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Can Busken’s Cookie Poll Predict the Next President?

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In the last nine elections, this poll has never been wrong: It has predicted the president of the United States with 100% accuracy. This year, Page Busken has to wonder if it might be the first wrong prediction.

“We have eight stores. Only three are open right now” because of the pandemic, says Busken, CEO of Busken Bakery, and that can make an impact.

In the 1980s, when the Bengals were Super Bowl contenders, Busken Bakery started a Super Bowl cookie poll, inviting customers to make a guess at the Super Bowl winner by purchasing a cookie of their favorite team. If that succeeded, Busken thought, why not something similar for the presidential election?

The bakery launched its first presidential cookie poll in 1984, and the 2020 election marks its 10th. Unlike, oh, every other polling company out there, it’s never been wrong.

Last year, for example, Busken Bakery sold somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 presidential poll cookies, says Brian Busken, the bakery’s vice president. President Donald Trump won that poll by just 1,500 cookies—3 percent of the total vote.

“We were pretty convinced 2016 was going to be the first year we were wrong because all the polls and all the news indicated that Trump was going to lose the election pretty swiftly,” Brian Busken says. “He’s leading now overall with the citywide count [of cookies sold]. So we’ll see where it goes. No crumb will be left uncounted.”

In addition to Busken Bakery’s open locations—in Hyde Park, Springdale, and Highland Heights—voters can also purchase cookies at area UDF stores.

The portraits

Busken Bakery has used the same local artist to create their presidential cookie portraits for years, Brian Busken says. The artist freehands the portraits and mails them to the bakery. He knows to keep the portraits simple because, once the bakery receives the portraits, it turns the drawings into foam stamps, which are cut by hand.

“It’s extremely old-school, the whole process,” Brian Busken says. “We actually stamp every cookie by hand. Once the outline [from the stamp] is dry, we airbrush in hair color and skin tone, also by hand. We’ve gotten pretty good at cranking these things out efficiently over the years.”

This year’s tally

Each day, Busken Bakery updates its Facebook page with the current poll tally. As of Thursday, for example, the posted tallies were:

  • Trump with 16,849 votes
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden with 12,553 votes
  • The smiley face, which represents “the Cookie Party,” with 7,933 votes

Brian Busken wonders if the bakery’s poll is so accurate because Ohio is such a bellwether state, with a national reputation for choosing the president. “I think it’s the only poll in the country that I’m aware of that’s been right every time,” he says.

Behind Closed Doors at The Literary Club, One of the City’s Oldest and Most Secretive Societies

Understand that what I say here isn’t going to be objective. As a member of The Literary Club since 2008, I am inevitably captive to its charms, traditions, foibles, and finer moments. I know which of my fellow “Literarians” (as we sometimes call ourselves) takes more than two cookies in the refreshment line following each week’s reading. I can anticipate with reasonable confidence whose delivery will delight and whose may not. Every Monday evening I look forward (as do most members) to the 40 minutes or so of fellowship and drinks preceding the evening’s presentation. I revere the black-tie anniversary dinner every October; the Christmas celebration with music, carols, and a big turkey dinner; and the June outing when we gather in an outdoor setting for dinner and a reading of the season’s final paper.

Photograph courtesy of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library
Photograph courtesy of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

The Literary Club is a Cincinnati institution that stretches back to 1849, founded by a group of mostly young men with an interest in the written word, the day’s issues, and a forum for discussion. Over the years, it became a gathering place for some of the city’s more prominent citizens. Two presidents, Rutherford Hayes and William Howard Taft, were members, as were such notables as Salmon P. Chase, Murray Seasongood, Robert A. Taft Jr., and artists Henry Farny and Frank Duveneck. Through the years, various trustees and heads of the region’s law firms, corporations, newspapers, and cultural, educational, and medical institutions have been members.

The format is simple. The Club opens its doors about 7 p.m. on Mondays. Of the approximately 100 members, all men, between 50 and 70 will likely drift in over the next hour and enjoy drinks together (served by the stalwart and cherished Nico Ranieri, who lives upstairs) until the president calls the meeting to order at 8 o’clock sharp. He stands at a podium on a small stage beneath the Club’s fabled slogan, “Here Comes One With a Paper” (taken from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost), and, after brief announcements, turns over the dais to whomever is presenting the evening’s reading.

