© 2016 Sharee Allen.

DOING LIFE 

Thursday's Mass Shooting in Cincinnati's Fountain Square Reignites Gun Debate

Six Arguments to Help You Focus on the Facts, Not Emotions

The recent deaths in my hometown of Cincinnati were senseless, tragic, and eerily close. As usual, I gravitated toward a solution-focused version of horrified. In my mind it is never too soon to honor those lost by trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again. And again. And again. While my heart goes out to the families, I also realize that isn't enough. So here are a few of the most common talking points from defensive gun rights advocates, and the research to discuss them intelligently. 

1. We should all own guns to protect our families from home break-ins.

This is probably the most common argument, and it is important, because it opens up the discussion to the great responsibility that a gun owner has. To lock their guns away, keep the safety on, keep ammunition separate, and most importantly, to educate their children about the risks. Of course, the issue then becomes, if you keep it properly locked up and out of reach for potential accidents, you may not be able to get to it and load it in time during the brief seconds when a robber/attacker may be entering your home. Why not a dead bolt, home security system, or the age-old version, a dog?

Sadly, you and your family are more likely to experience an accidental injury or death by your own firearm than you are to successfully ward off a burglar. Guns are now the third leading cause of death for children in America, where 19 children are killed by or treated for gun injuries every day.

It's also worth noting a PEW Research survey's findings: out of a pool of NRA members, 74% supported increased background checks in order to buy a gun. There are a lot of gun owners who get it. They just want more regulations, more education, so they're not lumped in with the radicals and the terrorists. There are also groups like Veterans For Gun Reform, who produced this beautiful video.

2. Cars kill people. Why don't we ban cars?

My favorite flawed Whatabout-ism point, not only because cars are designed for transportation and not hurting/killing, and a vastly greater percentage of Americans own cars, but because of this simple fact: WE DID. We didn't ban them completely, which is of course not what we're trying to do now with guns, but we had a moment when we decided "Enough with the vehicular deaths already," and we began regulating cars. In the Johnson administration, the Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed, as was the Highway Safety Act, and car manufacturers suddenly had to budget for seatbelts, flame resistant fuel tanks, safety reports and inspections, and so much more. And what happened? Vehicular deaths plummeted. So if we're going to compare the two, let's learn from history.

3. Hands off my second amendment rights!

Ah, the 2nd Amendment, such a misunderstood and hotly contested amendment in our bill of rights. The right to serve in a "well-regulated Militia" is what this amendment was written about, as there were concerns that a state might be under physical attack from the federal government. We are now 227 years into the future, and a lot has changed, including the guns. Yes, big government still has too much power. But it's not the guns keeping us safe from that. It's voting, being cognizant that this also means voting with our dollar, and peaceful protest when necessary. It's being informed about the technological advances and how the government uses them in surveillance, it's fact-checking what we read and not buying into propaganda. Knowledge is power these days. If you really believe that the only thing keeping the federal government from overthrowing all checks & balances and becoming a dictatorship is your 9mm, let's just agree to disagree and move on to the next issue. But if you do accept that it's a bit more complicated than that, and maybe a few more regulations could help, here's some food for thought from Medium writer Daniel Brezenoff:

4. The only thing that stops mass shootings is the "good guy with a gun."

As a mental health professional and licensed therapist, I can tell you that it's pretty difficult to place most people into a permanent "good or bad" category. People are dynamic, they change, they grow, and yes, they have moments of weakness and bad judgement. Much like suicidal ideation or active addiction, access can be one of the biggest triggers. You think about doing something impulsive, but if it takes awhile to act on it (you don't have a weapon or drugs/alcohol in the house), then you have more time to talk yourself out of it, calm down, or seek help.

