A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Ate A Bug (My Cincinnati Travelogue)

But I didn't eat one here.
Yes, I did.  Because when you talk big, you have to back it up.  That's the Law of the West.  I ate a lot of other things, too, which were all significantly more tasty than the bug.  It all happened last week.  So we depart, once again, from the normal pattern of happy and humorous reminiscences of my life growing up in little Waldron, Arkansas that you usually find on this blog, for another post from the present day.  What follows is a recap of the exciting week I just spent in the city that old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called the "Queen of the West," Cincinnati Ohio.

The journey to Cincinnati was a long one, about 14 hours counting the stops at gas stations, McDonald's, and Cracker Barrel.  My travelling party consisted of myself, my wife Marilyn, my stepson Ross and his wife Maegan, and their little two-year old daughter Kate.  We were going to Cincinnati to visit my stepdaughter Laura, who is doing a fellowship at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital.  Plus, it was Spring Break, and since everyone else was going south, we decided to go north.

Eleanor in repose.
The long journey to Cincy, as we hipsters call it, was pretty uneventful.  We arrived late on Monday night, and were warmly greeted by Laura, as well as Eleanor, the World's Greatest Jack Russell Terrier.  Exhausted, we quickly found our beds, and rose the next morning to a delicious quiche that Laura had prepared for us.  The first of many great moments of epicureal delight.

Tuesday marked our first shopping excursion.  My family loves to shop, and sadly, I must include myself in that as well.  A few years ago, Marilyn and I were at some kind of timeshare sales pitch in Branson, and the lady conducting the meeting asked everyone present why they were in town.  The young couple to our right said that they loved to rock climb, and they were enjoying doing that in the beautiful Ozark Mountains.  The woman then asked the two ladies seated to our left, and one of them said, "We like to hunt."  Then, the woman in charge of the meeting looked directly at Marilyn and me, and said, "And what about you?"  For some reason, the words that immediately escaped my lips were, "We like to shop."  This created a bit of suppressed laughter in the room, and the lady conducting the meeting for some reason felt compelled to amplify my comments a bit.  "See there ladies," she triumphantly bleated, "there ARE some men who like to shop." 

Not one of my more triumphant moments.

Anyway, back to Tuesday.  Ross had researched for me the location of a Nordstrom Rack store, which turned out to be in the Rookwood Pavillion shopping center.  I have difficulty finding shoes in my size, and I had heard that Nordstrom carried a good selection.  Sure enough, I found a pair that fit me.  We went to a few other stores too, but since I had already made a purchase for myself, I was pretty much just going along for the ride.  It's all about me, you see.  Anyway, after some shopping, we decided to look for a place to pick up some lunch.   We settled on a nearby sandwich shop called Potbelly Sandwiches.  It was good.  Extremely good. 

After lunch, we headed back home to rest up, since we had not fully recovered from our 14-hour sojurn of the previous day.  When Laura got home from the hospital, she had in mind a destination for our evening meal.  A restaurant called The Senate.

The Senate is downtown, on Vine Street, in the area the locals call Over The Rhyne.  Laura had been here before with some friends, so she had already given us a bit of an idea what to order.  As our appetizer, we chose roasted marrow bones.  Yes, really.  You get two bone halves that have been roasted with garlic; you dip your spoon into the marrow and put a little bit on your toast along with some of the supplied cranberry sauce.  We all had some, although there isn't much marrow in the two little bone sections.  The marrow reminded me of the residue that might be left in a skillet after frying a steak.  After we had all experienced the bone marrow, it was time for the main course.  After carefully perusing the menu, I settled on the McSchnitzel.  This was a porkbelly sandwich with a glaze of carmelized onions and apples, and my friends, it was superb. 

On the way out of the Senate, while I was waiting for the others to come out, a nice gentleman struck up a conversation with me.  He asked me how the food was, reported that he himself had tried to get a job at the Senate but with no luck, asked me my name, and then proceeded to recite an impromptu poem about my name.  Being the country rube that I am, as he was reciting his poem, I wondered to myself if he was a bum.  I had never really seen a city bum before, so I was perplexed.  At the conclusion of his poem, another person walking by handed the poet some folding money, so I followed suit.  I gave him five dollars; I'm not sure what the going rate for poetry is now days.

Here are some pictures of our exciting first day in Cincinnati:

Nordstrom Rack in Rookwood Pavillion

A mighty fine sandwich shop.

The Senate Pub on Vine Street

Roasted marrow bones, with cranberry sauce and toast.