The papers are the heart of the club. Each one is to be approximately 40 minutes in length. It’s to be read in its entirety, not ad-libbed or cobbled together from bullet points. Topics are varied but should not be travelogues, book reports, political polemics, or vocation-centric narratives. Accordingly, they range widely, with some recent examples including (1) the explosion of the steamer Sultana north of Memphis in April 1865, the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history with close to 1,800 dead; (2) an examination of the difficulty of attaining the U.S. presidency from the position of vice president, with a look at four VPs who tried and failed to win election to the higher office; (3) “Extra Innings,” the particularly touching memoir of a man with a fatal disease whose death had been postponed, at least for a time, through a miracle of modern medicine; and (4) “Eating Football,” about playing for the Steak House team in junior high school in Gallipolis, Ohio, the sponsor being Bob Evans’s first restaurant.

Papers may be nonfiction (the vast majority), fiction, or even poetry. Some of the best-received combine aspects of the speaker’s own experiences with extrapolations to a larger message, such as dealing with an illness or surviving during wartime or wacky (in retrospect) occurrences over a work career. (Inevitably, Procter & Gamble anecdotes generate more than a few laughs.) Style of presentation is also important; a lively delivery can make the difference between holding an audience rapt and losing it altogether. Some years ago, after a less-than-bravura performance, a colleague confided to me, “That’s 40 minutes I’ll never get back.”

While there is no formal provision for discussing the papers afterwards, refreshments are served following their reading—sandwich fixings, a hot entrée, fresh fruit, and cookies. The food is a predictably popular part of the evening, and most attendees stay for another hour or so to enjoy it and the conversations begun prior to the evening’s proceedings.


All that said, I still haven’t articulated what is, to my mind, The Literary Club’s soul, and that is the love its members bring to their affiliation. This love—commitment, really—is something unusual. To understand it, you almost have to be involved; it has, I think, many parts.

First is the sense of belonging to something very old, with a distinguished provenance that’s quintessentially Cincinnati. Although not concerned with books and reading per se, the club has deep literary roots in several organizations that preceded its founding and with such notables as Harriet Martineau, Charles Dickens, and Daniel Drake. Ralph Waldo Emerson was an early guest at the club, brought in to deliver six lectures. Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Booker T. Washington were also visitors. Add these to the noteworthy local membership, and it’s no surprise that today’s members feel part of something special.

Almost as unique as the club’s heritage is the clubhouse. A small federalist gem sandwiched between the Phelps Marriott and Western and Southern headquarters across from Lytle Park, it’s handsome on the exterior and rich with history on the interior. Paintings, documents, portraits, and such artifacts as a tattered flag from Jacob Burnet’s pre-Civil War rifle drills adorn the walls. On the ground floor are the reading room, where meetings take place, and the library, where archives of papers going back to the beginning reside. In either space, it’s impossible to not feel that you’re in rarefied air, a place both timeless and fine-tuned to its purpose. The general public is not permitted inside.

Another reward of membership is the opportunity to become acquainted with others of both common sensibilities and, often, considerable accomplishment in civilian life. Few who come into the club do so knowing many of the incumbents. But quickly enough, during cocktails and refreshments, they turn that around, and people who were recently strangers become Monday night companions and maybe close friends.

Finally, there is the sense of engagement in something unusual: the chance to share ideas and experiences through papers that are almost always carefully crafted and, at their best, memorable. With the obligation to write coming around about every 24 to 30 months, many find the question of what their subject should be their greatest challenge. Yet once settled upon, they take the task quite seriously. No one gets up on that podium for the first time without a flutter.

How does one become a member of The Literary Club? The only way is to be nominated by an incumbent, which isn’t as hard as it may sound. In this era of Six Degrees of Separation, one has only to identify a member and evince interest. Once nominated, the candidate would attend Monday gatherings to meet other members and submit to a writing test. He would eventually be voted upon.

Yes, “he.” Is there a possibility that women could be admitted as members one of these days? Probably not. The issue has been addressed at least twice in recent years. While many say the addition would be positive, others feel quite strongly that it would change the club’s chemistry. They point to, among others, the Woman’s Club in Clifton as an example of an organization that’s for women only. The last time a vote was taken, the count was approximately 85 percent against admitting women.

