Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Car-Free in the Queen City: One Year Later

Can someone survive in Cincinnati without a car?

It’s a question I asked myself a year ago this week, moments after my gunmetal-colored 2001 Saab 9-3 was towed away from my parents’ home in Symmes Township. Its turbo engine full of sludge, I decided replacing an engine on a ten-year-old car wasn’t the most practical thing a gal could do.

But was giving up my wheels just as silly?

A resident of Over-the-Rhine, my employer at the time was two miles away from my home. I chewed on the logistics for a day or two and then made a solemn vow: I’d give public transportation a solid effort for one whole year.

I knew Cincinnati’s climate was full of springtime downpours, winter wallops and summertime swelter. This would be a challenge that would test my tenacity, my discipline and my ability to adapt. Would I take up cycling? How far would I be willing to walk? Would I become dependent on cab rides?

All questions that deserved some pause. And then I threw caution to the wind, screwed off the license plates, and sold the Saab for scrap metal.

I’ve discovered quite a bit in the last 365 days and counting since I said goodbye to that hunk of junk. I learned that, naysayers be damned, Cincinnati has a pretty decent public transportation system. The Metro maps and schedules take some getting used to, but guess what, they take getting used to in London, San Francisco, and Boston, too.

More Cincinnatians could give this effort a try if we had even more transportation options. The streetcar isn’t a panacea for the Queen City, but it is a great start and would be complemented beautifully if it were someday joined by light rail, high-speed rail, etc. Hope springs eternal.

My bank account is quite pleased with this new lifestyle - I am saving hundreds of dollars a month thanks to embracing this change. No car payment, insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs, parking tickets and the like – I have a lot more money to my name thanks to scrapping my wheels. I’m investing more of that money in my 401k and I’m able to enjoy a better quality of life – a life that includes more theatre tickets, more special meals out with friends and more opportunities to travel.

At the end of the day, I know those travel adventures and occasions with friends will mean far more to me in the years to come than the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat for a trip to Kroger.

Speaking of money, I quickly discovered that my sans-car lifestyle had an unexpected but direct affect on where I spend my money. Quick trips to Kenwood or West Chester for shoes and Swedish meatballs is but a memory; these days I buy locally made candles at Park + Vine, the freshest produce around at Madison’s at Findlay Market, and couture fashions from Over-the-Rhine fashion designer Lindsey Lusignolo.

I’m still spending money – I’m just spending it in a concentrated economic footprint, and I really like that. I’m supporting business owners and neighbors who call OtR/CBD home, and that makes me feel good. I’m not making a car payment to a bank that’s far, far away from the Tri-State, and I’m not driving out of the city to pick up a pair of stilettos.

My parents would argue I have plenty of shoes, anyway.

My waistline is another place enjoying the benefits of my new lifestyle. When I ditched the car last December, I embraced a change that required me to walk a few blocks to the bus stop. In warmer months, I’d forgo the bus and instead would stroll down Reading Road after a day’s work. Car-free means walking to the Aronoff, Great American Ball Park and Music Hall. It means hopping on my bicycle for a trip across the river to Newport and the Southgate House. Car-free, paired with my new found love of running, has helped me lose 33 pounds and counting.

Walking the streets of OtR and CBD, my neighbors are more familiar to me. Mark Anthony is my favorite Streetvibes vendor and I can always count Danny Korman at Park + Vine for a friendly wave or good news of the day. I know I wouldn’t be able to have as many interactions with friends and neighbors if I was stuck behind the wheel of my car.

By ditching my car, I am taking full advantage of living and working in a walkable neighborhood.

A year into this challenge, many friends are curious about my next step. Am I buying a car? Am I sticking with the car-free lifestyle? I am happy to report that no car is on order, though I have dreamed on occasion of plunking down some cash for a zippy, two-seat sports car.

The fact is, I love being without an automobile. I am getting ready to add a new dimension to this challenge: I have my motorcycle permit and intend on buying a hot, red scooter this spring.

At nearly 100 miles a gallon, I’m still doing a lot of good for the environment, but this time with some style.

Who knows what the future holds. I am just glad I’ve been able to prove to many friends and myself that – yes – you can live in Cincinnati without a car.

A simple challenge by some standards, but for most, it’s regarded as a minor miracle.

But it shouldn’t be. 

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Marketing In The Eyes of A Three-Year-Old

"Why does all the girls have to buy pink stuff, and all the boys have to buy different colored stuff?"

As someone who played with trucks and Legos as a little girl, I say "Right on" to Riley.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Cincinnati sure loves its holiday traditions.

Back in the early 1990s, WLWT reporter Michael Collins pulled together a video featuring local celebrities reading the classic Christmas story by Clement C. Moore.

The clever and ever passionate Joe Wessels decided to revive the video, but this time with some new faces.

The latest edition features some of Cincinnati's newest politicos, personalities, small business owners and other ardent supporters of the Queen City.

And, somehow, I made the cut.

Kudos to Joe Wessels and his partner in crime, Margy Waller, for pulling together this great piece.

