Don McPherson, 1957-2009

House of Dreams

I awoke especially early this morning and began checking friends’ blogs and was shocked awake. Why? I found this very sad news. Don McPherson, whom I had not seen in about four years, passed away a few days ago. Tears stream down my face as I write this.

Despite the distance and our friend-of-a-friend friendship, he was always one of the ones I enjoyed seeing and talking and laughing with the most. He was introduced to me by my old pal, Brian Mueller. Hadn’t had much contact with Brian in nearly four years when I attended his wedding celebration two weekends ago in Frankfort, Kentucky. We had a nice conversation during which he told me Don had been ill, but my understanding was Don would be OK. Sadly, I was very wrong.

Brian has a great audio interview he recorded with Don last August. I highly suggest checking it out. You get a glimpse into the kind of simple and wonderfully kind guy Don was.

The photo here (taken 9/11/2000) is in the tower at the House ‘o Dreams, located atop Lavendar Mountain on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Rome is where I met Don, one of the few positives in the nearly eight years I worked in the retail income tax preparation industry. He was a salesman for TaxWise, the company where the tax company I worked got their software. If you click on the photo, you will be taken to a see a few other photos from that evening.

I wrote about Rome, Georgia for The Cincinnati Enquirer’s travel section probably right after our trip there.  I wish I could link to that article, capturing how I truly felt about that town. But the Enquirer doesn’t have that article online. Suffice it to say, that night, like so many with Don, and his son, Sam, were fantastic. The sun setting, beers, laughs and secluded a top a mountain. It shaped how I felt about Rome, a rather small town (pop. 35,000) about 78 miles northwest of Atlanta.

You will be missed, Don.

United Nations meets on Fountain Square

Alan, Kenny, Joe, originally uploaded by hjoew.

Alan, Kenny and I went to Colerain High School together, class of 1992. Back then we were all very much involved in the Colerain (now Clippard) YMCA’s Leaders Club, a volunteer service group for teenagers.

Being in Leaders Club and the many friends I made and re-made during that time made a huge impact on my life. The group of about 25 people – of about which 10 were very active – were some of my closest friends in high school.

We traveled each summer to the YMCA’s Blue Ridge Leaders School in Black Mountain, North Carolina for a week where we partook in everything from learning to be a lifeguard to gymnastics to garnering a deeper spirituality.

It may sound completely corny, but sitting on the steps of Lee Hall (the main building at Blue Ridge) looking out at the Black Mountains and listening to James Taylor sing “In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina” over a loudspeaker really can get a kid to thinking. Lots of tears were shed by lots of people. I think my Leaders Club experience would be similar to the many others who have also participated in this group.

I made lifelong friends out of this group. Though Alan (pictured here) and I have been friends since we met in kindergarten, I would have to say (and I don’t know if you would agree, Alan, or not) that our experience in Leaders Club solidified our friendship for life. We learned a lot about growing up, each other and how to get along during those times. I’m so glad I did.

So, last week when I went to meet Alan on Fountain Square he was standing next to the fountain talking to a guy who I barely recognized at first. But as I got closer I realized it was Kenny, the guy I had so much fun with back in Leaders Club but had lost touch with probably 15 or more years ago. I was truly happy to see him and gave him a huge hug.

We chatted for awhile. He told me he read my columns in CityBeat and had seen the blog and other stuff. We exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers and plan to keep in touch.

Whatever comes next – whether we rekindle old friendships or are just happy we ran into each other again – it is so nice to harken back to the old days and reminisce with old friends.

One standing joke came back immediately. We had a diverse group back then. Our old joke was that when we all hung out it was like the United Nations meeting in Colerain. It was nice to meet again.

In fact, thanks to the social networking phenomenon sweeping the nation (uh, the world), I have been reacquainted with loads of people from the Y and other places that I, frankly, doubted I’d ever hear from again. And that’s wonderful!

I don’t know how many teenagers had experiences like that, but my guess would few. I wish for everyone who wants an opportunity like I had, so one day, you can have those UN meetings, too.

Dammit, coach! Kickball is fun!

The big ball, as its called, means double runs for the offense in the third inning.
The "big ball," as it's called, means double runs for the offense in the third inning. For us, it's meant double trouble.
God, we’re bad. Last night we lost 17 to zero, marking our fifth straight kickball game without a win.
Our team – Kara Thrace & Her Special Destiny, named by Team Captain James Czar – has lost other games by as many as 30 runs, though we came close once and only lost by one. That means our record is 0 – 5 with three more weeks to go.
Despite our haplessness, it is still a ton of fun. So far, I think our team’s average age would be much higher than the all the other teams we have played. In fact, someone quipped that the only way we may win is if a mysterious disease begins to spread throughout Cincinnati – and it only effects people under 30 years old.
We will play again next week at Lunken Playfields (map) in the Columbia-Tusculum area (attached to Lunken Airport). Check out the league schedule and come out and watch us lose. It’ll be a hoot!

