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Last Day in California

Well, my 12-day West Coast junket is about to end. And though I had planned to do loads of Blogging about the trip, time, lack of Internet connections and other variables have kept me from doing as good a job as I would have liked.

I still plan to write about my experiences, the new places I’ve been and the many interesting people I met along the way. There’s been a lot of all of it. I hope to start a bit today and then continue during the coming week, so if you’re interested, please check back.

It’s safe to say that this vacation has been exactly what I needed. I learned about myself on this trip and how I have changed since I was last out here in California. Traveling alone affords this opportunity.

Ever since my first trip out here, the West Coast has always been like that for me: a barometer of where I am, who I am, where I’ve been and possibly where I am going.

It might partly be because my time here has always been so measured, quantifiable. Camp in ’96, ’97 and then my final hoorah in ’99, when I realized camp wasn’t for me anymore (maybe never was). I realized I could take those awesome memories and relationships made and not hold onto them so tightly anymore, but cherish them, as I do, throughout my life. I’m lucky, too, because I did get some great friends out of the deal. Their friendship is really the driving factor in what keeps me coming back here. Then there was the Sacramento experience, which I already addressed on this Blog.

Each time I come out here I can see subtle differences in myself. I can see how my friends have grown and changed, or not. I still get excited about coming here and I feel connected to the city, the region, the state. I can look back on the life I am living in Ohio and see things more clearly. The bad doesn’t seem so bad. The good, well, it isn’t so good. My friends and family seem more important to me. Me seems more important to me: taking care of myself, making myself learn more, grow more and strive to be more. Finishing school. Get along further in my career. Being a better friend, a better mate to the woman I will find that will hopefully forever be with me. After a vacation – especially one to California – I can take it all on again.

There are times in our lives when we do a lot of changing, introspection and finding out who we are. Nearly all the growing up part for me happened right here. Another big chunk happened in Cincinnati, but the final imprint, the one that will take me through to the end, really happened on this coast.

I’m about to go walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. I can kind of see it from where I’m typing this inside of Mike’s basement bedroom in a house in the Presidio. Walking the bridge is one of my favorite things to do.

Sadly, about one person per week doesn’t make it all the way across. They get about halfway and jump into the Bay. It’s one of the most popular places to commit suicide in the world. I hope not to see any proof of that today.

My flight leaves at 11:30 p.m. this evening. It’ll be 2:30 a.m. back home. There another set of opportunities and likely trials await me. I want to be there.

Hopefully is all is well from wherever you are reading this…

Mixed emotions

I came out to Sacramento to strike it rich in the tax industry. Seems odd to say that now, realizing that city is where many tried to do the same years ago. Must be in the (river) water out there.

That 2001 to 2003 time period might be the darkest time in my life, but it taught me so much. I can go back to Sacramento now and see this period written on the street signs, the Fremont Building, the shopping center where the tax office was located, the sidewalks, the banks where I kept my money. Even in the eyes of three young children and their mother who were as much a part of my time and defined it as much as the tax business I was trying to make work.

Mike and I stopped in Natomas, the little neighborhood north of Sacramento on the other side of the American River, where I had my main tax office. The shopping center is still there, full of activity, just as it was back in 2001 when I signed the lease on that storefront office. Mountain Mike’s was still there. Opening the door of Chang’s revealed not much had changed there either. Radio Shack was gone, which would’ve been a bummer back in ’01 considering all the junk I bought and needed there to keep the tax office running.

The storefront that was once my tax-business dream is now a real estate office. The last tenant there – apparently some sort of workout gym – tore down the white walls and mini-offices to reveal a big open space. Ironically the walls and carpet are green now. I’d asked Fez, the president of the tax company, to tear down those walls (the space had been used for military recruiting before I came in) to make the space more open and inviting. He refused to do it and I always wondered how much that played on our slow business. The official color of the tax company: green.

