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...


  1. We have a Gap Outlet here in Anderson.

    Happy to see you are still posting.
    Sorry if I missed any

    1. Thanks Skip. I haven't posted much lately; only when a major life event like eating a bug inspires me. Good to hear from you!

  2. Really cool trip report. Sorry I didn't get over here to read it sooner.

    I've eaten some strange things in my life (and written about it - hippo, lion) but I was given the opportunity to eat bugs and just could not bring myself to do it. You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

    MY WIFE has been to Cincinnati, but not I. She often says that it's the chili capital of the USA, and I've learned not to argue that point. You have given ample evidence of her correctness (although I suppose some Texans still might argue the point.)

    Anyway, as usual, a really fine read.