Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another List

Remember a few years ago when those '25 Things About Me' lists were going around on Facebook and you learned strange things about people, like that they're addicted to the ass-slap dance move?

Well, I love reading those lists.

Since a few of you might be new here thanks to Soapbox Media's feature Girl-Powered: 9 Must-Read Cincinnati Bloggers featuring yours truly, I thought I'd redo my own list of useless facts about myself.

1. A few summers ago I got caught in a rip current and had to be saved by a lifeguard. My husband (then boyfriend) had to be brought in with me. He says he wasn't going to come back without me, and that if I was going to drown, he was going to drown trying to save me. So basically, I saved his life by yelling for that lifeguard.

2. I've seen Bob Dylan in concert about 12 times.

3. I ride a baby blue scooter. For Christmas, Ray put racing stripes put on it. It used to go 65 miles per hour, but with the stripes, it will go at least 67.

4. I have about 374 (roughly) unpublished blog posts in my draft folder.

5. It pains me to watch someone damage a book by bending a page corner (use a book mark, ya morons), crack the spine or deface the cover. That said, I underline passages and write in the margins of mine. (Completely different... I do that out of love.)

6. In my head, I look like J. Lo. Hourglass figure, honey-colored Latin skin, juicy booty, phenomenal dance moves. Imagine my surprise when I look in the mirror. But I do have phenomenal dance moves.

7. I am extremely practical. For example, my car is 10 years old. I flirt with getting a new car occasionally, but I will likely drive my car until the wheels fall off and burn. The conversation in my head goes like this:

Wow, look at that amazing new car. I bet it has a USB outlet. I could jam to some Katy Perry from my iPhone with that.
You don't need a new car, you love the Baby Blue Angel!
True, and she's paid for. What you love more than USB outlets is not having a car payment - more new shoes!
But not driving a stick shift would be terrific. It's really hard to eat sandwiches, drink a pop and shift gears, you know.
Yes, but the Baby Blue Angel would be very upset to be replaced. Others might have a USB outlet, but you, Gina, have a tape deck. No one else can listen to cassingles in their car but you.

SOLD on the Blue Angel!

8. I used to hide under my bed when I was a kid and when my mom would call for me that it was time for bed, I'd take swipes at her and pull on her pant leg. She was not amused, but my dad and I thought it was hilarious.

9. I also used to hide behind the curtains and under the kitchen table and spy on my parents when I was a kid. Prowling around the house was my favorite activity. 

10. I was also the only girl in school who could climb the rope to the top of the ceiling in the gym;  I also thought the Presidential Physical Fitness Award in elementary school was 'my time to shine.'

11. Quitting hobbies is my favorite hobby. My favorite thing to do is nothing.

12. I spend most Sunday mornings with the New York Times. I'm old school. I have it delivered - in paper form - to my house.

13. I like to host parties and then hunker down in the kitchen heating up appetizers from Trader Joe's and drinking. I am social but solitary.

14. This summer Ray thought I had drowned in Norris Lake (separate incident from when we had to be saved by lifeguards), but really I was getting tipsy at the Tiki Bar with one of our friends. We were waiting for Ray and the group to come get us from the marina and at first we were like, "Damn, where ARE they?" But after a few hours and a few beers we were like, "Oh bummer, there they come." We were sad to leave to the Tiki Bar.

16. When I was little I wanted to be Stevie Nicks. Now when I grow up I want to be Blondie.

17. I moved to Virginia for my first newspaper job. My apartment was at the corner of Stonewall and Jackson Streets; not to mention everyone still talked about the Civil War. It was a culture shock.

18. I keep telling Ray we should have kids, but what I really want is another cat. I know he doesn't want kids or more cats, but he definitely doesn't want kids more. So getting a kitten is only a matter of time.

19. I've had a pen pal since the 6th grade. She is a pediatrician at Brooklyn Hospital in New York and grew up in Florida. She's fabulous. We wrote letters to each other - actual letters! - up until a few years ago when we became Facebook friends. Stupid Facebook.

20. The first time I snuck out I was about 11 years old. I snuck out so I could dance under the street light. It was so exhilarating that I excitedly twirled and jump and did cartwheels at the corner of Poplar and 40th Streets in Marion, Indiana. I'm sure the neighbors were like, "Aww, Ray and Susie's daughter must be going bonkers. It's so sad... they seem like such nice people."