The officers who take down mass shooters are noble and deserve accolades for their bravery. But we're really talking about the vigilante bystander here. To investigate this, let's take the massacre in Las Vegas less than a year ago, which produced a hopeful and bold change in stance. Guitarist Caleb Keeter of the Josh Abbott Band, who was playing during the shooting, publicly reversed his views. Keeter said that there is no way that he and friends with legal firearms could've done anything to prevent the tragedy, because the police would think that they were the shooters. He passionately expressed regret for not realizing this sooner, and called for gun control ASAP.

5. Guns don't kill. Crazy people do. There's no stopping a person who makes up their mind to kill.

Guns certainly help, though. I don't buy the argument that "these people would do it anyway with another weapon," because it doesn't make sense not to try everything in our power to make it hard on them. The FBI reports that in 2016 alone, 73% of homicides were carried out by firearms. Let the murderers try to figure out how to stab dozens of people without getting taken down; if we can lessen the deaths at all, that's still a success. Again, it's about access.

The fact is that we really do need more research on what we can do to prevent gun violence. After every mass shooting (and this recent one in Cincinnati was no exception) people begin speculating and arguing on social media. But we don't know what we don't know: there was an amendment passed in 1996 called the Dickey Amendment, which effectively blocked the CDC from researching possible ways to reduce gun-related deaths. This research accounts for less than .085% of the CDC's studies. The Dickey Amendment's author has since changed his position, expressing a wish for more research on the subject.

6. It's not American citizens with guns that's the problem, it's immigrants. They're dangerous.

On the contrary, the immigrant community is statistically less likely to engage in violent behavior, according to many nationwide studies, including these from the nonpartisan groups at CATO Institute. The results are inconclusive as to why exactly these figures are lower, but one leading theory is that people who do the work required to uproot their lives and become ex-pats are motivated, forward-thinking and ambitious, personalities less likely to be criminals.

And while we're thinking outside of our tiny American ethnocentric box, let's look at some evidence for the fact that methodical gun control works: Australia. There was a mass shooting there (also in 1996...coincidence?) and legislators limited access to semiautomatic weapons, created buy-back programs, and put a gun registry in place. Over 1 million guns were surrendered. Guess what? There have been NO MASS SHOOTINGS in Australia since. That's over 22 years!

Lastly, an Honorable Mention: Killer Mike of Run the Jewels & Bernie Sanders

To watch role models respectfully disagree with each other on the issue, watch this video (most relevant: 3:00 - 7:30). 

Sources: American Public Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Medium, CATO Institute, Foreign Policy, PEW Research, Washington Post, History.com

 Why Your Final Stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Should Be in Cincinnati

 Northside Distillery Celebrates its One Year Anniversary

Northside Distillery at 921 Race Street in downtown Cincy is a built-from-the-ground-up establishment founded by good friends who just really love satisfying bourbon. We stumbled in one night and immediately felt like one of the crew: we were offered a tour of the distillery, a complimentary slice of their house-made pizza from a generous fellow patron, and general warm vibes all around.

As an added bonus, the music playlist was fantastic, we joined some strangers in a game of Cards Against Humanity, and the bartenders blew our minds with the knowledge that corn isn't always considered a vegetable. We recommend getting there today for their One Year Anniversary Party, or any night when you'd like to sip delicious whiskey or bourbon cocktails until to can't stand anymore. (Please: take an Uber!)

​ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY TODAY (April 21, 2018)

  • Until 7pm: Exclusive Barrel Proof Bourbon Release

    • 115 Bottles were produced to commemorate their first year of distilling in downtown Cincy

    • It's spicy, smooth, and 115.7 proof so it's got some kick!

