Monday, August 27, 2012

Take a good look around


The trip to Cincinnati was more than a business trip, more than meetings. It was a quick trip to the past, a visit to my childhood. A return, but with the knowledge I have today. Which, when you're playing penny slots, isn't much.

During the meeting, we stayed at the Hilton Netherland Plaza, a Depression era hotel that has been restored to its original opulence. I loved it, not only for its French Art Deco design, but for the history, the sense of stepping back in time. Until you realized you had to Instagram the shit out of the place.





Which hardly does the place justice, I know.

Then I posted this photo and what I'd been thinking and what my colleagues had been thinking was confirmed by tweets.

What? No twins?
The room corridors are reminiscent of The Overlook Hotel. At fourteen, I saw The Shining at least twice in movie theaters in the Cincinnati area. I loved it for its psychological thrill. I'd enjoyed a steady diet of slasher films, but this movie frightened me in a much deeper way.

One evening, my boss, another coworker and I skipped the optional group activity, had pizza in my room  and watched The Shining. It didn't frighten me like it used to - that exciting, fun kind of scared, but I confess - when I went to bed, I conveniently forgot to turn off the closet light.

The Netherland has its own ghost story. A woman in a green ball gown appears in the elevators, the guest room corridors and The Hall of Mirrors. Many of us joked about hoping to see her.

One afternoon I stepped onto the empty elevator and pushed the button to my floor. 28. At the mezzanine level the elevator stopped and a man from another large group meeting at the hotel got on. He smiled a hello as he fumbled with his tote bag of meeting goodies and pushed number 23.

On the seventh floor, the elevator stopped. The doors opened, but no one got on. Both the man and I leaned forward and craned our necks to see if we should hold the door for someone. There wasn't anyone there. The doors slid closed.

I could feel the man glance at me. Once, twice.

"Do you think she's on here with us?" I asked him.

He laughed. "I wondered that, too."

We both looked around at the gleaming wood, the Art Deco details. There was no green ball gown, no rush of cold air one might expect during a ghostly encounter.

We chatted about how pretty the hotel was as the floors ticked off. At floor twenty-three, he gave me a wink and said "Maybe she'll show herself on your way up to twenty-eight."

I laughed as the door closed behind him. Alone, I gave a shiver and pressed my back against the paneled wall. If the ghost was going to appear, I didn't want to be taken by surprise. I was in serious need of a pee as it was.

I never did see the ghost, but I did get to relive another part of my youth. Our group went to the Great American Ballpark to watch the Reds play the Mets. It was a great game with far better seats than I ever had in Riverfront Stadium back when the Cincinnati Enquirer gave free tickets to straight A students. We had a gorgeous night for it and the Reds were in fine form.



After the meeting, my brother collected me and deposited me at my parents' house in Rising Sun where there was homemade ice cream and Texas sheet cake waiting.

For a day and half, I wasn't a wife or a mother. I was simply a daughter again.

Before my brother arrived at the hotel, I mentioned to my colleagues that I was a little worried that the time would drag. My parents and I don't see each other very often. We don't have much in common. They don't have internet service. How would I survive?

My boss said that her parents were coming for a two week stay one day after she returned home from this trip. My coworker noted that she only wished her parents were still around to visit.

Ah. Perspective.

After the traditional family meal at the Big Boy, where my brother, sister and I reminisced over cherry cokes about eating there when it was a drive-in with carhops, I returned home with my parents. Now what would we do? I was stuck there - no car, no internet. I looked at my phone longingly.

Dad turned on the Reds game and I asked Mother if I could look through some of her boxes of photos.

The rest of the time flew.

We drove around town so I could see what had changed. And what had not.

Over coffee and donuts, they told me about their adventures with private health insurance and doctors visits. Without a lick of irony, Moter mentioned I should really take better care of myself. And I know she's right.

She helped me identify people in old family photos. It's become a project of mine to know these people ever since we accidentally got the Ancestry.com account.

My father called me Liza Jane, his pet name for me. He helped me find some photos of our former family cars. I've had an obsession with them since going to some car shows this summer.

