Thing #54 I Like About Living Where I Do

54. Jim Blount's books. Jim Blount is a local historian who wrote a popular column in the Hamilton Journal-News from 1988 to 2009. He continues to write on the Lane Library historical collection website.

I love learning about the history of the area I live in now, and Jim's readable histories are a wonderful insight into bygone days.

His books include:
Butler County Biographies
Butler County's Greatest Weather Disaster: Flood, 1913
Railroads of Butler County, Rossville
Hamilton's West Bank: Its People, Ghosts, Places, Bridges and Businesses
Little Chicago (2 vol.)
(pictured below).

The Lane website features a searchable collection of Jim Blount's articles on such varied subjects as Aviation, Bridges, Canals, Courthouses, Crime Legends, Congress, Governors, Great Miami River, Hamilton Public Transit, Horses, Hydaulic Canals, Ice Industry, Interurban Lines, Law Enforcement Deaths, Mounuments, Railroads, Roads & Highways.

Thing #53 I Like About Living Where I Do

53. Sweet tea. Oh, yeah. It's not just for Summer. And this area is close enough to the South that "swait tay," one-third of my Holy Trinity of Southern cooking—the other 2/3 being fried chicken and fried taters—can be found pert near anywhere.

People can joke all they want about "Hamiltucky"," but I'm pleased as punch (so to speak) to live in an area where not only do grocery stores carry it in gallon jugs, but McDonald's, Wendy's and a few other restaurants feature it on their menus.

At home, of course, we make our own, using "cold brew" pitcher-size tea bags, 3/4 cup of sugar, and a re=purposed Gold Peak 59-ounce carafe bottle like the one pictured on the right.

Hooowee! Ain't nothing like it.

We Are Praying for the People of Jordan

Just under a year ago, the lovely Robin and I (and a couple dozen dear friends) were in the nation of Jordan. While the unrest in Egypt is grabbing all the headlines, there are also protests happening in Jordan right now. The first photo below is of our Jordanian guide, Samer, taken at Petra; the others, we don't know their names, but we pray for them all:

We Are Praying for the People of Egypt

A few days short of a year ago, the lovely Robin and I (with a dozen or so dear friends) were in Egypt. The first photo is the man who was our guide, Emad. We don't know the names of the others, but we pray for them:

The Egyptian people are perhaps the warmest, friendliest people you will meet in the Middle East. Please join us in praying for them all.

Thing #52 I Like About Living Where I Do

52. When I set out to list on this blog the things I like about living where I do, I planned to list twenty things in two installments. Then I realized I had to add ten more. Then ten more. And now, it's at 52 and climbing. That just shows, I guess, that I like a lot of things about living where I do.

One of those is Lafferty Automotive, in W. College Corner, Indiana, just up the road from the booming metropolis of Oxford, Ohio. That's owner, proprietor, and car genius Bill Lafferty waving for the camera.

Having lived in ten different communities (in OH, NY, and NJ) since I got married at the ripe old age of nineteen, I have learned that a reliable, trustworthy, and talented car mechanic is worth more than gold, yea, than much fine gold. And Bill Lafferty is that (and a friend, besides). I figure that anyone who can build a working hydrogen cell for an AMC Hornet can fix pretty much anything that goes wrong with my 2000 Ford Focus. And he has.

Since Bill's been working on our cars, I've come to trust him explicity and implicitly. He has saved me a lot of money, worry, and stress over the years.

If you're in the area, you should take your car to Lafferty Automotive, 3988 US Highway 27, West College Corner, IN 47003-9310, (765) 732-3441.

Bill, can I have my $5 now?

Thing #51 I Like About Living Where I Do

51. Whether in uptown Oxford (above) or downtown Hamilton (below), one of the many things I like about living in this area is Kofenya, the spacious coffeehouse started by Liz Snyder and Nicole Ayres in the Fall of 2004 (well, the Oxford location, that is; the Hamilton site is much more recent).

