Sunday, July 24, 2016

Saturday: In Pictures

Saturday was too hot to do anything. Even the pool seemed like it would be too hot. 

I had been feeling a bit deprived of culture, a bit uninspired and in need of art or letters or music to refresh me. So we decided to spend the day in the two coldest indoor spaces one can find (outside of the modern office building): A museum and movie theater. 

The Cincinnati Art Museum was our first stop for their current exhibits

30 Americans and Divine Felines were our top priorities.

If you haven't been to CAM lately, you have until August 28 to see 30 Americans. It is deeply moving and thought-provoking.

From the CAM:
30 Americans showcases art by many of the most important African-American artists of the last three decades. This provocative exhibition focuses on issues of racial, gender, and historical identity in contemporary culture while exploring the powerful influence of artistic legacy and community across generations.


The above installation of Rodney McMillian's "Untitled, 2005", which is an enormous piece of what was once someone's wall-to-wall carpet, was one of the pieces that stood out to me. 

Stained and worn, you can see where the closet would have been, where the couch likely rested, where life took place. It is simple yet arresting — who's lives were lived on this carpet? A million things happened here to people who loved and were loved and now this, just their carpet. We are forced to speculate their entire lives: What happened here? A wall-to-wall Rorschach.

After lunch at the Terrace CafĂ©, we headed to another one of the CAM's current exhibits, Divine  Felines.

We laughed. We cried. It was better than... okay, sorry.

It was truly delightful though. And whoever was the curator, well done. From the hilarious quotes by famous authors who loved, lived and were possibly held hostage by their cats, to the explications and puns through-out, it was wholly charming.

A wall of cat paintings by my new favorite artist, Inagaki Tomoo (1902-1980).


Ray said the above painting is what it looks like when I pick-up Chuck Norris. I love Ray, but he doesn't know what he's talking about. Chuck Norris is the picture of calm contentment when I hold him.

We also spent quite a long time in the Cincinnati wing of the CAM. I had been through it before, except not really because I realized yesterday it just keeps going. Painting, sculpture, furniture, silver, pottery, fireplaces. The collection is expansive and amazing. I don't know how I missed it all in the past.

And something I had never seen before, a bronze model of the Tyler Davidson Fountain, circa 1868. 

And I stopped to see a favorite of mine from the regular collection, Andrew Wyeth's 'Henry Teal.' I am attracted to this painting for so many reasons — the simplicity, the realism, the open table, Henry sunning his serene face against the window. 

For such a simple scene, there is much to absorb.


(I interviewed Wyeth's grand-daughter, Victoria Browning Wyeth, for an exhibit on Christina's World at the CAM in 2007 and wrote a post about it she was so entertaining. She referred to him only as 'grandpa Andy' and talked about his love of black turtlenecks.)

And no trip to the CAM is complete without a photo of Chihuly's cobalt beauty. I read an old Enquirer story that says it's 11-feet tall, 7-feet wide, weighs 810 pounds and consists of 282 pieces of free-blown glass. 

It's also a twisting, alluring, tornado of blue.

We spent the rest of the evening at the Esquire eating popcorn and watching Absolutely Fabulous. I loved the show and watched it endlessly in college, but unfortunately the movie is a dud. It doesn't capture the crazy, frenetic spirit of Patsy and Edi, and the laughs are very few and far between. Too bad.

By the time we finished dinner at Biagio's, the sun was set and it was safe to go outside again. And if you've never been to Biagio's, it's an interesting little Italian joint in Clifton. 

The chef (Biagio, I assume?) cooks everything on four open stove flames facing the dining room, right near the entrance. If you want to know where the second exit is, just ask Ray, as the open flames, the grease and the lack of ventilation to the outside always causes him to double-check where the alternate exit is. (Not that this is unique to Biagio's, by the way, as I've watched Ray scout for exits in hotels, bars and any number of restaurants.)    

But you leave Biagio's little bistro full and smelling like garlic, which I generally consider a dining success. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

Bye Bye Birdie

Sad news, the bird is gone. He came up missing the day after we moved him into the penthouse. I guess there will be no first dates or prom pictures.

Ray thinks he fell out of the penthouse and got eaten by a cat or something. I think an owl probably swept through and got him. But we both agree that the more likely scenario is that his mom just took him to Target for some early back-to-school shopping.

Other scenarios we considered:

  • Tomcat snuck out of the house and ate him.
  • Tomcat snuck out of the house, grabbed him and he and Chuck made him their pet, and he lives in the basement now.
  • He got snatched-up by an owl but then his mom swooped-in, grabbed him out of the owl’s grasp mid-air, and flew him home to another nest.
  • He got a job a Carl's Deli down the street.
  • He and his family went to Coney Island after such a rough weekend.
  • He grew feathers and flew away. (This somehow seems the most ridiculous of all the scenarios.)

Whatever the case, we might not be so great at taking care of birds.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bird Watchers

Ray says I have made him soft.

This after he took a break from grilling on Saturday to give a baby bird a strawful of water.

The storm that blew in Thursday night took out a limb on our Bradford Pear tree. (I know, they are the devil for countless reasons.) When Ray woke me up Friday morning to say he was going to borrow a chainsaw that night to cut it up (a little too excitedly, by the way), I didn’t think much of it.