On Wednesday morning, after a late breakfast, we traveled north of Cincinnati up Interstate 71 to an outlet mall that Ross and Maegan had read about, the Tanger Outlet in Jeffersonville Ohio.  This day turned out to be much colder that the previous day, and windy.  Marilyn and I took Kate to the food court while Ross and Maegan shopped.  After a bit, we ventured out to a few shops with Kate, but by the time we hit the Disney store she was fast asleep in her stroller.  I tilted the stroller back so that her little head could lay against the back of the stroller, and kept her that way for the next two hours.  At one point, as we were walking along the sidewalk, big snow flakes began to fall.  Kate, who had stirred a bit, stuck her hands behind her back and went back to sleep.

Kate taking a break at the outlet mall.
By the time we left the outlet mall, Kate had seen the playground with the slide, which happens to be one of her favorite things.  She really wanted to slide, but we felt like the cold wind would not be good for the cough that she had developed, so, much to her disapproval, we left the outlet mall and headed to our next stop, IKEA.

I had never been to an IKEA store before, so it was quite an experience.  The only problem was, we had barely managed to get everything we brought with us loaded into the car in the first place, so any additonal purchases of large items was out of the question.  I did allow myself, however, a small lamp and a set of door stops.

Eli's Barbeque.  We parked in the back.

Laura was working nearby that day at the Liberty Township branch of Cincinnati Childrens, so she met us when she got off that afternoon.  Our destination for supper this time was Eli's, a barbeque place on the riverfront.  Another winner picked by Laura.  I had the pulled pork sandwich with slaw, baked beans, and a coke in a bottle!  Kate really enjoyed this place, constantly referring to the couple sitting beside us as "those kids."  She also broke into song, favoring the crowd with an impromptu version of the "I Love You" theme from Barney.  She also felt compelled to have us join hands and say grace not once, but twice during the meal. 

After Eli's, it was back to the house to bed.  I might mention that my bed for the week was a blow-up air matress that I found incredibly comfortable. 

Marilyn's Happy Place

As cold as it was Wednesday, Thursday was even colder.  Big snow flakes were again falling that morning as we left the house.  Our destination was downtown Cincinnati, and Marilyn's favorite store, Macy's.  She had visited this store in January when she helped Laura move in, so she was familiar with how to navigate the parking garage downtown.  Let me brag on Marilyn here a bit; she was fearless driving around in Cincinnati.  She did the driving on this day, Ross (who was also extremely skilled at driving around the city) did the driving most other days, except for when Laura went somewhere with us.  She was by far the bravest and most skilled of our driving pool.  I pretty much just sat back and relaxed. 

A Cincinnati tradition.
 After a few hours at Macy's, where I tried in vain to convince Marilyn that I needed a bow tie, we headed out for lunch.  I had made it known that I wanted to eat at Skyline Chili, but the enthusiam for that concept from the other members of my party was neglible, at best.  So, as we were driving along we spotted a Chipotle restaurant.  We decided to go there, and when we turned the car around and headed back, we were surprised to see that there was a Skyline Chile in the same complex.  So, it was agreed that I would eat at Skyline, and the rest of them would go to Chipotle.  However, gripped with remorse at their decision, Marilyn, Ross, Maegan, and Kate all followed me into Skyline.

At Skyline, the chili is served over thin noodles and piled high with cheese.  A "Three Way" is noodles, chili, and cheese; a "Four Way is noodles, chili, cheese, and either onions or beans; and a "Five Way" is noodles, chili, cheese, onions, and beans.  I chose the "Four Way" with onions, along with a chili sandwich that consisted of chili and cheese on a hot dog bun.  I really liked the Skyline chili; many people don't.  It is flavored differently than most chili, with a bit of a cinnamon flavor actually, which some don't care for.  However, it is so popular that it is even sold in cans at grocery stores.  I brought back a small supply for some of my friends, as well as a couple of cans that I put in our own pantry. 

By the time we finished at Skyline, Laura had rejoined us. We went back to her house for a brief rest, and then headed to another unique Cincinnati landmark, Jungle Jim's International Food Market. 
Jungle Jim's is unlike any place you've ever been.  It is full of unlikely food items from all over the world.  The whole time I was there I kept thinking of my dad, Abb Yates, who passed away last year and who had a lifelong love for the quirky and unusual.  He would have really had a time a Jungle Jim's. 
This is a real U.S. Navy firetruck, which greets you at the opening of the hot sauce section, which is a house-sized room with what has to be every kind of hot sauce ever manufactured.

I had read on the Internet that you could get dehydrated insects at Jungle Jim's, and sure enough, you can!

Kate gets International flavor at Jungle Jim's.

Kangaroo.  It's what's for supper.

Well, since I had talked big about eating an insect, I felt that my honor was at stake if I failed to follow through.  So, I carefully selected one of the Giant Waterbugs.  The bug was completely intact, eyes included, just dehydrated.  So, for the honor of Abb Yates and the Arkansas Razorbacks, I ate it. 

