Thursday, July 15, 1999

True vacation is a chance to ignore real life




BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Did you miss me? I hope so. I missed you. You know I would never leave you behind unless it was absolutely necessary. In fact, I was on an important and dangerous mission that involved dangling my feet in a lake and careening around at the end of a rope with a couple of boards under my feet. I also got a sunburn and skinned my knee in a water balloon skirmish.

        But enough about me. What about you? I'm trying to catch up. Except for the nearly perfect and completely lovable Cincinnati Reds who are finally doing just exactly what we all knew they would do one of these days, the news is a little confusing.

        Let's see if I have this right.

Hitting the low spots
        Vice Mayor Minette Cooper met with the safety director and chief of police after the arrest of her son, before the case went to court. The young man subsequently was assigned to a drug treatment center, avoiding up to five years in prison.

        On the other hand, when a lemonade stand in Butler County lost $6 in a robbery, one of the perps spent 15 days in jail. The thief, 16, and his accomplice, a 17-year-old, were fined $200 each and lost their driver's licenses for six months. They had to give back the $6, perform community service and pay court costs.

        In other matters conducted at City Hall, Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey was given a limp handshake and at least six more months on the job. Everything, it appears, is his fault. Everything. Except possibly the disappearance of the peregrine falcons that were supposed to control the pigeon population downtown.

        An Ohio wildlife spokesperson says they may have moved to Kentucky. So perhaps we can blame that on Economic Development Director Andi Udris.

        On the education front, Erlanger-Elsmere schools adopted a dress code forbidding the display of body piercing. This policy was enacted to regulate the behavior of teachers. Mr. Chips, you are so over.

        Mr. Whipple, however, has returned to squeeze Procter & Gamble's Charmin. Cincinnati's cleanest corporate citizen also has announced a truce with PETA. Good news for those opposed to animal testing and bad news for the cream pie industry.

Touches of reality
        I was not completely out-of-touch during my vacation. Between solar assaults on my skin — I look just like an alligator purse now — I did check the little weekly paper in a nearby town to see if I had won the lottery. I had not. But I discovered that a beagle had suffered a heat stroke and a pair of jeans had been stolen from a locker at the high school. (At least no one had been hitting lemonade stands there.)

        As you might have guessed, I was forced to leave many vestiges of civilization behind me. When I was bored, I went to a fairgrounds where some kids were showing their horses. Shredded turkey sandwiches cost $1.50, which one of the women in the bleachers thought was a little high. Pop was 50 cents. Admission was free, and we had very good seats, close enough to see the chipped front tooth on the little boy who won.

        If I want to see Cher's teeth this month at Firstar Center, I will have to pay $75.25. I am guessing that there will be no shredded turkey. And nothing at all for 50 cents.

        Television was another amenity we exchanged for the solitude, the lake, the honking of Canada geese and the sight of blue herons fishing off the dock. When it rained, we were forced to resort to board games and cards — Clue (Colonel Mustard with a knife in the library) and Crazy Eights. (There is no way to cheat at Crazy Eights. None.)

        This was not real life, of course. It was just vacation, just temporary. And I missed you — I really did. I'm happy to be back at my desk, looking out at City Hall from my little slice of window. In the morning I did the orange barrel polka, and it was as though I was never gone. Except, of course, for the sunburn, the skinned knee and the reminder that life isn't always so complicated.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at laurapulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8340. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears regularly on WVXU radio, NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine.

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