Yelp Cincinnati

If you've seen this guy lately, he's been talking about Yelp.

This is Alex Shebar, and he's been a friend of ours for quite some time... bloggers tend to run in the same circles, and Alex (and his lovely gf Allison) run the project Watch This, which Dan and I have attended in the past.

Alex is the newly-minted community manager for Yelp Cincinnati, and he took some time to meet with Dan and myself to discuss Yelp's activity in the city. (We had to meet at Starbucks, because Tazza Mia closes at 5:30pm and Coffee Emporium at 6. How horrible is that?)

Yelp is a free service... sort of an Urbanspoon meets Angie's List with a focus on local, local, local. And that's exactly why they want Alex on the payroll... Yelp is global, and in order to truly do a local community justice they need someone on the street, living and experiencing and adding to the community.

Yelp is an interesting tool and fits pretty well with our blog's agenda: to explore the city at a deeper level. Cincinnati is ten times larger than you think it is (or than I thought it was!). Most nights I have to choose between several events I'd like to attend, for instance. Yelp helps the community stay aware of dining, shopping, and event options in the city. Even with the best intentions, our blog only covers 4-5 items a week... because Yelp uses the community as the engine, it's much more robust and up-to-date than any single blog.

Free to sign up, free to use, free to rate and comment and do all the social media-y things you love to do. Free to have a voice about what you love and hate about Cincinnati. Check it out, if only so your next conversation with Alex is that much less awkward. ;)

Yelp Cincinnati:

J-Ride giveaway reminder!

Our contest will be closing at 5pm tomorrow. If you'd like to win one of three free $5 J-Ride vouchers (and your odds are pretty good right now!), hop over to this post and ask any question about pedicabs!

Incredulity Improv

I was involved with improvisational comedy throughout my time at college, and for a few years afterward. That eventually tapered off because there's a very, very sparse improv scene in Cincinnati.

However, the Queen City is fortunate to have Incredulity. Incredulity has been around for a few years and has performed at the Fringe Festival; they currently have an ongoing gig at Grammer's in Over-the-Rhine.

Incredulity has a rotating cast, including two very talented friends of mine: Alison Strickland and Dave Powell.

I do not say this lightly: no member of their cast was carrying the show, and no member was clearly struggling to keep up. As a veteran improviser I can tell you it's almost always the case that there are chinks in the armor as well as stage hogs, but Incredulity comes off as a team with a strong bond, a sense of trust, and the ability to share a stage.

The only real disappointment in the performance was the audience turnout. As a city full of art nuts, we need to be showing more love to the improv side of theater. Improvisers rarely make much money (and Incredulity's shows are free)-- they live on laughter, applause and attention.

Keep up with Incredulity's show listings (mostly at Grammer's) on their Facebook page:!/group.php?gid=113157735370717

roadtrip - Detroit

Living in Cincinnati you become familiar with groups that will rally around neighborhoods that are considered endangered. People will rally and provide planning, funding, redevelopment, etc. Whether it's an area like Over-the-Rhine, or Northside or the various places in-between, we witness the rebirth of neighborhoods on the brink. In Cincinnati this occurs in pockets, because as a whole Cincinnati is doing well, or as well as any big city is doing in these tough economic times.

What happens when the city as a whole isn't healthy? What happens when these pockets of blight spread, merge and take over an entire metropolitan area? This is what has happened in Detroit, Michigan. We've all heard the stories and read the articles for years. A city on the brink, trapped in the perfect storm of economic and industrial collapse. I've been captivated by it for the past few years, reading any article I could find. I found it fascinating how so many things could go wrong for a single city and more importantly, what their plan is to turn things around.

On a recent road trip we found ourselves tracing the roads of Michigan along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Our trip back took us straight through Detroit and I insisted we stay overnight as I wanted to see first hand what was going on in this city. Ever since I've read the articles that detail their plan to shrink the city, leveling neighborhood after neighborhood I've had a real hard time even grasping the scale of it and even believing that this is really happening. The photos almost seem surreal and couldn't be happening in one of the largest cities in the United States.