It took about four bites to get it down, each one accompanied by a sickening "crunch" sound.  The bug was basically flavorless, perhaps with a bit of a salty taste, but it took forever to chew up each bite.  But I got the whole thing down.

After our trip to Jungle Jim's, we got take-out from an Italian place called Buca Di Beppo.  Outstanding, but frankly, after a Giant Waterbug, most anything tastes good.

End of Thursday.  Whew!

Friday, it was a bit warmer.  Laura was off that day, so she got to experience the full day with us.  Our first stop was the Gap Outlet, which may be the only one in the country (not sure).  (It's not; thanks Uncle Skip for the info.)  They all bought stuff, and I even found a sweater in my size for $1.99.  After that, we went to the Kenwood Mall, where there was another large Macy's.  We spent several hours there, and I made another pitch for a bow tie, and Marilyn and I actually looked at some, but they were not priced as cheaply as the one I saw at the downtown Macy's.  So I let it go.

For lunch, we went to a place Marilyn had been before; the BonBonnerie.  It is a bakery on one level with a little tea room/cafe below.  I had a delicious roasted turkey and colby sandwich on pickle bread, along with a slice of their signature quiche.  I had a small pot of English black tea to drink.  What a marvelous lunch it was!  Afterwards, we stopped at the bakery and Laura bought us a salted caramel cupcake.  Unbelievably good.

Later that evening, we went to the Chipotle that everyone had passed up for me for our supper.  The portions were huge, the food was delicious, and everybody was happy.  End of Friday.

Saturday was designated as Kate's day.  She had been very patient, and actually made it through the 14 hour trip with almost no complaints.  She was content to watch her favorite show, Calliou, on her mom and dad's iPad.  We had hoped to go the the famous Cincinnati Zoo that day, but we realized early in the week that it was too cold.  So instead, we went to the Cincinnati Children's Museum in the old train station downtown.

The 1930s era former train station, now a museum.
The museum was a art deco marvel, so beautiful in design.  I could easily imagine the trains steaming into the station, the concourse busy with travelers.  I had noticed earlier that there was an IMAX theater in the museum, so I bought a ticket for the "Flight of the Butterflies" show about Monarchs, while everyone else went with Kate into the Discovery section of the children's museum.  I figured everyone would be ready to go by the time my 45 minute movie was over, but when I located them downstairs, Kate was just getting started.  She had the best time!  She climbed into a tree house, played with the 3,000 plastic balls in the fun zone; spent a LONG time at the water table, and then went back and did everything again.
Kate crawling in the tube under the aquarium.

Kate having fun at the water table.

Ross, Kate, and Maegan, and the Cincinnati skyline.

Marilyn, Laura, Kate, and me.

Our Laura and Little Kate.

After the museum, a quick lunch at Tom+Chee.  It is, as you might suspect, a little place that specializes in tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Again, very very good (but the service was a bit slow).

Home then for naps, then I stayed with Kate (who was taking a LONG nap) while the others went to a store Laura wanted Marilyn to see called Bizarre Bazaar.  There happened to be yet another Macy's across the street, so they stopped by there and, yes, bought me a bow tie.

That evening, Laura took us over to the part of town where Cincinnati Children's Hospital is located.  She showed us the route she drives to work, which includes a short trip through what I would describe as one of Cincinnati's mean streets.  Our destination was Dewey's Pizza.  We had to wait a bit to get a table at this popular spot, but the wait was worth it.  We got three different pizzas; mine was a southwest pizza with white sauce, chicken, and barbecue sauce.  Very, very good. 

My, I love these people!
 And then, it was over.  We left at 3:30 (Arkansas time) on Sunday morning, stopped around 7:00 for breakfast at Bowling Green, Kentucky (home of Bobby Petrino), drove, and drove, and drove some more, got caught in the Interstate 40 construction in eastern Arkansas, but rolled in to beautiful Alma, Arkansas around 5:30 Sunday evening.

It was so nice to be with my family the whole week, and we had such fun and laughed and laughed.  Little Kate is quite the comedienne, it turns out.  I'm looking forward to going back; there's lots of places to eat waiting for me...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Just About The Best Dog There Ever Was...And Other Pets We Loved

Every kid should know a dog like Lucky.
A rerun from a couple of years back...

The very earliest memory that I can recall today was a memory of Lucky.  My sister Janet and I were about three years old, so it must have been Christmas of 1959 or 1960.  I was sitting in the chair next to our coal-burning pot-bellied stove, and I was holding this little ball of fur that was licking me on the nose.  I don't know which family member gave him the name of Lucky, but it fit him perfectly.

