Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's a Grass Farm

There is this sod farm on the way to the Newtown Dairy Corner, which we go to a few times a week occasionally. When we had our front yard redone last month I asked Ray where the sod comes from. 

"A sod farm," he said.

I thought he was joking. 

"A sod farm? That's ridiculous. It's grass. It's comes from grass farm?!"

Umm, yes, and we pass it all the time, apparently. The last time we drove by Ray pointed out the sign that says "Sod Farm." 

I still think it's hilarious. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

An Ephemeral Feast

There is a chapter in A Moveable Feast in which F. Scott Fitzgerald invites Ernest Hemingway to lunch and tells him, over a cherry tart:
"You know I never slept with anyone except Zelda... Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.”
The title of the chapter is "A Matter of Measurements," and what Fitzgerald wants to know - truly - is if he has a small penis, like Zelda says.

And this, my friends, is exactly why I don't like to know too much beforehand about the books I read - because they spoil the fun of being surprised by a scene like this. I read this exchange with my eyes and mouth wide-open in stunned amazement and amusement.
Oh my gosh, Zelda told Scott he had a small penis!
Oh my gosh, Fitzgerald told Hemingway he had a small penis!

To tell him 'truly' about his measurement, Hemingway leads the author of The Great Gatsby to the men's room and checks out his goods.

After giving him an inspection he pronounces Fitzgerald "perfectly fine," adding that the only thing wrong with him is that he's married to Zelda.

"Forget what Zelda said. Zelda is crazy. There’s nothing wrong with you. … Zelda just wants to destroy you,” Hemingway says.
Fitzgerald is unconvinced, so Papa Hemingway walks him around the Louvre to size-up the naked statues. 

I don't happen to know what male nude sculptures the Louvre displayed in the 1920s when Hemingway and Fitzgerald went on their beefcake tour, but if I could go back to any moment in history, I would opt to go back to this moment, when these two literary giants went walking around the Louvre to size-up what the ancient Greek and Roman antiquities were packin.'

That's right. I'd chose this moment over dinosaurs, the dawn of life, Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show, pyramids, Roman gladiators, all of it.

The possibility that these two novelists were roaming around discussing Fitzgerald's "measurements" is so fantastic and otherworldly that it's nearly magical.

And if tidbits like this exist in a brief book about Hemingway's first years in Paris with his first wife, then what similarly amazing stories are buried in other lesser-known memoirs?

It's too rich to imagine.

We will all have to read very single memoir ever written, examine every scratched-up notebook and decipher every penciled book margin lest we miss some marvelous story like this.

Zelda and F. Scott, 1919, via

But anyway, back to A Moveable Feast.

Published posthumously in 1964, it is Hemingway's memoir of when he lived in Paris in the early to mid-1920s with his first wife, Hadley. 

He's in his early 20s in the book. He is young, he is in love and he is experimenting with his craft.

The Paris expatriate luminaries are all here too, in all their strange glory: Gertrude Stein, Fitzgerald, Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound and Sylvia Beach and her Shakespeare and Company bookstore.

Hemingway's interactions with Fitzgerald are marvels of insight and also possible jealousy. He paints him as a drunk who can't hold his liquor, who pines for Zelda and who overall behaves strangely. But there are some tender moments here too.

Hemingway on reading The Great Gatsby for the first time:

"When I had finished the book [The Great Gatsby] I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how preposterously he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend. …   If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby I was sure that he could write an even better one. I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him."
I'm not sure if that last statement resonates because it is such a harsh indictment of Zelda or if it's because Hemingway, in his look back at those early years, feels genuine sympathy for Fitzgerald.

(Hemingway is writing this memoir 40-years after the fact, likely remembering that The Great Gatsby sold poorly and received mixed reviews when it was published. Fitzgerald died in 1940 believing his book was a failure. It's revival and popularity didn't happen until after World War II.) (Fun/sad fact for cocktail party conversations: Fitzgerald's funeral was attended by only about 30 people.)

A Moveable Feast is filled with all kinds of wistful, sad retrospection like this.

Hemingway tells us: ”… this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” 

Ernest and Hadley, 1922, via

Looking back on his first marriage 40 years later, Hemingway paints his second wife, Pauline, as a homewrecker who set out after him by first befriending his wife Hadley. He blames Pauline almost entirely for his failed marriage, and he is writing about it four decades later with such guilt and sorrow that you can't help but feel bad for the man.