Good night!

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Home in 2012

I am a sidewalk philanthropist.

There are a handful of charitable organizations I support with significant (to me) donations - organizations that focus on human services and the arts. I am committed to contributing to United Way, and I love supporting local cultural efforts by investing in ArtsWave.

But most of my contributions happen very organically.

I attend lots and lots of charitable functions and support local organizations by buying tickets and bidding at silent auctions.

Buying Streetvibes is another little way I try to do my part to help others. It's a credible, alternative newspaper sold by vendors who are trying to find and maintain permanent housing. Streetvibes vendors are friendly and hard working, and I suggest you give them a chance. They earn 75 cents for every paper sold.

Mark Anthony is my favorite Streetvibes vendor. I regularly see him walking the streets near my home. A hustler in the kindest way possible, this guy washes cars, sells newspapers and takes on other tasks to make a buck or two.

He calls me "Smiley Face" when he sees me, and he once offered to wash my car for free as thanks for being kind to him.

I didn't have the heart to tell Mark Anthony I don't own a car.

Mark Anthony aspires to ownership of his own. The U.S. Army veteran (he says he was shot in Honduras in the 80s) would like to buy a home on the West Side. It's a home someone else owns and is willing to sell to him for $2500.

Mark Anthony already has several hundred dollars saved, but he needs to come up with the rest of the cash by December 31, or the property will transfer to someone else.

Touched by his story and the sincerity of his hopes, I fished a ten-spot out of my wristlet and handed it to Mark Anthony.

"Are you serious? Glory to God! Thank you!" he replied.

His enthusiasm sparkled and shined better than any toy under the Christmas tree.

This holiday season, find your own Mark Anthony. Seek out someone in need, have a personal exchange with them, and offer them whatever kindness and generosity you can afford - financially or emotionally.

I promise you'll come out the winner.

People interested in contributing to Mark Anthony's quest for home ownership may send contributions to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, ATTN: Mark Anthony Shears, 117 E. 12th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can also reach Mark Anthony via mobile phone at 513.319.6979.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa Baby: 2011

I've been an awfully good girl.

Between all my running, volunteering, and this year's professional successes, I have a lot to write Santa about.

Rather than pop a letter in the post, I thought I'd give St. Nick a show-and-tell about the things on my wish list. Any one of these items would make me a happy girl (or any lady on your shopping list).

Hunter wedge heel wellies

Perfect for the downtown-working, downtown-playing, downtown-living lady - this boot will keep your tootsies dry while elongating your leg a bit thanks to the stacked wedge heel. It's just a matter of time until you see these boots on my feet ($175).

Bond No. 9
I am a sucker for good fragrances.

On men, on myself - I love a delicious scent, and Bond No. 9 is my favorite line of the moment ($160-230 depending on size). I wore the Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York fragrance when I accepted my Forty under 40 award in September. Lately, I've taken to wearing the Westside, Chinatown and Nuit de Noho scents (the latter reminds me of my previous winter standby, Angel by Thierry Mugler).

I'm thinking of ringing in the new year with a new bottle of the Coney Island scent. Its margarita and chocolate notes are just what the doctor ordered for the start of 2012.

I unexpectedly received a second iPhone at work on Tuesday. Now I have my pesonal iPhone 4, and an iPhone 4s for my professional needs.

They're both white, and other than Siri, I can't tell the two apart.

It's time to get some fun cases to give each smartphone some intelligent personality.

Kate Spade has a variety of classic, stylish and colorful versions for iPhone 4/4s devices. They run about 40 bucks, which is comparable to a simpler case you could pick up at the Verizon store.
Christmas is eleven days away, and the great thing about being a grown up is that we can pick up whatever our heart desires if Santa forgets to place a special gift under the tree.

Do you think I should tell him I want an iPad, too?

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Be The Change You Desire

I had no idea a trip to India would have such a profound effect on my life.

There I was, trudging through the sweltering 110 degree heat of Jaipur in May, steering clear of contaminated ice and white knuckling it on tuk tuk rides, when I realized something needed to change.

That change was me.

Overweight, 34-years-old and single, I had a moment of self actualization somewhere between the Taj Mahal and my 15th broken ATM.

I can wait for life to happen, or I can make the life I want.

Chances are, if you wait for life to happen, it's not going to end up the way you'd choose.

And so I started running.

That was the first pivotal thing I did to make the change I wanted in my life. You've read a little bit about my running efforts. I started running, slowly, in the beginning of June. I continue to run as part of my training for a half marathon I'm running in 44 days in California.

I've lost 30 pounds and counting. I feel healthier, my heart is stronger, and my body fat continues to melt away.

I made that change all on my own.

My second big change. I haven't talked about it much here, and out of respect for those involved, I'd prefer to keep it that way.

We can be consumed with love for another, but if that person is not able to love us back, we are wasting one of the greatest gifts a human being can offer.

My love is a treasure.

90 days ago I walked away from the closest relationship in my universe. It still hurts, but since I made that choice, I've broadened promising horizons and have rediscovered the value of my solo self.

