Family headed to Germany

Seven members of my family – including my Uncle Rick, his wife and three kids, my grandmother and my Dad – are about to head to Germany. We’re from there. My Dad and grandmother immigrated to the United States in 1954 when my Dad was about 7 1/2 years old. This will be his second-ever trip back to his homeland – the last being in 2000 – since he left after attending kindergarten and first grade in the tiny town of Breddenberg. That’s where my grandmother grew up.

I have been there three times – in 1999, 2000 and 2008 – and loved every minute of it. I wish I was going this time. There is so much to share with my cousins and I wish I could hang out with my cousins over there. But, I’m happy my cousins are getting the chance to visit there now – they’re all in high school now – while they’re young. I would have loved to have gone back then and I have no doubt this experience is going to have a lifelong impact on them.

Safe travels, guys! See you in two weeks.

Best Cincinnati hairdos

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I keep seeing that commercial for the law firm of Elk and Elk. I don’t know what they specialize in professionally (probably personal injury), but do know they specialize in bad comb-overs and odd haircuts. That is completely obvious.

How can anyone take them seriously? They give a stern stare at the camera… and I want to chuckle.

Who else in Cincinnati has bad hair? Post your nominations in the comments section.

Doctor “hero” at Giffords shooting says he and others are just “normal people”

Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic nominee and gen...
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I heard this quote on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” today and I really liked it. Choking back tears, Dr. David Bowman, who was shopping with his wife at the Safeway store in Tuscon, Arizona where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others were killed by an alleged lone gunman, including a 9-year-old girl who was born on September 11, 2001, said he is not particularly comfortable with being called a “hero:”

“I think that there were maybe heroic things done by normal people. That means we’re human beings. And I think that’s, to me, one of the lasting impressions, is to see what people were doing for someone else – injured people – helping someone else more injured. Not concerned about themselves. And not screaming and not yelling, “Medic! Medic!,” and helping the person next to them. It gives you a lot of hope that we are doing it the right way, somehow.”

-Dr. David Bowman, aided Rep.Gifford at shooting, on being called hero

We have a hero culture now. Anyone and everyone who acts is, by default, a hero. A woman, who also is being called a hero for yanking the second gun clip out of the alleged shooter’s hands, said if she is a hero then the retired Colonel who tackled the gunman to the ground is a “super hero.” She said that her son told her that Tuscon needs heroes right now and that she needs to embrace the moniker.

I think we needed “normal people” that day – and that is what we got. Calling everyone a “hero” makes it sound like only “heroes” respond to desperate situations like that. Do you consider yourself a hero? I don’t think I am a hero. I bet you don’t either. But, I believe I would try to help in a situation like that. And I’m just a normal guy.

Choosing differently?

I have my hiding places around town.

They’re all over the place. In parks, on vistas, inside coffee shops, at dead ends, in cemeteries, at airports. They are on the West Side, the East Side and in neighboring little towns in Ohio and states that have reciprocal income tax agreements with Ohio.

Most I can drive to in less than hour. Some take a little more.

I love going to these places and thinking. I try to bring focus to my scattered ideas, dreams, aspirations, successes, choices made and opportunities lost. I think about my friends, family, my aging grandmother, relationships current and past. I wonder who I will meet tomorrow.

I think about my choices. The ones that have been great (finally finishing my bachelor’s degree – 17 years after I started it), and the bad ones. I think about the people that love me, why they love me and why I love them.

I think about people I haven’t seen in a long time and about that special connection we made at that moment when we met and those times shared afterward until we didn’t see each other anymore. Those times and instances ride high in my memory. I miss them.

I think about the people who don’t like me. Probably too much. I think how I hurt them and how that must have felt. I think how I have let people down. Especially the ones who care about me greatly. It pains me to think of the suffering they had at my hands or by my doing, even the tiny and everyday wounds and seemingly inconsequential.

I wonder if it is too late to fix these errors in judgment and miscalculations. Will they let me? Do they even care? Why do I?

