Monday, August 8, 2016

Is Life Joyous or Painful or Goofy?

Dear George,
When we were college freshmen, my hallmates and I spent most of our time talking about The Meaning of Life.  It was a discussion that went on endlessly because we could never reach a conclusion.  At first we quickly agreed that life has no meaning.  But then we’d conclude that you could make life meaningful if you worked at it.  Then we tried to figure out just  what that would be like.  And we would inevitably decide that whatever we chose wouldn’t be intrinsically meaningful anyway.  As it turned out, all this angst about the meaning of life was just a byproduct of being in college.  It wasn’t really the meaning of life that was problematic, but rather the meaning of being an undergraduate student.  Once I started graduate school, I was too busy to worry about the meaning of life, and I certainly didn’t give it much thought during my next forty-three years in the work force.  But now that I’m retired and have endless time on my hands, I’ve taken to pondering the meaning of life once again. The only difference from college is that I don’t talk incessantly about it with my friends and I’m aware of more important things to be depressed about, e.g., national politics.  

Here is my current sense of it.  It seems to me that there are a finite number of possibilities in trying to pinpoint the meaning of life.  These are the main candidates: 

1)     Life is joyous. 
2)     Life is painful.
3)     Life is filled with mystery.
4)     Life is challenging.
5)     Life is frightening.
6)     Life is boring.
7)     Life is goofy.

I think you could make a case for any of these options, and probably the best answer is that life is a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  It definitely isn’t just one thing.  But I’ve approached this question by thinking back over personal events in my life in recent months and seeing how many fit these various alternatives.  I’ve had one or two occasions where something was mysterious or painful, but no more than that.  I have been frightened by half a dozen things, but that’s more my anxiousness than the nature of life per se.  Unfettered joy is pretty rare, if it exists at all.   I’ve definitely had moments of boredom every day, but it doesn’t make sense to conclude that the meaning of life is boredom.  Most of all, I can think of endless instances that suggests that Life is Goofy.  Here are a few recent examples (all of these being completely true): 