But visiting that place, camera in hand, I thought I’d feel better. Nostalgic. I didn’t though. It was like visiting the spot where something horrific had happened, my own personal Ground Zero. Except now, like maybe when after a house is rebuilt on the same property of the one that burned down before it, life was normal again. No traces of the sweat, tears and anguish that had come before. Just a sign that said “We Sell Natomas” in the window of the old office beneath a channel-letter lit “World Realty” sign. I took no photographs.

We got in the car and headed on to Reno. I was depressed, sad, sullen. So, I took a nap. When I woke we were in the mountains with a lush, green pine tree forest towering over the road, vistas with sweeping views of the valley below. I remembered why I loved this area so much. And then in short time we were in Reno – a different state, a whole other world.

Sunday morning, the Reno Balloon Races, rediscovering a throw-away city that doesn’t seem so throw-away anymore, seeing an old friend and making new ones.

Just One Murder

[NOTE: Names in the story have been changed or removed to protect privacy.]

Anytime someone orders a mixed drink that involves an American light beer I take notice. Not that mixing beer and some other concoction or type of drink is unusual, mind you.

When I was in Germany visiting my relatives back in 2000 they so kindly introduced me to their local ale beer with about one-third left at the top to add some Cherry 7-Up. “Cherry beer” is what they called it. And thanks to that addition and mixing, I was able – without even thinking about it – to down about eight to 10 of them without batting an eye. Being in a small German town, we stumbled across the two-lane highway and main drag (the only drag actually) to the family’s homestead just across the street, into the nearly 200-year-old farmhouse and promptly went to bed. I felt great the next morning to boot. It was an idea worth its weight in, well, beer.

So imagine my surprise when in little ‘ole Palm Springs I saw this woman tell the bartender to make her a “bloody beer“, then watched the bartender dutifully leave a little room at the top and add a red concoction. Was it Cherry 7-Up? Didn’t think so, but I checked with my able-minded, socially-conscious, pop-culture aficionado and hipster friend who pointed out the Clamato bottle beneath the bar, sitting in the ice bin.

What the hell is Clamato? It’s tomato juice and clam…uh, juice mixed together. So, it’s like barf in a bottle. Apparently I’m the last to know these things. Just the sound of those two wretched “juices” makes me gag.

Wanting to know more I solicited the help of my friend – who I think was a little intrigued, too – to go over and investigate in person. I suggested she go with me so that my intention of finding out what the drink is wouldn’t be clouded by some thought that I was hitting on the woman. She was pretty, and so was her friend. Bear with me now. The focus of this story shifts…

Ironically the more outgoing of the two ladies was named Cherry, just like the German beer treat. It didn’t take long, though, to find out Cherry has an unusual profession: She owns an escort service.

Now, it’s not everyday that I run across a 20-something (she said she was there celebrating her birthday but said first she was 24 and then later was overheard saying she was turning 19) woman who says she owns her own business arranging play dates with lonely men. In fact, it’s never happened in Cincinnati. Big shocker. So, I was intrigued. And she was willing to talk.

I asked her tons of questions in the 20 or so minutes we spoke. I had more to ask, but she was drunk and I didn’t want her to start wondering why I was so curious. She seemed okay with me asking questions for the vast majority of the time and then suddenly got suspect at other times. I didn’t want to tell her I am a reporter, but I am not sure she would have minded either way.

Cherry and I played through a scenario where, if I had her number and wanted a woman to “escort me”, I would call her and how the conversation would go.

Apparently you can order up ladies by hair color, breast size, height, age and on and on. So, I’d call up Cherry and she just ask me what I wanted and then get off the phone with her and she flip through her Blackberry, find a match and then send them my way.

Typically, I’m told, the women go with a “driver” who stays outside and may be sent in at the end to collect the fee and stand watch at the doorway. Some go on their own and risk it, for reasons I didn’t quite get. More, faster money, I guess.

The fee ranges from a low of $200, but the tip is expected to be about $500. Apparently Cherry’s girls give her all their tips to “keep business going their way,” she said. That’s their polite agreement. They may go on six to 10 visits a night.