Until I saw this. Not quite the 'limb' I was expecting. 

Thankfully, it missed our tomato plants on its way down. (I don't think we can handle another year without tomatoes.)

Driveway tomatoes this year. Safe and sound. Whew.

Friday afternoon after we had some tree guys come out, we noticed two little baby birds had been un-nested and landed in the middle of our concrete driveway. They barely had feathers and didn’t look so great.

I told Ray not to touch them or get too close or the mom will abandon them. This is an old wives tale, it turns out. We now know this from Google as well as experience — while waiting to see what was going to happen, something happened. One of them died.

RIP baby bird. Sorry we didn’t do more for you sooner.

But after the first death, Ray declared the backyard a state of emergency in an effort to save the sole survivor. He was Googling, peeking around the back deck to check on it, and occasionally running the gauntlet of adult robins squawking at him whenever he’d get near the baby bird.

Momma bird was also frantically flying around with a worm in her mouth to feed him, so that was good. But even if he got fed, the poor guy was still lunch on a concrete platter for the wandering cats, raccoons and other predators that go through our backyard.

I asked Ray if maybe the mom couldn’t somehow lift him into the tree.

No, he said.

What about if she had a robin friend, and they each grabbed a leg and carried him?


Maybe she was devising some kind of pulley system to get him back up into the nest?

No? Okay fine.

Then how about we make him a ‘nest’ from a Gladware container and nail it to the tree? (And by ‘we,’ I meant Ray.)

So Ray donned some latex gloves, braved the angry robin-mom gauntlet that was now the baby bird state of emergency on Erie Avenue, and moved the little guy to the Gladware, adding some some torn-up pieces of paper towel for his ‘nest.’

You just can’t shut-off the genius switch at our household.

That is until later that evening when we realized my idea was basically the FEMA trailer of birdhouses. He was in full afternoon/evening sun with no shade in clear plastic box. Brilliant.

Plus, his mom had taken offense to the shredded paper towel and carried each and every bit of it over the fence and littered it onto the neighbor’s back patio.

(Lol. That robin-mom is a litter bug.)

So yesterday Ray built him a proper birdhouse and moved him under duress from the male robin, who Ray says ‘locked eyes with me and gave me the what-for. You should have heard the language he was using.

Now every few hours Ray comes and gives me a report.

‘The little guy is still alive.’
‘His mom is out there with worms for him.’
‘He’s still there, I saw him moving.’


Talk about a bird who wants to live. He got knocked out of his nest not by the storm, but by the tree trimmers, hit the concrete, baked in the sun and watched his brother die. Then he got stuffed into a plastic box which was hot enough to cook him, all before getting moved to a penthouse by a human with weird gloves on. Oh, but he did get some water by a strange man with a bendy straw when it was 90 degrees on Saturday.

Talk about a rough weekend. And an amazing story for his bird friends when he gets to kindergarten.

Already he looks so grown up. Before long he’ll be leaving the nest and going to pre-school, then first dates, then prom

But this is why Ray says I’ve made him soft.

‘Before I met you, I sure as hell wasn’t giving baby birds water through a straw or building them birdhouses.’


Then he adds, ‘It says here that only 30 percent of songbirds survive their first year of life. Our guy still has a long way to go. We’re not out of the woods yet.’

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Here You Come Again, And Here I Go

I figured my five days with Ray being out town this past week would be filled with books, boredom and a lot of front porch sitting while eating strawberry fruit bars.


He left Saturday afternoon and I haven’t gotten a moments rest.

It started Saturday evening when I decided to take my scooter out for a spin to charge the battery. I was cruising down Riverside Drive with the hot humid air blowing my day-glo green shirt behind me (safety first) when I remembered that Dolly was playing at Jack Casino.

I had tried to get tickets but got shut-out, so I figured I’d cruise by the casino and maybe listen to my idol sing a few songs. Probably starts at 8, I imagined.

Wrong again. 

When I found out she didn’t go on until 9, I debated leaving. I needed to eat, plus, I don’t like to drive my scooter at night. Safety first, like I said.

But then all reason when out the window when I found a food truck (jackpot!) and saw everyone lined up to get in to see her. 
Well... maybe I’ll just stay until she plays Jolene.

I was crossing Central Parkway on the Baby Blue Angel when I heard the first of that sweet country lilt of hers. I got so excited I found the first 'spot' where I could park — a non-spot in front of a fire hydrant in a no parking zone. 

We are outlaws, the Baby Blue Angel and me. 

'No Parking Anytime' AND a fire hydrant? Let me pull right in here.

I couldn’t see her through all the barriers Jack puts up to keep freeloaders like me from seeing the artists, but I could hear that angelic voice from heaven as clear as day.  

She sounds like she hasn't aged a day over 27, the age she was in 1973 when she recorded Jolene. 

Dolly... soo close, but soo far.

And then, third song in, I’m sitting on a bench across from the casino listening with 50 other freeloaders, when the unmistakable sorcery of Jolene’s chord progression starts. Chills went down my spine, I swear to you. And then I fell into into a music-induced trance for all 2 minutes and 45 seconds of the song.  