At the end of the day, it’s been my experience that finding prospects who are willing to take on membership is not always easy. Attendance, virtually every Monday night of the school year, is strongly encouraged, and then there are the papers. As one smart lawyer whom I thought would make a good member said to me, “Polk, I’ve written all the term papers I want to write.” Yet somehow candidates continue to surface, as they have for 171 years, and they will, I suspect, keep doing so well into the future.

FC Cincinnati Waves Goodbye to Nippert Stadium (and the Playoffs)

Nippert Stadium played a pivotal role in FC Cincinnati’s elevation from the United Soccer League to Major League Soccer, with its seating capacity and central location able to fulfill the appetite of a dormant-turned-fervent soccer city. Per tabulations made by The Enquirer, entering last night’s finale for the franchise at the 106-year-old football stadium, FCC had won or drawn 60 of the 83 of the matches it hosted there. An energized fanbase and upstart franchise transformed a nondescript, benches-filled concrete bowl into a veritable soccer stronghold defined by the Bailey’s steady clamor and an overall festive atmosphere.

 

FC Cincinnati’s concluding Nippert match October 28 against Sporting Kansas City deserved much more pageantry than COVID-19 would allow. And unfortunately, not only did SKC’s 1-0 victory—which pushed it from second to first in the Western Conference—spoil the going-away party, the loss all but eliminated any faint playoff hopes harbored by the hosts.

The cold rain that began coming down at the final whistle drove home the reality of yet another muddled, frustrating showing from a team that at times exhibits clear progress following the Great Tire Fire of 2019 but remains on track for a second successive season with the fewest points in MLS. FCC’s past two games have served as additional examples of how the club has been both unlucky at critical junctures of matches and unable to seize on any sort of positive momentum during a game—while also serving as a clear reminder of the distance to be traversed on the path to contention.

FC Cincinnati came into the match five points back of the 10th and final playoff slot in the East, with just two matches afterwards to mount a playoff charge: at Atlanta on Sunday night and at Inter Miami on November 8. The Orange and Blue needed a draw, at minimum, last night; if we’re playing the odds, they really needed a victory (and some help from other teams) to at least clear the runway for a miracle dash at the club’s first MLS playoff appearance.

The first half was a vanilla effort from both sides until Jurgen Locadia blasted a shot off SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia in the waning seconds. That was the first shot on goal for either team in a half in which FC Cincinnati retained 65 percent of the possession playing out of its Dutch brain trust’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. Sporting KC were content to concede custody of the ball in favor of pressing the hosts high up the pitch, particularly on the flanks, in hopes of creating a turnover or two along a back line that once again started three backups.

The visitors started strong to begin the second 45 minutes and were rewarded when Roger Espinoza scored in the 57th minute via a dandy pullback assist by stud striker Alan Pulido. Mere minutes later, however, Frankie Amaya won a penalty for FC Cincinnati. A lengthy VAR review followed, which may have given Siem de Jong enough time to recall the number of sitters he’s failed to put on target this season. (He sent one over the crossbar in the 8th minute). In fairness to de Jong, his ensuing penalty attempt was nearly perfect; it slammed into the right post, denying the Dutchman his first goal of the season.

After coming on as a substitute, backup striker Brandon Vazquez—the recipient of a contract extension this week—made a lovely turn outside the box and forced a last-ditch deflection by Melia that clanged off that same right post. Incredibly, all three officials missed Melia’s touch, which should’ve given FCC a corner kick, and the misfortune was a too-soon reminder of the injustice done in the Minnesota match last weekend. FC Cincinnati did have a feel-good moment late, as Jimmy McLaughlin made his first appearance in a game in almost exactly two years. The attacking midfielder is the last remaining member of FCC’s original squad in 2016, and thus he wound up playing in the club’s first and last game at Nippert.

Last weekend vs. Minnesota, FC Cincinnati played well enough to definitely net a draw and maybe even win, but in the end they found a way to slip on a banana peel and fall victim to bad luck. Before delving back into the negativity, credit to Jaap Stam for continuing to try shit in an attempt to jumpstart a historically inept offense. As pointed out by ESPN, FC Cincinnati was averaging 0.55 goals per game coming into last night’s game, needing four goals by the end of the season to clear the dishonorable benchmark of 0.65 set by 2013 D.C. United. Remember that while FCC allowed the most goals in MLS history last year, they also scored the fewest during the 2019 campaign.

