabulous? If being the Queen City gets public art this great,
then correct as usual, Your Majesty.

19 April 2017

P is for Purple #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

We made it all the way to the 19th without me mentioning bike/ped infrastructure once! And let's not talk about one of the reasons being that there's not much worth writing home about. (Cincinnati is a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community, but I've no idea how they managed that.)
It's kind of a greyish-purple. I hear it used to be purpler.
But today's subject, the Purple People Bridge, is apparently worth writing something about. At various points in its lifespan, it's carried trains, horses and carts, streetcars, motor vehicles, and people. One by one, all conveyances except humans (and the bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, etc. that carry us) were banned from the bridge, which was placed on the National Register in 2001.


My sister-in-law Jennie, who I naturally dragged onto the bridge when she was in town, says she remembers driving over it (or more accurately, being passengered over it) when she was a kid. I have no such remembrances, probably because on family trips we never went deep enough into Cincy to get to that bridge. My grandpa stuck to the interstate and hauled caravan as fast as he could through all population centers to get us to Somewhere On a Hill Where His Parents Lived, Kentucky. (I treasure the memories of my visits to my great-grandparents' home. I do not treasure any thought of the drives there and back again.)

Clockwise from top left: The ever-gorgeous Sharlie enjoying her bridge
visit; some people can't see a bridge and not put a lock on it;
unintentional selfie when I was trying to take a pic into the sun
without getting off  my bike and hadn't noticed that I'd flipped my camera;
evening sun over the Ohio River.

Where was I? Purple People Bridge, right. In addition to being a car-free passage between two entertainment districts, it also connects the bike/ped paths on either side, such as they are. Plus you get nice views of the Cincy skyline (sorry, Newport, but you don't have one of those) and the other bridges over the Ohio. Most importantly, it's a direct path to the nearest Barnes and Noble, on the rare occasion that Joseph-Beth doesn't have what I'm looking for.


18 April 2017

O is for Owl #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

Today's location is less "I go here often" and more "I run past here at least once a week." But places on my running route totally count as discovery, especially given how terrified I was of getting lost the first time I went that way.


Owl's Nest Park is near O'Bryonville, and I'm not clear if that's a real neighborhood name or just what we call the short row of shops up the road. I tried Googling to find out what neighborhood the park is in, only to discover that the internet is every bit as confused about Cincinnati neighborhoods as I am. (For example: I've heard at least three different takes from the locals on what neighborhood I live in. I have given up on knowing that.)

One of the two columns that
used to hold the gate. This was
the best angle I could get
without standing in the street.
Here's what I do know: Owl's Nest was the name of the estate that used to sit on the site; the original land was donated to the city in 1905. A whole bunch of brick columns, including the two remaining ones at the front, once supported a wrought-iron gate and fence (the rest of the columns are elsewhere in the city now). It's all very Downton Abbey without (presumably) the Spanish flu and messy entail. The gate and fence were removed as part of metal drives during WWII.

On Saturday, there were bunches of families out enjoying the nice weather and hunting (term used loosely) for Easter eggs in the park, so I did my best to avoid taking pics of the kids, because people tend to freak out a bit about that. Plus I was midrun and already exhausted with about four miles still to go, so I didn't walk around a lot. As a result, I missed out on the hiking trail (seriously, I don't know where it's hiding--I could see most of the park, I thought, from where I was standing) and didn't get a close look at the pavillion, which was built by CCC. Y'all, Cincinnati has so much cool stuff. And I've barely seen any of it. Sharlie and I will have to take advantage of the upcoming long summer evenings to go do a lot more exploring.

I think that may be the CCC-built pavillion way in the background?
But that sign is pretty great all by itself.

17 April 2017

N is for National #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

So, here's the thing. I'm trying not to spend money to complete the A to Z Challenge. Admittedly, this puts certain limits on sharing the experience of living here and discovering the wonders of Cincinnati, and it turns these posts into "here's what the outside looks like, because I'm cheap." What can I say--I'm a woman on a budget who's pinching pennies for new running shoes, because that's a legit injury prevention issue.

Having said all that, I'm looking forward to a couple months down the road when I have my new shoes securely on my feet and can therefore hand over the cash necessary to see the inside of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, because I have been looking forward to it basically since I lived here. All the locals have fallen over themselves to tell me how wonderful it is, and I've no doubt they do not exaggerate.

Here's what the outside looks like:
Image Source: CincinnatiUSA.
And now for the thing on the outside that I've shed actual tears over. (Yes, this A to Z has devolved into, "These are all the places I've gone to cry in Cincinnati." What? I'm a widow. I don't have to go places to start crying.) Last November, I was wandering around at the end of the local Turkey Trot and I thought, "What's that thing standing there behind the building?" So I went over to look.

It's a piece of the Berlin Wall. This was the East Germany
side. It's unprotected here, so you can touch it. And I do,
every time I go by.