Both locations, however, are great meeting places and gathering places. And they serve a lot more than coffee.

Though I'm known to hang out at Starbucks in Oxford sometimes, too, Kofenya is so much roomier, and the atmosphere is just more conducive to thinking and talking and writing. I was there (at the Hamilton location, at 221 High St.) just this morning, after an appointment at the Government Services Building, a block away. Good coffee, comfy chairs, FREE WIFI, that's of the things I like about living here.

The CSC's King John

Last Friday (Jan. 21), the lovely Robin accompanied me to a performance of The Life and Death of King John at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in downtown Cincinnati.

I love me some Shakespeare, and even more a chance to witness this seldom-produced play in the Bard's canon. I was not disappointed at all. In fact, this is one of the strongest outings I've seen performed by the CSC.

King John was youngest son of Henry II (of “Lion in Winter” fame), the brother of Richard the Lionheart, and the despised "Prince John" of Robin Hood fame.

Though King John is considered one of (perhaps THE) weakest of Shakespeare's dramas, the CSC made it a rollicking night of sword fights, romance, betrayal, loyalty, and intrigue.

One of the joys of regularly attending the CSC's presentations is discovering the adaptations: Romeo and Juliet as an interracial couple, Much Ado in a hippie setting, and All's Well That Ends Well in World War II Europe. But this presentation of King John, as reviewer Jackie Demaline put it, "is full steam ahead costume drama (with a huge, fur-bedecked wardrobe by Heidi Jo Schiemer) sturdily directed by Brian Isaac Phillips."

Chris Guthrie stood out in the play's meatiest role, that of Phillip, the bastard son of John’s brother Richard. Corinne Mohlenhoff's Act II soliloquy was pitch-perfect and thoroughly moving. Jeff Groh's Hubert and (a personal favorite of mine and Robin's) Lauren Shively's Blanche were well-cast and well-played.

“King John,” continues through Feb. 5 at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., downtown (513-381-2273 and You should see it while you can. This is one play that doesn't come around often.

9 Things I Would Like to Like About Living Where I Do

You know how people who live in a place never seem to get around to enjoying the local sights and events, while others travel for hours to enjoy the same things? When we lived in the New York city area, we were frequently surprised by long-time residents of the area who'd never been to the Statue of Liberty, or who had never seen a Broadway show, and so on.

So, to follow up the last four posts, on the things I like about living where I do, I thought I'd take a few minutes to list some of the things I haven't yet done or seen, that I would LIKE to. Keep in mind, it's a much shorter list, because the lovely Robin and I have lived here a long time, and we've enjoyed the area's sights and events a lot. For example, I've been to Reds' games in three successive venues: Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium, and Great American Ballpark. We've visited the Newport Aquarium, enjoyed concerts at Riverbend, gone to a movie and eaten ice cream in Mariemont, and more.

But still, there are a few things I haven't done yet, that I'd like to. Like:

1. The Cincinnati Observatory on Mt. Lookout. Cincinnati Observatory was built atop what was then called Mount Ida, overlooking downtown Cincinnati. The cornerstone was laid on November 9, 1843, and presiding over the occasion was former President John Quincy Adams (at 77 years old, it was to be his last public speech, and Mount Ida was renamed Mount Adams in his honor). In 1871, the Observatory came under the control of the University of Cincinnati and in 1873 it was moved from Mt. Adams to Mt. Lookout, where it remains today. It is the world's oldest telescope still in use nightly by the general public. The staff hosts stargazing programs most Thursday and Friday nights.

2. The Cincinnati Subway Tour. I've always been fascinated by the story of the Cincinnati subway system, begun after World War I ended but discontinued due to the depression.In fact, Cincinnati is the site of the country's largest abandoned subway tunnel. Seven miles between Cincinnati's central business district and the industrial suburb of Norwood were tunneled, bridged, or graded, but no track was laid and no subway cars were ordered. No passengers ever rode between the six stations that were built. I've heard of tours being offered at various times in the past, but there seems to be no one offering any officially sanctioned tours at this time. If you hear differently, please let me know.

