summer my wife and I travelled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to collect my
second leg lamp for humor writing from the National Society of Newspaper
Columnists at the annual conference. The conference itself was outstanding,
and it was a privilege to meet Pulitzer Prize-winning columnists Clarence
Page, Rochelle Riley, and Connie Schultz, who write about important
topics like truth in journalism, race in America, and the struggles
of underrepresented populations. Disheartening self-comparisons were
inevitable, though, considering that most of my columns feature someone
not wearing pants-usually me.
We had never been to Cincinnati, and all I knew about it was that
it's located in the Midwest, meaning north of Texarkana and probably
east of the Pacific. Our flight landed in a suburb of Cincinnati called
Kentucky, and we crammed ourselves into our rental car, a Nissan Versa
approximately the same size as a box of Milk Duds.
Before the conference began, we wanted to get a feel for the city
by exploring the downtown area. In other words, we were looking for
somewhere to eat. I had heard, and been warned, about the famous Cincinnati
chili. A Cincy native told me it's like a plate of pre-teen spaghetti
with meat sauce that got carried away with dad's Old Spice cologne.
The whole thing is then covered with a metric ton of grated cheddar
cheese-out of embarrassment.
Despite the caution, though, we wanted the full Queen City experience
and stopped into Skyline Chili. We were served by a cordial young
man who guided us through the menu, brought out a large platter of
"Three-Way" Chili, and then ran behind the counter to watch us try
to eat it-and keep it down. (I'm pretty sure he was putting us on
YouTube.) No, really, he checked on us regularly and even brought
us a first-time-visitor gift bag containing some York Peppermint Patties
to cleanse the remains of our palates. All joking aside, the chili
was actually quite satisfying, and we ate every bite. We're still
hoping to regain our sense of taste someday.
Our next stop was another Cincinnati institution called Graeter's
Ice Cream (founded in 1870-before correct spelling was invented).
When we asked for the most popular flavor, our server gave us each
a scoop of raspberry chocolate chip, an odd combination, we thought,
but after the silly chili, we were ready for anything. What we weren't
prepared for was that at Graeter's, "chocolate chip" is code for massive
geological deposits of chocolate formed during the Cretaceous period.
This unique ice cream is created through the French Pot technique,
which involves pouring molten chocolate directly into the cream during
the cold mixing process while maintaining a Gallic accent and an attitude
that you're better than everyone else. The chocolate chip ice cream
at Graeter's was so overwhelming that we didn't feel like going back
until the next day-and the next.
About an hour after the ice cream, we were ready to eat again, so
we booked an evening dinner cruise with BB Riverboats aboard The Belle
of Cincinnati. This majestic paddleboat churns down the Ohio River,
half of which is owned by Kentucky in some kind of time-share agreement.
(I think the people of Kentucky are somewhat consoled about the river's
name by the fact that Ohio's residents are named after a poisonous
nut.) The boat was truly grand, and the passengers consisted of my
wife and me, about a hundred high school kids from an Upward Bound
program, and the residents of every retirement village in the Ohio
Valley. After dinner, there was even a DJ and dancing on the upper
deck. My wife and I were struck by how well-behaved and calm the teenagers
were, but we figured they were probably just in shock from watching
several of the elderly female passengers twerking to V.I.C.'s "Wobble."
It was a true privilege visiting Cincinnati and being honored by the
NSNC on the night of the awards banquet. I'm guessing the Pulitzer
folks probably won't come knocking anytime soon, but just in case
they do, I'd better put on some pants.
© Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" July
15, 2018 column
On June 9, 2018, Jase Graves received his second award for humor
writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists at the
annual convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Also in June, he received a first-place plaque from the Texas Press
Association for his humor writing for the Kilgore News Herald.