It's all very real, and the photos you see don't give justice to the scale of it.

We pulled into Detroit around rush hour. That was the first sign of things. Their rush hour barely that. We entered downtown Detroit and had no problems, no delays, nada and simply found our exit after a series of interchanges. We stayed at the MotorCity Casino, fairly close to the city center and certainly in what I would consider downtown. I truly hope that the 'urban' casino that Cincinnati ends up with in no way reflects anything about this casino. It's nice, it's well managed, has well trained and friendly staff and was very clean, however it brings nothing to its surroundings. It's a self-contained city in itself and I don't see how this benefits or even interacts with the neighborhood that it is part of. This may become a blog post in itself.

The next day we planned on taking a drive to see if we could find some of these demolished neighborhoods. We turned out of the parking structure, went a block and were immediately in the middle of one. A single block from the casino is one of the endless series of neighborhoods that has been flattened to the ground. The city is doing this because the population is dwindling. There are entire neighborhoods where there may be only 1 person per block. With an entire neighborhood consisting of a handful of people, providing police, fire, sanitation become economically unrealistic. In a nutshell, the goal that Detroit laid out in March of 2010 is to shrink the footprint of the city. This means relocating people, demolishing entire neighborhoods and giving the city a fighting chance at survival.

The footprint of Detroit is so massive that you could fit San Francisco, Boston and Manhattan within its boundaries and still have room to spare, however as the 2000 Census Tracts show, the population density is half of what it was in the 50's. Even back in 2000 some area's had population densities near zero or in the single digits. Imagine what the 2010 census data will show. A study in 2008 by the University of Detroit Mercy estimated that 30%, or roughly 40 square miles, of Detroit was completely vacant or abandoned.

On the way home we talked about what we had seen and those people in Cincinnati who are so vehemently opposed to development projects such as The Banks or the street car, even redevelopment in Over-the-Rhine. I'd like those people to take a trip up I-75 and see first hand what happens to a city that can't make the changes necessary for the future. Over and over we hear or read about how various groups or individuals are against the costs of redevelopment or new infrastructure. I wonder if those people would like to sit and calculate the cost of inaction in Detroit?

I would like to add that while the photo's, statistics and current reality of Detroit seems rather bleak, the story is far from over. They have some concrete plans for action, and while it may seem a bit late, if they can pull any of them off they could be setting Detroit up for a remarkable reinvention.

Interesting articles on Detroit

Detroit: The Death — and Possible Life — of a Great City
Read more:,8599,1925796,00.html

Detroit Wants To Save Itself - By Shrinking
Read more:

Acres of barren blocks offer chance to reinvent Detroit
Read more:

Queen City is Haunted

This past Saturday night, Dan and I embarked upon the "Queen City is Haunted" tour, by the same team who runs the Civil War tour, Newport Gangster tour, etc.

To tell you the unfortunate truth, I didn't love this tour. It ended up taking 2hrs, and I felt that only maybe half an hour of that was actually telling ghost stories. There were many conversations about how they found the stories or how they didn't believe the stories, about the paranormal teams and psychics that they teamed up with... but when they got right down to it I found there to be very little substance on this tour.

One moment that particularly frustrated me: the tour guides explained that after excavation began on Washington Park, the crew was forced to stop because they started finding dead bodies. I am fairly confident that this was actually a planned stage of the park renovation, as it was well known that the Washington Park was once a cemetery. If that's the case, then a large chunk of the tour was very misleading.

Other stories began but never really concluded. There was a large amount of setup about the cholera epidemics that once swept Cincinnati, and while the guides insisted that would play a role in later stories, we never heard about it again. There was a good portion of time spent talking about the hospital, asylum and medical college that operated in Over-the-Rhine, but there never ended up being any stories about related spirits or hauntings. Murders, yes! Ghosts, no.