I dragged them to the library to use the wi-fi to show them all the cool things I'd found on Ancestry.com. There they were - listed on the 1940 census. Their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, some going all the way back to the 1850 census.

In retaliation, they dragged me to the casino on the riverfront.


My mother and I split a twenty on slots. I played for pennies and she suggested I'd become quite the skinflint. I remembered the story my friend told me about watching a guy over the security cameras. The guy masturbated and ejaculated onto one of the machines.

"It's your turn," my mother said.

"No, that's okay. You go ahead."

When the twenty was gone, we retired to the pub to watch baseball and wait for the Friday night drawings for cash prizes. I tried not to dwell on the fact that the casino was one of the most depressing places I've been in years. And that's coming from me, who for the last two years spent at least one day a month at the Department of Labor with all the other unemployed and desperate.

I ordered a beer. My parents drank water. We ate baked potatoes and watched the Reds game on the big screen overhead. A duo played music on a keyboard and guitar. People came and went. My parents knew many of them. My former gym teacher and her husband, once the high school basketball coach and sports director, took a seat in a booth near us. I wouldn't have recognized Mr. W. if his wife hadn't been with him.

It's hard to see these once lively and physically fit people aging. I ordered another beer. My mother wondered aloud if I might have a drinking problem.

I offered the teetotalers a taste of the Blue Moon beer. It took some wheedling. When I finally threatened to hold my breath until my face turned blue, they tried it. Dad didn't hate it. Mother pulled a face and said it tasted like vinegar. This coming from people who willingly drank Fresca.

Or maybe they were clever - they knew their children wouldn't drink it. Not even on a dare.

"Some Baptist you are," I crowed to my mother. "Gambling and drinking!"

"If I weren't so arthritic, I'd be dancing, too," she shot back.

Without elaborating, I mentioned that when she comes to the casino, she should bring hand sanitizer in her purse.

At 10 p.m. sharp, we headed back to their house where I took as many photos of their family photos as I could before I finally tumped over, tired and happy to have had a chance to hang out with my mom and dad. It didn't matter what we did, it was just nice to be there.

Besides, coming from these party animals, what could I expect?


39 comments:

  1. What a lovely ramble through the various thickets of a life. I shall smile the rest of the day.

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  2. I have relatives in Ohio (and it's a long story). (And a bit of synchronicity just unrolled.)

    If you get along with your parents, treasure them. That so reminded me of trips home in the early '90s.

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    1. Well, now you've piqued my curiosity, D. Do tell!

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  3. I grew up in Cincinnati, and it looks like you hit the highlights! :)

    (Redrum! Redrum!!)

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    1. Sarah! I can't believe we grew up so close to each other.

      Redrum was the word of the week while we were there.

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  4. Good for you for getting your parents to ID people in old photos. I just finished going through a stack of photo albums that were donated to our local historical society -- probably 99% of the photos had no identification or, almost as important, dates. Very frustrating. I felt like I was throwing someone's life away when those old photos hit the trash.

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    1. Nan - I was determined to get as much info as I could about those photos and I still feel like I have a long way to go. Like you, I would have hated tossing those unidentifiable photos.

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  5. What fun! Instagram eye-candy, baked potatoes and gambling w/ the 'rents. Ah, the nostalgic perfection of it all.
    (I can't remember the last time I thought about Fresca. Nice pull!)

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    1. Thank, Suzy V.! Guess what I didn't buy at the store tonight? Yes --- Fresca.

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  6. I'm glad you had an all-in-all great time. You may not have the thrill of staying at the haunted Hilton for a while but I'm sure your folks will always make you welcome.

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    1. I forgot to tell you just how much I like that first picture. Not that I know what it was like to have siblings but it couldn't have been all bad :-)

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    2. Hey, thanks, Susan! I'd say that we were lucky to have each other, my siblings and I. It was fun at least half the time. When we weren't tattling, fighting or psychologically torturing each other.

      The older we get, the more I like them.