  • 7-8pm: Guided tour of the distillery with Master Distiller Chris Courts

    • Chris will walk bourbon lovers through the distillation process and explain how booze is made

  • 9:30pm-??: Meraki Haus DJ set  

    • The party continues from there!​

www.northsidedistilling.com

Not in Cincy area or can't make it? Check out the next best thing -- exclusive video from Master Distiller Chris Courts here:

No Person is Illegal: The Day and Night Treatment of Immigrants in Los Angeles

By Sharee Allen

Photos by Clay Pilcher-Sipiora and Sharee Allen

Benjamín Ramírez is the street cart vendor in the recent viral video, posted by Imelda Reyes and depicting an angry Argentinian man telling him to move his cart, and proceeding to attack him, pushing over the cart and spilling goods on the sidewalk.  Although this type of unprovoked assault is nothing new, in our country and elsewhere, my personal attachment to the video in question is that it took place on the street I used to live on in East Hollywood, CA.  The area is a cross-section between touristy Hollywood, glitzy Larchmont adjacent to Warner Brothers Studios, the northernmost part of Koreatown, and a quiet few blocks of mostly-Latino family residences.

According to the article on Splinter News, Ramírez is from Guerrero, Mexico, and moved to the US eight months ago. He says he arrived "mojado," which is literally translated to "wet," but has become Spanish slang for entering the country without papers. He began selling elote on the streets of Hollywood two weeks ago. He was a dishwasher at a local restaurant, but needed full-time work (the restaurant was only offering six-hour shifts), so he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and buy his own food cart.

Enter the hostile man in the Guns'N'Roses t-shirt. After the cart-flipping incident, local women (who used to be my neighbors) reportedly came out of their houses to help Ramírez clean up his foodstuffs. These women are the real heroes. No one died in this attack, and that doesn't mean it's not news. Yet another example of the way honest, hardworking people are treated by those who feel entitled to something more.

Storytelling Helps Residents Shape Three More Developing Cincinnati Neighborhoods

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By Shawn Braley

Photos by Sharee Allen

Cincy Stories’ successful neighborhood project, Street Stories, is now heading to East Price Hill, Lower Price Hill and West Price Hill to engage with a Story Gallery, live events and filmmaking all with the purpose of building community through story.

 

Cincy Stories, in conjunction with the Haile Foundation, LISC, Artswave, and Price Hill Will, continues their work of building community through story in all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods by tackling the great neighborhoods of Price Hill. This project, known as Street Stories, is focused on building sustainable change in neighborhoods by using the craft of storytelling to bridge divides and build empathy. By creating a Story Gallery (think art gallery, coffee shop and living room all in one), hosting live events and creating multi-media documentary stories to be housed online.

Cincy Stories successfully completed the first neighborhood, Walnut Hills, in this project in October of 2016. Through the efforts there, they gathered 21 stories from Walnut Hills residents for their website, as well as actively worked to see change happen in Walnut Hills through the power of storytelling and community building. Through the work of storytelling in Walnut Hills, an entire neighborhood little league is being started by neighborhood residents.

Cincy Stories plans to continue this trend through the neighborhoods of Price Hill from July 7th-October 31st, with weekly events throughout and with an actively open Story Gallery (times TBD) throughout the entirety of the project. As all three of Price Hill’s neighborhoods develop, and shifting dynamics occur, Cincy Stories will capture the shifting populace and the stories that intersect as the neighborhoods develop and varying people groups learn to be neighbors.

Go to www.cincystories.org for more information! 

GSLEN Pink Prom: Celebrating & Enhancing Support for LGBTQ Youth

By John Mabery

Photos by Sharee Allen

Hundreds of teenagers packed the Masonic Temple in downtown Cincinnati for GLSEN's Pink Prom 2017.  The event — free to youth ages 12-18 — featured performances by the Queen City Court, as well as music from DJ JonJon of Q102.  It was a huge success for the organization, which not only saw generous donations from US Bank and Planned Parenthood, but from the parents of LGBTQ youth as well, who celebrated with their own event upstairs.  

The fancier version just a few stair steps away was dubbed the 

Safe Space Soiree. 