I love my little nephew. I love my three nieces, three beautiful little girls. I think about what kind of uncle I am. I think about my little cousins and how much they mean to me. I love my parents who care so very much – even when they don’t understand. Will I ever be a father?

I think hard about the world, my beliefs, my town, my country, my wants and my desires. How do they fit into this world. What should I do next?

View of downtown Cincinnati from the Price Hill Incline park.

Pete Rose has given us back what he took away

Pete Rose in his rookie year at Picture Day in...
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I’m not a sports guy.

Let’s make that clear from the get-go. Any sport I tried to play as a kid ended up embarrassingly bad – including my career-ending smack-in-the-face at one of my very first pitch baseball games. I was in the second grade.

Growing up in Cincinnati meant loving, at minimum, two teams. One was the Cincinnati Bengals. The other was most certainly the Cincinnati Reds. So, on September 11, 1985 I was at home, a new sixth-grader. In the kitchen was a small 12-inch black and white TV and that’s where I remember standing each and every time Pete Rose would come to bat. We were waiting for his 4,192nd hit – the one that would break Ty Cobb‘s all-time hit record. It was an incredible time to be a Reds’ fan – especially because I was born in 1974 and those amazing  Big Red Machine days happened when I was too young to experience them fully.

Then the hit happened and it was amazing to see. Even on that little TV.

A few years later we would come to find out Rose bet on baseball. Rose would continue to deny this for years, despite mountains of evidence against him. Because Pete was one of us – he was born and raised here, grew up and learned to play baseball on the West Side – many of us were much more likely to believe Pete. We wanted to believe Pete.

Rose was banned from baseball and remained cocky and defiant. The pat line in Cincinnati was Pete needed to be in the Hall of Fame – no matter what he had done or how cocky he got or how bad the evidence was against him. I think some of us knew he probably didn’t deserve to be allowed back into baseball, but it just didn’t matter. He’s one of us and was a fantastic baseball player. One of the best to ever play the game. Few anywhere would dispute that.

This past Saturday, though, something amazing happened. On the 25th anniversary of that most memorable night and that historic hit, Rose was back on a baseball field, this time at the new Great American Ball Park and in front of many of those same fans. They were cheering him like they had done so many times and years before. Later that night he, ironically, went to a casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., about a 30-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati, where he would do a paid appearance at a roast in his honor. The first part of the night, as described by Cincinnati Enquirer writer John Erardi, was light-hearted and funny. But when Rose was done being roasted by former teammates, he took the podium and gave a sobbing apology for betting on baseball. Here’s what he said, excerpted from the Enquirer article:

“I guarantee everybody in this room, I will never disrespect you again,” Rose said.

“You can talk about hits and runs and championship games . . . (But) I want my legacy to be (that of) somebody who came forward. If anybody has a problem here today, come forward. Don’t hide it . . . You can run, but you can’t hide. If I can help a young kid to know what I went through, maybe I can prevent them from going through the same thing.

“I got suspended 21 years ago. For 10-12 years, I kept it inside . . . That’s changed. I’m a different guy . . . I love the fans, I love the game of baseball, and I love Cincinnati baseball.”

Pete sounds like a guy who has gotten some help. Or he has figured it out on his own. Whatever it is (and I hope it’s the former), the apology I’m sure means a lot to his family, his friends and his teammates. It has to mean a lot to him. To let that go, admit to himself that the problem is bigger than this giant, legend-of-a-man – this is no little thing. Men like him don’t have to be humble much and when they should, well, I imagine it’s like being at your first t-ball practice.

Pete is 69 years old now. He gave us back something Saturday. The night of his magical hit can rise up again and be that special moment, untainted by what we found out a few years later. We got unstuck. Pete freed us from those chains he put on us, that burden we carried with him. Thank you, Pete. We needed it probably as much as you did. Baseball got something back Saturday night. Pete got something back. The fans got something back.

It’s time to give him the honor he deserves, what the fans deserve, what baseball deserves. It’s time to turn the page and let the next chapter of Pete’s life be written. I can’t wait to be there for it. And I’m not even a sports guy.

