Tuesday, December 30, 2008


As my mom and I were walking out Wal-Mart the day after Xmas we were approached by a guy in probably his early to mid-20s carrying a reporter's notebook.

He was a reporter for the Chronicle-Tribune and he was doing a story on post-Christmas shopping.

My mom immediately told him I used to be a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, to which he responded with blank stares at us both. (Maybe he thought she meant the National Enquirer.)

Anyway, I felt sorry for the poor sap so we gave him a few quotes about our great bargains. It was in the paper the next day. Here it is.

It was interesting being on the other side of it. Brett is obviously still getting his feet wet in the biz judging by the quotes he used.

Afterwards my mom asked me if I missed it.

Not really, I told her.

My mom has always had the impression that journalism is "glamorous." She always used to say that, "Gina, it's so glamorous. Why would you want to leave?"

Certainly there were occasions when it was fun to slide past everyone else by flashing your press credentials, and I got to do a lot of fun things and eat a lot of great food - for free.

But more often than not I found myself trapped at school board meetings, arguing with city council members, watching people's houses burn down and sometimes watching the dead be loaded in to ambulances after car wrecks.

"Do you think that guy thinks his job is glamorous? Standing the rain in the Wal-Mart parking lot asking people about their holiday bargains," I asked my mom.

"Of course Gina! He got to hear about my $4 pajamas!"

She's funny.

Also funny, this site, Stuff Journalists Like, speaking of journalists.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Highlights

My mom was super excited about the new denture cup my dad got her. Merry Christmas mom!

I got kissed by a really cute girl... and got to catch up with other old friends.

Bonded with this cute kitty in the drill bit aisle.

Watched Adam wield his athletic prowess over this mechanical beast.

Hope everyone's holiday was as rockin' as this!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

3 Feet of Festive

We're waiting for Santa Claus.

What I'm Giving

I have a terrible time getting gifts for people. The problem is I'm not very thoughtful under pressure. In May I could probably think of something kind and sweet for everyone. But around the holidays, forget it... Everyone gets a popcorn maker.

I have a particularly hard time getting things for my parents. They never tell me anything they want, which means to find something they might like I have to search the stores as well as their souls.

Here's what I'm giving the impossibles this year. We'll see if they like them.

Who knew this existed (probably OMGReds.com ) but there is a DVD set of all 7 seven games of the 1975 World Series, featuring the Big Red Machine vs. the Boston Red Sox.

Each game is it's own DVD and it all comes in a nice little box. I got it for my dad, who talks about the Big Red Machine with such reverence that growing up I thought he knew them personally. ("Johnny Bench. Best catcher to ever play the game; I ain't lyin' to ya now," my dad would say.)

I think he'll like it.

I also got him the Muhammad Ali "The Greatest Collection" DVD, featuring three fights in their entirety (vs. liston; vs. Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle"; and vs. Frazier "Thilla in Manila") and lots of highlights from other fights.

Guess who's Christmas is going to involve lots of baseball and boxing? (My mom will be thrilled.)

My mom reads like she might at any day loose her eyesight, so I got her a bookstore gift card. It's what she likes but it's not very thoughtful. She also sends lots of cards with random and funny newspaper clippings in them so I got her a box of nice cards from the Cincinnati Art Museum. Maybe she'll fall madly in love with them and that will suffice as my "thoughtful" gift. But I bet she likes the gift card to Borders better.

I also ordered her some pecan torte coffee she was raving about at Thanksgiving. "Gina, this was $10 a bag! This is expensive coffee. Try it!!!" I couldn't order just one bag on Amazon so she's getting a box with four bags of it. She'll hate that pecan torte coffee in no time!

What I'm really giving them for Christmas though is me. No matter how long I stay (which usually isn't longer than a day) my dad always asks, "Why you rushing off?" Which always breaks my heart a little. So this year I'm staying TWO whole days. I'm excited to watch baseball and boxing and drink pecan torte coffee and go to the bookstore.

Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sleep Tight, Ya Morons!

Imagine if you hadn't yet read your favorite book.

What it'd be like to read it for the first time again. Rushing home to pick it up. Wishing for weekends to spend more time with it. Studying the rhythm, the tone, the way it's put together. Falling in love with it again.