·       After my class on modern art I decided that an outstanding project would be to take photographs of my left hand over the course of a Tuesday.  I took about 50 photos over the next several hours (e.g., my hand on the computer keyboard, grasping the milk container, opening the screen door, scratching my ankle, etc.).  Unfortunately none of these images had any aesthetic value whatsoever.  I abandoned my project as idiotic and deleted the photos from my camera.   
·       Leaving the Krohn Conservatory I walked straight into a floor-to-ceiling glass panel, having mistaken it for an open doorway.  The noise of my forehead smacking into the glass startled nearby patrons who asked if I were o.k.  I said, “I’m fine.  I just wanted to see if I could walk through that window.” 
·       I picked up a shiny penny off the sidewalk, then changed my mind and put it back down for a child to find.  After five days the penny was still there.  I couldn’t believe how nonchalant today’s children are.
·       After two years I decided to finally cash in the $50 Visa gift card that I’d been given as a birthday present.  Much to my dismay, it was now worth only $2, having accumulated $48 worth of bank charges.  I cashed in my former $50 gift card at Graeter’s where I used it to buy half an ice cream cone.
·       My hearing isn't so hot.  When I went through the drive-through lane at Long John Silver's, the young woman asked, "Would you like to try our new xytroppklm frejki?"   I asked her to repeat what she said, and this time it sounded like "ggryzkl merpp".  So I said, "Yes, I'll try it."  It was one piece of fish, one crabcake, and four fried shrimp -- not bad.  I would like to try it again next time, but I don't know what to order.   
·       We were walking along at the zoo when a man and his ten-year-old son approached us from the opposite direction.  The man's T-shirt read, "My kid shot a deer while your honor student was in school."  The boy looked very morose.  I would too if I had to walk around the zoo with a moron for a father. 
·       I was driving through a green light on Queen City Ave. when a teenage girl, talking on a cell phone, stepped right into my path.  I hit the brakes and stopped a few feet from her, but she didn't notice.  Then she walked right in front of another oncoming car which came to a grinding halt.  I hoped she would finish her call soon.  
·       Recently I started doing the Stairmaster at the fitness center, and, though it was very hard, I worked up to 150 steps after a couple of weeks.  I was feeling like an Olympic athlete until I noticed that the sixtysomething man next to me had just reached 1700 steps.  I went from Olympic athlete to total wimp in less than a second.  
·       I was driving to Mt. Storm to take a couple of photos of the flowering trees when I noticed a man walking along the road carrying his 30-40 pound dog in his arms.  When I came back five minutes later the man was still walking along carrying his dog.  Maybe the dog was really old and the good-hearted man didn't want him to miss their daily walks.  I admired the man and was happy for the dog. 
·       We went to a funeral recently where the preacher asked everybody to close their eyes.  Then he asked people to raise their right hands if they had committed a sin and wanted Christ's forgiveness.  I couldn't stand the tension so I opened my right eye and peeked around.  I didn't see a single raised hand.  The preacher said, "Thank you very much, is there anyone else?"  I think he was faking it.  
·       Despite her reluctance, I talked Katja into going by herself to the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcast at a local suburban cinema.  When she arrived after driving twenty minutes on the expressway to get there, she discovered that there was no opera scheduled for that day.  I had been looking at the wrong week in the schedule. 
·       An elderly, well-dressed lady on Ludlow Avenue asked if I had a spare nickel I could give her.  Though I never give money to panhandlers, I rummaged around in my coin purse and finally found a nickel.  Later I wondered how long it takes her to get to a dollar.  
·       Our neighborhood pharmacy had a sign above a bin full of canned strawberry margaritas that read: “Regular Price, $1.00; Sale Price, 10/$10.00.  Later I went to a yard sale where you could buy one animal trap for $37, but two for $75. 
·       Katja and I constantly disagree about setting the air conditioning thermostat.  When the furnace man came to do a tuneup, I asked him what temperature he recommended for air conditioning in the summertime.  Having had years of experience in these household questions, he said, “I recommend whatever temperature your wife prefers.” 
·       At the zoo I overheard a five-year-old boy ask his dad why somebody’s uniform was sitting on top of a rock in the black bear cage.  The father explained that that was all that was left after the bear ate the zookeeper.  
It seems pretty obvious that the best answer is that Life is Goofy.  I realize that this isn’t an ennobling conclusion, but it does seem to be rooted in reality.  I wish I’d realized this in college because I wouldn’t have wasted so much time suffering and worrying about this or that.  Now that I’m in touch with the basic truth, I plan to go with the flow, be amused at the things that used to irritate me, and spend more time chuckling.  They say that laughter is the best thing for your health and well-being, and who can argue with that?  Actually that’s sort of goofy.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Menominee Pioneers

The Menominee River

Dear George,
Northern Wisconsin and the U.P. were wilderness regions until well into the 1800’s (and, of course, large chunks still are today).  Nonetheless, archeologists have established that members of the Old Copper Culture lived in the Menominee-Marinette area 10,000 years ago.  The first recorded inhabitants of the Menominee River Basin were the Menominees, known as the “wild rice people.”  Early French explorers described a tribe of 40-80 men living in a small village on the Menominee River near the present-day Riverside Cemetery.  The tribe also had a summer camp near what’s now Pine Beach along the Green Bay shore in Marinette.  By the early 1820’s the population of the Menominee tribe had reached about 500, spread across a dozen villages in Wisconsin.  As European-American settlers were drawn to the area by vast lumber and mineral resources, the Menominee faced encroachment pressures and eventually sold most of their land between 1821 and 1848 through a series of treaties with the federal government.  (6) (20)

Louis Chappee, the first settler of European origin on the Menominee River, established a fur trading post there in 1796.  Farnsworth and Brush built the first sawmill on the river in 1832, and a logging boom had its start by the 1850’s.  Charles MacLeod constructed the first frame building in what was to become the village of Menominee in 1852.  Menominee County’s population in 1860 was less than 500, most of whom were loggers working on the Menominee River.  Menominee County was officially organized in 1863, and the city of Menominee was chartered in 1883.  Thanks to accounts by E. S. Ingalls (1876), the Western Historical Company (1883), A. L. Sawyer (1911), C. Moore (1915), and others, we have available a rich history available of the city of Menominee and the people who played major roles in its development.  Drawing from these and other sources, here are stories of several of the most prominent Menominee pioneers during the early to mid-1800’s: Louis Chappee, William Farnsworth, John G. Kittson, Charles McLeod, Andrus Eveland, and John Quimby.  (4) (12) (20) (numbers refer to sources at end)

