CityBeat’s Living Out Loud – Cincinnati Blog

{August 31, 2006}   Dinner, Snack, the Cosmic Joker

Dinner: Chicken breast, salad, carrots, two bowls of cereal, soy milk.

Midnight Snack: Food poisoning.

If anyone’s ever had food poisoning, I’m so sorry. Now I know how it feels. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t even wish it on my partial enemy. Even my cats looked at me confused. I’m sure they were thinking, “What the hell’s the matter with you, ew, gross Mom, let us outta here, for real.”

What’s even stranger is that I was just bragging about my manly stomach the other day, how it’s made of steel, how I can eat anything, how I’ve never had food poisoning. My exact, bold words were “I’m immune to it.”

Never say never. Sometimes I think God is a cosmic joker.

C.A. MacConnell


{August 30, 2006}   The Chimney Stack

Joe’s a skinny guy.

Drives a Harley

and works

at the Kroger

in Mt. Washington.

Sometimes I think

he’s too thin

to be driving a Harley.

I saw Joe

catching a smoke,

he sat there glum,

looking lonely,

looking at the parking lot

looking at his smoke.

“What’s up Joe?” I said.

He then tells me

he’s feeling low

about that kid


in a chimney

all burnt up.

I then tell him

not to think

too hard

about it all.

“We’re all fucked up.” I say.

“Yea,” Joe replies,

throwing his smoke down.

“Just hope the kid is in a better place.”

I think of heaven,

but the thought won’t stick,

never seen heaven.

I think of the chimney stack

in an overgrown field of weeds

and bone and ash and teeth.

I think of a coroner’s table

with a pile of ash and bones

and teeth.

I think being taped

wrapped up tight

in a

hot closet.

Peter Deane

{August 29, 2006}   Crawfish on a Sweatshirt

(Editor’s Note: Looking back at Hurricane Katrina one year later, I find myself wondering what we learned from this – anything? A year later, New Orleans is still a mess and most have not been able to return to their homes. The editorial listed below ran in the Living Out Loud column on September l4 of last year.)

I’ve held on to it all these years – this green sweatshirt with a big red crawfish on the front – the caption reading “New Orleans Crawfish.” I found it in a bottom dresser drawer.

That morning, when New Orleans was at its bleakness, I dug out my old sweatshirt and turned off the television for awhile, needed a break from all the news about the flooding, the hurricane, the looting and the evacuation. I wanted to stop thinking about the thousands of people left dead in what was left of their homes or dead in the water that’s full of gas and sewage or those simply left to rot on the sidewalks.

I put on the old sweatshirt, poured myself a cup of coffee and went and sat down in my chair on my porch. I took a deep breath. Memories of The Big Easy started to come back.

James talked me into going down with him for Mardi Gras, February, 1975. His Chevy was old and we weren’t sure if it would make it – but when you’re young, you don’t really think anything bad is going to happen to you. And we were young, both 21 years old.

I never talk much about the trip, mainly because I remember so little about it. I was 21 and could drink. That’s what I did in New Orleans. Booze was everywhere.

The parade, jazz music, people laughing – even buying that sweatshirt is all kind of a blur. I remember James holding me up a lot, helping me walk, because I was so drunk. I remember a blonde girl – who I think was topless – French kissing me on the sidewalk. I remember laughing so hard at things I now can’t even remember.

We only stayed a few days. I was sick as a dog in the back of James’s car on the way home to Cincinnati. James assured me I had a good time and we would be heading back the following year.

But we never went back. Life happened. I got married, had kids and got lost in the corporate world of trying to make a buck. New Orleans simply became a hazy memory. As I sat there in my chair, I found myself feeling sad about it.

I want New Orleans to come back to life and hope we don’t start looking the other way in the weeks and months ahead. Sooner or later, a celebrity will do something that will knock it off the front page. That’s wrong. I want the media to keeping rubbing our noses in it. We need to learn from it.

If anything good has come out of this disaster, it’s that maybe the press seems to have gotten their balls back. Since 9/11 and the war in Iraq, major media sources have let hard questions go or look the other way when bad decisions are made. That’s changed with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

It does my heart good to see the press come after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff with the question of why did the Federal Government wait so long to act? That question has been asked many times with Chertoff saying “what we did right and what we did wrong” will be examined later. He got that line from President Bush who doesn’t know how to answer the question either. It’s pretty clear to me politics and bureaucracy continue to live even in the face of a natural disaster.