In part for guardians of the teens at prom, but really for any and all supporters of GSLEN, this was a fundraising gala and dinner. The immaculate desserts (including I-kid-you-not the best bourbon-filled cupcakes I've ever tasted), silent auctions, entertainment by dance troupe Pones, and killer photo booth, had everyone singing and mingling all night. But just in case you needed a little extra glee, there was an invite to take in the youth event via the Masonic’s ballroom balcony.  Safe Space Soiree admissions & donations all went to support the prom, GLSEN's weekly Youth Group, and outreach programs to local schools.

"Thanks to the proceeds from prom, we are now able to fund our Youth Group meetings for the entire year," volunteer Meeka Jones announced to the delight of the crowd.  It was an idyllic evening for all of the young people in attendance, as GLSEN and the supporting organizations helped to remind us that with a little effort (and a lot of pink), we can create a safe space where everyone belongs.     

Perception Management - January 21, 2017

Ways Your Life Could Be Affected by the Drumpf Administration

(And What You Can Do)

By Sharee Allen

It’s inauguration weekend, and as protests spring up all over the country and the world, here are some options for individualized responses to the issues that could affect us the most.

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Let it be known that this is not a partisan issue or article. The Women’s Marches today were not about Democrats whining because they lost: Actually, I met people from all different political backgrounds. This is about human rights, and the push to appreciate one another’s differences, opening up civil, intelligent discourse to strategize together and solve our nation’s issues. You’ll notice that my sources range from The Guardian to a UK-based newspaper, from CNN to Fox News, from a YouTube compilation video to a psychologist’s website.  

David Ortiz - A Tribute From a Baseball Fan 

 

Neither of these are lies, but only part of the truth.  

 

The truth is that I was born and raised a Yankees fan.  While I don’t apologize for each and every one of those 27 championships they won while the Red Sox and their fan base saw their seasons end prematurely (or, like in ’86, in calamity), I have softened a bit in my old age.  I have become more of a “realistic” fan than a “diehard” fan.  I don’t expect the Yankees to win a championship every season, which I’ve found has reduced the amount of stress in my life greatly.  I also don’t mind when another team get their due.

 

It wasn’t always that way.  

 

Back in 2004, the dynasty of the late nineties was still alive and well in my mind, and it made me blind to the fact that change was on the horizon.  That was a very passionate time for both clubs and their respective fan bases, with a lot of strong personalities and intense individual rivalries on display every time the two clubs matched up.

 

Admittedly, I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of the 2004 ALCS, as it provided a couple of traumatic nights for me in my college dorm room.  A lot of chairs were knocked over, doors were slammed, walls were punched.  In other rooms throughout the building and all over campus, however, many leapt and cried for joy as the Red Sox mounted an unprecedented comeback.  I recall a girl I knew who was from Massachusetts saying that her mother had been holding her rosary beads, praying, when David Ortiz hit that walk-off home run that ignited the greatest rally in sports history.

 

“He’s our family’s favorite player,” she wept.

  

Indeed, Ortiz was at the very heart of that comeback, wrapping up the ALCS with a .387 batting average, three home runs, and 11 RBIs - good for MVP of the series.  Those were the three in the 53 career home runs Papi has hit against the Yankees that hurt the most.  In a lot of ways, 2004 was our comeuppance for decades of torture.

 

As I alluded to before, there were times when I didn’t always censor my love for the Bronx Bombers.  

 

In 2013, I was entrenched as a jack-of-all trades for the Cape Cod Baseball League.  Having recently moved to the Cape, I went into a jewelry shop in Dennis looking for a chain.  The woman behind the counter and I became engaged in a friendly conversation about my new gig and baseball in general when the royal question came about.

 

“So are you a Sox fan?” she asked.

 

“No,” I answered in earnest, “I’m a Yankees fan.”

 

She responded with the kind of raw sincerity you could only get from members of Red Sox Nation.

 

“Yeah, goodbye.”

 

And she meant it, so I left.  I never went into that shop again, which is fine because I probably wouldn’t have been allowed back anyway.