Louis Chappee’s gravestone, Menominee County

Louis Chappee
Stanislaus (Louis) Chappee (also spelled Chappieu or Chaput; pronounced “Shappee”), a French-Canadian fur trader, was the first settler of European ancestry in the Menominee River area.  Chappee was born in 1766 in the parish of L’Assumption, Quebec, Canada.  He came to Green Bay in 1783, then to Menominee in about 1796 where he established a trading post on the Wisconsin side of the Menominee River (close to where the Hattie Street bridge now stands).  Most historical accounts indicate that Chappee was an agent of the British American Fur Company which was operating in the area.  At that time thousands of Indians visited the Menominee River every year because of its abundance of deer, beaver, otter, mink, muskrat, bear, and other game.  Chappee was described as a bold, powerful man who carried on a successful business with Native Americans in the area for a number of years.  He often had numerous French-Canadian men who worked for him, and his trading post had the character of a well garrisoned fort.  Historian Alvah L. Sawyer (1911) wrote: “He seems to have preferred the solitudes and savagery of nature to the civilization he left behind, and he continued that solitary life, with only the Indians and his helpers as his companions…”  E.S. Ingalls (1876) recounts an anecdote about Chappee being confronted by a band of Indians who had come there to rob him.  Rolling a keg of gunpowder into the room, Chappee pointed a loaded pistol into it and threatened to blow everyone up.  Impressed with his courage, the Indians made friends with him and traded with him for decades thereafter.  Along with most Green Bay fur traders, Chapee fought in the British attack on Fort Mackinac during the War of 1812, then returned to the fur trade after the war, working for Green Bay fur magnate John Lawe.  Despite his success, Chappee was forced to move five miles upriver on the Michigan side in 1824 by William Farnsworth and Charles Brush,  competing fur traders who had arrived a year earlier and who wanted the Menominee River site for a sawmill.  Chappee lived at his new trading post and traded with the Menominees and other tribes until his death on May 6, 1854.  Chappee was married to Ke No Ny Ka, a Native American woman, and they had five children, Jacques, Pauline, Louis, John, and Therese.  Fellow pioneer John Kittson wrote, “He lived a strange life in the bosom of primeval forests, and saw strange and startling changes in his time.”  There is a historical marker in Menominee County near Chappee’s burial site at the rapids along County Road 581.  The inscription reads: “Louis Chappee, 1766-1856 --  S. Chaput, a noble Frenchman and soldier, explorer, trader and trapper on the Menominee River.  He sleeps here among his red brothers, on the bank of the beautiful Menominee River.”  (4) (6) (11) (13) (17) (19)

William Farnsworth (1796-1860)

William Farnsworth
Fur trader William Farnsworth was born in Vermont in 1796.  After establishing a trading post and founding the city of Sheboygan, he arrived at the Menominee River in 1822.  E.S. Ingalls (1876, p. 14) describes Farnsworth and his Detroit-based partner Charles Brush as “stirring, wide-awake business men, but without so nice a sense of meum and teum as would stand particularly in the way of their carrying out any enterprise that they might undertake.”  Farnsworth’s first step was to force Chappee to relinquish his trading post.  Chappee had had a dispute with local Indians in which he lost his thumb, and he had three Indians imprisoned in Green Bay.  Farnsworth intervened and obtained the Indians’ release, whereupon they granted him five miles of land along the Menominee River, including the site of Chappee’s trading post.  Farnsworth took over the post on a day when Chappee was absent and removed all the latter’s possessions.  Chappee transported his goods upriver by canoes and built a new stockade at the foot of the rapids which came to bear his name, Chappee’s Rapids.  Farnsworth and his common law wife, Queen Marinette, ran the trading post for several years until Marinette took it over herself.  Farnsworth and Brush were the first entrepreneurs to pack whitefish from the Menominee River in barrels for the commercial market.  Then, responding to the decline of the fur trade, the two built the Menominee River’s first sawmill in 1832.  The water-powered mill cut 6,000-8,000 feet of timber daily, and its initial yield was used to build the first frame house on the Marinette side of the river for Queen Marinette.  Farnsworth and Brush operated their mill for several years, but their business failed and was sold at a Sheriff’s auction for eighteen barrels of white fish.  Farnsworth also owned two Lake Michigan sailing vessels.  He died in a steamer collision on Lake Michigan between Waukegan and Chicago in 1860.  (2) (3) (7) (9) (15) (18) (19)

