Early Wednesday morning the OTR community woke up to find that a 84 year old friend had been lost to fire. Smitty's, on the 1400th block of Vine, caught fire around 3:30am and the ensuing fire consumed three adjacent buildings. When finally brought under control all four structures look to be a total loss.
Over the Rhine is our new home and I was able to make it over to the site of the fire around noon and shot a few pics. The fire department was wrapping up their operations around then and from my pics you can get somewhat of a feel of the damage - I was unable to get around back, but if you check out The Boilover you can see the full extent of the damage in the rear of the buildings, which is already collapsing.
To get a real feel for the loss read the Cincinnati.com article about Smitty's and the owners reactions to the fire.
With the recent closure of the Roebling Bridge repairs have kicked into high gear. Within minutes of them closing the bridge workers were swarming and beginning work. As promised, here are some photos of the recent changes. These were taken a week or so ago - I'll work on getting some newer ones soon.
Once we move I plan on walking over the bridge daily so photo updates will become more frequent, and probably a lot more interesting.
For the full Flickr set click here. As things progress I'll add photos and post some updates here.
Sports-writer guestblog time! This time, it's a bit more op-ed. Thank you Bradley!
I love Great American Ballpark.
I hate what's written on the side of Great American Ballpark.
"Rounding Third and Heading for Home" it says, proudly displayed in big, bold red letters, stuck to the side of our stadium for all to see. No doubt it's hard to drive past a baseball stadium without vivid imagery of a classic ballgame being played, of history being made as fans excitedly jump to their feet, shrugging off now-unimportant eight dollar beers and four dollar hotdogs to cheer Griffey Jr.'s home run, or Pete Rose ironically sliding into home plate.
Especially for us Cincinnatians, who've had baseball's presence in our town longer than anyone. Not even the absence of sunlight could stop the Queen City from watching its coveted baseball games. Now through thick and twenty years of thin, that tradition is still being held in our city to this day. The recent Opening Day celebration proves just how much the Reds mean to Porkopolis.
So why in God's holy name does it say "Rounding Third and Heading for Home" on the side of our stadium, instead of the most classic phrase ever uttered by a ballgame announcer in this or any city?
"And this one belongs to the Reds"
The phrase nearly brings tears to the eyes of my father, who grew up with Marty and Joe's voice, the voice of our Cincinnati Reds for as long as the both of us can remember. It's iconic. It's classic. It's impossible to ignore the blatant disregard for such a perfect and synonymous phrase, a phrase that signifies the end to a perfect night, and that our team has just added another win to the list.
So I've looked into the matter. As it turns out, the phrase to be pasted to the building went under considerable thought. In the end however, "And this one belongs to the Reds" wasn't deemed the slogan to use on the basis that the powers-that-be felt it didn't signify that our stadium belonged enough to the fans, and that the idea of "this one belonging to the Reds" displayed the wrong sort of message.
Are you f!cking kidding me? There will never be a more perfect slogan to use. In a million years, there won't ever be a phrase that unites Reds fans the same way. Never once have I huddled around a radio with my friends to hear that the Reds were "rounding third and heading for home." Not once have I walked in from a long day to hear my dad excitedly yell that we rounded third and headed for home.
It doesn't mean the same thing. It doesn't carry the same weight, and it doesn't give Cincinnati Reds fans the credit they deserve. The team belongs to all of us, every day of every season, through thick and thin: through every injury and tragic loss, and ever nail-biting overtime inning. Ladies and gentlemen, those men in the uniforms aren't the only ones that can call themselves part of the Reds team. (If I may get sappy:) we're all a part of what makes our team -and people- this one belongs to the Reds.
You know what I didn't love as much as I wanted to? King Arthur's Court toy store.
Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it. It's a very sweet little store with a lot of cool options. I can imagine a kid going nuts in this kind of store, if they haven't been spoiled by the giant warehouse toy stores that are far more common.
And there was a great selection of LEGOs too, which is always a deciding factor for me. The problems I had were twofold: 1) not a fantastic game selection-- good, but not the vast expanse I'd thought I'd find, and 2) clearly separated "girls" and "boys" toys. I'm talking an entire third of the store that was solid pink, and on the far opposite of the store: cars, trains, blue-and-black color scheme. I'm anti... that.
The toy I ended up buying from the boy-themed section was a black "stealth fighter" kite, and I would have just as soon purchased it for a 7-year-old girl as for the 30-something dude who received it. I dislike this separation of gender-- I think it gives kids an early idea that there is a place for them, a toy for them, a passion for them. (And, more importantly, a "wrong" part of the store for them.)
But that's a personal thing. It's everything a toy store ought to be: bright and colorful, full of toys and clever games and Erector sets. (And dollhouses and fairies and unicorns. Girl side.)
Soon we'll post some updates about OTR life and making our new condo into a home, but today I'm going to share a bit about Anchor Grill. My boss suggested we hit it up for lunch one day, considering how much I looooove greasy spoons.
Look at how greasy this spoon is! Ahh, I love it. Delicious options like meatloaf and chicken & dumplings (my choice this time around). This is the kind of thing I'd eat every day if I had the chance.