So, with Locadia available but not fit enough to start and Vazquez out injured against Minnesota, Stam started Álvaro Barreal, de Jong, and Joe Gyau at the top of the 4-3-3, with de Jong slipping into a false nine role—he played the same position last night—in an attempt to draw out Minnesota’s center backs out and allow Barreal and Gyau to run in behind de Jong.

FCC had their chances through the first half. There was de Jong’s header right at Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, Tom Pettersson popping a deflected corner over the crossbar, Barreal picking the pocket of a Minnesota defender but sending a chip-shot over the net, and de Jong skying a golden one-timer minutes before halftime. The missed chances led to heartbreak, as Minnesota’s Aaron Schoenfeld punched home the game’s lone goal after FC Cincinnati failed to clear their lines following a 92nd-minute corner kick. In FCC’s defense, the corner kick should have never taken place, with Minnesota’s Emanuel Reynoso appearing to touch the ball last before it went out of bounds.

FC Cincinnati’s home record this season likely would have been better with Nippert’s usual charged atmosphere, but the final tally in nine fan-less contests at its now-former Clifton Heights fortress in 2020 was four defeats, four draws, and one measly win. The playoffs will have to wait for (at least) another year.

Stay tuned next week for a recap of the season and a preview of what I think will be a defining offseason for the club ahead of the 2021 campaign and the West End Stadium’s debut.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

Dani McClain Is Cincinnati’s Activist-in-Residence

Cincinnati native Dani McClain has dedicated her career to educating the public on racial, parenting, and reproductive health issues. Author of We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood (published in 2019), she’s spent the past several months sharing her knowledge with the community as the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library’s 2020 Writer-in-Residence. Her final monthly “office hours” program is scheduled for 4–5 p.m. December 18.

What has it meant to you to be the Writer-in-Residence this year?

I’ve had the opportunity to connect with readers and writers and to pass on what I’ve learned throughout my career about reporting, writing, media, and publishing. I grew up in Camp Dennison and spent a lot of time at the Madeira, Blue Ash, and main downtown branches as a child and teenager. Even before I started using the library as a resource for school, it was a place my mother and I visited often.

At a moment when public trust in institutions is eroding, I think we still collectively understand the value in public libraries and their role in giving everyone access to ideas and information. It’s been an honor to work with the people who have come to my events and to build relationships with our library system and its staff.

What are some projects and events you’ve worked on this year?

I host monthly office hours, which are hour-long roundtables during which anyone can come and bring questions about writing. My specialty is nonfiction, but people are welcome to talk about poetry, fiction, graphic novels, or whatever genre interests them. Those who show up learn not only from me but also from each other. It’s been a collegial space. In May I facilitated a workshop called “The Prose of Parenting,” which was for people who want to use writing to reflect on the experience of supporting the children in their lives. I hosted workshops about how to write opinion pieces and the basics of reporting. I host a podcast called Inside the Writer’s Head. Guests so far include journalists Kathy Y. Wilson and Nick Swartsell, writer and educator Tim’m West, Cincinnati Herald Publisher and City Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, author and Miami University creative writing professor Daisy Hernández, comedian Luna Malbroux, and Gregory Kornbluh, owner of Northside’s Downbound Books. I also write the occasional post for the library’s blog.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected any events or projects you had planned this year?

Everything went virtual starting in March. I’ve hosted three workshops online. I’ve held office hours in person at the Groesbeck branch (before stay-at-home orders), virtually, and more recently outside at the West End and Blue Ash branches. I used the booth in the main branch’s Maker Space to record the first few episodes of the podcast. Then I had to start recording remotely, which has been a steep learning curve. I’m learning as I go, taking my cues from library staff and staying flexible. As for my work in general, I used to travel regularly for speaking gigs and reporting trips. That’s all changed.

How have you been involved with the recent Black Lives Matter movements?

I started covering BLM organizing in 2013 after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since this summer’s uprisings began, I’ve written about how skilled educators talk to young children about systemic racism and police for The Atlantic. I spoke on a panel for a San Francisco–area bookstore about police brutality and state violence. I’ve been following, reporting on, and writing about these issues for a long time, and that work continues.

How does your career allow you to encourage others to get involved?

My job is to help people understand what’s happening around them and to give readers an opportunity to hear from people who are themselves at the center of the action.

What sort of impact do you hope to make in the Cincinnati community with your writing?