John G. Kittson
John Kittson was the fourth man of European ancestry to locate on the Menominee River.  Kittson was born in 1812 in Sorel, Quebec, Canada, the son of a British Army officer and his wife who had been stationed near Montreal.  Kittson came to the Menominee area in 1826 as a "courier du bois" and a representative of the American Fur Company.  He located his trading post on the Menominee River at the Wausaukee Bend, about thirty miles northwest of Menominee.  The site was at a natural ford which provided a cross for the Indian Trail to central Wisconsin and which led northward to the ancient copper mines in the Lake Superior country.  Kittson helped members of the Menominee tribe in their communications with the U.S government which led them to refer affectionately to him as “The Writer”.  Kittson established the first farms in Menominee County, one at Wausaukee Bend and a second just above Chappee’s trading post.  He taught the Menominees improved methods of farming.  Kittson established an Indian cemetery on his farm, and his friend, Louis Chappee, was buried there.  He built a huge log barn at a second farm at the Ox-Bow bend of the river, housing horses at one end and cows at the other.   He also built a pelt storage house about a quarter of a mile down the river, preserving pelts there until they could be taken to the Green Bay office in the spring.  Kittson and his two wives had approximately eleven children, one of whom was killed in the Civil War in Sherman’s march to the sea.   Kittson himself died in Marinette in 1872 from exposure and suffering resulting from fighting the Peshtigo fire of 1871.  In 1881 his wife Margaret and son Robert sold the Ox-Bow farm.   Judge Ingalls said of Kittson: "He was a very intelligent and stirring man... He had great influence over the Indians, and was at all times a friend to their interests."  (4) (5) (7) (16) (13)

Charles McLeod
Charles McLeod was born in Ogdensburg, New York, in 1812.  A fur trader, hunter, and trapper, he arrived in Menominee in 1832.  He built the first frame house in Menominee County outside of the current city limits.  In 1841 McLeod built the Menominee River’s second lumber mill on Twin Island.  Because iron was scarce, all the cogs for the machinery were made of wood.  Unfortunately, McLeod’s business was not profitable, and he abandoned it after five years.  McLeod married Elizabeth Jacobs, daughter of Queen Marinette and her first husband John B. Jacobs.  The McLeod’s had three sons, John, Charles, and Alexander, and three daughters who died in early childhood, Mary, Elizabeth, and Annie.  For the benefit of their own and neighbors’ children, McLeod built the first schoolhouse on the Menominee River.  He was a member of the first county board of canvassers, and he played a prominent role in the development of Menominee County.  He owned much of the land on the Menominee side of the river, including extensive real estate on the riverfront and near the head of Ogden Avenue and what came to be known as Frenchtown. McLeod died in Menominee in 1893.  (2) (7) (1)

Andrus Eveland (1814-1901)

Andrus Eveland
Andrus Eveland was the first pioneer to settle on the Green Bay shore in Menominee.  Born in Yarmouth, Ontario, in 1814, Eveland became a Lake Erie sailor at age 17, travelling between Canada, Buffalo, Cleveland, and other ports.  In 1836 he moved to Chicago where he worked as a wheelsman and mate on the steamer Michigan, a freight and passenger boat that ran between Chicago and St. Joseph, Michigan.  After a stint building harbor piers in Racine, Eveland came with a crew of men to the Menominee River area in 1841 and built a fish shanty and cabin a half mile north of the river’s mouth.  When he left for the winter, a sawmill company burnt down his structures.  A chief of the Menominee tribe met him when he returned and handed him a blanket with the nails from his burnt shanties.  Eveland rebuilt in 1842 and became a permanent resident.  For many years he fished in the summer and fall and made shingles in the winter.  He owned much of the land which was to become the city, and, along with John Quimby, laid out the design for the village of Menominee.  He and his wife, the former Miss Lavina Moore, had nine children: Charles, Melissa, Henrietta, Mary, Almira, Joseph, Susan Emily, and Nellie.  In 1853 Eveland built the first frame house in the village, located at 1st St. and 14th Ave.  One early biographical statement recounts how, at age 84, Eveland had set out on his annual 3-mile hike to a campground at the start of the hunting season, carrying an 80-pound pack on his back.  Eveland died at Menominee on March 2, 1901.  (1) (8) (14) (19)

