WHS50 III

Part 3: Lancaster Redux and Cincinnati

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This is the third installment of my odyssey surrounding the Columbus West High School Class of January 1956 reunion.

Since I made the long trip to Ohio for a weekend, I extended the trip on each end for some adventures in Cincinnati, and passed through Carol’s homestead in Lancaster in each direction, as well. This epistle is divided into three parts; The Heartland, Columbus and the Reunion, and finally Lancaster Redux and Cincinnati.

If you want to know more about the food, I”m concurrently posting a food centric edition on my eats site.

Sunday, August 20, 2006 (continued)
“I”mmmm Baaaaack,” I called out as I came through the door. Liz and Bus were in their chairs and Bus said, “Alan will pick us up at four to go to the Logan Country Club for dinner.” Whodathunk there would ever be such a thing as Logan Country Club?! I had four hours to kill. I figured Carol should be up by 9:30, so I called. That took 15 minutes. So I called Sue Hupp, the girl I took on a double date with Jim Heil and Carol Hale in 1958. (It’s now Sue Mohr and she lives outside Baltimore, Ohio.) That took another 20 minutes. Idea!! “You folks had lunch?” Not really but not much thinking about it. “I”m going to Bob Evans (an Ohio cultural institution) so I can write about it. Want to come along?”

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“No, you go ahead, we”ll just have a little something here… dinner’s coming up.” Bob Evans is a mile or so toward town on the ridge above Memorial Drive. Although there was a wait, one for lunch and no preference on smoking snagged a quick seat at a table near the window in the smoking section. Nobody is smoking, I doubt that anybody would in a Bob Evans.

When I got back, Liz was coming through the door to sit outside, so I sat with her for a spell and we chatted. It was a lovely day in the shade, so it was a nice thing to do.

Alan came at four, as promised, and we were off to Logan, about 20 miles south. Bus questioned his choice of route and Alan allowed as how there were new roads connecting to the new US-33 bypass, and not to worry, he”d get us to Logan. We got to the Logan Brass Ring Country Club in 45 minutes, and would set a new record for eating dinner early. Surprise, we were the first for dinner. For a country club, the hostess and waitress were beyond casually dressed. The hostess was wearing a tee shirt that said in script across her bosom: hear see taste touch smell. Well, I remarked that I liked her shirt. Alan speculated that our waitress was breaking into waitressing on the weekends, but hung drywall during the week. Quite apt.

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After dinner, Margie and I walked down the hill between the 18th fairway and 9th tee to exercise off the butter, while Alan retrieved the Windstar and installed the parents. Alan drove back through Logan and we tried to find the house where I was born and lived for four years. I think it was on Walnut Street on a hill, on the right, but Walnut Street is flat for 3 or 4 blocks and then the hill doesn”t have houses on the right. He continued on into the country in search of Ohio 664 North. We didn”t exactly find that either, but the drive through the Hocking hills was just beautiful. I remembered when we used to drive to Logan to visit the grandparents and my father would speed through the dips and over the crests. WhooP!

Back at the ranch, I showed Alan and Margie my slide show.

Monday, August 21, 2006
By 7:15, I was totally awake and I got up and took a shower. That hand shower is sure nice. My grand plan was to drive to Circleville, get breakfast at a local diner, and continue on to Cincinnati. Liz had remarked about some wonderful peaches she bought and they were right there on the kitchen counter in a basket with some bananas, so I picked one out. I peeled it with a paring knife and sliced, a white peach, I prefer yellow, but okay, the bottom was kind of mushy, while the shoulders were almost crisp… it was not too sweet, certainly not luscious. The skin was very thin and not very fuzzy. In sum, all the goodness was bred out of it while bowing to the god of shelf life and handling.

Bus and Liz weren”t up yet, but I said my goodbyes and thanks into the bedroom and left a little before 8. I got gas and coffee at Circle K on the way out of town… Circle K, that was a new one for me. In Circleville I slowed and looked hard for a place to eat breakfast. There was none. Not even a MacDonald’s or BK or Hardees or anything. No food in Circleville. I continued on, and on, and on. I was getting freakin” hungry and not only that, I had to pee. I lowered my standards to anything with food and a toilet… well, almost anything… I passed by a Taco Bell and KFC. Finally, a Burger King appeared in Wilmington, I quickly found the men’s room and a croissantwich. It was not a yum, just a burp and an empty bladder.