 

That was around the time Ortiz made himself fodder for sports talk radio after smashing his bat against the bullpen phone in the visitor’s dugout at Camden Yards.  The Orioles even gave Ortiz that very phone as a parting gift.

 

But what I really remember of that 2013 season was April 20th - the day the Red Sox paid tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing.  It was a beautiful ceremony that embodied the resilient nature of a tough city, but Papi’s speech that ignited the competitive fire that burned all season long and defined the Boston Strong movement.  If there was anyone worthy of making such a statement at a time, it was #34.   

 

“This is our fucking city,” Ortiz declared, “and nobody gonna dictate our freedom.  Stay strong.”

 

At that moment, the tears that were brimming in my eyes spilled down my face.  I still get choked up watching that video.  I felt, watching that ceremony unfold on TV, two things.  First, that this was the beginning of a long healing process.  Second, that it was impossible not to route for the Red Sox from that moment on.  For them to win it all that season would be what the script dictated.  

 

There are times when the harsh realities of our world spill over into the fantasy world of professional sports to a point we can’t ignore.  We put our hope into our favorite teams to give us some redemption from the trials and tribulations we face on a daily basis.  The Red Sox of 2013 was that team for a reeling city and a hopeful fan base.  

 

Again, David Ortiz was at the heart of it.  He backed up his sentiments that April day by hitting .309 with 30 home runs and 109 RBIs on the season.  In the World Series against the Cardinals, Ortiz batted .688 with an OBP of .760, helping him win his third World Series ring and the MVP award.  Thankfully, the Red Sox adhered to the script.    

 

So here we are, three years after that last World Series title and twelve years after the first in 86 years and David Ortiz is still at the heart of it.  This season, he’s put up staggering numbers that have helped move the Red Sox not just back into contention, but to the top of a crowded AL East.  I don’t doubt that playing DH helped to stave off the advances of Father Time, but it’s his bat for which he will receive consideration when he’s eligible for Cooperstown.  I will always think of him as a professional hitter.  Like a hunter stalking his prey, Ortiz steps into the batter’s box looking so composed as he waits to strike.  Then there’s that swing - so violent yet elegant - that has sent (to this point) 540 balls into orbit.  It’s what makes him so beloved to Red Sox Nation and so feared amongst fans of the 29 other clubs.   

 

For me, David Ortiz’s retirement signals the end of an era and the start of a new one.  While players like Varitek, Wakefield, and Damon have ridden off into the sunset, we enter a period that has seen the rise of names like Betts, Bogarts, and Bradley Jr.  It also represents a change of the guard for the Yankees, who have seen players like Jeter and Rivera leave the game behind to make way for the Baby Bombers.  Ortiz has been the bridge between those two generations.  

 

When the Mount Rushmore of the Red Sox is erected, Ortiz will undoubtedly be its George Washington - that fearless leader who could rally the troops with his word and his bat.  He has provided the sport with some of its most iconic moments of the new millennium, including that aforementioned speech, which in my mind will be his greatest achievement.  He’s flipped and adhered to the script when he it was called for.  Most of all, I think baseball will miss his eccentricities.  He’s done everything in his power to make baseball fun, even if it wasn’t fun for the opposition.

 

That’s why I’m going to sit back and watch Big Papi one last time.  And when it’s all said and done, I’ll stand and salute him as a fan of baseball. 

Last month, I got on the BART heading towards San Francisco and sat next to a woman wearing a Boston Red Sox jersey.  She wasn’t the only one, as the car was swamped with citizens from Red Sox Nation, who were out in full force to see their favorite team thrash the Oakland A’s (which they had the previous two games).

 

I looked down and instantly recognized the folded piece of paper between us as a printed ticket.  I picked it up and handed it to her.

 

“You definitely don’t want to lose this,” I told her.

 

Naturally she was grateful.  We then struck up a conversation, and I told her how I’d gone to the game the night before.

 

“What team are you a fan of?” she asked.