It's been years since I read The Catcher In The Rye and I still count it as my all time favorite book. There are a few that have come close, but when I really think it about, Holden still wins. I don't remember when I first read it - I must have been in middle school, maybe high school - but I remember it affected me to the core. It transformed me. It changed the way I talked (I nearly broke my crazy neck), added colorful new characters to my world (I know a Stradlater when I see one), and most significantly, it transformed the way I thought about books.

From then on I knew that literature could have a tremendous impact, first on me - and later I realized on culture, on society, on nations.

The Catcher In The Rye is the reason I have a degree in literature as well as journalism. I couldn't settle on one or the other because I knew I'd likely be a reporter, but because of The Catcher In The Rye I couldn't not study literature.

There wasn't one class in any of my literature classes that even mentioned The Catcher in the Rye, but I'd still spend my evenings in Bracken Library digging up criticism of Salinger's book instead of doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. What does Holden's red hunting cap symbolize?

What someone thinks of the book, and what their lasting images of it are, is important to me. It's one of the things I ask people when I'm getting to know them... Does the phrase, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" mean anything to you?

I can't think of one person who has ever told me they haven't read The Catcher In The Rye, though I'm certain half of them were lying. (Phonies.) Except last week. I met someone who told me he'd never read it, and I was shocked. Shocked he hadn't read it, and shocked he revealed such a gap in his required reading.

I could feel the giddyness rising up inside me and a glint forming in my eye. "You have to read it now! Like, right now!"

It's pretty exciting to know someone who's reading it for the first time. I'll be able to live vicariously through him. Hopefully it's not awkward when I call him up every night to ask where he is in the book, what just happened and what's his favorite part so far.

I think I'm going to start reading it again too. It's been years since the last time and I'm curious how it will read now. We'll be a book club - of two.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fruit + Cake = Weird

Not only does it still exist.

But people actually buy it. (Probably only as a joke though.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008


A colleague gave me some of her homemade fudge today. Awww yeah!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Here Comes Santa Claus

Oh, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering where I got this stylish Santa sweater with the furry santa suit, collar and hanging balls.

You're thinking, "Wow. I wish I had a sweater exactly like that."

Well, too bad because it's probably one of a kind. I mean, they don't just mass produce quality sweaters like this. You got to know people who know people. You know what I'm sayin'?

Fortunately I know Susie Daugherty (she happens to be my mom) and when I told her I needed a heinously awesome sweater for a Wine and Wool Christmas party, she was on the case.

Three days later I received a package from Indiana with a note that said, "I asked for the ugliest sweater they had, and this sure was it. It was $6. I don't want it back!"

Ha. She doesn't want it back. I find that very hard to believe.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008


It's been in the 30s at night, yet I've been sleeping with two fans on and the window beside my bed wide open. I still wake up about 4 a.m. covered in sweat.

In an attempt to punish the new owners of my apartment building the manager is punishing me with heat. (Well, this is my theory anyway.)

Porterhouse Apartments has been run by on-premise manager Jim for about 25 years. He keeps a meticulous yard, is a master plumber and an all around true jack of all trades. Jim seems able to repair just about anything, and install new flooring while he's at it. What's more, he's super friendly, and whenever there is a problem you just call up Jim on his cell. He's great to have around.

But about a month ago we residents were notified with a note on our doors (rife with typos) that the building now has a new owner and that we need to start mailing our rent to them, rather than walk it across the courtyard to Jim.

Sure enough, the Auditor's Website says the property was bought for a cool $1.7 million to CliftonRents last month. This ends decades of family ownership by the Castleberrys, who still appear to own lots of expensive property in Cincinnati. My building was name for the son, Porter Castleberry. Hence the name Porterhouse Apartments.

(Side note: Imagine if your last name was Castleberry... and your family was rich to boot. What a fairy tale. It's hard for me to imagine people have those lives - Oh, I'm just going to my big fat Castleberry mansion in the sky. Ahhh.)

But back to the story... So Jim is very upset about this sale. (As I am... I love Jim!) The family kinda snuck around and sold the building, and now he's unsure of his standing. CliftonRents has its own maintenance people and they haven't been particularly forthright with him about what will happen.