Just after leaving Wilmington I cut off onto US-73—more rolly and hilly than 22—which led to I-71 and the Cincinnati Riverfront. The Riverfront is amazing. The Great America Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium flank a beautiful new red stone arena. Everything except the stadiums themselves has parking under. The ballpark opened in 2003 and the stadium last year, so everything is still brand new. I drove into the garage at the end of Pete Rose Way and parked in time for the noon ballpark tour. While I waited for the tour to begin, I browsed through the Reds Hall of Fame. It is very complete and really well done. A three story open stair with a Wall of Balls—every ball that Pete Rose stroked for a hit while amassing a career record 4,256 hits—led to the main hall on the third floor. Impressive. The Hall has all kinds of pitching and batting cages and exhibits of Reds through the ages. Pete Rose is God, followed by Johnny Bench, Dave Larkin, Jose Conception et.al. The Giants should do a Hall of Fame as complete and classy.

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The ballpark tour was not unlike those I”ve taken at Fenway and PacBell Parks, except this one approached the “tour from hell.”

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A fortysomething guy from Chicago, slightly off center and a talker, pushed his father—who could walk okay but was tired—in a wheelchair. Then there was a family with 7 and 3 year olds and a stroller, except the little one wanted to push the stroller, rather than ride. Dad was a talker and the kids were kids. And there was me. Kerry, our tour guide, tended to fawn over the kids and wait for the talkers, so while the tour was good it was slow. Great American Ball Park is a lot like PacBell, but less interesting. It covers much more land, so instead of going up, it goes out. The concourses and men’s rooms are huge. Then again, all that space allows for a cool party deck and a very large eating club.

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It’s a great place to watch a game, which I did on Monday evening. My seats were directly behind the plate, second row of an upper deck box, just above the press box. And it was a good game; Rich Aurillia hit a 3 run blast to tie the game in the eighth, and Royce Clayton knocked in the winning run. (Those names familiar, Tom? Both are former Giants.)

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Paul Brown Stadium is very modern and totally beautiful… from the outside. They don”t give tours.

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On the recommendation of our tour guide and the family o” four, I went to the Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse, on the river, for lunch. The Montgomery is one of those dark wood and beveled glass places crammed with sports memorabilia, and probably seats 300. It’s the kind of pretentious place that has $2 Valet parking for its large parking lot right in front of the door. The food and the service were like that too. The kind of place our family o” four junior executive talker dad would love.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
In my dreams I made a United Airlines Boarding Pass on my laptop and then went down to the front desk of the Ramada to print it. And that’s just the way it worked out. The guy at the front desk was friendly, cheerful and accommodating. Whew… that was a load off my mind.

Thus began the Loooooonnnnng Day. I made a schedule:
morning — take advantage of the wifi in my room
noon – check out of the Ramada, go to Cincinnati Contemporary Art Museum (CAC)
1:30 ish – have lunch at CAC
4 ish – retrieve car and drive to Airport
5:30 ish – have dinner at airport
7:40 – Fly to Chicago
8:05 CST) – Arrive Chicago
10:15 (CST) – Fly to SF
12:05 (PST) – Arrive SF

Some of that worked out. I relaxed in my room and packed and read and wrote and at noon, checked out of the Ramada, drove downtown and parked. It was hot in the sun but okay in the shade as I walked down Walnut and took pictures of the Cincinnaty Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) from the outside. As I approached the front entrance it didn”t look so busy. Inside at the Admissions desk a security guard said the CAC is closed to the public on Tuesday. “Then why does your web site say it is open on Tuesday?” I asked incredulously. I showed him a print-out.
“Well, it’s not our website, but it doesn”t say we”re open on Tuesday.”
“But it doesn”t say you”re closed,” I said.
“No, it doesn”t. It just leaves Tuesday out. But we”re closed.”
When I told him I came all the way from San Francisco, he allowed me to walk to the top of the stairs and take some pictures (of the closed, dark red metal door and other things I could see).

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I went out into the not too hot shade and reconnoitered. Several tables of diners were sitting outside of a glassy restaurant across the street named Bella. It looked sort of Californiaesque. I guessed they would have small plates and designer pizza and salads. That’s okay, I could kill a couple hours in there.