I hope I make writing and building a life as a professional writer feel possible for more people. I hope I lift up the work of other lovers of books, libraries, and news who live here in our communities. I also hope I demystify the work I do. So many people seem to mistrust journalists these days, which I think is a lack of understanding what the job entails. I hope that as Writer-in-Residence I can shed some light on the ins and outs of the job.

Six Stellar Independent Bookstores

There’s nothing quite like taking a trip to a local bookstore. These six indie booksellers bring communities together over great reads in ways the big-box bookstores just can’t.

Smith & Hannon

Photograph by Carlie Burton

Smith & Hannon

As the city’s sole Black-owned bookstore, founded by a former school superintendent to promote literacy in the African American community, Smith & Hannon is a hub for conversations between the community and local and national authors. It sells modern and historic Black literature, as well as art, jewelry, and gifts.
1405 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 641-2700, smithandhannonbookstore.com

Downbound Books

This gem opened last October and has been online-only since mid-March (’cause, ya know). They’ve been getting readers through the pandemic with self-care packages (“six cookies and one bookie”), curated summer reading stacks, and keep-in-touch stationery sets.
4139 Apple St., Northside, (513) 541-1394, downboundbooks.com

Cincy Book Bus

Giving back is the name of the game for this bookstore on wheels (a 1962 Volkswagen pickup, to be exact), founded by a teacher of 25 years. Each purchase helps supply children’s books for schools in low-income areas. Shop its curated selection online or locate the bus on Instagram.
cincybookbus.com

Blue Manatee

Last year this beloved bookstore became the Blue Manatee Literacy Project, building on three decades of helping little ones forge a passion for reading and learning. For every book purchased, one is donated to a child in the Cincinnati area who faces barriers to literacy.
3094 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 257-0774, bluemanatee.org

Roebling Point Books & Coffee

Covington’s quintessential neighborhood bookstore, with cozy spaces to read; coffee, tea, and pastries; and café seating out front. To continue serving customers staying home, they’re delivering bags of coffee and books within the I-275 loop, up to 20 miles from the store.
306 Greenup St., Covington, (859) 815-7204, roeblingpointbooksandcoffee.com

First Edition Rare Books

This appointment-only bookstore is for purist collectors who appreciate rare, unvarnished first-edition printings, often closest to the author’s original intent. Have first editions you’re ready to part with? They’ll do the legwork, cataloguing and promoting them until they sell for a fair price.
250 E. Fifth St., #1542, downtown, (513) 719-0001, thefirstedition.com

Editor’s Letter, November 2020: Sharing a Reading Experience

I love the idea that reading might be a solitary act but being a reader is a shared experience. I came across it while researching out-of-the-library options for this month’s “Book Smart.” The same can certainly be said of writing.

Reading is a solo act for the most part—unless you’re reading aloud to someone else—that allows us to escape from the world for a while. It’s also more active than letting TV or music wash over us, and encourages our imaginations to fill the spaces between words with internal images and sounds.

Writing starts out in solitude, just you and your thoughts, but rarely does good writing reach a reader without a group effort. Believe me when I say a writer’s best friends are an editor and a proofreader. Lots of writers also benefit from feedback and instruction gained in classes, workshops, and writing circles. Throughout my journalism career, I’ve always preached to colleagues (and to myself) that while you might never be a great writer, you can always be a better writer.

Reading is a group effort at times too, especially for book club members and those who love to wander around book shops aimlessly peeking and poking, chatting with staff and strangers about favorite authors. Does anyone else spend time in the public library reading out-of-town newspapers and strange magazines? Just asking for a friend.

Honestly, if I could create my favorite moment in an instant, it would be sitting on a beach with my wife, children, siblings, in-laws, aunts, and uncles—a dozen or more of us gathered in a circle reading, sipping drinks, and listening to the waves crash and seagulls call. Talk about being alone together. It’s heaven.

We’ve all done a lot of being alone together during the pandemic, staying apart physically while trying to stay connected as best we can. More of us are reading and writing these days to fill the time and chase the loneliness, and maybe we’ve rediscovered a love of words as a result. If so, we’re happy to share this month’s guide to our literary city.

Debating the Value of a Bengals Moral Victory

You’re surely numb to the never-ending ways in which the Bengals can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The players and coaches are at least getting paid enormous fortunes to take the frustration. So take a moment to pity me, your humble chronicler of these ceaseless losses and a longtime veteran of suffering through this unimaginable pain. Nah, don’t bother.