Riverside Cemetery Gravestone, John E. Quimby (1809-1874)

John E. Quimby
John Quimby settled in what was then known as the Village in 1845, and he was to become a central figure in its development.  At first Quimby was in charge of the fisheries and ran a boarding house on the river.  He subsequently built a tavern on what eventually became the site of the Kirby House at the intersection of 1st St. and 6th Ave.   As mentioned earlier, he and Andrus Eveland played major roles in laying out the village of Menominee.  Quimby platted the original village as "Quimby's Lots", and Eveland platted an addition.  At the time Quimby owned much of the land on which the city of Menominee now stands, but he never imagined that the settlement would ever amount to much.  For example, in the plans that he laid out Main Street was only thirty feet wide.  His peers at the time recalled Quimby saying that he did not want to live longer than to see a railroad pass through the woods.  At the time there were not only no railroads, but no wagon roads or other means of transportation except for boats on the river and the bay.  The surrounding country was unbroken forest which sold for $1.25 per acre.  Menominee County’s first election for county officers was held in May 1863, and Quimby was elected sheriff and a member of the Board of County Canvassers.  One biographer (1883) described Quimby as “a man of marked characteristics, and either a warm friend or a good hater.”  He was known as a powerful fighter and a skilled hunter.  Quimby died on Jan. 13, 1874, at the age of 65.  His wife, Almira, outlived him by six years and was the proprietor of the Quimby Hotel.  She was known for nursing the sick and for her kindness to all.  Quimby Ave. (now 6th Ave.) and Almyra St. (now  4th St.) were named after Quimby and his daughter.  (7) (10) (19) (13)

Our family moved from town to the Menominee River shore exactly 150 years after Louis Chappee first settled there.  It’s hard to imagine what people’s lives were like in those harsh, challenging times.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who created the communities from which many tens of thousands of Menominee and Marinette residents have subsequently benefitted.

SOURCES:  (1) The Menominee Evening Leader, Oct. 25, 1900, p. 8 (available from Spies Public Library, Menominee); (2), “Deep Woods Frontier, by Theodore J. Karamanski, Wayne State U. Press, 1989, p. 28; (3), Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, “Pioneer Collections”, Vol. 1 (1877), p. 265; (4), “Menominee Range Memories” by William J. Cummings; (5), “John George ‘The Writer’ Kittson”; (6), “Stanislaus ‘Louis Chappee’ Chaput”; (7), ‘Menominee County,’ pp. 473-499 in Western Historical Company, “History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan” (1883); (8), “Re” Who’s Your Moore”; (9), “Menominee County”; (10), “Nov. 2010 newsletter”; (11), “Chapee Rapids”; (12), “Charles Moore, “The History of Michigan.”  Chicago, 1915; (13), A. L. Sawyer, “A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and its People,” 1911; (14), “Glines/Dean/Warnken/Anderegg/Eveland/Stufflebeam/Related and Very Unrelated Families”; (15), “Marinette County, Wisconsin: Genealogy and Local History”; (16), “Norman Wolfred Kittson”; (17), “Oconto County Families and Biographies: Chappue”; (18), "William Farnsworth - married Queen Marinette"; (19), “Centennial History of Menominee County” by E. S. Ingalls (1876); (20), “Menominee”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cincinnati: #HottestCityInAmerica?

Dear George,
When our university’s president arrived six years ago, a high-level administrator recommended to him that he use social media to connect with the student body.  Despite no prior familiarity with Twitter, the president began tweeting regularly, using the hashtag #HottestCollegeInAmerica to connect with his seventy thousand followers.  Initially I thought this was preposterous: (a) that the president tweets to the students in the first place; and (b) that he presents the university as “the hottest college in America.”  Granted that the university is well-respected, it never struck me as particularly “hot” and definitely not as "the hottest".  However, after receiving hundreds of #HottestCollegeInAmerica messages over the past six years, I’ve found my attitude becoming more and more positive.  I still don’t think that the university is as hot as Michigan or Berkeley, but, for me, it's become a lot #Hotter than it used to. 

