Day 539: Natty in Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio was named after Cincinnatus, an aristocratic farmer during the Roman Republic who was chosen to lead the army against the Aequi in the Battle of Mons Algidus in BC 458. After the Aequi were defeated, he resigned and returned to his farm. He served as dictator for only 16 days. He is depicted in a statue in Cincinnati holding in one hand a fascis, an ax bound in a cylinder of birch rods, and, in the other, a plow. The fascis was a symbol of Roman might and has been commonly used by later governments to identify with the power of the Roman Empire. In the twentieth century, Benito Mussolini adopted it as the symbol of his corporatist government that became known as Fascism.

Cincinnati is situated across from the mouth of an Ohio River tributary, the Licking River, presumably named for the presence of salt licks along its 300-mile course. When the city was founded in 1788, John Filson, the surveyor, named it “Losantiville,” combining English, Latin, Greek, and French words that to something that roughly translated means, “the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River.”

Laetitia and her group began the day at the statue of Cincinnatus and spent the rest of the day visiting the Taft Museum of Art, the Heritage Village Museum, the German Heritage Museum, and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

That evening before dinner Laetitia spent happy hour in a cocktail lounge a bit more elegant than she often encountered when she led tours. Her perch at the bar was within earshot of a table of ostentatiously dressed older women. One was complaining loudly about some of her envious friends. The conversation spawned the limerick of the day.

Said a lady who’s from Cincinnati
“I think my new coat is quite natty
And when my friends aver
That it isn’t real fur
I think they are just being catty.”

Day 538: Dirt in Van Wert

Laetitia and her group began the day with a hike along Cranberry Run, the stream that passes through Pandora, Ohio. Afterward they headed over to Fort Jennings, where they had lunch, visited a small local museum depicting the history of the fortress constructed during the war of 1812, and visited the Zane Shawnee Caverns, owned and operated by the Shawnee Tribe.

Their destination was Van Wert, Ohio, a city of about 11,000, west of Pandora. One of the city’s claims to fame is Liederkranz cheese, a variety similar to Limburger made with a different bacterial strain. Emil Frey, a cheesemaker of Swiss descent, created it at his cheese company in Monroe, New York. Frey named his stinky cheese Liederkranz, after a German-American singing circle in New York City. He moved the Liederkranz-making business to Van Wert in 1926. Frey’s other claim to fame was the invention of Velveeta, a “pasteurized prepared cheese product” that passed for cheese and, along with Spam and Wonder Bread, has adorned the tables of frugal Americans since early in the twentieth century.

That evening at dinner, Laetitia’s table was within earshot of elderly women who were chitchatting about Millie, an acquaintance who was, in their words, “a gossiper.” Millie became the subject of the limerick of the day.

Old Millie enjoyed dishing dirt
About scandalous deeds in Van Wert
Of beddings without weddings
And behind-the-woodsheddings
At bridge club with tea and dessert.

Day 537: Pandora’s Box

With her group, Laetitia headed south from Sandusky to the Pickerel Creek Wilderness for some bird watching. Then they headed north again to the lakeshore to hike in the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Late that afternoon they arrived at Pandora, Ohio, a village of about 1,200 inhabitants and their evening’s destination.

When “Pandora” is mentioned, most think of Pandora’s box, based on a corruption of a myth recounted by Hesiod that might be more appropriately called “Pandora’s Jar.” In Greco-Roman mythology, Zeus is angry because Prometheus gave fire to mortals and directs Hephaestus to craft the first woman on his forge. With the help of Athena, Hephaestus creates a beguiling goddess-like being whom Zeus gives to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus as bride, along with a jar with a warning label telling the couple not to open it. Zeus gets his revenge when Pandora, overcome by curiosity, opens the jar and unleashes all manner of evil on humankind. The last thing to come out of the jar is hope.

At happy hour that afternoon, Laetitia sat at the bar next to a woman of about her own age who introduced herself as Flora and said she taught English at a nearby community college. Flora said she liked living in Pandora except for one thing. She deplored people who make bad jokes about her Pandora’s box, crude slang references to female genitalia. She motioned at a boisterous group of men sitting at a table near the door. “They all used to play sports. Some of them were pretty good once, but ‘man and boy stood cheering by and home we brought them shoulder high’ hasn’t happened for a long time. My dad calls them ‘schlock jocks.’ He says they used to be athletes, and now they’re just athletic supporters.”

Laetitia smiled. Flora sipped her bourbon and water and continued, “These days they mostly drink beer, talk sports, support the local sports teams, and tell bad jokes. Watch when I walk out after I finish my drink. At least one of them will make some dumb joke about my Pandora’s box.” Flora’s prediction was accurate, and afterward, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day.

A canny young lady named Flora
Through experience came to deplore a
Lad who tells jokes to jocks
‘Bout her Pandora’s box,
The bane of all girls from Pandora.

Day 536: Husky in Sandusky

Today’s destination was the Great Lakes city of Sandusky, Ohio. There are two hypotheses about how the city got its name. One is that it’s a corruption of a Seneca phrase, “san to chee,” meaning “cold water.” The other is that it is the corruption of the name of a seventeenth-century Polish trader named Sadowski or Sodowsky. One of Sandusky’s tourist attractions is an amusement park at Cedar Point that features one of the largest collections of roller coasters in the world. Laetitia and her group went to the amusement park in the morning. In the afternoon, they visited the Maritime Museum of Sandusky and hiked along the lakefront.

When Laetitia walked into the bar she had chosen for happy hour, she found the atmosphere saturated with the strong odor of musky perfume emanating from a stylishly dressed woman at the bar. Undeterred, Laetitia took the bar stool next to the woman and introduced herself. Most people who populate happy hours have just finished work, but Jane, the woman on the next barstool, said she was going to her work, which was, as she described it, “making money from men.” Like everyone else, Jane had dreams. Hers was to meet a wealthy man who would “take her away from all that.” She imagined him tall and muscular, but most of the men she met were otherwise. When she left to go on her “appointed rounds,” Laetitia wrote a limerick in her notebook, finished her drink, and went off to join her group for dinner.

Wearing strong scent quite musky
Jane cruised the night streets of Sandusky
Seeking guys fat or thin
Although she preferred men
Who were tall, well muscled, and husky.