I think Dan and I would have been better off taking the "Newport is Haunted" tour, because at least we would have learned something new about an area of town we know significantly less about. Because we'd already done the "Queen City Underground" tour, we'd seen the spaces and buildings that this tour touched on, and there was very little to keep us interested other than a view of Music Hall at night.

NOTE: This coming weekend, the tour is actually going to go into Music Hall at night, which -- dangit!-- would be a sight worth paying for if you ask me! Even if you don't spot any specters, I'd consider taking the tour on Halloween weekend!

DOUBLE NOTE: Overall I really enjoy these tours and the Queen City Underground team. I think the attention they're bringing to this part of town is incredible. If you haven't taken any of their tours I highly recommend it, but this one wasn't for me. I think their real forte is the history lessons, not the spook-outs, and I'd recommend you stick with those.

Queen City is Haunted:
Queen City Underground:

J-Ride Pedicabs: Giveaway!

First off, some news: Maya sent us a picture of a pedicab in Cincinnati, so we have a $5 voucher for her! Maya's snapshot:
After we ran that quick little contest, the good people of J-Ride Pedicabs, Beatrice and Jared, reached out to us. They offered us a free ride and a chance to talk about their biz, and I also purchased a few more $5 vouchers from them to give away (more on that momentarily).

When Dan and I, temporarily car-less, needed to get to Falcon Theater in Newport, I thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to try out J-Ride. Jared met us at Fountain Square and we spent the next 20 minutes prattling on about pedicabs, progress in Cincinnati, and how frakkin' many people feel the need to make the same comment to Jared: "Yer really getting yer exercise, aren't ya?"

Jared was great, and he allowed me chatter away about what pedicabs could mean to the big picture of transportation in Cincinnati (especially in conjunction with the streetcar). He informed me about a handful of things that surprised me about their business, too. (For instance, did you notice from my photos that pedicabs are allowed on the Purple People Bridge?)

...Which brings me to our giveaway! I learned a great many things about pedicabs during our tour with Jared, but I'd like to know what questions you have about J-Ride's service in Cincinnati. Here's how our giveaway will work:

1. Leave a comment with a question-- any question, no matter how absurd-- about pedicabs. (Questions that someone else has already asked will not count.)
2. On Friday our contest will close, and then J-Ride's own Beatrice will answer those questions for you. I'll post all the responses next week.
3. We will randomly select three of the questions and give out $5 J-Ride vouchers to those commenters.

So, what would you like to know?

J-Rides Pedicabs:

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company: Dracula

Dracula scared me.

I'm not in the habit of being scared at the theater. Even when I'm supposed to be. It's all pretend, right? Make believe. Acting.

Still, something about this old classic really frightened me!

It was never Count Dracula who scared me. By the time the lights in the theater dim, you're prepared for him. You're watching the shadows, waiting for him to appear. But that makes you put your guard down for a supporting cast that will play on your tension. I definitely won't spoil those scenes for you, but it's not Giles Davies' Dracula that sends shivers down your spine in this production.

Sometimes, during intermissions, I'll make notes in my iPhone about a show. This time I wanted to note Davies' crazy (and required!) Transylvanian accent, and I unintentionally coined the term "Draccent." You're welcome.

Davies is good, though I was surprised how little of a role the title character actually has in the performance. This leaves plenty of stage time for a lovable doctor, a coquettish vampiress, a richly German Van Helsing, and a handful of other roles that are just as entertaining.

I will mention that the most memorable performance came from the lunatic Renfield, but who can ignore a man in the deepest throes of Hamletness? Words, words, words!

I enjoyed the play from the start: an introduction to Dracula by the mesmerizing Renfield. However, I'll paraphrase my seat-neighbor: "I really like the lighting in this show-- but it is hot as hell in here." Seriously, by the end of Dracula I was ready to run from the theater. There are drawbacks to a packed house, I suppose.

I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention WVXU-- I won our tickets through a random drawing on their site. I couldn't love that station more!

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company:
Dracula (at CSC):

Falcon Theater; Evil Dead: The Musical!

It was over-acted. It was campy. It was raunchy. It was gory.