3. The Dee Felice Cafe. Dee Felice is a long-time jazz drummer and band leader in the Cincinnati area. He opened Dee Felice Cafe in 1984, combining excellent menu selections and old-fashioned New Orleans decor with the best live jazz in the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati area. I've never been. But I want to.

4. The Mad Anthony Writers' Conference. I've traveled all over the country to speak at writers' conferences...and yet have never made it to the top-notch writers' conference held here in Hamilton every year. In fact, this year, I'll miss it again, because it's taking place April 8-9...while I am in New York!

5. The Newport Gangster Tour. Back in the day, Newport was quite the place. "Sin City," it was called. Rising from the profits of bootlegging, it would quickly grow to become the premier gaming destination in the U.S., believe it or not. The gangster tour wends through the streets where gangsters made their millions, gamblers lost their lives, and ladies of the night earned their living, and explores buildings that housed casinos, brothels, and speakeasies.

6. The McGuffey Museum. The Rev. William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) defined primary education in nineteenth-century America with his "McGuffey's Readers," six of which he wrote in this two-story Federal style home at 410 Spring Street in Oxford, where he lived from 1833-1836 (he was a professor at Miami from 1826-1836). The series, which sold over 120 million copies, was the dominant schoolbook in the nation until the 1920s. The museum's odd hours (Thursday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m.) have so far prevented me from visiting, but I will get there someday.

7. The Soldiers', Sailors', and Pioneers' Monument. When I live in a place, I try to learn as much as I can about the local history, and familiarize myself with the place as much as possible. Yet I've lived in this area now for eighteen years and have only driven by the striking monument in downtown Hamilton on the banks of the Great Miami. The monument, built of Indiana Limestone, is near the center of the site of Fort Hamilton, built in 1791 and named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury in President George Washington's cabinet. It features two large, colorful windows that recognize the contributions of Butler County women during the Civil War. The monument is topped by a small temple-like structure on which stands a 3,500 pound, 14 foot, bronze statue of a young Civil War soldier. The statue, created by Rudolph Theim, a Hamilton sculptor, is waving his cap victoriously in the air while standing on an exploded shell. Today the monument houses an impressive collection of Civil War weapons and swords. It also has exhibits on twentieth century American wars, including military uniforms, military medals, and photographs. In addition to the names of Butler County veterans engraved on the walls, the Monument maintains records of Butler County servicepersons who served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars. The museum is open to the public free of charge from 10-4 Monday through Friday and 11-3 on Saturdays.

8. Miami Whitewater Forest. Just fifteen or twenty minutes from our front porch is this scenic area, part of the Hamilton County parks system...and I've never been inside! There are numerous trails in this park; the best are said to be Shaker Trace, the Oakleaf trail and the Badlands trail. I love to hike, and it's so close. So it's high time the lovely Robin and I get over there for a scenic date night, maybe. After the snow melts. And the temperature rises. And the trees bud. And so on.

9. The Boar's Head Festival at Christ Church in Cincinnati. I have long wanted to make it to this strange and amazing celebration, celebrated since 1940 at Christ Church in downtown Cincinnati. Based on an old (like, 1340!) English tradition, it includes lords, ladies, knights, historical characters, cooks, hunters, pages, shepherds, wise men, carols, mince pie, plum pudding, good King Wenceslas and his pages, a yule log lighted from the last year's ember...and a boar's head. But, alas and alack, tickets are hard to get; the box office opens on a morning in December and you have to be there or be left behind. Maybe next year.

There are more, of course. I've never seen the William Howard Taft home in Clifton. I don't think I've ever seen Taft Museum, downtown. And it's been a long time since I've been to Krohn Conservatory, in Eden Park (their hours were not set with my schedule in mind, for some reason). But these nine would sure be a great start.