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  7. very cool....love the decor of the place you stayed....also kinda cool on the elevator ghost....ha....and def cool to get id's on the pics too....

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    1. Thanks, Brian. I want to go back to the Netherland Plaza sometime. I don't feel like I got to spend enough time just taking in all the decor.

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  8. My drinking problem is solved by getting another drink.
    ~

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    1. Thunder, where were you last week? I could have used a drinking buddy!

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  9. What a fabulous trip you had. Next time, I'm making the drive to Cinci and going ghost-hunting with you.

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    1. Sherry - we must make plans. I can only imagine the hilarity of the Netherland Plaza, you and your sister. We could crank call my parents and your mother, too!

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  10. Speaking of family photos.... when my dear father-in-law passed away, we spent a whole day going through boxes of photos- Grandpa was a photo buff, and we had to decide which to keep & which to cull. Just as we were down to the last few boxes, we decided to push through. It was the very last box that we found the shoe box full of b & w photos from the Ohio contingent that went to the MLK jr "I have a dream" speech.
    Wow! We hand carried those photos home on the plane with us.

    Glad your time w parents went well. Carpe Diem & all that....

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    1. Thanks, Fran. Those pix sound amazing. Will you ever get a chance to post them because those would be a great thing to write about.

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  11. Sarah wrote "redrum, redrum" before me, but it's what I thought when I saw that shot.

    What a fun post - had me smiling at many parts. See?! You can go home again. And I loved the tweet!

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    1. Thank you, Downith! Thankfully, my parents had a sense of humor about my tweeting on their time.

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  12. your parents are lucky to have such a loving daughter who carries a bucket of fun around with her. Seattleson and I spent a weekend in Sin City a while back, stayed at that hotel, loved it.

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    1. Thanks, Sandy U. I must give credit where it's due. I owe my sense of humor to my parents. They're both pretty funny people. Mostly without trying.

      So you've been to that hotel, too? It's really something. I'd love to go back and will be advocating for it as a meeting venue every chance I get.

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  13. I love a good ghost story, even though I don't believe in them... probably don't believe in them.

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    1. kirby, you sound like me. I love a good ghost story even though I don't believe in them either....probably don't believe in them.

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  14. Love-love-lovely post! That was beautiful.

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  15. Without elaborating, I mentioned that when she comes to the casino, she should bring hand sanitizer in her purse.

    Hahahahahahahaha. You will never forget that story. I read once that people who just spontaneous like to sing or whistle on the street have a higher incidence of schizophrenia than the average joe, and now, whenever I hear someone singing....

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  16. Hey Liza Jane! That was a lovely trip home to meet the folks. I could see you all in the casino. And your Mother telling you that you should take more care of yourself? Aren't mothers like that! Mine told me the other year that I pluck my eyebrows too much - as though I were 14 instead of over 45!

    But hell I'd love to hang out with mine. We won't be going home this Xmas and it saddens me! Have to wait until the book comes out in Australia xcat

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  17. I am still terrified of THE SHINING. My sister and I went to a movie theatre a few months ago and both laughed like hell at Shelly Duvall's acting but then when the twins came on, I swallowed my gum. Seriously. Scared shitless all over again.

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  18. Your parents sounds awesome. And while I've lived in Ohio for nearly 8 years now, I've never been to Cincinnati. One thing that city and Cleveland have in common: casinos. We just go our first one this year and it already depresses the hell out of me.

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  19. I think maybe my first comment didn't go through but I would just like to add: Did your parents have cats, too? I don't know, but after reading this, I could see some of the cat attidues coming from childhood experiences.

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  20. I followed all of your photos on InstaGram, but as I read this, I was seriously hoping you DID see that ghost!

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  21. Oh man, I was really hoping you DID see that ghost!

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  22. What a fun post Lisa. I've never been to Cincinnati -- thank you for the tour.

    I'm glad you get along well with your parents.

    We recently re-read The Shining. Totally creepy, way worse than the movie.

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  23. Cool photos, I love art deco! And your Mom is a hoot, 'splains where YOU get it!

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