What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

30 April 2017

Z is for Zoo #AtoZChallenge

Last one! I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse of Cincinnati with me. My favourite thing about this series has been all the locals who've read a post or two and then told me their personal histories with the things I wrote about. And the folks who, having read about one thing, asked if I'd been to another. And the ones who've filled in the gaps left after I read the info available on Wikipedia. Maybe the kindest thing I heard was from a coworker who said, "It's been fun rediscovering Cincinnati through your eyes." And that is, indeed, the most I could possibly have hoped for.

So! The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. You've probably heard of it. (And if you're not following the updates on Fiona the baby hippo, you're wrong.) As with many other posts in this series, I didn't go inside, but instead took a few pics of the entrance. And attracted the attention of a couple Zoo employees, who probably wondered what the heck I was doing. C'est la vie here in Su-Land.

The Zoo opened in 1875 and is the second-oldest zoo in the U.S. One of the original buildings still stands (it's the Reptile Building now), and is the oldest zoo building in the U.S. Admission on opening day was 25¢ for adults and 15¢ for children. I believe it's gone up a bit since then.
This historic entrance has an elevator inside, so colour me skeptical.
Also, at what point do you change your sign to read "Historic Entrance"
instead of just "entrance"? There have to be data on that.
The Zoo's first guidebook was printed in 1876 in German, because that's what a sizeable portion of the population at the time spoke, with the English guide coming in 1893. Clearly, the English-speaking folks weren't in too much of a hurry to print a guidebook.

Bike parking: approved.
Red Bike kiosk: thumbs up. Although riding one of these heavy bikes
back up the hill from here towards the University area cannot be pleasant.
Unless the rider has legs of steel, I suppose.  There are a couple more stations
further north than this one, but once you're at the Zoo you're closing in on
 the northern edge of the Red Bikes system.
Bike rack shaped like a snake: thumbs way up. I love it.
Not pictured: the Zoo is served by two local bus routes.
Public transit: also approved.
I'm not normally one to get excited by car parking, because why would I?, but this is pretty cool. The Zoo parking lot has solar panels on the covered parking roofs that provide 20% of the Zoo's energy annually. There was another sign describing it as a "demonstration project," but at that point the zoo dude was staring at me pretty intensely so I decided to skip that one and move on.
Sign describing the project + panels as seen from the pedestrian overpass.
I will probably save any actual visiting the Zoo for such a time as my sister comes to visit, because of the two of us, she's more of the Zoo one. (I'm the libraries and museums one.)
Plants at the entrance. As you can plainly see, this is the tulips' way of
telling me I should have come by a bit sooner.
And that, my friends, is the 2017 A to Z Challenge. Tomorrow I'll resume my usual nonsense. See you then.

29 April 2017

Y is for Yeatman #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.

Yeatman's Cove is, according to the sign I read while down there, the place the first settlers landed from the Ohio in what would become Cincinnati. However, good luck finding confirmation of that anywhere on the internet.
Yeatman's Cove these days is one of a string of linear parks that stretch for two miles along the river, and if I weren't still in mourning for my beloved Town Lake Trail I would probably appreciate those two miles a lot more. As it is, well, it's still a nice spot even if I am unfairly comparing it to something 1000 miles away.

At Yeatman's Cove, we have the Serpentine Wall:

So named because it looks like this: ~~~~~~~~ Except it doesn't have quite that many wiggles, but you get the idea. The wall, in addition to looking like a set of bleachers and therefore being a great place for sitting, is also for flood prevention--Cincinnati's past contains some historic floods that resulted in loss of life and property, and obviously that's not a thing we want repeated. So the wall is one of several levees that keep the city high and dry in case the river gets a bit antsy and overflows its banks.
There was some nasty-looking debris that had washed up here that I didn't
want Sharlie rolling through, so here's where I stopped. Incidentally,
here's where the water stopped, too. So it's working great.
That's the Taylor Southgate Bridge, which lies between the Purple People Bridge
and the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It has a bike/ped path, so I still like
it even though it's not my favourite.
Flood stage for the river is 52 feet, measured from the Roebling Bridge, and I don't really know how they do that (which is probably why I'm not in charge of it).