So I think downtrodden Jim has been cranking the heat in civil disobedience. It is seriously blazing hot in my apartment half the time. While everyone else is snuggled up in down comforters with the windows locked tight, I'm kicking the sheet off me and I have the window wide open.

I don't pay heat so I can't control it. I figure Clifton Rents will figure this out soon enough and I'll be freezing when they cut off the gravy train. So I'm not really complaining, but it's kind of weird to look outside through an open window at 11 at night knowing it's 25 degrees outside.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What To Say? What To Do?

This morning I received an email from a woman in my dance class who's nephew just graduated from journalism school. He wants to be a "writer."

She wanted to know if I had any job leads for him.

Later in the afternoon I received an email from a victim of the Enquirer layoffs, someone who spent her entire career in newspapers and now faces an uncertain future as a middle-aged woman with nothing on her resume but newspapers.

How do I reconcile these two emails?

Since I started working at Children's a year ago I've had probably a half dozen people - some of them I know, some of them I've never met or heard of - contact me wanting a job. All of them were from the Enquirer. Reporters. Copy editors. Editors.

I know how fortunate I am. Doors aren't closing behind me and my colleagues aren't being layed off behind them.

So what do I say to them? Do I tell the new grad to flee newspapers before he becomes ingrained or gets layed off? That seems pretty pessimistic, but that's my instinct. And what do I say to the veteran suddenly unemployed and facing the real possibility of not finding a job?

If there is a balance between this youth and experience I don't know how to level it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Two Ways of Looking At A Black Kitty

With flash.

Without flash.

And the Wallace Stevens poem I took the title from, stanza 13 being my favorite.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Plea

Dear Dessert Makers:

The season of baked goods is upon us, and I feel compelled to speak out.

I don't understand why you insist on adding nuts, chocolate chips, caramel, peanut butter, icing and other such damaging additions to brownies.

If you want to crap up cookies and cakes with nuts and M&Ms and what-have-you, fine with me.

But the brownie is already perfect. Leave it alone.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

We Too Shall Come To The End

It's been what, 6 months? Longer?

I finally finished Then We Came To The End last night, Joshua Ferris' funny and much praised book on office life and lives.

The setting is a Chicago ad agency filled with cubicles of overthinking copywriters (What's another word for "now"?) and overwrought designers (Do you like this font? Or this font? Does this kerning look weird?).

Anyone who's worked with creative people who agonize over word choice and white space and logo design will find the office Ferris describes to be hilariously (uncomfortably even?) familiar. Yet he speaks to the heart of every cubicle dweller with lines like, "Our mornings lacked promise."

But I didn't find Then We Came To The End to be a funny book overall. It is sharp in observations and entertaining one-liners. And Ferris is spot-on with office politics, pettiness and jealously, but he also captures the community, friendship and companionship that those who are lucky find at work.

I had hard time getting in to it in part because there are so many characters, few of whom I cared enough about to keep track of. There are a few bright spots - such as the crazy who sends emails quoting Walt Whitman and later causes such pandemonium after being fired I couldn't stop myself from laughing. And there is the unhappy husband of a doctor who can't find his footing. While his wife is saving lives and making an impact he's charged with figuring out what makes people want to buy crap they don't need. (I somehow related to this guy.)

Overall though, I didn't connect with the characters. It's Ferris' writing that makes the book standout, not so much the story.

I did enjoy the ending a lot, and after I read the last line I felt my breath suspend for a seconds as I took in.

A year or so after they all leave the place they found so miserable (and that many got "layed-off" from) they meet at a bar to catch up and find out what happened to everyone. Those people who seemed so insufferable now seem so... agreeable, likable even.

This is what I remember about office life in the places I've worked. The shelter you find in the handful of folks you forge friendships with, and the times you share with those people, commiserating in hallways and bonding at happy hours over your collective "misery."

I'm lucky to have made some lasting friendships at the places I've worked. And it's always entertaining to reminisce on those days when we shared cubicles and printers and florescent lights. But it's also a bit melancholy. It's like being reminded of time's savage passing, who you were then, who they are now, has it really been that long, where are you going from here? I always have this rose-colored nostalgia for things.

As the title says, we come to the end. Then when we do we miss what we had and the misery of that time seems... not so miserable.