Sunday morning tune

Caught Lorna Parson of Sharonville this morning as she tapped the keys on a “Play me, I’m Yours” piano on the lawn of the Wyoming Arts Center in Wyoming.

She was playing “Yankee Doodle” from a beginner’s piano lesson book and said she was attempting to hit all 35 pianos before the program officially ends on September 17. She has got her work cut out for her – she only has made it to 10 so far.

“I got a late start,” she said.

Parson said she is not an accomplished player, but enjoyed the experience of playing at the public pianos. Learn more about the program, including the plan to donate the pianos to local schools and needy students needing a piano, at their Web site by clicking this link: http://oncincy.com/ahIlGd

Lorna Parson of Sharonville plays at a "Play Me, I'm Yours" piano outside the Wyoming Fine Arts Center in Wyoming.

Sign of the times? Janitor/funeral home driver fired for parking body

I cannot help but wonder if the guy who was working as both a school janitor and a part-time funeral home driver had something to do with the pay at one of his job?

Regardless, life is all about the choices we make. Now this guy is out his funeral home driving pay.

No charges in corpse parked at school

CANTON — A prosecutor said no charges will be filed against a school janitor and part-time funeral home driver who left a bagged body in a parked van outside a school.Prosecutor Ty Hauritz in Canton said Wednesday the action by the janitor at GlenOak High School lacked criminal intent.The van driver was sched­uled to take the body last month from a hospital to a funeral home but was afraid of running late at his school job.He parked the van and body outside the school for 4½ hours.The funeral home has fired the driver. The Plain Local school district won’t discuss any disciplinary action.

via The Chronicle-Telegram – Lorain County’s leading news source.

Parking enforcement officer writes ticket for after 8 – before 8

Just watched as a neighbor of mine got a ticket for parking in an after-8 a.m. truck loading zone along Perry Street in downtown Cincinnati (even though this alley hasn’t been used for loading trucks in probably 30 years). Only problem was it wasn’t after 8 a.m. – even when the officer handed the neighbor her ticket.

I watched out my bedroom window as she showed the officer her cell phone (which carries a signal from her wireless service that maintains the exact real time, lapse a 10-30 seconds). She was rather upset – the ticket costs $50 – but the officer would not even budge.

So, I went out and said I looked on the two computers I had open and on, both with automatically updated Internet time (also very accurate) and my cell phone and said she was right and he was wrong. His response? Look at the ticket.

She showed me the ticket. “8:00 a.m., April 2, 2010.” No Day-After April Fool’s Day joke here. I told him that even right then, as we “discussed” the ticket, it was only 8:01 a.m. so there is no way it was after 8 a.m. when he wrote the ticket.

I encouraged the woman to go to the ” parking court.” Court, in this case, is a closet with a hearing officer (“judge”), an appointee who also works as a lawyer someplace else, who almost always lets parking violaters off the first time they appear before him (or sit next to him, as is the case in Hamilton County) and usually halves fines if you take the time to go on subsequent visits. I know this from personal experience – I had a few “surprise” tickets when I lived in Over-the-Rhine. The surprise was I never got them, likely removed from the windshield by some board passer-by (and we had more than our share of those types). The excuse took with the judge  because I had actually paid, on time, other tickets over the years.

But this all comes at a cost: The experience for those living in downtown Cincinnati. It is one we cannot afford right now. And this is a stupid way for the city to make up expenses in a gigantic budget hole.

In an effort to beef up parking enforcement, officers (the parking kind, not police) have been armed with electronic ticket-writing devices that dramatically speed up the process. There apparently also have been several new hires in the past 18 months or so, making the force larger than it has been in recent years (this is an observation). Couple that with a more than doubling of the original $14 fine (as it was until 2005, late, as I recall) to the now $35 fine for parking at an expired meter, and I think we have ourselves a grand way for the city to make money for itself.

Good. No new taxes, right? But it comes at the expense of creating massive discontent about living downtown. Parking spaces – like on Perry Street – still reflect an industrial alleyway where trucks needed to park throughout the day. Now, it’s low-hanging fruit for parking enforcement folks and the bane of people who live in the former warehouses and manufacturing facilities now converted into townhomes, condos and apartments – the people who are making downtown work again.