Thing #50 I Like About Living Where I Do

50. The newest installment in what has become an ongoing series here on the "Hither & Yon Blog" is the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati. It used to be the Cincinnati Convention Center, but it's a whole lotta different nowadays.

The Duke Energy Center hosts such diverse events as the Cavalcade of Customs (January), the International Hoof Care Summit (February), the Midwest Home School Convention (March/April), and the International Quilt Festival (April), among many others. I've never been to any of those, but I WILL be attending the 2011 North American Christian Convention this July, where I'll be soaking in some great speakers, among whom will be Miles McPherson and Francis Chan. And all this will take place just a forty-five minute commute from my own comfy bed.

Thing #49 I Like About Living Where I Do

49. Children's Hospital. Our area boasts many fine hospitals, but when our granddaughter Calleigh was diagnosed in December 2009 with Cystic Fibrosis, we quickly became aware of something we'd never known before: this area is one of the best in the world to live in if you or someone you love is learning to live with CF.

Why? I'm so glad you asked. The Cystic Fibrosis Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Clifton is one of more than 110 accredited CF centers throughout the nation, and is one of the most respected in the country.

We (including our daughter Aubrey and son-in-law Kevin) are so grateful to have this hospital involved in Calleigh's care. The staff there have been so helpful and have helped us get Calleigh started on a lifetime of health and happiness, CF or no CF!

Thing #48 I Like About Living Where I Do

48. Nights. A year or so after the lovely Robin and I moved to Butler County from the Youngstown, Ohio, area, we had a bunch of friends visit for a couple days. I remember Frank standing in our yard one evening, stock still. When someone asked him what he was doing, he said he was listening. "To what?" "To the quiet." Always a man of few words, he elaborated, explaining that there were no gunshots or cars to be heard.

I know there are many places in the world where one can enjoy a quiet night, with no sounds of cars or gunshots. But one of my favorite things about living where I do is, on a clear Summer night, sleeping with our bedroom door (to the balcony) open and hearing the thrumming sound of a distant train (probably rolling through New Miami). And the beauty of the night sky and the phases of the moon, which we sometimes enjoy while sitting on our deck, and the sunsets (I seldom see a sunrise!) that beautify the neighborhood to the west.

Thing #47 I Like About Living Where I Do

47. Trains. My grandson Miles loves trains. So one of the things I like about living in the Oxford-Hamilton-Cincinnati metroplex is the numerous options for train-lovers. There's the annual holiday display of hobbyist Ned Hoelzer on Rt. 27 south of Oxford, covering 4,800 square feet and featuring a mile of tracks, 43 trains and 1,500 buildings in a giant room over his garage. There's the permanent display at the Museum Center in the old Union Terminal building. There's EnterTrainment Junction off Tylersville Road in Cincinnati (right). There's the Duke Energy Holiday Train Display, dating back 65 years, in the Duke Energy (formerly CG&E)building in downtown Cincinnati. AND the Shandon and Okeana Railroad, a private railroad club (but I've got connections). In addition, there are several actual tourist trains in the area (Hocking Hills, Connersville Indiana, etc.) that I hope someday to take the little man to.

Thing #46 I Like About Living Where I Do

46. Seeing Friends in the Grocery Store. Seriously. I know this will seem ridiculous to many folks, but for the first fifteen years or so of my adult life, I had not lived in a town more than a few years, so I didn't get to know many people in the community at large. But now, after being in this area for eighteen years, I enjoy seeing friends new and old in the grocery store, which happens more often than not. Some days it's like "Old Home Week" when I go grocery shopping. Sometimes I'm feeling rushed and frazzled, so it's not as fun as it as at other times when I have a little more time to chat...but still, even for an introvert like me, this is something I like about living where I do. And it's not just the grocery store, but also restaurants, movies, etc.

