A Trip to Porkopolis

               Apparently Cincinnati is a funnier city than Cleveland. But, I guess a city that was at one time known as “Porkopolis” would have to have a pretty decent sense of humor. When I lived there in the mid-1970s (See; “Learning to Manage” http://wp.me/p6DjKy-3n) I didn’t see it but “The Queen City” has developed into a full fledged stand up comic.

               Presidents’ Day gave us a three day weekend so Barbara and I, along with our friends  Marc and Ellen, decided that Cincinnati might make a good choice. We were running out of places to go having previously visited such hot tourist attractions as Pittsburgh, Toronto, Chicago and Vermilion, Ohio (home of the Vermilion Jail Bed and Breakfast, a former real jail that now houses idiots who pay to sleep on a jail cot, behind real jail bars while dressed in prison uniforms! Actually, it was pretty cool. Just don’t drop your soap in the shower)!

              Cincinnati. Known for its culture (it’s the chili capital of America): its history (Jerry Springer (yes “THAT” Jerry Springer) was once mayor of Cincinnati and was arrested for promoting prostitution after the police found one of his checks made out to a “lady of the evening” with the notation “for services rendered!”); and, its nightlife (see: Jerry Springer’s hooker.) Actually, the choice was based more on the fact that we could drive there on less than one tank of gas in Marc’s Prius.

              So, come Friday after work, we hopped into the Prius, raring to go. Well, with Barbara’s fourteen suitcases it wasn’t so much a hop as it was a skip and a schlep. Okay, she didn’t really have fourteen suitcases. But she did have enough luggage that a cop would probably have been justified in pulling us over to search for a hidden compartment filled with drugs because the car was riding so low. I think, however, that I could probably have convinced the officer that had there been a hidden compartment; Barbara would have filled it with shoes, not drugs.

             [Just an aside but has anyone else realized that you can make your way across the country stopping to eat and using the bathrooms only at Costcos along the route?]

            We finally made Cincinnati and pulled in to our destination around 10:30 just in time to be locked out of the hotel. Apparently the front door is computerized and doesn’t work without assistance from the front desk clerk. Also, apparently the front desk clerk doesn’t work without the assistance of someone smacking him upside the head.

             He finally heard our knocking on the door window and permitted us to enter. Luckily, we were able to grab a luggage cart or we would probably still be there carrying in Barbara’s luggage. We checked in just in time to miss the free popcorn, pop (soda to you in the east) and cookies that they provide to guests every evening. But the hotel seemed nice. It was serene. It was a trap.

             We decided to call it a night and went to our respective adjoining rooms. We were all  tired and we had big plans for the next day. So, of course, the fire alarm went off at 3:15 in the morning. And, not wanting to be saved in her pajamas by the Cincinnati Fire Department’s counterparts to TV’s fictional Chicago Fire characters Kelly Severide or Matthew Casey, Barbara decided we should get dressed before heading out of the hotel. The fire alarm stopped precisely after we got fully dressed, put on our coats and opened the door to exit.

             Suffice it to say this fire alarm was only the first of three fire alarms that we experienced over the weekend. There was one more at the hotel the next day (which gave us the fortuitous opportunity to browse the lovely gift shop at the Cracker Barrel conveniently located next door to our hotel) and then there was another while we were shopping at Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA (which was formerly known as “Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd” but changed its name because by the time their greeter said “Welcome to Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd” to shoppers entering the store, it was closing time). This totally unnecessary shopping will probably form the basis of a later blog.

             Anyway, we woke up in time to go to the free breakfast buffet that our hotel offered (free waffles will get anybody up, even on a Saturday morning!) only to find the dining area overrun by approximately 942 children, many of whom were there for some kind of regional cheerleading competition. And their parents and supporters. Not to fret, however. The hotel had two toasters. And two waffle makers. And it only took about five minutes to make a waffle so by doing some advanced math I can tell you that since we were about 340th in line for the waffle machine, we were able to eat breakfast on the following Wednesday. There is nothing more fun than standing in line to make waffles while listening to competing groups of eight and nine year old cheerleaders yelling cheers at each other. It makes you wish for another fire alarm. Or even an actual fire. When I finally made my waffles I shoved them in my ears.

             Our first stop after breakfast was at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center which, despite its name, reveals stories of freedom’s heroes, not just from the era of the Underground Railroad but through contemporary times. It is truly a must see and while nothing particularly funny happened there, a note to Donald J. Trump: the Center’s exhibit seems to indicate that Frederick Douglas is, in fact, still deceased.

             By the end of our time at the Freedom Center, we were hungry and decided to find a place to eat. Startlingly, there was no Costco nearby so we drove the short ride over the bridge to Newport, Kentucky (which for some reason considers itself to be part of Cincinnati as does the Cincinnati airport which is actually located in Hebron, Kentucky).