This is where I heard the most disturbing piece of the whole conversation. In defense of her business – and my friend and I were really just listening and asking questions – Cherry decided to tell us that one of her girls died last year. She was murdered during a call she decided to make by herself and her body was discovered days later dumped in the desert. It was all over the news, she said.

“We’ve only had just one murder,” Cherry said, seeming to be proud of the record of only one work-related death on her watch.

“Well, that’s good,” I said in return, not really sure what to say to something like that.

“But she knew the risks…” Cherry said.

“Sure, she did. Of course,” I said, still a little paralyzed by her sort of blasé reporting of the incident, like it was a something so insignificant or expected that it would akin to those signs seen at an entrance gate to a manufacturing plant: “289 DAYS WITHOUT A WORKPLACE RELATED INJURY”.

It’s similar to those people working at a steel mill, it seemed she was suggesting. They know the dangers, and that sometimes people die. Their fellow workers occasionally get crushed in a machine or their head smashed from the weight of a ream of steel falling on them. It’s all part of the work. That’s why you get paid so well. You take it, take the money, try to be safe and hope something awful doesn’t happen to you.

Then I noticed Cherry beginning to tear up, but she quickly regained her composure and it was back to matter-of-fact business talk again. I was stunned. Going to do a strip tease or to…to, whatever – it just doesn’t seem the same as, say, going to a steel mill to work for the day. Or hour.

Just before Cherry and I wrapped up our conversation a group of her male friends showed up, possibly some bar friends, it seemed that way, anyway. One guy called Cherry something besides the name she gave me and she was quick to correct him.

“Hi, Peter, I’m Cherry, nice to see you,” Cherry said, grabbing his hand and forearm with both her hands.

“Oh, hi, yeah. Hi, Cheeeerrry, it’s nice to see you again,” the man replied.

She nodded approvingly at his playing-along. Now seemed like a good time to end our brief encounter. I asked if I could get my photo taken with her and her friend. She quickly obliged, then proceeded to undo her shirt so she could expose her bra to the camera, then she gingerly and aggressively put her arm around me.

I knew this feeling. It was icky. Those times when I have been to a strip club – not something I have particularly enjoyed, but found it a required and necessary rite of passage for most men – this is how the women who work there treat the guys who come in to ogle the scantily-clad and naked bodies that float around the bar like fish feeding on dollar bills. Truthfully, though, I have been a half-dozen times to these types of establishments. I’ve never really liked the feeling they gave me.

Ah, I got it. With Cherry I was just another potential client. She had no idea that my questions were because I was just a curious reporter-type with this insatiable curiosity for the non-sequitur, even if it means getting oneself into slightly precarious situations (she mentioned organized crime at some point in our chat).

I don’t think she’s a happy person. But she was drunk and I hate to land such a serious blanket allegation on someone I barely know. It seemed pretty likely, though. She was a nice person, even if I was just another John.

I know, however, if I wanted to take it further, to extend our friendship beyond that night, it was clear. I needed $200 plus 250 percent for the house.

Free Museum Day, In ‘N Out is awesome

After a slower start to the day today (I spent the morning doing laundry and updating the Blog), I got out and went to three museums and the San Francisco Library. Pretty good stuff.

First off went to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco near the city’s very recognizable and beautiful City Hall. [I also passed by the San Francisco Opera House just as Liz, my oh-so-sweet girlfriend, was singing to me via my JoePod. Very, aaah, sweet.] I expected to be swept off my feet by the Asian museum, but wasn’t. Got in line briefly for the Tibetan exhibit, but got back out after realizing my time was limited and this line wasn’t. See, it was “Target Tuesday”. The Joe-likes-them department store Target sponsors the Tuesday free admission day and the place was loaded. And after looking at several Buddhas, well, one can only look at so many Buddhas, so many decorated bowls, so many whatevers before interest in what the next museum has to offer sets in heavy.