Thing #45 I Like About Living Where I Do

45. Cappel's. You can buy a lot on the internet, I know. But it's tremendously helpful to this particular pastor to have a store like Cappel's in the area. The lovely Robin and I first discovered Cappel's decades ago in our early days of ministry. They used to have only a large store downtown. I think that was it. But now they have four different locations throughout the city--and, most helpfully for us, one of them is northish, in Blue Ash.

So, when I feel the need to deliver a message in hippie garb, or need a skin cap (and costume glue) to appear more Egyptian than usual for VBS, or anything of that sort, Cappel's is the place I go. And, in case you were wondering, yes, that IS me in the photo at right. But the blonde afro didn't come from Cappel's. It was borrowed from Cindi, my son's mother-in-law. And no, I don't know what in the world she does with it.

Thing #44 I Like About Living Where I Do

44. Flub's. Places like this proliferate in the Midwest, with names like "Tastee-Freez" and "Dari-Whip," and so on. Many have disappeared, of course, over the years. I'm glad Flub's has not. I'm also glad it's called "Flub's."

"Flub's" is an old-fashioned (at least in Hamilton, it is) ice cream shop that is part of the fabric of this community. Little-leaguers crowd its windows after a game, and grandparents and parents love to introduce their children and grandchildren to a pleasure they have long enjoyed. It is a tradition for many...and a seasonal threat to weight-loss plans.

Thing #43 I Like About Living Where I Do

43. Jolly's Drive In. I have to admit, I often forget it's there, but Jolly's Drive In on N. Brookwood, just a couple miles from our house (there's another on Erie Blvd in Hamilton), is a wonderful local icon that's been around for 70 years. Take a trip back in time to "Happy Days" of yore with a frosted glass of root beer. Like the Holiday Drive In Theater up the road, places like Jolly's have mostly succumbed to the onslaught of chains and multiplexes and so on. But I like living in a community that still has such places....and I hope they stick around for many years to come.

Thing #42 I Like About Living Where I Do

This past Monday I started listing some of the things I like about living where I do (in Hanover Township, just outside of Hamilton, in Butler County, Ohio). Hamilton's IceFest is reason #42...and it starts today!

42. IceFest. The Hamilton-based organization, City of Sculpture, is making the most of the cold weather with the return of IceFest, which last happened in 2008 and was discontinued due to the poor economy. This two-day event (January 21 – 22, 2011) features awesome ice sculptures, ice carving competitions, hot chocolate and family activities.

The 2011 theme is “Great Books In Ice.” It will feature ice carvings of characters from such works as Gone with the Wind, Fahrenheit 451, The Wizard of Oz, and The Cat in the Hat. An estimated 200 blocks and 40 tons of ice will be used in the event, which is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors.

The event will kick off with its signature “Fire & Ice” gala, which will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott Hamilton, the host hotel of IceFest.

IceFest schedule is as follows:

Friday: 5:00 p.m. Technicolor Ice Walk begins (free event)
Fire and Ice Gala held at the Courtyard by Marriott

Saturday: 10:00 a.m. Professional Ice Carvers Competition begins (free event)
2:00 p.m. Competition ends
2:00 p.m. Speed Carving Competition (free event)
3:00 p.m. Human (dog) Sled Race (free event)
All Day BookFest at IceFest at Ryan's Tavern all day on the 2nd floor
All Day Arts and Craft Show at the Government Services Building

Thing #41 I Like About Living Where I Do

41. Snow days. Nothing can compare to the joy and beauty of sitting by the fire and cozying up to the lovely Robin while the snow is blowing and accumulating outside. While no one in my household works at a place where they ever get a workday cancelled because of the snow (except for me, who gets a snow day every day, more or less), still, once everyone is safe at home and the cars are in the garage, I LOVE enjoying the fire and the company.