Local governments have questions to answer too. The Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation Plan states mandatory evacuation is done by private transportation and for those who don’t have it, school and municipal buses are to be used. The mandatory evacuation didn’t exist for the poor and for the most part; no buses were used to take them away from the city.

Why not, Major Ray Nagin? And Governor Kathleen Blanco: Why wasn’t the National Guard called in to secure the city before the storm? Why didn’t you ask for additional troops later when the city was in total panic? Why did people die when they could have been saved? The media needs to keep asking these questions until they are honestly answered.

As the floodwaters keep receding, I want the media to keep showing us the debris, the sewage and even the dead bodies. Maybe they can report something about these people – who they were and who loved them. I also want the media to show us the cleanup, the rebuilding of New Orleans and some happy endings with families being reunited. Again, I want it all in my face. I want to keep remembering I’m a lucky, lucky man.

When I took off that crawfish sweatshirt, I decided not to put it back in a drawer. I draped it over a chair in my study so I will always see it. I don’t want to forget this nightmare. None of us should.

Larry Gross

{August 28, 2006}   Cell Phone Etiquette

Cell phones and bathrooms: Can we establish some official ground rules here?

Okay, I have, on occasion, taken my phone into a public restroom either because I was waiting on a call I absolutely couldn’t miss, or because the phone is in my purse. The conversation is usually, “I’ll call you right back.”

But I have had some strange experiences in public restrooms. One time, at U.C., a girl was a few stalls down having some severe diarrhea, and felt the need to share the experience, not only with me, but with whoever it was on the other end of her phone conversation.

Usually, I mistakenly think that the stranger in the next stall is talking to me when they’re not. I mean, when there are only two of us in the bathroom, what am I supposed to think?

One time, however, I assumed that the person in the next stall was talking on their phone, and it turned out they were talking to me. I’m not accustomed to making small talk with strangers while I’m peeing, and I didn’t realize that the lady was speaking to me until she got upset that I didn’t answer.

Another cell phone scenario that could use some standard rules of etiquette is that damned blue tooth wireless earplug.

If you don’t see that a person has one on, then you’re always interrupting their phone conversation by answering a question that you thought was directed at you. If you see their shiny metallic earpiece, then you’re never sure if they’re talking to you or not.

Plus, you can never tell if the guy talking to himself behind you at the checkout is crazy or if he’s just on the phone.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. It seems to be the natural inclination of many people to speak extra loud when they’re on a cell phone (and the tinier the phone, the louder they yell). This is particularly annoying in quiet places like a library or a doctor’s office.

I don’t have anything against cell phones, I love them. I’m just saying that maybe we could get together and establish some simple rules of cell phone etiquette, and have those rules distributed with every cell phone purchase, or read aloud to everyone as they pass the Verizon Wireless kiosk at the mall.

Heather Annastasia Siladi

{August 27, 2006}   Fleas

Phoebe, my cat around nine years old, started acting funny a few days ago – scratching herself constantly, not hopping onto furniture, staying to herself, not eating well and not seeming very happy. While not really a friendly cat, she is usually to me and my adult son – maybe because we’re the guys who feed her.

On Friday morning, my son figured out what was wrong. By examining her skin and seeing “something” on her, he discovered that our indoor cat who never goes outside had fleas.

In researching the problem on line, my son decided that the only quick solution was to give Phoebe a bath with stuff that would get rid of the fleas. Now cats don’t like baths and you have to understand that Phoebe doesn’t do well when it comes to changes, going to the vet, moving and especially being given a bath. I simply told my son “find another solution. You will be bitten all to hell if you try to give her a bath.”

I had some errands to run. When I returned, I found a pissed off, all wet Phoebe in the hallway licking herself.

To my surprise, my son said the actual bath wasn’t that horrible.

“She cried a lot,” he said, “but after a while she just sort of went along with it. Of course, she hates me now.”

My son changed our bedsheets, washed all the rugs and Phoebe seems to be back to her normal self. I’m glad he took charge of this.

My question: how in the world can an indoor cat get fleas? I have never heard of such a thing.

