Family Thoughts & Observations

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.


Easter Family Picnic

Family gathering at Mom & Dad’s fine Ross abode, eating outside in this super great spring weather.

Missing Shelly and the rest of her family…

Family Technology

The Wessels Family Tree

My Uncle Steve Wessels
My Uncle Steve Wessels

My Uncle Steve Wessels – who I alternately blame and thank for my obsession with technology – several years ago (15 or so, it appears) worked extensively to compile a comprehensive listing of the Wessels family tree, including birth dates and dates of death, for just about everyone going all the back to Germany for several generations.

It took a lot of work, is still ongoing and will forever be a gift to the whole family. Thanks, Steve. Pretty darn cool.

Side note: Steve is the original tech guy in our family. He makes his living doing it, introduced me to my first computer (an Apple Macintosh in 1984) and has since fascinated me with his wide breadth of knowledge on all sorts of sciences. Follow him on Twitter for all sorts of interesting tidbits about all sorts of things, but mostly tech and other sciences.

Community Family

Building Cincinnati drinking in downtown Cincinnati

Kevin LeMaster, author of the wonderful Building Cincinnati, is drinking on Fountain Square during Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Family Friends

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.


Grandma’s got wi-fi!

Grandma in a caveGrandma has a hot, live wi-fi connection in her family room, at her kitchen table, on her enclosed patio and in her backyard. It’s hot-damn amazing, if you ask me. I’m using it right now to post this post.

To be honest, it’s not hers. It’s coming from a neighbor, best I can tell off the east side of the house (thanks, anonymous wi-fi giver). But who cares? Imagine my excitement when I fired up my laptop and saw the unsecured connection way out here in Finneytown, at the end of the cul-de-sac.

I came out here last night to spend a little time with Grandma. A visit to Grandma’s has always been a big deal, something to look forward to. Still is a bit, even though I can get in my own car and drive myself there pretty much whenever I want.

It’s been a big year for Grandma, technology-wise. Earlier this year I helped her buy a 42-inch LCD high-definition television. She mostly uses the analog tuner to watch her Lifeline Time Warner cable service. But when I come over I switch it over to the digital tuner, using the antenna I installed on her roof. She’s always amazed at the picture. Last night we were watching the USC vs Washington football game on ABC.

“I really like soccer better, that’s what we were raised with,” Grandma said. Grandma immigrated from Germany in 1956.

“I actually like watching soccer, too, but rarely see it here (on TV in the U.S.),” I said.
“I don’t really like watching sports on TV, but our family does,” Grandma said.
“I don’t care for watching sports really all that much at all,” I responded.
“Then why are we watching this?” she asked.
“I just like the picture. Isn’t it amazing?” I said.
“Can we watch something else?”
“Of course, want to watch this DVD of a TV show I brought with me?”

So, that’s what we did instead. When the actors in that show started having explicit sex on screen about 10 minutes into the show I had to defend the “kind of stuff” that I was watching. Ooops. Sorry.

I have to admit it’s a little unsettling when your 82-year-old Grandma has better technology than you do. That goes ditto for watching sex scenes with her. Ah, modern life.

Family Uncategorized

The magic is back, for the most part…

When I was a kid I loved Kings Island. I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I first had a season pass to the Mason, Ohio amusement park, but I think I was maybe 10 or 11 years old. That would make sense, since I started giving my summers away to the YMCA when I was 13 as a day camp counselor – 20 years ago this summer – and would doubt I had time to go then. But maybe I did?

Anyway, I loved the place. I had several friends who had a season pass and we would go together often, usually just a pair of us at a time. If we had $10, that was enough for a large LaRosa’s pepperoni pizza and a coke for each of us and that would keep us satiated for the whole day. We would be running ride to ride, on good days going from nearly empty queue to nearly empty queue, literally getting on just about every ride without waiting. It was heaven.

During that time I remember riding the King Cobra – the roller coaster you rode standing up, which is now no longer at the park – for the first time and being completely nervous the whole time I was in line waiting for my turn.