Yeatman's Cove got its name, not from the first settlers, but rather from Cincinnati's first tavern, which Yeatman built here near the river, presumably for easy access for the men who wanted to get drunk after working on the river all day.
It's a city park now, so getting drunk here is highly discouraged. There
are two sports stadiums just a mile up the road that can help with that.

28 April 2017

X is for Xavier #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 was about to skip over X and go to Y. That's twice this challenge I've done that. Clearly, the alphabet and I are having a critical difference of opinion.

Xavier University is one of many institutes of higher learning in Cincinnati--I tried to nail down an exact number, but apparently no one has bothered to count them. (Okay, actually, everyone has bothered to count them, but can't agree on the number.) Basically, if you want to learn things, you're in good shape here.

I read this guy's label, then promptly forgot who he was,
although reason would suggest he's Frances Xavier.
Anyway, he's at the entrance to vaguely gesture at people
as they arrive.
Xavier is a Catholic university, among the oldest in the country, and while I'm wildly out of the loop re: Midwest universities and how they've been getting on in my 20-year absence from the region, Xavier seems to be not too shabby in either academics or athletics. A handful of my coworkers went there, if all one hears is true, so I can at least vouch for some of Xavier's graduates being awesome.
I don't know what this is, but I kind of expect the Doctor
to turn up and point a sonic screwdriver at it.
Their mascot is D'Artagnan, certainly Chadwick's favourite of the Musketeers, which softens my heart toward Xavier already, even if they didn't have excellent bike parking.
But they do! Very well done, Xavier. So, re: the lack of human
activity... this was one of the stops on Susan's (not me; the other one)
Easter Sunday Tour of Cincinnati
, but being as it was Easter
the Catholic school was on holiday. It was kind of creepy
wandering around not seeing any students.
Not sure about the presence of any bike lanes nearby, because I didn't look, but if the rest of the city is any indication it's lucky for Xavier students who travel actively that there are nice wide sidewalks surrounding them.
Like the one next to this sign, for instance.
Bellarmine Chapel on campus has a hyperbolic paraboloid roof (note to self: look up those words), so that even even if the walls were to come a-tumbling down, the roof would stay up, which I would call witchcraft except this is a Catholic university, so I'm thinking the roof has its own patron saint. I admit that would be useful to have.
The thing on the front is cool, too. I wonder if it's ever open to the public?

27 April 2017

W is for Woodward #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.

Mr. Woodward was half the architectural team of Garber & Woodward that designed a whole bunch of stuff around Cincinnati, including many other things that begin with W.

Like this:
This is a high school. (Walnut Hills)
And this:
Also a high school. Not the Von Trapp's estate,
but I see where you might make that mistake. (Withrow)
Same high school (!!!), from slightly
farther away.
And this:
This is a PRIMARY school. Holy smokes. (Rothenberg)
So clearly, when I need a setting for any future school stories I need look no further than a Garber & Woodward building.

A few more (not nearly all) of their buildings around town:
Every single one of these buildings is on, or within sight of, Fourth Street.
Clearly, our friends G & W had a good thing going downtown.
Clockwise from top left: Taft Museum (they handled the remodel);
Christ Church Cathedral; Anna Louise Inn; Guilford Building
(also a former school, and it stands on the site of Fort Washington);
Dixie Terminal; The Phelps (these days it's a Marriott);
Cincinnati Gas and Electric Building.
So by my count, for our Day of W we have Woodward, Walnut, Withrow, Washington, and Wow! (That last one is just what I said when I saw those high schools. How could your university possibly compare if that's the high school you went to?) Not bad.

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.