The decor is almost *beyond* kitsch, it's so bedecked with lighthouses and anchors and... boat things. The most surreal part was when anyone would choose a song on the jukebox, a bunch of lights would turn on and animatronic characters would start to sing along, no matter the song.
I love and recommend the Anchor Grill. It's a 24hr establishment, and cash-only. Also: awesome.
My baby brother Bradley is back, guestposting about the Cincinnati Reds this time. Lawd knows I can't do sports. Thank you, Bradley!
So now that we've had some time to cool off from the heartbreaking loss of Opening Day, I figured it would be a good time to look into the Cincinnati Reds franchise and get a little insight into what's been going on and what to look forward to.
I wish, however, that my optimism for the 2010 season could be proven by something a little more tangible, and not by just an unwavering pride for our Cincinnati sports teams. Let's be honest, it's getting harder to get excited for each season when our last playoff berth seem so distant. Hell, I'm young enough to have never even seen either of our major league teams in the position to win the national title. So excuse me if I'm a little past of the point of blowing smoke up your asses.
The way I see it, the Reds are in no chance to win the World Series this year. The sooner we come to that inevitable realization the better, and the sooner we can get to assessing what needs to be fixed in the organization, and what cuts can be cut.
We had a productive off-season for this kinda thing, albeit pretty tame for what I figured would happen. Walt Jocketty, a promising new general manager in the organization. Dumping Willy Taveras was good, and he somehow kept Aroldis Chapman out of the hands of any team with a significant amount of money. Adding Orlando Cabrera was a smart move too, and it's hard to knock Walt's ability to strengthen the team's farming.
But Jocketty's steal of Aroldis Chapman is a terrific metaphor of the Reds in 2010. Capman's fastball has been clocked at over 100 miles per hour, with a deadly accuracy. But that 100mph fastball isn't on the field yet, striking out batters. So with this amazing talent comes the time it takes to groom players to be winners for our team. The Bengals face a similar struggle with such an odd blend of rookies and veterans... both of which need to stay healthy, and both of which need time.
And isn't that what it all boils down to? Sports writers always sound like such a broken record when they say a team needs to stay healthy to win. That's a given, because consistency is the only chance teams have to win. Lucky for us, Dusty understands this, even if he does wear out pitchers.
So the aforementioned realization needs to occur sooner than usual. We're not going to be laying down any playoff wins within the next few years. Games we do win will be hard-fought in the extra innings. Off-season moves will be crucial now more than ever, and a back-to-basics attitude will have to be instilled into this team's rookies if we want a healthy development in our Cincinnati Reds.
So what to look forward to?
Look forward to some close, exciting games. This Reds team has a ways to go before it's a fierce competitor in the league, but that doesn't mean we'll just see a change overnight. As the team gets better, so will our whole ball-club, translating into a thirst for victory. Once these guys click and see their hustle brings home a win: games we "should've won" will get fewer and fewer.
Joey Votto is also deserving of some love for our 2010 season. Coming off a multitude of injuries, Votto looks to make a return to form, as he promises he's fulled healed. Gotta love that guy.
Jay Bruce will have a breakout season, as it's important to keep in mind this guy's only 23: we've got a long and fantastic relationship ahead of us with this guy. He's a crowd pleaser, he's a high-energy player, and he's what'll ignite our offense if can have an have even a decent season.
So with a whole roster of talented players, the Reds are on track to put together a future team, not just a season. And with each game, win or lose, comes the hunger for improvement and to bring the Commissioner's Trophy to its rightful home in Cincinnati.
You know about my plans of making myself like beer. (No progress there, by the way.) Beer is just the newest item in a long list of things I'm trying to teach myself to like: wine, then olives, and I think I'm finally making some headway on BREAKFAST!
Yep. I don't like beer, pig, breakfast. Kick me out of Cincinnati, why don'tcha.
So that's what brought me to Park Chili Parlor. My coworker-friend and I had a pre-workday meeting. He's from Northside and knows I'm way into the greasy spoon-type restaurant, so we went to Park Chili.
I had the "veggie mess," which I'm craving again right now. Potatoes and peppers and eggs and you know what I'm not even sure what all was in that thing except a heap of delicious.
The best part of the meal-- which I don't have to tell anyone who's been there-- is the local flavor. Regulars would walk in and be heckled, heckle back. It sounded like there was a script that the whole restaurant was reading from, and it was really very sweet and funny.
Eep. I should have talked about this weeks ago; I'm so sorry. I'm working through a serious backlog of Cincinnati (re)adventures! It's an embarrassment of riches.
My friend-boss, Jeff, and I decided we wanted to go to the ballet. (We're a bit arbitrary like that.) We made a double date of it, got all spiffed up, grabbed dinner at Melt and headed to the Aronoff.
First off, love the Aronoff. Always have, since my mom started taking me to the theater when I was in middle school or so. I'll do a more in-depth post about this beautiful theater some other time-- maybe I can hook up a tour or something? I clearly need better pictures than the one I could snag while the lights were up.