Lucky was mostly collie, but he also had a healthy mix of other breeds as well.  He was a sweet, gentle soul who would have protected any of us with his very life if the occasion had ever arisen.  His bark was ferocious, but I don't think he ever bit anyone.  But, should a stranger come up on the porch, Lucky announced his presence with a bark that brought the family running.  Lucky would become particularly alarmed when M.C. Maxell would deliver the groceries we had ordered from Robert Davis' grocery store.  M.C. made a lasting friend of Lucky, however, by always bringing along a bone from the store's butcher.

Lucky's favorite activity was to chase rocks.  If you went out on the street and picked up a rock and threw it, Lucky would chase it down, pick it up and drop it, and then turn back to be ready to chase the next one.  He was also very intelligent.  Mama used to laugh when she would tell the story of the time that she had a letter that she needed to get to my Grandmother who lived down the street, so she clipped the letter to Lucky's collar and called my Grandmother on the phone, telling her to call for Lucky.  My Grandmother stepped out on her porch and called Lucky's name, and off he went to deliver the letter.
Lucky, Scooter, and Tom

Another early addition to our lineup of pets was our cat Tom.  My brothers brought Tom home after catching him in some lady's yard.  I remember she had a bunch of cats running wild, and Phil and Gene went up there and came back with Tom.  When we got Tom, he had an open wound on his neck that we referred to as a "wolf."  I've never seen that word used in that context anywhere else, but it was some sort of a parasitic infection, or as my brother Phil refers to it, an "alien life form" living in Tom's neck.  Well, Tom was able to overcome his "wolf" and became a gentle, sweet cat who would rapidly sweep into the house anytime you were too slow in closing the back door.  Tom used to love to sit in the living room and watch TV with us.  Bonanza was a particular favorite of his, I believe.  Tom was afflicted with seizures, however, and it may have been a result of his "wolf."

My Uncle Joe got me my dog Scooter when I was about ten.  I've mentioned Scooter in a couple of earlier posts.  This picture of Lucky, Scooter, and Tom on our front porch is a good one; you can see the sweet nature that Scooter had just by looking at his face.  As I mentioned before, Scooter was killed by a thoughtless man in the neighborhood.  A sad ending to a sweet little dog.
Lucky, Janet, and Puff

Somewhere along about this time, we got an additional cat.  I don't even remember where we got him, but my sister named him Puff.  I always thought it was from the song "Puff the Magic Dragon" that was popular about that time, but I also seem to recall that there was a cat named Puff in the Dick and Jane books that we read at school.  Puff was yellow and white and had absolutely no interest in coming into the house, not even to watch Bonanza.  He got along great with Tom; they were great friends and never fought. 

Skipper was a bit ornery and was known to cause
trouble, but I loved him nonetheless.
And then, Uncle Joe found me another dog.  Skipper was at times a bit of a handful, such as when he would chase motorcycles (his favorite pastime), bite my sister, fight with Lucky, or break his leg (see my post Skipper Breaks His Leg!)  But skipper was my pal, and when I needed time to lie on my back and stare up at the clouds, Skipper was right there with me.  As I've mentioned before, it was generally assumed that Skipper had some emotional problems, but he and I got along just fine.  Not the case with Skipper and Lucky, though.  If they happened to get into an altercation that escalated into a fight, Skipper would not give up.  Even though he was small, he would keep on fighting long after Lucky was ready to quit.  The only solution would be to tie up both Lucky and Skipper to the clothesline, where Skipper would continue to bark at Lucky until he finally got tired of it.  I have a vivid memory of a near tragedy involving Skipper.  One day when I had just walked home from school, I saw Skipper in the yard across the street.  I called his name, and no sooner had I gotten the words out that I realized that there was a speeding pick-up coming up Pine Street.  Skipper, upon hearing my voice, immediately started running to me, unaware of the speeding truck.  I watched in horror as Skipper ran in front of the truck, and as if in slow motion, he turned his head just as the truck was about to hit him and managed to somehow run sideways for a fraction of a second, literally inches away from the front tire.  Needless to say, when he got up to my arms, he got an extra hug from me.
Time out.

By the time my sister and I left for college, the only pet left was Lucky.  His front legs were hobbled by arthritis, so that he ran with a stilted gait, but he would still try to chase rocks.  Even after his eyesight was almost gone, he would listen to the sound of the rocks and try to give chase.  But, his health continued to deteriorate.  One day, when he seemed to having a particular amount of trouble, Mama realized that keeping Lucky alive would be unfair to that great dog.  So, with a heavy heart, she called the vet, and Lucky, at age 17, got to rest.

The story is told of a rainbow bridge, where dogs and cats that have left this life run and play all day.  But they keep one eye on the bridge, and when they hear a familiar voice, they come running to meet the one they love.  I'd like to think that's true.  But even if it's not, I'm sure glad God made dogs and cats.