Dan and I were invited to a "blogger preview" of Falcon Theater's production of Evil Dead: The Musical! We jumped on the chance because a) duh, Evil Dead and b) we'd never been to Falcon Theater.

Falcon Theater is on Monmouth, near the Reser bike shop. We took a pedicab to get there-- more on that soon!

Evil Dead: The Musical is an over-the-top, disgusting piece of awesome, and the Falcon Theater cast pulled it off.

Did they hit every note? No, not really. Was every scripted line articulated with grace? Hell no. But did the cast members put everything they had into exaggerated facial expressions, grotesque sexual just-barely-innuendo, and vulgar demonic possessions? Shah, absolutely.

Oh, and did the audience walk away blood-splattered and satisfied? You bet yer sweet bippy.

Highlights of the show for me: the songs "What the F@#$ Was That?" and "All the Men in My Life [Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons]." The supporting character Scott was the standout to me, though Ash maintained a killer energy and every cast member had their moment to shine during the show.

I do want to mention that this show is not kid friendly-- it's loaded with blush-inducing foul language and seriously-this-isn't-even-innuendo-you-guys. The humor is base and raunchy. If you-- somehow-- did not like Evil Dead... what else can I say but avoid this show?

But if you are a fan, you can count on familiar moments involving boomsticks, moose and chainsaws. This is my kind of comedy, and I definitely recommend Evil Dead: The Musical. Tickets are under $20 and are available online. There are plenty of dates left but it looks like tickets are selling quickly!

(Note: we were not compensated for this review, other than with a chance to preview this show for free. Thanks to the lovely @winemedineme for hooking us up!)

Falcon Theater:
Evil Dead: The Musical! (at Falcon):

Cincinnati Cyclones open house

It's that time of year again!

I am so, so excited for the Cyclones' season to begin. Who else is planning on heading to the home opener on October 30th? We're trying to get a big ol' crowd together. Drop me a line at redrabbit [at] gmail if you'd like to meet up with us and cheer on the 'Clones during their first game on home ice!

The open house is mostly for season ticket purchasers, so they can choose their seats for the next year. I buy my tickets at the gate, but I jump on any chance to spend time on the ice that my boys skate.

I don't think they had the locker rooms open this year, unless I missed it. Still, we were able to walk on the ice, see the team signing autographs, and get a shot of the Kelly Cup.

Cyclones' (new!) website:

Football 101

I can't remember the last time I've had so much fun.

Dan managed two tickets to Football 101 through his office, and it sounded like something fun for my mom and me to try out. Neither of us are "football people," though she's much closer than I am.

Let's back up. Football 101 is a benefit for the Marvin Lewis Community Fund. Tickets are a bit pricey (in the neighborhood of $200), and they raise more money through raffles and silent/live auctions during the event.

When dinner and the live auction were over... that's when the fun began. I have to admit I was full of trepidation about heading onto Paul Brown Stadium and running drills. I don't have an athletic bone in my body! But the event was managed in such a way that everyone could have a great time. We ran tackling drills, kicked field goals, suited up in Bengals uniforms, met with coaches in the locker room and classroom, and even had a scrimmage at the end of the night.

There were times when my mom was lying on the astroturf, laughing her tail off. We both spent some time on the jumbotron, and we were able to meet coaches like Jay Hayes and Paul Alexander. And through all the fun and hilarity, I think I managed to learn a thing or two about football. No small feat!

And I'd like to say that Marvin Lewis was awesome. He was so engaged throughout the entire night, managed to raise a ton of money during the live auction, and was very encouraging and supportive to the women running around making fools of themselves. The energy was buzzing all night, all the way from 4:30 to almost 10pm.

Even if I can't score free tickets next year, I might be persuaded to buy a pair!

Football 101:
Marvin Lewis Community Fund:
More photos and videos from my first time at Football 101:

Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center

You may be sick of me talking about the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center this week, but please take a minute to scroll through the photos of this gorgeous old building, especially if you haven't visited!