"Then, instead of two of them and their child, there are three of them. First it is wonderful and fun and it goes on that way for a while… You love both and you lie and you hate it and it destroys you… Everything is split inside of you and you love two people now instead of one.

"...When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the stadium, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her."
Death over love for anyone but Hadley. Damn Ernest, you poor bastard.

But remember, Hemingway had four wives, each left for the next after a miserable love triangle. So he can't feel that sorry. (Or maybe he just never learned from his mistakes.)

But still, it's a deeply sad chapter. You realize that while his life had gone the way he chartered it, the remorse tortured him. 

But don't cry for Hadley. She went on to have a lasting marriage to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Mowrer.

Hadley was 73 years old when the book came out in 1964. Here is a wonderful audio clip of Hadley's response to A Moveable Feast. 

Hemingway had been dead for three years and yet, here was this detailed, loving tribute to their time together, the cafés where they ate and drank, the streets they walked. It must have been other-worldly to read such a personal account of a part of your life, and yet so long ago it must have seemed a past lifetime or to have happened to another person.

And that is the other character in this book, Paris. 

The details are wonderful. The stories, the famous friends, the glimpses into the cafés where he wrote. Some of the cafés are still standing, and his notes are so specific you can trace his steps along the Left Bank. This page and this page even maps them out for you. 

It's been over 90 years since Ernest and Scott and Hadley and Zelda roamed those Paris streets, but isn't it wonderful to think about what streets and coffee shops people will look back on 90 years from now and navigate in the footsteps of a famous author.

I loved A Moveable Feast. It is a fantastic snapshot of a life as it was remembered, and that's always a little bittersweet, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

There's Only One Love, Yours And Mine

It was actually raining when Lionel Richie was singing You Are last Sunday night. We had pavilion seats at the show, but the storm that rolled through brought with it a nice wind, so it rained on us even in section 400.

As he sang "You are the sun, you are the rain," I watched the fine, sideways mist catch in the stage lights and thought, I am standing in the rain... with Lionel Richie! 

Fans scattered and squeezed toward the center of the pavilion as it got wetter, which only added to the ambience if you ask me.

We were all damp, singing and happy. Or at least, I was.

Dear Lionel: I'll stand in the rain for you. I don't mind and I don't miiiiiiiind... xxox, Gina

I was completely star struck by Lionel, I'll admit. I looked up at the stage in awe, my hands clasped together like a fangirl, and I belted out the hits along with him.

And so did the woman next to me. She was from Mississippi and had come to the Tri-State with her friend who wanted to visit all 50 states before she turned 50. They were able to cross Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky off of their list while the woman next to me got see Lionel in the process.

She was the perfect seat mate. We were both super thrilled to be there, and I had a companion in singing and dancing... all night long. When she kamaru'd left, I kamaru'd left. When I fiesta'd right, she fiesta'd right. We were sisters in Lionel.  

And Lionel, what I can I say. He hasn't lost an ounce of range or soul in his voice. He was as smooth sounding on stage at 65 as he was in videos I danced to in my living room decades ago. (Who I am kidding, I was dancing to his videos in my living room last week!)

And he was just as fit. Obviously ol' Lionel has made a deal with the devil because neither his face nor his body have any signs of aging. Good on him. (Yo, Devil, I'm interested in a deal, call me.)

He was such an affable entertainer too, telling funny stories and bantering about song origins. He looked and acted as though there was no where else he'd rather be than on stage in Cincinnati, Ohio, burning through his hits. And true to the tour's name, All the Hits, All Night Long, he played nearly two hours of solo and Commodore's hits. You've got to give it to an artist who can play nearly two hours of songs everyone knows the lyrics to.

"We've been through a lot together!" he told us. "When you were in love, I was in love! When you fell out of love, I fell out of love! It was a disaster, then it got worse! So you got your albums, your 8 tracks, your cassettes.... And who'd you turn to? Lionel Richie!"

And then he played Still, Oh No and finally Stuck On You in succession.

That was the bad, the worse and disaster of love, apparently. And I believed him. I felt like I had been transported to every breakup I've ever had and lived it all over again, only this time better, and with more feeling, because it was with Lionel!

By the end the three song 'love disaster' trifecta, when he asked us who we would turn to in our new hardships and love affairs - with our CDs, our cassettes, our digital music - everyone yelled, "Lionel Richie!"