10 Even More Things I Like About Living Where I Do

This past Monday I started posting about some of the things I like about living where I do (in Hanover Township, just outside of Hamilton, in Butler County, Ohio). Well, I found out twenty just wasn't enough. So I added ten more. And that wasn't enough. So here are ten MORE things I like about living where I do:

31. The Victoria Theater in Dayton (right). Even with all the entertainment options in Oxford, Hamilton, and Cincinnati, every once in a while I'm so thankful for the beautiful Victoria Theater. We've seen 42nd Street and Spamalot there, and maybe one or two others. With our crazy schedules, the more options the better...and the Victoria is a fine venue anytime!

32. Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis (left). Not quite two hours from us is the fabulous downtown of Indianapolis, Indiana's state capitol. Unlike many Midwest downtowns, there is a lot to do in Indy, day and night. And the Circle Centre Mall and its surrounding businesses are a great place to spend some time.

33. Affordability. I'm cheap, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Therefore, it would be a ghastly trial for me to live in many metropolitan areas. I've done it, and the prices are outlandish. Not for me. I like the relative affordability of the area I live in. In many communities--some just minutes away--I couldn't afford the home I live in. Eating out and going to a movie don't cost an arm and a leg. Groceries are reasonable. Gas--well, gas is too high everywhere. But, as a rule, this area keeps me from going stark raving mad.

34. The Hocking Hills. Some of the most beautiful country you'll ever see is in the Hocking Hills, in south-central Ohio. It's been too long since I've been there to enjoy it, partly because my dear friend Jim isn't around to con me into going on some cockamamie winter hike. But Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, it's a blessing to live this close to the Hocking Hills.

35. The Dayton Dragons. First, let me say that it's amazing to live between such major-league cities as Cincinnati (Reds, Bengals, Cyclones) and Indianapolis (Colts, Pacers), along with some great college teams in any number of sports (especially the Miami Redhawks). But another advantage of living in this area, believe it or not, is the Dayton Dragons AAA baseball franchise. Taking in a Dragons game at Fifth-Third Field in Dayton is a genuine baseball experience. Reminds me of the good old days of Crosley Field. Yes, I AM that old.

36. The Abbey of Gethsemani. Okay, so it's not exactly in the area, but this Trappist monastery, just over three hours' drive from home, has been such a blessing to me over the last eleven years or so, I can't even begin to describe it. I estimate I've been blessed by somewhere around twenty prayer retreats I've taken there. Having it as close as that is a very big reason I like living where I do.

37. Cincinnati Christian University. The lovely Robin and I have both earned degrees from this fine Christian university, and count many faculty, staff, students--and the school itself--as valued friends. It's located just a 45-minute drive from our home, atop Price Hill on the west side of Cincinnati.

38. Cincinnati Music Hall and CSO (left). Okay, so I haven't been to Music Hall since a Nutcracker performance a dozen or so years ago. But still, this historic concert hall (and Memorial Hall next door), along with the world-class Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (and Cincinnati Pops) are wonderful assets and enrichments to our lives and community.

39. The Air Force Museum in Dayton (right). The National Museum of the United States Air Force, less than an hour away from us outside Dayton, is an amazing place to visit. I suppose I should have mentioned it in my Monday post when I lumped together all the great museums in the area. Now I feel bad about not giving the Cincinnati Art Museum, in particular, its due. But hey, it's my blog, I can do whatever I want. And I want to say I like living here in part because this great museum is nearby.

40. Hot Fun in the Summertime. During the Summer months, Oxford presents a weekly music festival uptown in the park at High and Main. I LOVE going uptown, spreading a blanket, setting out a couple chairs, opening a cooler, greeting friends, and taking in the music every Thursday night, weather permitting. It's a great, great time, and a big reason I like living around here.

All right, I'm gonna stop there. I could keep going. But I think I've made my point. I like living where I do. Unless and until my children move, I don't want to live anywhere else. And, even in the middle of winter, I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else in the world. Unless my kids and grandkids and friends and church could come, too.