Heres our hapless crew, some of the members of KARA THRACE & HER SPECIAL DESTINY
Here's our hapless crew, some of the members of KARA THRACE & HER SPECIAL DESTINY

Your warehouse club membership pays to the end

I have an interest with things related to death – but not particularly death itself.

Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is one of my favorite places to take photographs, “Six Feet Under” is one of my favorite shows of all time, I volunteered at Fernside: A Center for Grieving Children for many years (and still think it the best single non-profit organization in the Greater Cincinnati area, hands down). I get creeped out every time I see the Hamilton County Sheriff‘s “meat wagon” driving around town with the deputy driving and the two blue jumpsuit-clad prisoner-helpers – one riding shotgun, the other in the back seat of the extended cab pick-up – going either to pick up a dead body, drop one off at the coroner’s office near University Hospital or heading back downtown to the Justice Center.

[It’s weird, but I never connected all those things together until just now decided to write this blog post, but it seems to work. Or not work, as the case may be.]

So, I was a little disturbed when I saw our old, good friend Maggie Downs‘ post on Bloggy Style about Costco’s product line.

Lucky me

I am going to indulge a second. Wait. Isn’t that what blogs are for anyway? Well, regardless, today is my birthday. Happy Birthday to me! But I have felt so lucky today – especially in light of what happened Sunday.

Melissa – my beautiful, talented, smart, funny, thoughtful, caring, tremendously supportive, understanding and kind girlfriend – started off my day with two incredibly neat, cool and thoughtful gifts. One was this very nifty, sharp wristwatch. The other is this glass globe with the city of Cincinnati inside, featuring the skyline and some significant buildings. It’s very special and right up my alley.

On top of that, my great family is having a nice shindig for me tonight which will include a big dinner and lots of them – and probably more gifts. One of my gifts – from my parents; a bunch of compact fluorescent bulbs I wanted to replace the incandescent ones in my apartment – came in the mail today. Plus, throw in all the great messages I have received online through e-mail, cell phone text messages, Facebook and MySpace and it’s rounded out for a very, very nice day. It’s great to be and feel loved. Thanks, everybody! I am just so happy and wanted to spread the love a lot bit… Hope you are having just as good a day, birthday or not.

Jim Tarbell in disguise

Jim Tarbell and Melissa Brown

I think I must have walked by ex-Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell two or three times last night and did not recognize him. He was at the Cincy Fire Ball at – and to benefit – the Cincinnati Fire Museum. I nearly fell on the floor laughing when I realized in the waning moments of last night’s event that the fashion-challenged guy who I had seen all night (and he was wearing sunglasses most of the evening) was actually Mr. Cincinnati himself, our most famous ex-Councilman. The getup was hilarious, replete with some fake hair and a fake mustache.

Here he is squeezing Melissa Brown, voted Cincinnati’s hottest firefighter during a random polling of guests at last evening’s fundraiser. I’m very proud of her for that and a whole lot – tons – more.

Joe & the interns ride The Beast

At the Scripps Family Picnic (another way of saying “Post company picnic”) at Kings Island Saturday. After the cookout/ lunch/picnic/giveaway bonanza, my cousin, Marianne (in town from Grenada until Wednesday), and I met up with three of The Post’s five interns and headed for the world’s longest wooden roller coaster (and according to many roller coaster enthusiasts, one of the best).

We all stayed together and rode a few other rides together, including “Delirium,” which was a blast. (Sorry to Marianne for inadvertently cutting most of her out of this photo…it was hard to see.)

Cat has blog to talk about sad, pathetic life

So, this “cat” I know has a blog. And every time I read it I think I’m going to wet my pants I’m laughing so hard.

It’s like Toonces the Driving Cat, but instead it’s Paris Hilton – in the form of a kitty cat – who, like the heiress, is at the same time self-absorbed and insightful, plus honest and, well, crazy. Rehab Cat has himself some very big adventures and mishaps, like the pill-popping pictured above. Check out the blog to read more.

The entries are all about this cat’s partying life and the people he does drugs with and socializes with and all the celebrities he hangs out with, the cats he hooks up with and it goes on and on. And it’s all written from this cat’s perspective.

I hope Rehab Cat gets some help, but part of me hopes he continues the binging, the blaming and the excuse-making. It’s really funny. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

(The actual writer of the blog is someone quite a few Report This! readers might know, by the way. But she has asked to remain anonymous.)