"Damn right, you will," he said, as keyed the opening notes to Stuck on You.

He really was a funny and charming storyteller. I left the show feeling like I had been through things with Lionel Richie.

The crowd of course loved All Night Long and Hello, enjoyable but weaker songs in my opinion. (It would have been better if there was a fake blind woman on stage molding a bust of his head from a hunk of clay. Hello!)

But he really shined with his other hits, and by the end we were all swaying and singing together, united by our love of Lionel Richie.

My favorite moment, other than singing "You are the sun, you are the rain" in the rain to Lionel, was the stunningly beautiful My Love. When he hit the chorus I felt faint. I grabbed Ray and looked at him like, We are going to have a moment right here, right now, whether you like it or not.

I sang to Ray like I wrote the lyrics from the deepest recesses of my heart, serenading him with the love that Lionel Richie once had for his wife. (But not anymore, because they're divorced.)

I think Ray was into it.

But even with nearly two hours of music there were still plenty of hits we didn't hear. While not one of his bigger commercial hits, Do It To Me is one my favorite Lionel jams, but it didn't make the All the Hits, All Night Long cut.

Lionel and I are going to have work through this, just like we did all of our other highs and lows.

Dear Lionel: Let's work this out. I love you. xxox Gina

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Two Wheelin'

I spent the majority of the weekend on two-wheels on Route 8.

Saturday was the Mods vs. Rockers rally. Scooters and motorcycles of all shapes and sizes - vintage, café racer, Vespa, Triumph, three-wheelers, aggressive looking eat-your-family-bikes, and those that looked rode hard and put away wet.

But mine was the coolest.

You like my new pinstripes? Ray got them for me for Christmas and put them on last weekend so I'd have them for the rally. It gives the Baby Blue Angel a whole new vibe I think.

But if I had to chose second place, these two would win.

For one thing, that bike looks menacing, like it was an extra in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

But the little guy who rode side-car was the real highlight. He rode the entire rally with his Doggles on, taking it all in like a boss. He was the coolest rider out there. His owner told us: "The bike is his. He just lets me ride him around."

Saturday was a beautiful day to spend with 400 of my closest scooter and motorcycle riding friends, and at about 1 pm we all broke-up into groups to head through rural Kentucky.

Both sides of Plum Street downtown were packed with scooters and motorcycles. The Baby Blue Angel soldier'd up and got in line.
She says 'what up.'

I hadn't spent much time on the blue highways of Northern Kentucky before this weekend and wow, what lovely stretches of road. We went over hills and through valleys and watched the hay bales rise up on the sides of the foothills. We zipped past farms and churches and outpost gas stations and broken down cars.

An adorable little donkey (redundant: donkeys are always adorable) watched us ride past, along with a couple of gigantic white horses.

Also pretty excited to see us were the cicadas, who I think were attracted to the sound of our motors. They came buzzing out of the tall grass and trees, pelting us with their rock hard little bug bodies. If you haven't taken a cicada to the chest or face shield at 50 miles per hour, really you must. One hit me in the rib and I thought I'd been shot.

'How many cicadas did you eat' was a legit question by the end.

We rode every bit of 90 miles round trip, all the way to August, Kentucky. On the way there we took mostly rural backroads and I had no idea where I was or where I was going. And that's the beauty of a group ride, you get to sit back and follow the other scooters.

We cruised into Augusta about 3 pm and it was already packed with scoots and motorcycles and town-people, all there for a little art gallery walk.

Todd and I in Augusta. His scooter inspired me to get pinstripes.

Funny thing about Augusta, Kentucky - there are only 1,190 people, and yet they have a little 'downtown' packed with restaurants and shops. For such a small place, they've got patios and food and ice-cream shops and cafés on lock. Ol' Augusta has life figure out.

And you really haven't seen it all until you watch a bunch of tatted-up motorcyclists and scooter enthusiasts eating ice-cream cones in what looks like Mayberry. Because nothing says bad-ass like a twist cone bent to your face by an arm with a tattoo sleeve.

On the way back we followed the river exclusively down Route 8. Unfortunately, the ride back was way too fast, much faster than I prefer and I was silently complaining into my helmet that I was 'hanging on' rather than enjoying the ride.

And sure enough, on one of the hilly S-curves, a rider went too wide and ended up driving off of the side of the road and crashing his scooter.