I left and stopped into the San Francisco library. Mike, my congenial host this week, suggested I stop by to see, as he terms it, the world’s most educated homeless population. I managed to find the San Fran historical section and read a bit about the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that happened in the city in 1915. They had some neat mementos and other knickknacks from the fair that were interesting to view. They also had some stuff on poet Robert Frost, who born in San Francisco but spent most of his formative years on the East Coast. [It’s funny how a city is quick to claim someone famous no matter how thin the connection.]

I then walked down Market Street, saw two dudes get into a fight as they got off the Muni (the name of the town’s bus system), one pushing the other in front of a moving car (luckily the car was able to stop in time to avoid hitting the guy) and headed for the Cartoon Art Museum. There I saw a neat exhibit on Garfield, plus some rare comic book mock-ups, including a reminder of my old favorite comic book hero as a child, someone I always referred to as Shazam!, but apparently is properly addressed as Captain Marvel (who knew?). I used to love that TV show as a kid…

There I also saw they had piece by The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jim Borgman in their editorial cartooning section. Very neat to see Jim represented out here.

After that I headed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It’s a tough call, but I think I liked this place the best (though the cartoon museum was really fun). The neatest, most amazing and unexpected thing today was seeing a work by Frida Kahlo, a self-portrait. I’ve tried to find an image of it on the Internet to show, but no luck.

I spent an hour or so talking to Liz on the phone this evening and hanging around Market Street. It was great to hear her voice (after a few days of not talking) and to catch up on the latest happenings in Cincinnati, in her life as she prepares for auditions in a few days and to hear the excitement she has for her brother upon the announcement of John Roberts being nominated for Chief Justice.

After hanging up the phone I continued down Market Street aiming to hit In ‘n Out (my second trip since I’ve been here – I love the place) at Fisherman’s Wharf (ah, the tacky touristy traps).

Meanwhile, I ran into another odd site along Market Street – some war protestors arguing with a belligerent homeless guy. The protesters were heading home – and I didn’t hear the beginning of this – but I did hear one of the funnier things I’ve heard so far on this trip.

The homeless guy told the two woman protestors who were carrying picketing signs: “I’ll stick my feet up both your assholes.” To which one of the women replied, “Ah, go whack off.” Funny stuff, even if the two sides were pretty hot at each other. I just imagined the homeless guy levitating as he ninja-moved his feet simultaneously up their behinds…Anyway, I digress…

I made it to In ‘n Out, ate meself a burger and then got on the bus back to Mike’s place in the Presidio, narrowly escaped an encounter with a skunk rummaging through garbage on the street and now bed awaits and a train ride southward tomorrow…

Up in the trees

Here are some of the photos taken of me just starting out on the ropes course Monday at Kennolyn.

Though I had actually been a ropes course instructor at the camp, it’s been six years since I actually went up on one. When these photos were taken the fear hadn’t really set in yet. That came after I got up to the Charlie Chaplin Walk – an element where two cables/wires are about a a foot apart and ten feet long between a redwood tree and a platform attached to two redwood trees – and about 50 feet in the air.

I nearly wet myself crossing the Islands in the Sky, the element after Charlie. About eight boards with four ropes attached to each corner come together and attach to a cable overhead. All of the boards swing freely, again, about 50 feet in the air. The plan: Walk across them to the next platform to get to do the really fun part: the Zip line.

Special thanks to Brad Elman for taking and diligently e-mailing these photos to me. Brad’s a former camper and counselor at Kennolyn who now has a son who has been to the camp six summers, I believe he said. Thank you, Brad.

Returning to Camp: Kennolyn Reunion

Sunday and Monday were interesting days out here. Mike Orlando – my kind host here in San Francisco whom I met while working at Kennolyn Camp near Santa Cruz – and I cruised down Highway 17, over the mountains and attended the 60th Summer Celebration and Reunion at our former stomping grounds.

It was good to be back among the redwood trees and to see so many familiar faces. Like the photo posted here inside the former Monie’s Boarding House, now Caldwell Lodge, of former fellow camp counselor, Fresno’s very own Michael “Funky Cold” Medina with the aforementioned kind host (who has sunshine coming from his behind, I might add).