 

That’s when I paused, the lump forming in my throat.  I’ve been asked this question by Boston fans before, but more on those past transgressions later.  For the mean time, I provide her with a safe answer:  

 

“I’m an overall fan of baseball.. Plus I wanted to see Big Papi one last time.”

On Thursday, David Ortiz played his last game in the Bronx.  After penning an open letter to Yankee fans earlier this week, I decided it was appropriate to write a response.  To Big Papi, this one’s for you...

By John Mabery

Fan Photo Compliments of Boston Dirtdogs

SPORTS: MLB Tour of the Midwest Continues in Kansas City

By John Mabery

Photos by Sharee Allen

After years in the cellar of the American League Central while quietly building a World Series contender, thirty years of patience paid off for the Kansas City fan base.  This past fall, the Royals won the World Series title they were destined to win.  And though they’ve watched their championship team slowly unravel due to injury to coincide with the rise of the division rival Indians, the stigma of the playoff drought that plagued the team through the early aughts is a long distant memory.

 

We paid our first visit to Kauffman Stadium on June 15th - the day the Royals defeated the Indians 9-4 to help them complete a three-game sweep.  “The K” - as it was once known - is a bit of an anomaly in the realm of baseball stadiums.  Much like Dodger Stadium, it was built specifically for baseball at a time when many stadiums were being built as multi-purpose stadiums.  It was named after team-founder Ewing Kauffman as opposed being named after a corporation.  There’s a section of the outfield concourse dedicated to the history of the Kansas City Monarchs, the statues of Dick Howser, George Brett, Frank White, and Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman, and the iconic scoreboard and fountains in centerfield.  All of these characteristics help to give Kauffman a sense of purity among the amusement park and food court vibe that saturates many a ballpark.  

 

But what makes the Kauffman Stadium experience so great, especially at present, is its fan base.  No matter where you find your seat - be it along the third baseline or the upper deck out in right or standing by those glorious fountains - you are surrounded by some of the most gracious baseball fans you’ll ever meet.  There are fans of all ages, from mothers with infants (I’m talking actual newborns here) to old-timers keeping track of the game with their score sheets.  They come to Kauffman because they know they’re part of something special; that they’re seeing the greatest Royals lineup ever assembled.  It is for that reason that I felt overwhelmed with happiness, not just for the good folks of Kansas City but for myself as a fan of the game.  It was easily one of the top three experiences I’ve had watching America’s pastime in person.  

Remembering Orlando Victims at Denver Pride Fest

By John Mabery

Photos by Sharee Allen

The Mile High City puts on one hell of a Pride Fest.  It’s the kind of of place where people rock t-shirts that say “Straight Outta The Closet,” where some local head shop has a booth right next to one used by the Denver Police Department, and most importantly, where people are free to celebrate who they really are away from the far-reaching shadow of intolerance.  And with the shootings at Pulse in Orlando less than a week prior still fresh in everyone’s mind, there was no better way to show unity than by having the kind of good time as only Denver can.

 

We walked around for two hours taking in the magnificence of the festival.  It made me think about the places where people feel safest, where they’re free to be whoever or whatever it is they want to be.  Thinking about the people in Orlando who were killed for doing just that, I saw hundreds of people defy the hundred-degree heat as they danced to club music in brilliant outfits.  It brought me so much happiness, watching people commiserate amongst each other, expressing themselves freely, and living their lives to the fullest.  

  

Afterward, I stood for a long time watching people sign their names on the giant wooden box dedicated to the victims of the Pulse shooting.  Even though one’s name might be written over by many others, the sentiment remained.  It was impossible to be at Denver Pride and not think about how lucky we were to be celebrating our freedoms.  That the LGBTQ community continues to take a stand, even after such atrocities as the one committed in Orlando, is perhaps the best tribute we can offer in such desperate times.

 NEW YORK YANKEES v. Chicago White Sox, May 15, 2016.  Photos Compliments of Sjoerd Eliens

GLSEN pink prom 2017