This is the West Germany side. It's covered in
Plexiglas to protect the graffiti, and apparently
for that message to be superimposed over it.
(I didn't write down what it says.)

Wider shot of the Memorial garden.
I was in sixth grade on November 9, 1989, when the wall fell, and I heard of all the Americans who happened to be in Europe at the time who brought pieces home with them, but this is the first time I've seen one with my own eyes. And my reaction to the first time seeing it was kind of predictable. This second time I saw it, with teenage niece in tow, she was a bit weirded out by my need to touch all the things, which kept my emotions in check. Clearly, I need a 16-year-old with me at all times. Even more clearly, I was looking back at a world she never knew. Not that the world she's growing up in doesn't have its own horrors that she will have to confront as an adult. I wonder what fragments of this era will be kicking around in 20 years' time for her to touch and reflect on.

Someday soon, I promise, I'll go inside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and write a long post telling you about how amazing it is.

16 April 2017

Consider the Lilies

Lent is a good time to start something new. It's a time for refocusing, examining our lives and habits, stopping some things and starting some others. It's a season of renewal.

The good news is, that doesn't have to stop at Easter. In fact, it shouldn't: did this time of refocusing help you? Did you start a new habit that's turned out to be fruitful? Have you made progress on something you've been meaning to cut out of your life? Excellent! Don't turn your back on that progress. There's a beautiful line from An American Victory, "Every season ends that another may begin." Rejoice in how far you've come and begin again today.

Every freaking thing in this city is built on a slant.
I suppose they really had no choice.
About two months ago, construction crews began tearing out and carting off dirt from the empty lot behind my apartment building. Fortunately, I took this photo of some new bulbs sprouting up on top of an old wall just two days before they were all gone. However, some of them didn't go far: a couple of the bulbs, after being cast aside, managed to re-root themselves in the ground and are still growing. Another one clung to just enough soil for roots and leaves to continue to grow, even though it didn't get back into the ground.

I've had my eye on that little clump (I thought it was daffodils, but a gardener on Twitter said it looked more like daylilies) for weeks, watching it hang in there, and thinking to myself, "I should just take it home and put it in a flowerpot." Earlier this week, I noticed that the leaves were starting to look wilty, as if they'd done all they could on their own, and I decided that I'd reached now-or-never time for these tenacious little bulbs. So I pulled back enough of the fence to reach under and grab the root ball, then carried it home in my hand. (And managed to sprinkle some dirt into my lunch bag, as I discovered when I went to take a sip of tea from my thermos and got a mouthful of dirt. Good thing I have a strong immune system.)

So the daffodils-which-are-probably-really-daylilies went from this:
Yes, I willingly dumped dirt onto my kitchen counter.
That's part of the fun here in Su-Land.
 To this:

And then from my kitchen counter to my window, where I hope it will get enough sun to thrive. It's been getting about 10 hours a day of sun in the construction site, and inside my apartment it will probably get about two. Google says they'll grow in any light conditions, so here's hoping... and besides that, we all know bulb plants are long-lasting, hardy creatures.

Jesus himself said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin," and while he did not add, "and yet a human will pick one up off the side of the road and take it home to be her own," I think the sentiment is there. These are plants that will survive cold and heat, lots of sun or little sun, being tended with loving care in a garden or being tossed aside by large machinery to make way for a parking lot. And if this little slice of creation can take all that and keep going, how much more can we?

"Will it grow?" "It will." 
One of the reasons I feel so passionate about having a strong community is for moments like this lily was having--when I've given all I can find within me and it's still not enough to get through the day, along comes someone who can say, "Let's take these next steps together." I hope you have the same--someone who can offer a hand at just the right time, someone you can call on when your inner reserves are tapped, someone who can plant you into their spare flowerpot. (Okay, so there is such a thing as taking a metaphor too far.)

The season of Lent has come to an end, and I pray it brought you blessing and strength for the season ahead of us now, and a community to sustain you through the times when the inner strength is just not enough. Happy Easter, my friends.

15 April 2017

M is for Mural #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

I'm pretty sure blank walls are not allowed to exist in Cincinnati.

I should have gotten this one for my
Cincinnatus day. True story: my sister-
in-law saw this and said, "Oh, I thought
those were real steps!"
Cincinnati ArtWorks is responsible of a bunch of the murals around town. The rest? I have no idea, but appreciate the artists who have brightened up the place. No way was I going to let the A to Z Challenge go without getting as many of these as I can here for you to enjoy, too.

I had to step into a literal deserted alley to get this one.
Totally worth it.

Some of these are obviously old advertisements and not murals,
but I think those are also cool to see.
One of these is across the river in Kentucky. Meh.
So this photo is huge and I hope it doesn't wreak too much havoc on your browser,
but to make it any smaller makes the photos too small to see well.

My kind of urban art. And look! There's the ArtWorks signature.

And my absolute favourite one of all. I've never really managed
to get a decent pic of this mural, but that's not going to stop
me from trying as often as possible.

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