It’s kind of weird going back to a place and spending time there as a former counselor six years removed. There were a few familiar faces from my time there. Of course the perennial Pat Veatch, the director Andrew and his wry, lovely and beloved wife Brenda and their three children (two of whom came along since I’ve worked there).

It was also just splendid to run into old familiar faces like Jo Mama (when she’s around I’m Joe Daddy), who, after losing a bunch of weight, is looking simply marvelous. She’s a hoot in her own right, but get her talking about her job, and wow-ee.

Joann works for David Gest. Remember that guy a few years ago who married Liza Minelli? And they were plastered everywhere? And they were weird together? Yeah, well, she’s worked for him on-and-off for as long as I’ve known her. Ah, the funny stories.

I also got up on the camp’s high ropes course. Though I went there for my first summer in 1996 to teach photography, I quickly became intrigued by the ropes. Being scared of heights as I am would likely forbid me for partaking in the activity, but somehow I managed to conquer those fears and by 1997 I was a fully certified ropes course instructor.

But it’s been six years since I was up on any course and Kennolyn’s course is higher and more elaborate than likely any other (thanks to those redwood trees – some of the tallest trees in the world) and the excellent design crew who built them, Challenge Works (run by a former counselor and administrator at Kennolyn).

I hope to post photos of me up in the trees later, but wow. It was so scary, so fun and so rewarding to have done this again after my fears had returned. I did it. Not pretty, but I did it, made it up the Jacobs Ladder, over the Charlie Chaplin Walk, onto the platform, over the Islands in the Sky (…with my partner Michelle Ogren – who was one of my photography campers back in 1996 and now is the camp’s program director and a college graduate. That’s a little sobering.), and then down the Zip Line… What fun! And besides the big scrape on my leg, I made it down fine and exhilarated.

Mike, Mike and I made it down to Santa Cruz, had a couple beers at a sadly deteriorating 99 Bottles of Beer (an old favorite bar/hangout) and walked down Pacific, checked out all the new buildings and businesses and talked about the good old times. It was great. Oh, and we also stopped in for a slice of Pizza My Heart – quite possibly the best pizza ever (and for $5 you get a cool t-shirt and a slice of pizza).

We also drove through Capitola and saw the ocean… It was a good trip. We finished it up with Miklos (aka “Meatloaf”), our Hungarian friend, at Tony & Alba’s. Tired and exhausted we headed back to San Francisco.

Today being the first Tuesday of the month means I’m off to check out museums in San Francisco. Tonight, sleeping in the Marin Headlands at a youth hostel. Tomorrow, taking a train to Palm Springs…

Chalk It Up To Sacramento: Art festival turns park into canvas

Every Labor Day weekend in Sacramento’s Fremont Park – just catercorner from where I lived from 2001 to 2003 and just blocks from the heart of downtown – there is a mini-festival called “Chalk It Up To Sacramento“.

The park where this all happens is one city block big and surrounded by sidewalks. Each square of the sidewalk is then sold off for the weekend so that local artists can use chalk to decorate their square. Proceeds go to support children’s art education. And some of the results are amazing.

I was there Saturday, September 3 and artists of all different calibers, talent and intent were working making some of the most beautiful designs – all out of chalk. Some squares are sponsored and artists might draw a logo in the square for that business. Others are just being creative and drawing whatever comes to mind. Some use grids to copy photographs or other artwork.

Jim Primrose is a Sacramenten (that’s what they call them out there) and this was his third year filling a sidewalk square at the event. He had two squares this year, in fact, side-by-side and seemed to be working with another artist. They were doing an beautiful, elaborate mural with a mermaid in the corner.

“I don’t know what it’s called yet,” he said sitting on a piece of cardboard over a corner of the drawing. He used the cardboard to reach a lower corner of his work that he was adding detail to and so that he wouldn’t damage an already completed portion of his artwork. His dark face had chalk streaks where he might have wiped sweat off his face on this typically hot Sacramento summer day.