Even when we were planning on visiting, we didn't realize that there was a theater within the Carnegie. The museum staff explained that the building used to have political uses; the theater was an area where elections were held. Now they have concerts and theater performed on their intimate stage.

The Carnegie website says the building was also a public library at one time. I can picture it.

Overall, the building is a great blend of modern and historical-- the same thing I love about Over-the-Rhine and many other parts of Greater Cincinnati.

Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center:

A Time To Celebreate features the works of Oliver Debikey, M. Katherine Hurley, M.P. Wiggins, Kathy Hamm (Katham), Alex Hibbitt, Maureen Holub and a special exhibition of vintage bicycles from the collection of Hugh Rosensweig.

Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center

Our visit to the Carnegie Center was so interesting that we decided to break it up into a series of posts. Hands down my favorite exhibit last weekend was the display of vintage bicycles. Part of their 'A Time to Celebrate' series included a exhibition of vintage bicycles from the collection of Hugh Rosensweig. The collection was quite beautiful and in amazing condition. A real treat for a bicycle junkie like myself. There's just something about the old bikes that all the new high tech stuff has lost. Probably why my own bike build has taken a turn towards the older styles.

Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center:

A Time To Celebreate features the works of Oliver Debikey, M. Katherine Hurley, M.P. Wiggins, Kathy Hamm (Katham), Alex Hibbitt, Maureen Holub and a special exhibition of vintage bicycles from the collection of Hugh Rosensweig.

Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center

Let me show you a great example of what I had hoped to achieve with this blog!

I had heard of an art gallery that was featuring an exhibition of vintage bicycles, so my boyfriend, my brother and I clambered into the car and headed to Covington to the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center. None of us had ever visited, or heard much about this gallery.

We found a dozen different reasons to love the Carnegie, and I'm already counting the days until they shuffle the galleries and we can visit again. In this post, I want to share a few shots from the main gallery of the center (mostly the glassware; it was my favorite); tomorrow Dan will show off the vintage bicycle exhibit, and on Friday I'll post a few more shots of the gorgeous old building itself.

The Carnegie embodies my re-adventure: discovering new things about a city I was somehow bored of. (I say "somehow" because I can hardly imagine being bored these days!) If I didn't make a little effort to get my finger back on the pulse of the arts in Greater Cincinnati, I would never have stumbled across this beautiful arts center.

Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center:

A Time To Celebreate features the works of Oliver Debikey, M. Katherine Hurley, M.P. Wiggins, Kathy Hamm (Katham), Alex Hibbitt, Maureen Holub and a special exhibition of vintage bicycles from the collection of Hugh Rosensweig.

Flying Pig #12: Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center

Another piggie with a nameplate! We're batting a thousand over here.

Meet "Swine Art." We met him at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center on a recent gallery visit; in the next couple of days we'll share some photos of the exhibitions we discovered at this gorgeous museum in Covington.

I went a little nuts with the photos. It was a gorgeous day and the pig was as blue as the sky.

David Sedaris

This was my second time seeing author David Sedaris at the Aronoff Theater, but I still plan on buying tickets any time he's in town. There's a reason that Sedaris has made a name for himself through NPR: he has such a great, authentic personality and is just a pleasure to listen to.

You'll have to take my word about Sedaris being in this photo!

My mom was a Sedaris fan for eons before I was; she actually used to read me passages from Me Talk Pretty One Day. This was her first time seeing Sedaris in the flesh, and that alone was a joy to see.

We were also able to have our books signed afterwards. Even though David Sedaris has a huge following and rates the Aronoff Theater, he still takes a gracious moment to really talk with each person whose book he signs. In my mom's copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he drew a picture of an elephant spraying water on itself; in my copy of Barrel Fever, he wrote a French word that he had just learned: quel gourqondine. I can't find anything online about what that term means. Thoughts?

What a fantastic evening downtown-- the whole city was hopping with Bengals fans, Reds fans, and Disney on Ice fans. I love the feeling of a bustling Cincinnati!