But the real gem of the evening was the ballet, of course. I'd never seen the Cincinnati Ballet, except maybe a Nutcracker performance so long ago I can't remember anything but the velvet dress I was allowed to wear that night.
I was floored by the performance. Before the performance, I was curious as to whether it'd be more abstract or so story-driven it'd be dull. I was pleased to find the performance to be right in the middle: accessible enough that all four of us really connected to it, abstract enough that we all took away our own interpretations of various parts of the story.
I found myself ruminating about art in general. For someone as tied to a computer as I am, it was really beautiful to see something so human. Dan commented on a particular part of the opening routine where the dancers were slightly off-sync-- well of course they were. They're human, not automated. We were watching a dance that would only happen that exact way one time, no matter how much they practiced. That's what separates art from... well, just about everything else.
Dan has worked in the same building for like a hundred years and there are still twenty thousand restaurants in walking distance that he hasn't visited.
Hi, I'm Erica, and when I'm not grossly exaggerating I'm freeing my boyfriend's mind and taste buds.
Chalk is within spitting distance of Dan's workplace, so when I had an afternoon off I whisked the boy away to check out Chalk. It's long been on my wishlist, and I knew we could afford a lunch option much easier than dinner.
I ordered the bison burger and Dan had chicken something-or-other. (See? Not a food blog.) I think we were both fairly surprised by how much we liked our lunch. Frankly, I've been a little hesitant since my misfires with Greenup and Lavomatic and a handful of other places I was supposed to love at one point.
But yes, I really enjoyed Chalk. There were familiar options (uh, burger and fries) done in a gourmet way. (To me, gourmet = I couldn't make it at home. Not a very high bar.) We were even able to spend the sunny day out on Chalk's sweet little back patio-- although walking through the restaurant, I'd like to go back and sit inside some time. Love the way the entire place feels.
I've certainly been hearing about Melt for a dog's age, but never found a chance to make it out until we met my friend-boss Jeff and his wife Rachel for some pre-ballet dinner.
The ambiance at Melt is comfortable right off the bat. Dan and Rachel amused themselves with magnetic poetry while we were waiting for our food. None of the tables, chairs or dinnerware matched, which is absolutely my style. There were cupcakes from Take the Cake, ice cream from Jeni's, and a whole slew of menu options that I can't wait to take on.
I had an asparagus flatbread because Rachel recommended it-- great choice! Dan had a chicken sandwich and liked it. Ooh, I can't forget to mention my side dish... mm, those potatoes were kickin'. The picture here looks pretty bland but I promise you... delicious.
When Dan and I were walking around Lunken, we stumbled across the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery. I'm not sure what to say except that it was frakkin' gorgeous. Headstones from the late 1700s.
I love love love being able to just accidentally find things like this. In school I always had problems with history because I'm bad with chronology, dates, etc. But when I'm able to spend time in graveyards and historic sites, I can paint much better pictures in my head.
Personally, I'm amazed that I've gone this long without talking about Lunken Airport. Lunken is probably in my top 5 favorite spots in Cincinnati, especially if we're talking in terms of local history.
Look at this gorgeous little municipal airport. This used the be The Airport, folks. ("When the original 1000-acre (4 km²) airfield was dedicated in 1925, it was the largest municipal airfield in the world." --Wikipedia)
Dan and I were actually there to visit Sky Galley as neither of us had been there before, despite all my Lunken lovin'. I only found out about Sky Galley when I took a charter flight out of Lunken-- I asked the pilot's wife for a history lesson, and she was telling me about how Sky Galley used to make all the food that would be served in-flight. Boxes of fried chicken, if I remember correctly. ("Sky Galley Restaurant has been in nearly continuous operation for decades, and is so named because the first meals served on a commercial airliner [American Airlines] were prepared here." --Wikipedia again)
Now Sky Galley is a restaurant where you can watch the planes fly in and out of Lunken. The menu is great-- bar food and then some, nothing too challenging but a great selection of familiar comfort foods-- and when we were in there, the place was EMPTY. (It was a Thursday night.) The weather was gorgeous and it was the perfect way to spend an evening.
Lunken has been open every time I've randomly popped in for a visit. It is, after all, a functioning airport. There is so much fabulous art deco detail throughout the entire building... it just kills me, no matter how many times I visit.
When Dan and I came over to Kris' house for our weeklyish game night, we found he had lined up tiny steins and mugs so that we could try different kinds of beers without having to commit to full bottles. Some were beers he'd purchased, some were homebrews. They were ordered by bitterness, starting out tame and becoming progressively hoppy-er.
I was very, very surprised to find that I didn't hate the stuff as much as I thought I did. This gives me great hope for my Beer Me endeavor! I definitely preferred the un-bitter end of the spectrum, like the very mild oatmeal stout that Kris handed me. By contrast, if I can avoid ever drinking any "Christmas Ale" again for my entire life, I'll be a happy girl.
I have to throw a serious shout-out to Kris, who went above and beyond to help kick off the informal Beer Me project! Now who's up for Stage 2, whatever that might be?