 

Sure, this past Sunday’s last-second loss to the hated Browns was harsh in the moment, especially because of the opponent. (Baker Mayfield should insist on having Bengals defenders co-star in his myriad national TV ads, because without them he’s nothing.) But overall I took the optimistic approach, as I’ve fought to do and counseled y’all to do as well all season.

Yes, winning a few games would surely be nice, and the team is so accustomed to losing that it’s become a sad habit. But in the big picture, the team is far more competitive, interesting, and watchable than it was in 2019. That, and ensuring that Joe Burrow was indeed a franchise quarterback, is all that really one could realistically expect from this season. And boy, howdy, is Burrow a franchise quarterback.

Not that Sunday’s loss wasn’t ridiculous, given the way the Burrow-led offense was unstoppable. You’ve probably seen the stat by now: In the Super Bowl era, teams that scored 33 or more points and didn’t punt were 55-0 until the Bengals on Sunday. (It’s a regular season stat; the Patriots lost 41-33 to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII without punting.) That mind-blower comes just one week after the Bengals became the first team (of 93) since 2016 to build a 21-point first half lead and lose.

Cleveland and Cincinnati combined for 136 points in their two matchups this season, the second-most in the history of the Battle of Ohio (in 2004 they combined for an amazing 157 points, mainly due to the 58-48 shootout the Bengals won that year). The way offenses are dominating the NFL thus far in 2020, high-scoring contests aren’t particularly notable except for the way the quarterbacks play.

And Burrow’s 406-yard, four-touchdown (one running) performance had a higher degree of difficulty than Mayfield’s 297 yards and five TDs. The Browns offensive line has been among the best in football this year, while Cincinnati’s hasn’t. Indeed, the most remarkable aspect of Burrow’s play on Sunday was the way he kept moving the ball even as starting linemen—including Jonah Williams, Trey Hopkins, and Bobby Hart (who was having the game of his life, natch)—left the game one by one with injuries. Even with the B- and C-teamers blocking, the Bengals cut through the Browns D with surgical precision, putting up nearly 500 yards despite a pair of turnovers.

The game was, in essence, a battle between defenses reduced to two high-quality players apiece, both tasked with leading a large cast of the mediocre and the inexperienced. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward were better than Jessie Bates and Carl Lawson, and both Browns made game-changing plays to provide the 37-34 victory margin.

Meanwhile, the Bengals pass defense was atrocious. I actually thought the concept of the game plan was pretty good, but the execution was horrendous, especially given that Cleveland was without Nick Chubb and Odell Beckham went out on the first series (and is done for the year with a torn knee ligament). Mayfield has been woefully inaccurate for much of the season thus far, but he completed 21 passes in a row after starting the game 0-5 with a pick. Think back to how often you remember him being forced to come off his first read or maneuver due to pressure. Almost never.

Cincinnati made the game extremely comfortable for the Mayfield, a common denominator in the five times he’s beaten the Bengals in six starts. The lone loss, last season’s finale, featured a relentless Bengals pass rush (no coincidence).

The one time Mayfield should have been sacked Sunday came early on the Browns’ game-winning drive. Mackensie Alexander blitzed and had Mayfield by the leg but was unable to bring him down. Mayfield completed yet another pass instead, and at that point I bowed to the inevitable. The only question was just how painful would it be, and the game-winning toss going right through Darius Phillips’ hands ranked pretty highly. A pick there would have been perfectly symmetrical, with DP intercepting Mayfield’s first and last passes of the day. But, alas…

Naturally, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is under fire for the umpteenth blown save under his watch. The Bengals have led in the fourth quarter of every game this season but two—the Ravens debacle and the opener against the Chargers, when they seemed to take the lead but, well, you know. Yes, the defense has been slammed by the usual plethora of injuries to frontline players, but other teams and coordinators are in similar pickles and still find ways to make critical stops with the game on the line. I refer you to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night as one example.

Anarumo has been creative with his concepts and schemes but can’t get his guys to execute at a high level or win the majority of one-on-one battles. Not all of that is on him, but certainly some of it is. One dreams about what Wade Phillips, who coached on the Rams staff with Zac Taylor and is just sitting at home chillaxing on Sundays, could do with the same ingredients Anarumo has.