             The first place we saw was a place called “Mad Mike’s” and the sign above the door guaranteed us that it had the “Best Burger in Town.” Now, Newport, Kentucky is not a very big town so I wasn’t all that impressed with their marketing strategy. I was even less impressed when we drove around the corner looking for a place to park and saw another place that had the exact same claim on its building; “Best Burger in Town.” Now, it is possible that the second place was actually located in a different town, depending on how the boundary lines are drawn but, being the geniuses that we are, and assuming this was all part of Newport, we quickly figured out that they couldn’t both be right.

           We decided that we would let luck decide where we went; we would go to the place that was closest to the first available parking spot we could find. As fate would have it, a spot opened up right across from “Mad Mike’s.”

             Now, the short version of this story would be to tell you that the burger at “Mad Mike’s” was the best that any of us had ever had (except for Ellen, who is a vegetarian so she got a grilled cheese sandwich). It actually was the best burger any of us who eat meat had ever had. The burger and fries were tremendous. (I was willing to go to that other restaurant and sample their burger just to be sure but, the other three kept complaining they were too full to eat another bite. So we will never really know if Mad Mike’s was truly the best burger in town. But it was sure damn good!!!)

              But that shortened version would deny you the opportunity of learning what it took for us to get from the car to “Mad Mike’s” on this lovely Saturday afternoon that was also Marc’s birthday. There was an old advertising campaign that used to say “We make money the old fashion way. We earn it.” Well, we earned our burgers (and Ellen’s cheese sandwich).  

             Apparently all the parking meters in the greater Cincinnati area are credit card operated. You put your credit card into the meter, tell it how long you want to pay for and it kicks out a receipt that you put on your windshield. So, I put my credit card into the meter and … nothing happened. I then tried to remove my credit card from the meter and the damn machine refused to let go. It was stuck. We each took a try at getting it from the meter. We all failed. And there was no phone number on the meter to call in the event of a credit card eating meter emergency.

                So now we had to decide: Is a parking meter eating a credit card a “911” level police call? As it turned out, the answer appears to depend on whose card it is. If it is your card, it’s a “911” emergency to you (and by “you” I mean ME!). It’s just funny to everyone else. Unless you were supposed to be buying them lunch and no longer had that ability since the credit card is “indisposed.” Then, all of a sudden, its not so funny to everyone else but it is a little funnier to you because now they’d have to buy YOU lunch!! And pay for your hotel room!!!

                Anyway, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we were able to find the “non-emergency” number for the Newport, Kentucky police department using our cell phones. (I  kept my phone far away from the parking meter just in case the meter still wanted dessert,) The dispatcher, of course, thought we were morons when we tried (and by “we” I mean “me”) to explain what happened. She indicated she would have an officer there as soon as she could stop laughing and locate one.

                We had no idea how long the wait might be so Marc decided he would go to another nearby restaurant (i.e. not “Mad Mike’s” because we didn’t want to get Mike any madder than he was already) and see if he could borrow a pliers to try and “pry” the card out. (Shouldn’t the tool be called a “pryer” instead of a “plier?”)

                The officer arrived and, of course, couldn’t get the card out.

                  “But go ahead and park here. If you get a ticket call me and I’ll take care of it. I’ll be on duty until 6:00.”

                Great. Except what about my credit card??

                Marc then returned to the car with a pair of pliers and was able to rip the credit card from the grip of death that the parking monster had on it.

                We thanked the police officer and headed to Mad Mike’s for the best burgers we had ever had. It was a good thing we didn’t get a parking ticket because when we ran into the officer again about an hour later while walking around the city, he had absolutely no idea who we were!

               We subsequently headed back to the hotel to clean up before going out for the evening Lo and behold, we got back to the hotel just in time for the complimentary “happy hour” that the hotel provides every evening. Along with all 942 participants in the cheerleading competition who were still there along with their parents, coaches and fans.

               Let me tell you what it is like being in a small party room with 942 cheerleaders, their parents, coaches and fans and Marc, along with an unlimited crock of Cincinnati chili, unlimited hot dogs (upon which you can put cheese and more chili), baked potatoes (upon which you can put cheese and more chili) and bowls of corn chips, cheese and jalapeño peppers  (upon which, you can put even more chili).                Remember the campfire scene in “Blazing Saddles?” Mel Brooks had to shoot that outside at a campfire because the federal Department of Toxic Substances Control forbade Brooks from shooting it in a hotel party room like he originally wanted to do, with 942 cheerleaders, their parents, coaches, fans and Marc (who’s most often used statement is “I’d walk in front of me if I were you,”), using chili, chili loaded baked potatoes, chili hot dogs and chili loaded nacho chips, under penalty of imprisonment and substantial fines.

 I’m thinking there is a very high probability that there is a connection between the happy hour chili parties and the fire alarm going off every night at the hotel. 


(I don’t sell my mailing list so you won’t get any crap from anyone. Just like you wish life was really like!)

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  1. you guys should just travel all over ohio with your critique spelling? the food you displayed really looks good!

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