I saw his bike lying on the side of the road (I was about 2 seconds behind him) and my heart went into a tailspin thinking he might be seriously hurt and that I might hit him, his bike or something else.
Fortunately, I saw him come up out of the mud so I knew he was at least mostly ok, but it scared the hell out of me. We all pulled over and called 911. He was mostly ok but pretty shook up.

Lucky for him he landed in the mud and not the road or gravel or a pole or a car, but it was scary and a reminder for me that I don't need to go any faster than I feel comfortable, regardless of what the 'group' is doing.

Needless to say, Todd and I moseyed on back into Cincinnati at a much more leisurely pace.

I got to experience the exact same scenery and cracks in the pavement on Route 8 on Sunday morning. Ray and I were up bright eyed and bushy tailed and early for the Ride Cincinnati for Breast Cancer Research.

I just realized that Ray and I kind of match. Sorry about that.
I absolutely love this event. There are so many walks and runs in Cincinnati, literally every weekend is packed with them from spring through fall, but there are few biking events. Ride Cincinnati is one of them.

Riders could choose between these distances down Route 8:

62.8 miles
45.2 miles
27.0 miles
18.4 miles
8.2 miles
and a 1 mile kids bike rally

Guess which one we chose? The 1 mile kids bike rally!

There was a clown. Actually, there were two "lady clowns," which Ray noted that "Nothing is scarier than lady clowns."

We actually did the 18-miler, but it turned into 20, so technically, we went way above and beyond. I haven't ridden more than 10 miles on my bike in about ohhhh, 10 years, so no surprise that my legs felt like jelly after about the 11 mile mark.

Thankfully, my trusty new steed got me through. (And there were animal crackers and Gatorade at the turn-around point. I hadn't eaten in at last 20 minutes during that bike ride.)

It's a Trek 7.4 FX if you're in the market for a bike that weighs about 4 pounds, has brakes,
handlebars, some aluminum and some carbon on it and rides like a dream.
I got a new bike this spring and have been bonding with it at Lunken and Armleder Park. And after Sunday's ride, we're officially a team. I also really love that it doesn't weigh 50 pounds like my old bike and that the gears actually change when you tell them to.

The bike practically rides itself; I can put it wherever I want it.

(I also realize that all of my modes of transportation are a shade of blue. The Blue Angel, The Baby Blue Angel and my as yet to be named Trek. This wasn't intentional, but maybe I have a transportation 'type'?)

The rides made the weekend seem longer and more fun, which is always the goal. But let me tell ya, I don't care if I see another scooter or bike anytime soon. I'm happy to be back in my car where there is a windshield to keep the wind and sun and cicadas off of me.

Now I need a weekend from my weekend. The normal kind, where I sit at the pool and read magazines books and my biggest 'activity' is either walking three blocks to Graeter's or driving to the Newtown Dairy Corner. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Keeneland Is Decadent and Depraved

I picked Dance With Fate to win the Derby yesterday. Alas, California Chrome won the roses.

I'm terrible at picking horses it turns out, along with everybody else. 

A few weeks ago at Keeneland we picked all horses with cat-inspired names, and they didn't fare well either.

Emotional Kitten, Kitten's Point, Bad Ass Cat... all failures. And they cost us a small fortune.* Maybe next year we'll change our strategy from cat-named horses to horses that actually have good odds.

The last two years Ray and I have gone to Keeneland on a chartered bus filled with friends, friends of friends, complete strangers, beer and Jell-O shots. Last year, our friends got engaged on the bus.

Obviously, our crowd is less about horse racing and more about having a good time. But I never drink because I'm reluctant to have to pee 40 times on a bathroom bus. And this year, someone accidentally dropped the hand sanitizer into the toilet. So there's also the possibility of not being able to clean your hands. 

But anyway, I go to Keeneland to watch the real beasts perform, which is to say, people watch.

Drunk college kids decked out in their J. Crew seersucker suits and sunburns. Women in pressed dresses, giant hats and heels (the brave ones wear stilettos, the realists wear wedges), their husbands in navy jackets. The moneyed owners and hangers-on. The genuine gamblers with their crazy hair, cigars and studied knowledge of the horses and the drugs they're on.

How the good people of the Commonwealth tolerate this influx of characters each April and October is beyond me.