This made me wonder: What if people starting tweeting about the city of Cincinnati as the #HottestCityInAmerica?  I always worry about Cincinnati being under-rated.  While it lacks the pizzazz of Las Vegas or Miami Beach, Cincinnati certainly has its share of attractions.   I found my opinion supported recently when I ran across an online article by which ranked America’s “50 Best Cities”.  Cincinnati was ranked No. 21.  Since there are 382 metropolitan areas in the country, No. 21 is definitely on the high side.  This led me to look around for other efforts to compare America’s largest cities on one dimension or another.  Here are some of Cincinnati’s other recent rankings that I ran across. 

#1 in the nation, Recreation (, 2015).  WalletHub’s rankings of the 100 largest U.S. cities were based on parks, average price of food, and high ratios of playgrounds, swimming pools, music venues, and tennis courts to number of residents.

#1, Best City for New College Grads (, 2016).  Smart’s rankings were based on cost of living, job market, and how fun it is to live in the city.  Cincinnati’s cost of living is 3rd lowest among the nation’s 100 largest cities, and the city ranked high on its job market and on fun (population in their twenties, restaurants and entertainment, Yelp ratings of bars and restaurants). 

#1, Best U.S. City for Pets (WalletHub, 2016). rated Cincinnati as the number one city in the U.S. for pets (and pet lovers), based on pet-care providers, vets and vet costs, animal shelters, dog parks, and pet-friendly restaurants and hotels.  

#2, Health Care (, 2014). identified the 100 best cities in the U.S. for health care, based on access to care and affordability of care.  Cincinnati came in second.  

#2, Most Popular for the Holidays (, 2011).  Cincinnati ranked second among 300 U.S. cities in the amount of increase in air traffic for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays (compared to total annual flights).

#3, Top U.S. Travel Destinations ( , 2012).  Lonely Planet, the travel web-site, ranked Cincinnati No. 3 among its top travel destinations in the U.S. for 2012.  Local attractions included parks and river walkways, Mt. Adams nightlife, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Over-the-Rhine, Findlay Market, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

#3, Most Affordable U.S. Cities (National Association of Home Builders, 2014)

#4, Best Cities for Living an Active Lifestyle (WalletHub, 2016).  Sports clubs and park playgrounds per capita, monthly fitness club fees, public golf courses per capita, etc. 

#4, Most Sexually Satisfied Cities (Men’s Health, 2010).  Condom sales, birth rates, adult sex toys. 

#4, Top Mom-Friendly Cities (Sperling’s Best Places, 2015).  Child care and daycare centers; KinderCare, OBGYN and pediatric physicians, family fun centers, baby and toy stores, parks and playgrounds, percent of households with children.  

#4, Manliness (, 2009).  According to Sperling’s Best Places, Cincinnati is the fourth most manly city in the country, based on criteria such as number of professional sports teams, popularity of power tools, monster truck rallies, fishing, home improvement, and drag racing. 

#5, Arts Destinations (American Style magazine, 2004).  American Style magazine ranked Cincinnati No. 5 in its list of 26 top arts destinations in the nation, specifically mentioning the Contemporary Arts Center, The Cincinnati Art Museum’s recently opened Cincinnati Wing, and the renovated Taft Museum of Art. 

#6, World Food Cities (National Geographic, 2014).  National Geographic ranked Cincinnati #6 in its list of top 10 food cities in the world, citing the two million pounds of chili served in local restaurants each year. 

#6, Romance (Amazon, 2016).  Cincinnati, according to retail giant Amazon, is the sixth most romantic city in the United States.  Amazon complied their list from sales data for romance novels, relationship books, romantic music, romantic comedy movies, and sexual wellness products.

#7, Trendiest Cities (, 2016).  Evaluating America’s 500 largest cities for their “trendiness”, e.g., yoga studios, bike shops, “foodie hot spots,” etc., (2016) ranked Cincinnati No. 7.  Cincinnati’s trendy features included massive street-painting parties, evening glow-art bashes, group bicycle rides, downtown murals, Over-the-Rhine, and Findlay Market.

#7, Cities that Rock (Esquire Magazine, 2004).  Esquire Magazine ranked Cincinnati No. 7 in its top 10 list of “Cities that Rock,” chosen based on talent in their music scenes, music venues, and record stores.