Larry Gross

I missed the hippie era. By the time I visited Haight Street, there was nothing but dark, creepy streets strewn with homeless people. I got a coffee, visited a Dead cover bar and found a place to crash, frustrated.

I could score some bud or whatever I wanted in a fingersnap. I know the lingo, the corners. If I wanted to smoke a joint on Fountain Square, I would. But I haven’t eaten a tomato in a long time. They make me sick. Other people love ’em, grow the plants, give them as gifts, et cetera.

I have trouble talking to buzzing individuals. They appear distant, aloof. But I’ve been told I naturally appear distant, aloof. I’m sure people have trouble reading me. I talk to crack-addicted individuals. Sometimes I give them money. If they’re in withdrawal, they need more drugs. I would.

One fourth of July, my ex-boyfriend took up booze again, then pot, then heroin, disappearing. He’s not dead, because when they’re alive, you don’t hear. When they die, you hear the next day. I have heard, many times.

Smoke up, take pills, drink booze, eat tomatoes, whatever. Some can take it, thrive on it, enjoy it. Some die trying to enjoy it. I stay the course, my course. My course is not my brother’s course. As for laws and Mr. Officer, I don’t need you. I’ve had enough mental citations to last more than a lifetime.

C.A. MacConnell

{August 24, 2006}   Book Review: “Voodoo Heart”

Scott Snyder teaches creative writing at Columbia University and his debut collection of short stories is a bit strange and more than a little deranged. This doesn’t make the book bad. In fact, Voodoo Heart is quite good. You never know where his characters are going to end up or what they’re capable of doing.

In “Dumpster Tuesday,” we find a Wall Street trader now guarding a dumpster outside a pawn shop in Florida. He’s traveled there, searching for his girlfriend who ran off with a country music singer. He’s got his spear gun all ready once he finds them.

“Blue Yodel” is about an employee who works for Niagara Falls. His job is to watch for jumpers, but now he’s mostly chasing after a blimp in his car. His girlfriend escaped from him on it, but now she’s throwing personal objects from the blimp so he can keep tracking her.

“Wreck” shows us a sporting goods salesman having an unlikely affair with a famous actress in hiding after a deforming surgery. The story is romantic at first, but turns violent as the actress begins to heal.

In the title story, a young engaged couple buys a rambling old house next to a women’s prison and their loving relationship starts to change when one of them becomes obsessed with an inmate at the prison who’s a serial killer.

The seven stories in Voodoo Heart are whimsical, disturbing, sinister and dark – all at the same time. You’ll find yourself turning the pages faster and faster and wishing there was more. To say the least, this is a very original read.

Larry Gross

{August 23, 2006}   Lunch and no Joke

Lunch = Peach, Pretzel Rods, Pepperidge Farms Mini Chessmen Cookies, Grape Juice.

Jim Allen

{August 23, 2006}   The Garden of Eden

Okay, according to the bible, God told Adam, Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge, or you will surely die that day. (Gen. 2:17)

Then the serpent tells Eve, You’re not going to die; God just doesn’t want you to know what he knows. (Gen. 3:4-5)

Adam and Eve eat the fruit and God says, Oh no, man has eaten from the tree of knowledge, and now he knows good and evil as we do. Now we have to kick him out of the garden before he eats from the tree of life and lives forever, too. (Gen. 3:22)

So here’s my question: If you read it literally, who was lying to Adam and Eve, and who was telling the truth?

This is what sparked the idea for my book. There’s this guy named Ken Ham who’s building a $25 million creationist museum in Kentucky, and his whole premise is that you have to read Genesis literally. So just for laughs, I picked up Genesis and started to read it literally, which is when I reached my epiphany: that it was God who lied and the serpent that told the truth (also, there is no literal reference to the serpent being Satan).

Heather Annastasia Siladi

{August 22, 2006}   Skunked – The Sequel

The skunk was a punk, a walking, talking, graffiti writing bastard who frequents hunting/fishing stores. Now you can all relax and know it wasn’t a real critter, but a purchased, liquid stink. So relax, unless the punk is you. Then you cannot relax.

Just ask my friend S who thought it would be funny to put my car up for sale in the paper for $100. Not so brilliant, Homer. Next thing he knew, his cell phone was ringing off the hook, receiving many, many, many forwarded calls interested in the car for sale for $100.

C.A. MacConnell

et cetera