I was seated inside, where it was actually cool; and the table had a granite top which was also cool. The restaurant was crowded with mostly youngish Cincinnati businessmen and women doing deals in twos and threes and fours and stuff like that. Everybody was talking but it was not really noisy, just a busy restaurant on a nice day. I ordered the Not So Usual Shrimp Spring Rolls to start, a Caesar Salad with Tuna and a glass of Hogue Riesling. Outside, beyond the al fresco dining area, the restaurant was reflected in the window of closed CAC. I enjoyed the people watching at lunch there and managed to kill about an hour and a half.

Walking down 6th Street on the shady side, I found the Millennium Hotel, the place I was going to stay for $180 plus $20 parking before I came to my senses and booked the Ramada for $87 and free parking. The Ramada is about 1/2 mile of tangled ramps for I-71 and 75 away from the west edge of downtown. I settled into the Millennium lobby and intermittently read the USA Today and dozed off. I had the logy doze-off feeling that comes with two glasses of Riesling on a hot afternoon. That spent about an hour and 1/4 and I gathered my things and walked around the block to the Hyatt. They had the Champs Sports Bar with upbeat music. I got a Sam Adams draft and called brother Tom. I told him I was killing an afternoon in Cincinnati and while we were talking, he Googled Cincinnati for things for me to do. We concluded there was not much to do, but that killed off another 20 minutes, so I called Wendell. No answer. I left a message saying he owed me 20 minutes of boredom.

By now, I felt way better and it was getting on to 3:45, so I walked the five or six blocks to collect my car and headed for the airport. The 25 mile drive into Kentucky was easy enough and well marked, all the way to the United curbside check-in. There were no other cars around. The young guy there said his printer wasn”t working—gulp… I”m gonna have to schlep my bags from Hertz—but not to worry, he”d take them inside and check them through. Whew! He earned a nice tip.

The Cincinnati airport has 8 gates. I asked the security lady if there was a restaurant on the concourse. No sir, there isn”t. In the public area, I found the restaurant/bar called Damon’s, specializing in ribs. There was a row of tables and two rows of booths in tiers up from the far wall which was covered by three immense TV screens tuned to ESPN (poker and then Little League World Series), NFL Network (Panthers vs. Jaguars rerun) and CNN (whatever). I took a seat in the first row of booths and ordered a Bass Ale which came in this very tall mug, I think he said it was 40 ounces. Wow. It’s called the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport, but the service folks are very Kentucky. My waiter, an earnest kid in his early 20s, asked if I had stayed in Cincinnati. When I said yes, he said, “I went there once… too busy for me.”

I ordered a plate of Buffalo Wings, breaded and very deep fried, with a dish of hot sauce (real good and hot) and BBQ sauce for dipping. That got me through until an hour before my flight. Entering security, after shoes off, coat off, laptop out, etc, I was obliged to go into the Poof Booth (I think they called it). I had never been in one of those before. It’s a glass booth with doors on the “out” side. I stood with my stocking feet where the foot marks are and then, poof! poof! poof! poof! poof! Little poofs of air went up my pant legs and over the rest of my body. Then I waited and the doors opened. “Wow,” I said to the young woman at the metal detector gate, “You ought to charge admission for that!”

She laughed, “Your first time?”

Gate six is almost at the end of the Concourse. I sat. There were no people to watch, so I read until my flight was called. On the 2 + 2 plane, the seat next to me was mercifully open. At Chicago’s O”Hare I had two hours. I got a Snickers bar, a coffee and wrote until my iBook battery thingy turned red.

My flight to San Francisco was called pretty much on time. I was in 10A, a window seat, but the middle seat was empty and the guy on the aisle was there for takeoff, and then disappeared. Never saw him again. Sweet. A Scotch and soda and the Sports Illustrated with Ohio State players on the cover occupied me for a while, then I put on my iPod and sat back with my eyes closed. I may have slept a little, but not seriously. In any case, the never-ending flight ended, albeit an hour behind schedule, with one of the smoothest landings I can remember. Baggage was slow, but accurate. I was in a taxi at 2AM and home by 2:30. Good to be home. I dumped my bags on the dining room table and went to bed.

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