#7, Best City Park Systems (Trust for Public Land, 2015).   Cincinnati’s rankings were highest on acreage, park land as a % of city area, per capita playgrounds, basketball hoops, dog parks, and recreation/senior centers. 

#7, Leanest American Cities (Men’s Health, 2015).  Percent overweight, type 2 diabetes, physical activity, money spent on junk food, fast food 9 or more times a month (to compare fattest and leanest cities).    

#8, Most Creative Cities in America (Movoto Real Estate, 2015).  The Movoto rated the nation’s 100 largest cities on creativity, using indicators which included art galleries, art supply stories, music stores, performing arts per capita, colleges and universities, and percent of the working population in arts, entertainment, and recreation. 

#9 Best Cities for Raising a Family (, 2012).   Forbes ranked Cincinnati No. 9 among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, based on quality of education, median income, home ownership, commuting delays, crime. affordable housing, and overall cost of living. 

#9, Best Cities for Singles (, 2015).  WalletHub ranked Cincinnati No. 9 on its list of best U.S. cities for singles, based on “dating economics” and “romance and fun”

#10, Most Well-Read Cities in the U.S. (Amazon, 2014)
Amazon (2014) ranked Cincinnati No. 10 among the most well-read cities in the U.S. based on book, magazine, and newspaper sales. 

There are lots of other high rankings for Cincinnati as well.  Here is a quick summary:

#1, Most Cost-Friendly Business Location (KPMG, 2016) 
#1, Lowest Business Failure Rates (Entrepreneur Magazine, 2006) 
#1, Best Cities for Business Tax Costs (KPMG, 2012) 
#2, Cities Where Startups Are Thriving (CNN Money, 2012)
#2, Best Cities for Telecommuters (, 2010) 
#2, Best Midsize College Cities in the U.S. (, 2016)
#3, Top Metros (Site Selection Magazine, 2015)
#3, Best Medium-Sized Cities for Young Entrepreneurs (, 2013)
#3, Best U.S. Cities in Company Growth and Relocation (Site Selection Magazine, 2015)
#3, Children’s Health Care (US News & World Report, 2016) 
#3, Fitness for Children (Men’s Health Magazine, 2016).  
#3, Fastest Bike-Commuting Growth.  (League of American Bicyclissts, 2015)
#3, Best U.S. Cities for Staycations (, 2016) ( vacations at home) 
#3, Top Cities to Spend Labor Day (, 2012)
#3, Most Frugal Cities (, 2016) (based on coupon usage) 
#4, Best Cities to Celebrate the Fourth of July (WalletHub, 2014) 
#5, Best Cities for Tennis Players (, 2015)
#5, Best Cities to Relocate To (Lincoln Property Company, 2015)
#5, Best Baseball Cities (, 2012)
#5, Literacy of the Nation’s Largest Cities (U. Wisconsin-Whitewater, 2004) (libraries, newspapers, local publications) 
#6, Cheapskate Cities (Kiplinger magazine, 2015) (low cost of living, free activities, Dollar General stores) 
#7, Best Cities for Seniors (, 2005) 
#7, Top U.S. Cities by Number of Industrial Jobs (Manufacturer’s News, 2010)
#8, Best Cities for Young Adults to Get Rich (, 2014) 
#8, Emerging Residential and Business Growth (Forbes, 2013)
#8, Best Cities for Veterans (, 2012)
#8, Great Art Deco Cities (, 2015) 
#8, Top High School Football Cities (, 2012) 
#8, Best Cities for Celebrating New Year’s Eve (, 2016) 
#9, Caring for the Elderly (, 2006)
#9, U.S. Cities Where You’re Most Likely to Find Love (, 2013) 
#10, Best Walking Cities in the U.S. (Prevention Magazine, 2008)
#10, America’s Healthiest Cities (, 2013)
#10, Most Beautiful Skyline (Thrillist, 2014)  
#10, Best Cities for Beer Drinkers (, 2015)
#11, Top Cities for Biotech Venture Funding (, 2014) 
#11, Most Social Networked (, 2011) (Per capita Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
#12, Amazing U.S. Cities for Street Art (, 2014)
#13, Top LGBT-Friendly Cities in the U.S. (NerdWallet, 2015) 
#13, Fittest U.S. Cities (American College of Sports Medicine magazine, 2013) 
#16, Top U.S. Cities for Working Women (NerdWallet, 2015) 
#16, Top Cities for Global Trade (globaltrademag, 2012) 

All in all, my research project was a pleasing surprise.  If I knew how to tweet, I might even use the hashtag #HottestCityInAmerica once in a while.  Of course, it would be an exaggeration, but it wouldn’t be entirely fraudulent .  I still don’t think that the city is as hot as Las Vegas or Miami Beach, but now it seems a lot #Hotter than it used to. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Age What? You Must Be Kidding!