So, as I often do, I found someone to talk to about my nervousness, just some random dude in line. I can still remember that guy (who seemed so much older than me then, but was probably just 14 or 15 years old) who calmed me down enough to get me on the ride and then asked me how I was doing when I got off. I actually liked it. Despite those adrenaline-driven feelings of euphoria, I would later have a recurring nightmare about the coaster derailing in the corkscrew portion of the ride, sailing off the track and landing in the thatch roof of the safari gift shop nearby. Guess I was still a little scared…

In the intervening years since my season pass days I have not been back to the park much, except for Winterfest, which I loved. It was sold to Paramount and became Parmount’s Kings Island, or PKI (which I always thought was lame), in 1993. The new owners promptly killed Winterfest and, thus, my interest in the place. I was getting a little older, too.

The few times I went back – usually when a friend had a free ticket – I left disappointed at how dull the place looked. The Festhaus no longer had the stage or its German theme (though the glockenspiel is still above the Festhaus’s main entrance, it’s appears to no longer work, with one of the little wooden people half out the left door – it looks awful).

They no longer serve sauerkraut and potato pancakes in the Festhaus. It’s LaRosa’s pizza and Panda Express, for God’s sake (I need to talk to management about that). The representation and acknowledgment of Cincinnati’s German heritage has been allowed to wither away, then was lightly painted over. But they still call it the “Festhaus.” I wanted to barf.

Let’s just say the Festhaus pissed the living shit out of me and I’ll leave it at that. (That feels better.)

Safe to say: The park just does not look itself these days. It is no longer well cared for anymore. Many of the buildings need paint, grass needs to be mowed, weeds pulled, mulch put down, pavement repaired. Light bulbs were burnt out throughout the park. The bathrooms were disgusting. And not trying to sound like an old geezer or anything, but, kids, it just wasn’t that way when I was a youngin’. It used to feel magical being at that place.

But Saturday was not all bad. Not at all. I did have a great time with my company, aside from the two operators at “Delirium” (which is a very thrilling, great ride, by the way – at the site of the former King Cobra roller coaster) who had their PA system cranked way too high and felt it fun to keep talking on it while we all plugged our ears.

I rode The Beast (by far my favorite ride) twice – once in the daytime and another at night, just as the fireworks were about to begin – and got to hang out with my cousin, Marianne, who is in town from Grenada, and three of The Post’s very cool interns.

Marianne and I stayed past the fireworks, grabbing some Graeter’s on the way out. The interns left earlier in the day. All told, it was a great day.

And I guess I will be going back to Kings Island this year. I have a season pass again. It was a gift from my parents – the whole family got them this year to go with my nephew and three nieces. I am looking forward to sharing Kings Island with them, hoping they will build some memories and get to be like their old Uncle Joe, remembering what it was like and what ride was where when they were a kid.

Family Fun

Back from vacation


That’s my Mom (Judy) on a flotation device in the swimming pool adjacent to the beach house I just got done spending a solid week in just outside of Destin, Fla. Went there with the whole family – Mom, Dad and my sister’s family and some of her in-laws.
It was a good time. To see photos, click on Mom and be taken to the set on Flickr.


Joe and the kids

Joe and the kids

Originally uploaded by hjoew.

Getting together for Mother’s Day – at the Northgate TGI Fridays, no less (formerly the “Prime Wine,” remember that?) – I took my three nieces and two cousins on a little “walk” around the parking lot. Here we sit in the former drive-through of a bank that was converted into a theater some 20+ years ago for the former Loews Northgate Cinemas (where I worked the summer after I graduated from Colerain High School in 1992).

In the photo, left to right, is niece Krissy (a twin), niece Kailey, cousin Rhianna, niece Cory (the other twin), nephew Connor, cousin and godson Henry Cole and me.

Turns out the theater, which re-opened as a discount, two-run theater with some first-run movies (and I think private ownership) a few years ago, has closed again.


Kailey is 4? Yep.

Yeah, my niece Kailey turned 4-years-old recently. Kind of hard to believe these kids – when fed and exercised regularly – actually grow. But it happens. For example, my nephew Connor just began Kindergarten which seems impossible. That would mean I’m 32. Oh wait. I am 32. Geez.

Here’s some photos from the party (and a way to maybe see some other photos, if you’re clever), shown through Picasa’s new “Web Album” feature. I think it an okay feature (they apparently did away with their “create a Web page” option), but I would be curious to see what you think.


Sep 24, 2006 – 91 Photos