People stroll on the grass on the outside perimeter of the park between the sidewalk and the street to look at the artwork (for some reason all the artists orient their work facing away from the park). Because it seldom rains in Sacramento (the first rain doesn’t usually fall until late autumn), this project stays on the sidewalk long after the weekend is over and the artists don’t have to worry about rain ruining their work. This way, too, many people get to see their work long after the festival is over.

When I lived in Sacramento this was one of my favorite events to go see. An outdoor studio full of artists working very hard to make something that will only be visible for a few months is pretty remarkable, too.

Too bad the weather in Cincinnati doesn’t afford us the opportunity to do the same kind of project. Or would it?

Writing abot my trip: Joe now in California

Through the gracious help of a kind girlfriend (who took me to the airport at, as she will tell you, 4:27 a.m.) and a Boeing 777 and United Airlines, I made it to San Francisco in one piece.

Then a screeching BART ride later, a short ride on Muni, I made it to Mike’s “dungeon” in the Presidio, dropped off my stuff and walked a short jaunt down the hill and had lunch at a coffee shop overlooking the Lucas Film offices. Pretty cool stuff.

A few minutes later I boarded another Muni bus headed for the BART again, under the Bay and on to Richmond where I got on the Amtrak and went to Sacramento. That’s where I am now, staying at my friend Niki’s house.

More to come later…including my thoughts on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina…

Representative democracy: “Hold that thought…”

I’ve noticed something lately. Council members are busy people. And they have odd – even rude – ways of getting out of conversations they don’t want to be in. Sometimes it’s even a little funny.

A few nights ago I was sitting with two other reporters – one retired, the other a full-timer – at a popular old downtown eatery once owned by a City Council member.

Sitting down was – low and behold – that former owner and now Council member. He was sitting just inches away from me at another table. Now, I’ve talked to this guy a couple dozen times, mostly out at places around town, but I’ve interviewed him, too, on the phone for different stories. Once I even ran into him the next day, and because he acted like he knew who I was on the phone (maybe he even said it), I thought I’d say hello. I’d hate to be rude, after all.

Wasn’t I surprised when he gave me the polite smile and handshake and asked how I was doing, but obviously had no idea who I am. I happened to be with another reporter – young, attractive and has her photo in the paper every so often – and he lit up like a Christmas tree, saying her name and asking her how she was doing and carrying on – all while I stood there. This has happened twice now with this same person. Both me and this young, attractive reporter think this behavior is pretty funny. And it is.

So, back to the other night. The esteemed former reporter, editor and college professor piped up to say hello to the Council member, making a crack about what a swell idea it would be to put baseball at Broadway Commons. Polite laughter ensued. Former reporter then tried to make some small talk when the Council member held up his finger and said politely, as someone was trying to get his attention, “Hold that thought one sec.”

The Council member then turned around and walked straight-away right out of the restaurant and down the sidewalk.

The three of us just looked at each other and laughed, shaking our heads.

About an hour later another Council member popped into gladhand and chat it up at a going away party that was sprouting up around our table for another group. Keep in mind, presently I’m in the throes of planning a candidates’ town hall meeting that will be broadcast live on the radio show I co-host from the newly re-opened Kaldi’s Coffeehouse in Over-the-Rhine.

Just about a day before this evening I had sent every candidate an e-mail about the forum. About four candidates have confirmed. This candidate had not. I thought I’d just double-check real quick with him that he had been told about it.

Now, I admit he was having a conversation with another person and I knew I’d have to interrupt, but I’d be nice, brief and explain real quick what was going on. Here’s what happened instead.

“Hi, excuse me. How are you?”
“Good, fine. How are you?”
“Real good. Hey, I’m Joe Wessels, we’ve met before…”
“Yeah, hi.”
“…Sorry to interrupt, but wanted to see if you got my e-mail about the candidates forum that is going to be broadcast live at Kaldi’s during the Brian & Joe Radio Show that I co-host…”

Okay, at this point, he reaches for his Blackberry attached to a belt clip on his hip.