Should parking on the street be made legal for anyone? No, but there are best practices from other cities of similar size that allow for residents to park on the street near their residence.

Cincinnati has a similar ordinance. Why haven’t you heard of it? It’s pretty fascinating, actually. Passed in the early 1980s, but it has never been used once, because the burden for residents to enact is nearly insurmountable. Why? Who knows for sure. It was either an extremely poor piece of legislation or doing exactly what it was intended to do. I have (or had) a copy of the ordinance, and some accompanying complaints by current and former Council members, and will track that down and discuss that in a future post.

Finally. Ross’s Web site is done

Ross Self Storage Extravaganza
During the wedding ceremony I performed at Ross Self Storage last June, the groom gives me a high-five.

I’ll give you this: Me owning a self-storage facility is not exactly what I envisioned as a child when I thought of professions I might like to pursue.

Might seem my destiny was already somewhat sealed when Mom and Dad bought the nearly one-acre sized property in Butler County on the site of the former Meadowbrook Inn (now the Meadowbrook Banquet Center, owned by Hilvers Catering). In reality, though, I think the thought of owning a storage facility appealed to me more originally than running one. That being said, I feel that over the past 12 months or so I have begun to really grow into the role of “self storage facility manager” and the enthusiasm that got me here in the first place (i.e. taking this over from my parents who started it in 1981) has returned. I can see again where this is all going and see its potential is pretty amazing. A turnaround in the economy, a little bit of a housing boom in southwestern Butler County (as was expected in pre-recession) and I can see big things in the future.

Even without an amazing economic bounce-back, I think things are going to be pretty good for a while in the self storage industry for a variety of reasons. Seems that storage is one of those things that people need when times are good and when times are bad. It’s a viable alternative for all sorts of situations all sorts of people find themselves in all the time. Helps that I have the latitude to be very competitively priced and have a location in an area that is still growing.

The short-term good news is small, but good. Every tenant is paid up for the first time in a long time, expectations have been clearly defined, I have only a couple empty bays (and a third giant one where my father kept his stuff that needs some finishing touches before it can be rented) and a growing group of outdoor parking space renters (with plenty of room for more). And it’s Spring – a time when people start deciding it’s time to get storage. Phone lines are open.

With all that in mind, I am happy to report I finished a complete re-design of the Ross Self Storage Web site just a few minutes ago. I did it myself (‘cuz I like doing these things) and am kinda happy with what I accomplished (though I realized I really need to get out there and shoot some better art for the site – those photos are awful).

Tomorrow begins another first for me: a Google AdWords campaign. I am using a $100 coupon I was sent from Google and thought I would give it a spin. The set-up was pretty interesting, a partial look under the advertising hood at Google. Those bite-sized ads provide the means for all the applications that Google provides – and I happily consume in mass quantities (I’m a bit of a Google fan boy). Though typically I would tell any consulting client a Google AdWords campaign is wholly unnecessary in most instances, I say this without actually ever having tried one. The coupon gives me a great opportunity to try the service without spending any cash. And I will get the added benefit of being able to speak from experience next time I tell someone it’s a waste of money.

Plus, the $100 is roughly equivalent to the amount I was going to spend in April on a newspaper ad in the Venice Cornerstone, the monthly local newspaper in Ross. This saves me from that – possibly – and also helps me bolster my argument that newspapers (and their Web sites) continue to miss the boat on a viable revenue model. I built a very un-savvy landing page, which, I think might be too overdone. My friend Krista Neher gave me one teensy bit of advice when I was thinking about my ad campaign earlier in the week: “Have a call to action.” I think I managed that OK. Call me, dammit, is my call to action. We’ll see.

I plan to report back here later on how the experience goes with Google. It should be interesting, to say the least. This is, after all and by many accounts, the future of advertising and the savior for us all (i.e. journalists who care about the content). Stay tuned…

What I said on Twitter today, November 19, 2009

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