I know my hopes and dreams hinge on this change.

And today marks another significant change. After almost four years of working for a noble and well respected employer, I am embarking on a new opportunity with exciting challenges.

I have a distinct vision of myself in five, 10 and 20 years, and that vision requires me to aspire to professional growth. As much as I have enjoyed the current station of my professional life, I know myself well enough to know that a change would better suit my hopes and dreams.

Monday brings with it a new job title, a new office and a heap of new things to learn.

I know that I'm not even fully aware of how this change will impact my life.

What I do know is that, on a hot and sweaty day in India, I had my "Ah ha" moment.

I need to start living the life I want, and I'm the only person who can make that life happen.

So, here goes.

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." - Pericles 

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Fashion Plate

I've hired my own personal fashion designer.

It sounds so glamorous - very Old Hollywood. "Dahling, let me ring the designer and have her whip me up a gown for the party at the club."

The thing is, Over-the-Rhine is starting to turn into a solid destination for fashionistas.

Duru Armagan opened Sloane Boutique in the Gateway Quarter (the shop's name is a hat tip to the Sloane Rangers of London), and you can also find ready-to-wear fashions at Couture Couture on Main Street.

And I have to give a shout out to my favorite vintage hot spot, Mannequin (and if you go, tell Moe I sent you. Really.)

If you want something that's more custom in nature (and will fit you like a glove), I suggest you visit Lindsey Lusignolo, also on Main Street.

Known for the stunning wedding gown in the window, Lusignolo's studio brings true couture designs to Over-the-Rhine.

I had the pleasure of working with her in June when I needed a blouse made for the sari I picked up in India a month prior.

Rather than design a simple and traditional blouse, Lusignolo crafted an amazing, off-the-shoulder piece that highlighted fabric from my sari, all while creating a shape that was flattering for my curvy form.

I recently decided I'd employ Lusignolo's services for a grander project - a custom gown for the Junior League of Cincinnati's CinSation gala.

The theme is "Shaken, Not Stirred," and I decided I wanted a hot gown that would be like no other at the event.

Working with Lusignolo is a multi-step process.

The designer first meets with the client to learn of her desired vision, preferred fabric, and view images of inspiration.

A return visit involves sketches by Lusignolo that capture different features highlighting the client's desires.

For my CinSation gown, I told my favorite designer I wanted it to be sexy, classic, and something that celebrated my body's curvy physique.

Lusignolo and I poured over the sketches above and I pinpointed a few features I'd like to carry over in my design. The next step involves meeting with her once again to see a muslin mock-up of the dress that emulates the pieces I want in my design.

I'll have one more opportunity to edit the lines, and then Lousignolo and her team will begin crafting my gown.

Will it be red? Gold? Black?

One thing I can tell you... it will be all Bond Girl.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Urban Family

We single girls stick together.

One of my dearest friends and I have birthdays three days apart, and rather than split the party up over two days, we were excited to celebrate with one big extravaganza.

You see, Candace is part of my "urban family," the people with whom I share my successes, my trials, my hopes and dreams, and we wanted to bring our little family together for something spectacular.

Our merry band of friends and family headed underground for an unusual dinner party in the old Kaufmann Brewery tunnels in Over-the-Rhine.

After some careful arm twisting, begging and the calling in of favors, the evening came off without a hitch, and we are forever grateful.

We single girls are a force to be reckoned with.

Some people have spouses and babies and anniversaries to celebrate and warm beds to claim. Married folks have that one person they can turn to for counsel, commiseration, and compassion.

We say, why settle for just one person?

Yes. It's absolutely said in jest. We'd love to have a partner in crime. I'd love to find my soul mate. But between the board meetings, volunteer work, collecting passport stamps and other (mis)adventures, it can be hard to find the Nicky Arnstein to my Fanny Brice.

So, I turn to the "family" around me.

These are the loved ones who help us celebrate birthdays and professional successes. They are loyal to a fault and will fight tooth and nail to defend our honor. Our urban family showers us with phone calls, observes annual traditions, invites us to their dinner table, and will shame any man who wrongs one of their sisters.

We are thick as thieves.

Women make up most of my urban family - some married, some not. But we also have men in our urban family. Guys who do the heavy lifting, offer genuine compliments, and let us sharpen our talons through political sparring. They are just what a girl would want out of a brother, but without the smelly clothes and spiteful teasing.

I love my urban family.

I have no idea what the future holds. I wish I could take comfort in knowing all my life's wishes and dreams will come true. Unfortunately, this is no fantasy and I'm pretty certain Prince Charming isn't going to stride up Walnut Street on a white stallion to whisk me away.

But who said I needed whisking, anyway?

What I need is a life partner. And until I find a man who's worth commingling assets, I'm going to stay right where I am.

Life is not easy, and I know hard days are ahead. Some of us will get sick. Some of us will mourn the loss of immediate family members. Some of us will weather financial troubles and relationship drama.

Through it all, I know my urban family will be by my side.

And sometimes knowing that is all I need.

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