21. Things I like: Vinyl, record players, cats, kittens, scooters, swimming (which is to say, sitting by a pool reading magazines), books, traveling, photos, blogs, art, delicious food, Totino's Party Pizzas and sitting on the front porch.

22. Things I do not like: The band Rush, noise, the book Eat, Pray, Love, double spaces after periods, and like every other sane person, moving.

[Since I can't think of anymore things about myself, I am going to write things about Ray.]

23. Ray really is addicted to the ass-slap dance move. I don't even think he knows he's doing it.

24. He was super fat when he was in middle school; and he had an afro. (Those girls who turned him down obviously had no idea he'd grew up into the stud he is today.)

25. His first job was as a garbage man. He was 15 and rode around on the back of the garbage truck dumping people's trash. It's also how he lost a bunch of weight and became normal sized again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hey-Ho I'm Going To Idaho

Icebergs near Palmer Station, Antarctica - photo by Kelly Jacques, National Science Foundation, used with permission via

In the span of three hours on Saturday, this happened:

  • Reading the preface, I discover the book was written as an accompaniment to a museum exhibit called Race to the End of the Earth.
  • An exhibit?! Ooh, I wonder if it's still open.
  • I Google the exhibit and find that it started in New York and received wonderful reviews.
  • I breeze through the exhibit photographs, details and YouTube walkthrough.
  • I Google where the exhibit is now and find that is at the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls.
  • Idaho?! Sweet.
  • I realize the exhibit ends Sept. 1 and recognize there probably isn't enough time to get there before then.
  • I call the Museum of Idaho to find out where it is going next; the operator tells me, "I think it's going to France."
  • I go outside to tell Ray that there is an exhibit on the race to the the Sole Pole featuring Scott and Amundson and depending on where in France, we should maybe go see it when we go to Paris in October.
  • "Wouldn't it be easier to go to Idaho," he wants to know. I tell him about the time crunch.
    (Ray was mowing the lawn; our tiny lawn looks like a very tiny golf course when he's done.)
  • I go back inside and email the author of the book and curator of the exhibit, Dr. Ross MacPhee, of the American Museum of National History, to ask where - exactly - the exhibit is going in France.
  • I look at a map of Idaho Falls and notice the exhibit is currently driving distance from Yellowstone.
  • Ooh… I've never been to Yellowstone.
  • I Google "how much are flights to Idaho Falls."
  • Those prices seem reasonable, I think.
  • I go back outside to show Ray calendar dates of when we could make this trip to Idaho work. Then I tell him how much flights are to Idaho Falls.
  • I casually remind him that we didn't go on vacation this summer.
  • "No way. That's too expensive," he says.
  • [Ray is covered in sweat from mowing and he's wearing his little clear safety glasses that he got so that he doesn't get a stick in his eye. He looks adorable in those glasses.]

    I push aside my feelings of his adorableness and respond firmly:
  • "It's not that expensive because it's all the way across the country. It seems like a pretty reasonable price for a flight to IDAHO."
  • I tell him there are only four flights left at that price. "And Yellowstone is right there."
  • "You in or out? Come on, let's go… We'll see the Scott and Amundson exhibit and go to Yellowstone!"
  • That's in three weeks and it's peak vacation season, he reminds me.
  • "Oh my god, you're right, I'll go book it right now!"
  • "At least call a travel agent," he says. "Everything will be booked in Yellowstone. We'll get out there and have to camp, and I'm not camping unless it's at a Marriott."  
  • I call a travel agent who tells me that National Park Service bookings go through Xanterra.
    "Go to their website and see if there is anything left. Call me back if you can't get anything in Yellowstone and we'll try to get you somewhere nearby. Good luck!" the lady says.
  • I call the National Park Service and say we need hotel rooms in Yellowstone in three weeks. The guy actually laughs at me. When he's done he offers to look to see if there are any cancellations. They have one room available for each date, but the rooms are in different spots each night.
  • "Great! I'll reserve them."
  • "There are 38 other agents on the system looking at rooms," he tells me.
  • "We've got to hurry then!"
  • We bond over our winning the race to the rooms and he tells me he went to some training at Milacron way back in the day in Cincinnati. 
  • He emails me the confirmation and I tell him, "I guess I better book the flights now, eh." He says, "Probably."
  • I go outside and tell Ray that I reserved us some rooms at Yellowstone and that they have a fun looking bus that will drive you around to the big sights.
  • "Oh, and by the way," I add this as if it's such a non-event it's hardly worth mentioning, "the rooms in Yellowstone do not have Internet, radios, telephones, TVs or air conditioning."
  • So basically, it's not like the Marriott at all. (But I don't say that.)
  • Ray is painting a portion of the privacy fence in the back and says, "Well, it's a National Park. What can you expect. I'm sure it's fine. Plus, we've never been to Yellowstone."
  • Hmm... don't even know who this person is who just said this to me, but I'm running with it.
  • By 8 pm I've booked the rooms, the flights, a rental car and researched and planned our entire itinerary, complete with must-sees, hikes and an excursion through Grand Teton National Park.

