Wasn’t I just here?

I’m drawn to this place. Called – once or twice – by some local writers writing in some publication that I read somewhere, sometime “the living room” of this eclectic neighborhood that I call home, it seems a bit cliché. This place, Kaldi’s, is a bit too unique to just be a living room. It sits here on the main street, Main Street. Good name.

I almost always sit in the same spot when I come by myself, like tonight. The third table back after the last booth, right underneath the wireless Internet router where the World Wide Web comes in loud and very clear. I once received a call here on my cell phone from a friend in Hong Kong. Apparently I do my international stuff here. It seems fitting.

Here at Table 3 I can see the whole south side of the place, including the pretty bar. I like to look at the people sitting there. When I walked in tonight I opened the door and nearly all the bar’s patrons sitting at the bar turned and looked at me and no one said anything. Okay, I thought. I’ll go sit at the third table back from the last booth.

Hi, Liz. I like her. Did I just say hi to her without saying anything? I wonder what she thought just then. I think she’s cool and I don’t even know her that well.

My living room at my house three blocks away consists of a wood floor and a mix-matched antique couch coupled with the classic-yet-modern couch given to me recently by my mother. There’s an antique-ish coffee table and on top of it a lamp I bought at Cost Plus when I lived in Sacramento. Janell helped pick it out. There used to be a big, pretty oriental-looking rug. The cat peed it into storage until I can get it cleaned.

That couch was in my parents’ house for a few years, recently replaced by a double-recliner chair/couch that I find not-as-comfortable. Before then it was the couch my mother used in her psycho-therapy practice. It’ll fit in fine here in my house. In Over-the-Rhine.

Turns out Main Street (Cincinnati) USA, is struggling. I do not understand it. It bothers me a lot. On my way in one of my neighbors asked for 42 cents. A paltry, specific amount – one I politely declined to give. It’s a policy of mine. He then told me it was for a Tampon.

What?

For the woman standing in the shadowy door way of the building we were standing next to along Main Street, he said. Oh. Still no. I have a policy, one I have been told was for the betterment of everyone living here. They gave me good reasons. Then I re-met Jimmy Heath.

Heath, the former homeless-person-turned-homeless-advocate, was a guest this past December on the radio show I hosted. He is another neighbor of mine. Found out we live just two blocks away from each other. We have never run into each other on the street (though I saw him walk by on the sidewalk a few days ago when I was in Kaldi’s).

He told me to give if I wanted to give; don’t give if I didn’t want to or couldn’t. But, more importantly, do not give just because giving is a bad thing. It is giving, was his point. To drive his point home, I think, he told me this just weeks before Christmas. I’m sure that was his intention (to be fair, I invited him on the radio show then).

Yeah. Gifts are given as a way to, uh, give, he said. I felt like an idiot. What a simple reason to buy a guy’s gal some feminine hygiene. No expectation of anything in return. (No bad jokes right then when I wrote that. Though the thought, I have to admit, did pop in my head.) Give if I want to. Give even if the money might be used for something less productive than maybe I would use it for – or not for the reason cited. Don’t give if not in the giving spirit. But if giving, give with the idea of nothing returned. It feels better already.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for About.com's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, iRhine.com. He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

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