“When is it?” the Council Member said.
“August 17, 10 a.m. at Kaldi’s,” I replied.

Right as I’m saying this I’m watching him just casually spinning the jog dial on his Blackberry and just randomly flipping through whatever. Then he says this.

“Yep, got it on my calendar. We’ll see you there.”

What? C’mon. He didn’t look at his calendar. Am I an idiot? Okay, who cares that I’m a reporter. I’m an effin’ citizen, dude. Give me two seconds. Just two. Act interested. Care a little. Less self-importance and more substance.

After that “confirmation” he immediately started chatting to that other person, adding a casually flung “Good-bye…Good seein’ ya” on me just to clinch the sweet-ass blow-off and buh-bye he just gave.

Man, oh, man. He could work for the airlines. I felt more warm and cozy gettng the hairy eyeball from the airline pilot who just jostled the entire cabin when he landed crooked on the runway and, by company policy, is required to stand at the exit and thank the plane-ful of pissed off passengers as they de-board.

Here’s another one. It’s the story I was told about a certain mayoral candidate who blew off another young professional a few months back. I’ve had my own experiences with this guy, who, in our brief exchanges, is really nice, but a little distracted.

The person who told me this story – who happens to represent the largest construction company in this area at many public events – was at a meeting in Over-the-Rhine as an employee of her company. She thought she’d introduce herself to the mayor-wannabe. The whole time he kept looking around the room while she spoke, even eyeing people and nodding as she continued on – for only like three brief minutes, she said. She just wanted to say hello, let the Council member know her company was represented there at that meeting, get a hi back, maybe wish him a good luck this fall. Despite his wandering eye and seeming lack of interest, she still handed him a business card upon the conclusion of their brief interlude.

No mind that she was a little put-off by the whole conversation, she said, but she was still nice. That’s easy to understand. But I can also see where the mayoral candidate is at with all this. It’s politics. He has to be saying hidey-ho to everyone. But, as she watched him after they were “done” talking, he immediately went over and threw her card in the trash can.

Nice.

Anyway, I met another mayoral candidate a few days ago. We’d never met before so I was eager to say hello. He was real happy to say hi to me. Asked me about the story I was working on. Then as I was answering his question he walked away. At least one of his campaign workers mentioned to me how rude that was and apologized. But, geez, dude. Seemed he could use some legal drugs – like polite pills.

So, folks, I think we might have an epidemic going on here. Member of the media or not. Enquirer reporter or online blogger. Citizen with a burnt-out street light or the head of a downtown boycott, we’re just citizens. Citizens who need our representatives to represent us. And that involves listening.

Good news, though. There’s something we all can do. That’s why I’m supporting the nice candidates – albeit privately in my voting booth – for Cincinnati City Council. Those folks, for now, anyway, still say hello and ask how I’m doing when they see me or when I approach them. The others have a few months to take those polite pills.

Second Congressional Results: Moisture caused Clermont County ballots to be delayed

Covering the results for Reuters in the Hackett/Schmidt fight for Ohio’s Second Congressional District Tuesday evening at the Hamilton County Board of Elections turned out to be a later night than most expected. Why? Clermont County couldn’t count their votes.

A Cincinnati Enquirer story neglected to mention why the ballots were late, but quoted Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke as saying he wasn’t sure what the hell happened.

An unused portion of the story I filed for Reuters neglected to mention an explantion put forth by Hamilton County Board of Elections executive director John Williams. Apparently humidity in the air allowed moisture to seep into the Clermont ballots thus making them uncountable until they returned to the ambient room temperature where the machines were located at the Clermont County BOE. Clermont uses an optical-scan method for collecting and tallying votes.

Williams went on to say that he felt that eventually all counties would be required to use this system – and he isn’t happy about it for reasons like Tuesday’s delay. He advocates continued use of the punch-card method and buying an additional device than can electronically check the punch cards for over-voting and hanging chads.

“We’ve used the current system for 30 years,” Williams said. “I bet in another ten years we’ll go back to something like the punch cards.”