Dear George,
When I turned on the computer this morning, the calendar blatantly announced that I’m 79 years old today.  Even though I knew it in advance, it still came as a shock  — like something out of a sci-fi fantasy.  If you’ve been watching Wayward Pines on FX, you know that all the characters have woken up in their pods after sleeping for 2000 years.  That’s how I feel.  The last age that’s firmly in my mind is 44.  After that everything else whizzed by, practically overnight, and here I find myself 35 years later.  What should I make of that? 

I Googled “age 79” to learn more about what to expect.  That was a mistake.  Twenty-seven of the first 30 hits were news reports about the death of one or another 79-year-old person: Merle Haggard, Antonin Scalia, former Ohio governor George Voinovich, Chinese activist Harry Wu, Jennifer Anniston’s mother, and a variety of lesser-knowns.  The three non-death items dealt with life expectancy, joint impairments, and a list of celebrities who have managed to survive for 79 years.  Determined to find something positive, I kept reading.  After 60 items, I finally reached a life-affirming post, namely, “Mick Jagger Gets Girlfriend Pregnant at Age 79.”  This was definitely more encouraging, though the article wasn’t clear if it was Mick or the girlfriend who was 79.

The other thing I found out from Google is that, according to USA Today, the average life expectancy in the U.S. these days is 78.8 years.  That’s of particular interest to those of us who are celebrating our 79th birthday.  We are people have spent our entire lifetimes on the good side of average life expectancy, and now we suddenly have shifted over to the downhill side.  This does make for a notable birthday, though it gives one the jitters. 

When I reached middle age, I started accumulating a list of famous people who were born in 1937.  It made me feel more secure to have a group I am moving along with.  Then I started Googling photos of these people to see how they were doing.  This was reassuring because these are mostly Hollywood people whose staff members help them appear more youthful than they really are.  Here is how my 1937 age-mates are looking these days.  

Colin Powell (born Apr. 5, 1937), Heart symposium, McLean, VA, Apr. 15, 2016

Sally Kellerman (born June 2, 1937),  Los Angeles LGBT gala, Nov. 2015

Warren Beatty (born Mar. 30, 1937), Cinema awards show, Apr. 12, 2016

Dyan Cannon (born Jan. 4, 1937), L.A. art show, Jan. 28, 2016

Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937), Academy Awards, Feb. 16, 2016

Jo Anne Worley (born Sept. 6, 1937), Film screening, May 9, 2016

Sir Anthony Hopkins (born Dec. 31, 1937), Interview, Jan., 2016

Loretta Swit (born Nov. 4, 1937), Interview, Feb., 2016

Dustin Hoffman (born Aug. 8, 1937), NYC theater opening, Mar. 2, 2016

Roberta Flack (born Feb. 10, 1937), Feb. 10, 2016

Jack Nicholson (born Apr. 22, 1937), L.A. Lakers game, Mar., 2016

Jane Fonda (born Dec. 21, 1937), Golden Globes, Jan., 2016

By and large, it looks like 79 isn’t a complete catastrophe.  That’s especially true for Jane Fonda who hasn’t changed one iota in the last four decades.  Given that the last age I remember is in my forties, I have to say that my late seventies don’t seem dramatically different.  It is true that my hearing is poorer, my close-up vision is erratic, and it’s harder to figure out who the murderer is in Masterpiece Mystery.  On the other hand, I exercise more, eat healthier food, and experience much less stress than during my turbulent work years.  In some ways, life is better these days — more relaxed, more free, more pleasurable.   

After working it through, I’ve concluded that being 79 — like 32 or 11 or 61 — is simply a fact of life, another chronological step that presents its own unique rewards and challenges.   I think the trick in it is to accept what life brings along, do something special every day, try to get out of one’s comfort zone every now and then, keep a sense of humor, and say “I love you” to people who are close.  These are going to be my birthday resolutions.