Whirlygig: 60

Finding reassurance in neighborhoods and bars that stand the test of time

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A Calming Effect
Blueberry winter is supposedly a term like Indian summer. It's essentially comparable in definition, as both are a dose of great weather in the midst of foreboding frosts. I haven't really done any research to see if this is truth or just lore, but I for one love the concept.

This week, when the temperatures hit an unseasonable 50 degrees and the sun was so bright I was digging for sunglasses, I was in hog heaven. Being a person who needs whatever vitamin you get from bright light means my batteries were automatically getting recharged compliments of Mother Nature. I decided to run around town looking for further inspiration.

The day started with tennis at Western Racquet Club on Muddy Creek in Western Hills. The courts were all full on a Wednesday morning, which surprised me. I guess a whole lot of people were either living the good life or went into work later like my tennis partner Joe. He was due behind the counter to take pills from big bottles and put them in little bottles at 1 o'clock, so we had some time to sweat and perfect our net skills for an upcoming doubles tournament next weekend. We both enjoyed the workout and figured it was good to try friendly competition as partners before we actually partner anywhere else.

Perhaps I should say I instead of we. Joe might prefer partners period. I haven't asked him, and he isn't pressing it.

Off the court Joe headed out to work while tennis pro Bruce and I jumped into his yellow 911 after taking the top off. Who ever heard of a convertible in January? His dog Nelson sat on my lap, and we went to J&J's at my suggestion for the best BLT in town. It's stuck in a strip center on Glenway and has been there forever. I used to frequent the joint when I worked selling pharmaceuticals on the West side eons ago.

Bruce, who I know from tennis in Dayton, just moved down to Western Racquet, so he needed a new lunch spot. We caught up on tennis gossip and he agreed that the BLT was pretty damn good (along with the cheesy French fries). Nelson would love to have had an opinion but instead froliced in the green spot back at the club, where Bruce went back inside and I struck out for new horizons.

I took the drive all the way down Glenway into downtown thinking there was something calming about neighborhoods that stand the test of time. Yeah, some of lower Glenway isn't as fresh-looking as it used to be, but the views of downtown are still great and the people solid. The sidewalks were bustling, as everyone seemed to want a slice of sunshine. When I stopped at United Dairy Farmers to fill up, the guy next to me chatted me up, and as I got into my car another store owner whistled and yelled something in Spanish. While I wasn't sure what it was, I was under the impression it's flattering. It must have been the tennis skirt in January.

I drove through downtown and Over-the-Rhine to Clifton to the DAAP building on UC's campus to check out the student exhibits. It took me a while to locate the galleries in the building they rave about as one of the best examples of contemporary architecture in the country. I questioned that but agreed with the theory that UC has some of the best design students in the nation. The Reed Gallery was full of amazing work detailing retail space to restaurant design and more. The 804 Gallery featured a water theme and, while I didn't love all the work, is worthy of a look-see. The students roaming around seemed more comfortable in this maze of a building than I did, so I headed back to the street.

O'Bryonville was the next stop, and Kismet is a new shop that's full of good deals and cool stuff. I browsed through the jeans, sweaters, boots and candles vowing to return next time I need sexy feel-good attire and mood stuff. I've always liked this part of town, as it's grittier than Hyde Park. I resisted the urge to hit the Bonbonerie and headed up to Oakley.

Now Oakley is a neighborhood in transition, as the new is trying to overtake the old in a way that might be discomforting to some but inspiring to others. I chose to be inspired with the new Dewey's near the old Habits. I weakened my defenses and decide to have a hot fudge sundae at Aglamesis's, which remains what a soda shop should be and look like. I looked in King Arthur's window and relished that a toy store can survive in the day and age of Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart. If I wasn't watching my budget,I might have bought myself a doll.

Further down on Madison I wandered into the new space of Voltage and decided I'd rather have a Stark chair than a new baby doll — but that wasn't on the budget either. It's a great store and even better in its new digs, plus around the corner now is a slick space for the Cincinnati Antique Mall, M. Willis Interiors and the Annie Bolling Gallery.

It was too early for drinks or dinner, but Andiamo! Ristorante was definitely on my list of places to try very soon, as its look is decidedly upscale and new as well. Madison Road is no longer just the place yuppies will go for late night food at the Chili Company.

I drove out Marlborough over to Erie to see if I could hit Ault Park. I noticed that Erie was sporting a new place to eat called Cumin, next to Hap's Irish Pub, along with a gift shop I've been meaning to hit. I stayed on course, though, and then missed my turn for Ault Park but decided to try Alms Park. This is one Cincinnati park that's difficult to find but worth the windy twisty drive there.

Upon arrival (right about 4 o'clock) a few cars were pulling out as the sun was starting to lose its warmth a bit, but it was still perfect for me. I climbed up the steps to the top of the structure there. I could hear the wind but was protected leaning against the wall.

I looked out at the Ohio River and toward downtown realizing that it's all here for the taking. Maybe today wasn't the day, but it was reassuring.

— Wendy Robinson

Cheesy Bubbles
I'm not a quitter by nature, but at the start of this year I decided to quit smoking. The main problem that I always have when I try to quit smoking is that I love going to bars. In Cincinnati it seems that almost everyone in a bar smokes, so I decided to take last week off from hitting the bars.

Last Thursday night I decided to avoid temptation and stayed at home to watch The Best of Cops. The one-footed cop that runs down the criminal made me laugh harder than anything I've seen on TV in quite some time.

The phone rang during a commercial break after the first hour. It was my friend Shannon calling me from Uncle Woody's. She had walked to school earlier in the day when the temperature was in the mid-50s, but the temperature had dropped to the low-30s and she wanted a ride home.

I set my VCR to tape the last half of Cops and headed to see how well I could resist smoking. The last time I was at Uncle Woody's was probably when it was the third stop on a six-bar Clifton pub-crawl eight years ago. Needless to say, I don't remember much about that night.

There are two things that pop out at you when you walk into Uncle Woody's. The first is the amount of wood in the place. The floor, ceiling, walls, chairs and table are made of real wood. I half expected my beer to come out in a wooden cup.

Beyond the wood, the other thing I remember about the place is the number of beer advertisements. There were advertisements for Budweiser and Miller on every wall and even on the ceiling.

Shannon was waiting for me at the end of the bar, and she bought me a beer. I had a hard time carrying on a conversation with her while at Uncle Woody's. I'm a bit of a sports junky, and they have 19-inch TVs all over the bar tuned into both ESPN channels. There was college basketball to my left, SportsCenter on my right and Shannon in-between.

She was a little hungry, so she ordered a Greek Salad and Cheese Logs. The salad was perfect for her; it had no lettuce and plenty of tomatoes, olives and feta cheese. The cheese logs were insanely big. I took a bite of one and just frowned. Shannon asked me what was wrong. I said, "The cheese is a little gummy," and to proved my point I blew a bubble with my cheese.

— R.L. Newman

You read Whirlygig every week, now we want to hear your stories. Send them to [email protected].

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