In sum: That beautiful, $20 book cost us about $2,000 by the time we go to Idaho for the exhibit and go on to Yellowstone.

But! This is actually much cheaper than the cruises I was originally looking into at Antarctica itself, which between flights to Buenos Aires to get to the boat plus the cruise itself, the price was astronomical.

The way I see it, I just saved us about $15,000. (I'm not kidding.) I mean, just the coats and boots and thick socks you'd have to buy to make it through the cruise and not freeze to death would probably be $2,000. 

Meanwhile, Ray has essentially been widowed the entire summer because I am gripped by the book The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Gerrard, which is what started this whole preoccupation with Antarctica in the first place, and how I ended up ordering Race to the End.

I've spent the last several months completely transfixed by Cherry-Gerrard's account of the Scott expedition to the South Pole - the men, their science, the horrible conditions, the penguins, the fate of the ponies, the dogs, the entire exploration team.

Adélie penguins, Antarctica  - photo by Sean Bonnette, National Science Foundation, used with permission via

I recount details of the book to Ray as though it just happened, and the journey ended in 1913. I make these "news announcements" while he's trying to fall asleep, or when he's painting a fence, or making dinner.

(I would help do these things but... I'm reading.)

"Ray, are you awake? Two of the ponies fell off of an ice floe and they couldn't get it back onto the ice; they had to shoot them. I'm sorry to tell you this."

"Ray, the dog sledge team fell into a crevasse. They were able to rescue 8 of the dogs with an Alpine rope and the other two Scott fished out of the crevasse after being lowered 60 feet down. Only two of the dogs died, so that's good news. But a few of them probably have internal injuries from hanging for over an hour in their harnesses into a crevasse. It's very sad."

"Oh. No... Ray, you're not going to believe this... The depot crew woke up with their tent having broken away from the ice barrier, so now they are floating out to the sea on an ice floe and killer orcas are surrounding them and conniving to eat them."

"Hey, what are you cooking? Is it pemmican? Just fyi, the Winter Journey to the penguin rookery is bad, really bad… the temperature is -60º and the tent just blew away in a horrific blizzard. They're singing hymns to stay awake and trying to not freeze to death. They're pretty certain they're going to die. Things are grim in Antarctica right now."

I even cried got a little upset the night they had to shoot the two ponies who fell into the Ross Sea.

When I'm not reading the book I'm marveling at the photography of the expedition's photographer, Herbert Ponting. (You can see all of his photographs of the journey thanks to the Scott Polar Research Institute's website.) And I spend my free time absorbed with more books about Captain Scott, his rival Amundson, Antarctica, Emperor and Adélie penguins and ice floes. 

If you haven't read The Worst Journey in the World, start on it immediately. We can live the summer of 2014 in Antarctica together. It's truly riveting and deserves it's status as National Geographic's best adventure book of all time. And I cannot wait to see the exhibit.

[I am still waiting to hear back from the exhibit curator and author to see where it is actually going after Idaho. If he tells me Greater Cincinnati, I'm just going to keep that information to myself.]

UPDATE: Dr. MacPhee (author, curator, professor) wrote back thanking me for my charming note and stated: "The show goes next to Lyons, France, for an October opening at the Musee des Confluences. There are, sadly, no other venues on the horizon at the moment."

So basically, we've all got until September 1 to get to Idaho!

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.