One of the natives was an older woman, probably in her mid-60s, who took our hotdog order like she was happy to see us. She was sweet and southern and her wiglet ponytail matched her real hair almost perfectly. 

'Look, Ray. That woman has a wiglet. It's just like Madonna on the Blonde Ambition Tour.'

That's when I had to explain to Ray what a wiglet is.

'They're like wigs, only smaller.'

The good thing about Keeneland is you actually see horses. I went to the Kentucky Derby twice and I didn't see a single horse. The Mint Juleps could have been to blame the first year, but not the second. (I still won't go near a Mint Julep.) 

Next year we've decided we're getting grandstand seats. And maybe we'll study up on odds, breeds and jockeys. Or we'll just take our $2 to a betting window where some kind woman or man won't flinch when we bet on cat names again.

*And by small fortune, I mean we could have bought a few more hotdogs and a couple of beers with that money.

Monday, April 21, 2014


I think the reason the internet was invented was for cat photos and this video. 

These two women charmed me completely and totally. It is one of the most joyous things I have seen in a long time. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Four Glorious Years!

I don't know why he complains when I take pictures of him. Obviously I ensure that we both look great.

Today is the four year anniversary of when Ray and I met.

We had brunch at Coffee Emporium in OTR, next door to where he lived at the time. It was a white hot occasion, marked by me wearing jeans and a t-shirt (is there any better way to make a first impression?) and Ray was wearing a pea green zip-up that I still make fun of.

I asked him, 'Are you going to a track meet after this?'

I sure am charming!

I made a fleeting reference to this auspicious occasion in a blog post that weekend called That Was Fun.

From the post:
Sunday at brunch I grossly over-syruped my waffle and learned that my worst injury is a "chick injury." And if Jack White were to wail on his guitar and come bleeding from his fingers into my apartment, the drops of blood dripping onto my hardwood floor would form into the shape of Jesus, holding a guitar.
Those were the highlights of Ray and I's first face to face conversation apparently. He said I had a "chick injury," which I'm not sure now what we were even referring to, and I obviously talked about my love of Jack White, who even bloodied, is awesome.

Sounds about right.

I'm surprised I ever saw Ray again given that he said I had a "chick injury." But he was funny and cute, which can get you a long way in life really. And he told me his condo next door had a rooftop terrace with a grill, and I thought I'd look real good up there that summer sunning myself and eating hamburgers. (And indeed, I did.)

Over the last four years I've occasionally kept track of the funny things Ray has said to me, in addition to insulting my "chick injury."

In honor of our anniversary, here they are:

  • I know yoga is no joke and all, but I don’t think you should tell people that you have a yoga injury.
  • Have you ever noticed that chicks who are really into horses have hair that is way too long?
  • You aggravate the hell out of me! Being mad at me, needing tissues, demanding tea, taking my photo all the time!
  • I don't claim to know a lot about housing and infrastructure, but I know a firetrap shithole when I see one. 
  • Are you feeling a Reds game tomorrow night? It might be kinda nice to drink an overpriced beer, eat some stale nachos, watch a ballgame and bail when we get bored.
  • If we were broke up and you texted me a year later, hours before you’re supposed to get married to someone else and said, ‘I’m in over my head, come get me,’ I’d come get you. But I’d still be pissed you almost married someone else.
  • You know, I don’t think I ever felt teen angst. I never felt put upon or confused or ill-at-ease. I just wanted to get the hell out of Greenville, Pennsylvania.
  • I don’t why they call them boyfriend sweaters because this doesn’t look like anything I would wear.
  • Gina, I would walk through hell in gasoline underwear for you. But if you asked me to drive back from New Mexico when there are perfectly good planes, we’d be in a big fight.
  • General Tso's is the bomb. It's fried chicken with sugar sauce on it.
  • We cannot ever break-up. You have to love me forever because there is no way we'll ever be able to get all the furniture out of this house. The dressers barely made it through the window. We just have to stay together until the end. 
  • It looks like the Easter Bunny took a pastel dump in here.
  • I swear to god that place was a Superfund site. We drove all the way to Indiana to pay $8 for a JTM burger that made us sick and a packet of Swiss Miss with some lukewarm water. They just handed us the packet and told us to put the water on it ourselves. Plus, it was the shittiest hayride ever. ...God I loved that place.

Everyone should be so lucky to have a Ray.

Happy anniversary to us!