It was so much fun and I was having such a great time I thought I’d hang around until she played another song I really like. Since I really like all of them I figured I’d stay for another few songs and head home before it got too dark. It was already coming past dusk at this point and Ray was texting me from Las Vegas that I shouldn’t be riding home in the dark.

Look dude, I’m wearing a day-glo green shirt, I'm the safest thing on two wheels!

But in my head I was morbidly thinking: If it get squished by a car after seeing Dolly, would it be worth it? Not really, but I’m still pumped to be hearing Dolly tell the stories of her songs and sing them to us as though we’re the best audience she’s ever experienced.

About then the acoustic notes of Coat of Many Colors started and suddenly I imagined my life being as rich as it could be in my coat of many colors, tapping my feet on the wooden boards of my old Smoky Mountain front porch. 

Sure, I am almost 30 years younger than Dolly, I have never lived in Tennessee in my life and my momma couldn’t sew me a coat if I were freezing to death, but this is my daydream with Dolly and I’ll live it how I please.    

I heard Banks of the Ohio, Applejack, an American Pie medley, Islands in the Stream, 9 to 5, I Will Always Love You and Do I Ever Cross Your Mind. 

(Do I Ever Cross Your Mind, her staggeringly beautiful trio with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, was turned into some kind of a do-wop number with one of her bandmates. Meh, I didn’t love it.) 

The whole time I didn’t see even a wisp of her wig, but I know she was there. And it was quite nice honestly, sitting out in the grass across from the casino by myself, just listening to Dolly. Even Jupiter came out for the occasion.

Hello moon. Hello Jupiter.

And the Baby Blue Angel made a friend.

It probably goes without saying from here that I ended up staying for the whole show, darkness be damned. Besides, I keep a high-visibility jacket in my scooter and even though it won’t save my life, it did make me feel better about driving home at 11:30 at night.

Spoiler: I didn’t get hit by car or attacked by a rabid nighttime stray dog. 

The Baby Blue Angel and I sailed home without incident, but I can’t tell you how many times I nearly popped off that thing when I hit bumps or manholes too hard. (They’re impossible to see in the dark until you’re right up on them.)

So, so much for my big boring Saturday night with Ray being gone. I didn’t get to relax on Sunday either because I had a wedding shower to attend followed by another scooter ride with a friend. Between all my activities, plus feeding two cats, watering the flowers and starting a new book, I’ve barely had enough time to sit on the porch and eat fruit bars.

I don’t get any rest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Behold: Collard Greens

Collard greens from our CSA bounty this week.

The only time I’ve eaten collard greens is when they were cooked in butter and spiked with either ham or bacon, making them delicious, but also removing any remote possibility of being healthy.

And I’ve only ever had them with fried chicken. (Is it even legal to eat collard greens without fried chicken? If it is, it shouldn't be.)

But Ray and I weren’t having fried chicken, we were having grilled chicken. And in theory, the CSA is supposed help us eat better, so I searched for the easiest collard greens recipe I could find and landed on this one at Simply Recipes — Sauteed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins.

By some miracle we already had pine nuts and garlic so all we needed to pick up were raisins. So far, we are cooking with gas! (This is an expression Ray uses whenever something is going well.)

The first step — toast the pine nuts — went off without a hitch. (I am excellent at toasting.) But when I removed the pine nuts and added the garlic to the pan, things got intense. Lava-hot olive oil and burning garlic were popping all over the place, so I had to do a two-step away from the stove while it settled down. 

Pro tip: Be wary folks, this could happen to you, so go ahead and turn on that vent fan before you start “sauteing” this stuff.

The greens took longer to cook down than I anticipated, probably 7 minutes or so. (That may have been because I turned the heat down after being scalded though.)

The recipe calls for ¼ cup of white wine, but I wasn’t about to waste a bottle on collard greens, so I improvised with water with a splash of balsamic vinegar AND lemon. (The recipe says to use one or the other with water, but my greens and I live on the edge, so I added both.) 

Here it is cooking up real nice. Look at those pine nuts, so perfectly toasted.

At the end I added the raisins, pine nuts, red pepper flakes and water as instructed, let it boil off and then removed it from heat. 

As a result, my greens turned out relatively intact, which I think is how most people like them. But not me. I prefer mine an unidentifiable moss of green sludge and I wished I'd have cooked them harder and longer in more water. (That’s me.)

The Verdict:

A little Prince with your side of greens?
Pretty tasty. Again, I think greens are better slathered in bacon grease or ham, but what isn’t, you know? These were healthy and the combination of the sweet (raisins) with the heat (red pepper flakes) was a nice contrast. And it was super easy and fast to cook, minus nearly catching the stove on fire.

Ray said he really liked them but he is somewhat unreliable because 1) he likes about anything and 2) he’s too nice to complain about something I’ve made, so he can’t be counted on to be overly critical. I’ll work on him though. This is science.

The next few farm shares are mostly salad greens I believe, so I have a bit of a reprieve from coming up with recipes and cooking. Thank God. These collard greens liked to wore me out.