One at least hopes the Son of Bum would have a better relationship with Carlos Dunlap than Anarumo appears to. Sunday’s emotional loss was capped by Dunlap blowing his stack on the sideline, causing a fracas that evoked memories of a similar (if far more cutting) Bengals meltdown back in the 2015 playoffs. Clearly this marriage needs to end, and it seems it will very soon, with multiple sources reporting that the Bengals have traded Dunlap to Seattle.

Meanwhile A.J. Green, who has caught 15 balls for 178 yards over the last two games, appears to be over his frustration with his role, just in time for a contract drive.

Meanwhile, the schedule hits a valley now, as the Titans come into town fresh off a botched comeback against the hated Steelers. Pittsburgh was the recipient of good fortune as usual, a missed field goal by Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski that would have forced overtime. Instead, the Steelers remain undefeated, while Tennessee will come in good and angry against a Bengals squad likely to be missing 4/5ths of its opening day offensive line; Joe Mixon, William Jackson, Sam Hubbard, and myriad others are also doubtful to dress out. Hopefully some of those potential difference makers will be back in time to play Pittsburgh following the bye week.

Someone needs to help out our man Burrow. He can just about beat Cleveland by himself, but he’ll need assistance these next couple of games against two of the AFC’s best squads.

Robert Weintraub heads up Bengals coverage for Cincinnati Magazine and has written for The New York Times, Grantland, Slate, Deadspin, and Football Outsiders and authored four books, including his newest, “The Divine Miss Marble” from Penguin Random House. You can follow him on Twitter at @robwein.

Here’s Where You Can Get a Takeout Crawfish Boil

When trying to survive a shutdown, it helps to have a heap of crawfish. Tasty Pho & Crawfish Bar hadn’t even been open for two months when it was forced to close its dining room in March. Making do, they started selling takeout crawfish boils. The aggressively seasoned crawfish allowed the restaurant to stay in business until it reopened for dine-in service in June.

Crawfish is part of the Viet-Cajun cuisine that owners Dung “Dino” Nguyen and his wife Nancy grew up eating. Prior to this experience, I had the misfortune of never having eaten crawfish. After a helpful tutorial from my server (pinch the tail and twist), I was ready for my inaugural bite. The succulent meat had a perfect slow burn, thanks to the “house special” seasoning (a piquant combination of spicy Cajun seasoning, garlic butter, and lemon-pepper sauce).

More traditional Vietnamese dishes make an appearance on the menu, as well. The pho dac biet, tender slices of slightly pink beef floating in an earthy broth with fragrant greens and onions, is especially recommended. At just $5, the banh mi, generously packed with chicken, grilled pork, or ham, makes for a cheap and hearty lunch. The restaurant’s family ownership shows: During your visit, Dino and Nancy will probably come out and talk to you about the food. They take an obvious pride in each dish they prepare, which will only become more obvious when you dig in.

Tasty Pho & Crawfish Bar, 7741 Tylers Place Blvd., West Chester Twp., (513) 777-5757

Seven Public Libraries Worth Checking Out

Public libraries provide incredible resources to our communities, from their digital offerings to their physical collections, which go far beyond books. Here are seven local libraries worth checking out.

Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

In August, the library launched a new website and its first significant rebranding in 20 years. It came at a significant moment: Not only has the pandemic forced the 41-branch system to bolster digital offerings and expand outreach to patrons, but the library is also just beginning work on Building the Next Generation Library, an ambitious and wide-reaching facilities master plan made possible by the 2018 passage of Issue 3, a 1 mil levy. Director Paula Brehm-Heeger, who took charge of the system in October 2018 following the retirement of longtime director Kimber Fender, will oversee the changes.

Patrons have access to a wide variety of circulating materials and online resources, from physical books to streaming movies to research databases. The Digital Library also allows virtual access to CHPL’s collections of rare print materials, like its collection of restaurant menus, digitized city directories, and photographs of Ohio River flooding. Four branches feature MakerSpaces, where guests can use sewing machines, large format scanners, vinyl cutters, 3D printers, and recording booths to create their own projects.
cincinnatilibrary.org

Kenton County Public Library

A $75,000 contribution from Andrew Carnegie launched the Covington library, which opened in what is now The Carnegie arts center in March 1904. About 100 years later, a facilities update resulted in an expanded Erlanger branch, the creation of the William E. Durr branch just south of Independence, and an extensive renovation and reworking of the Covington branch. As the needs of its community changed, the library responded, launching the Empower Tools tool lending service in 2017 and the Erlanger STREAM Center makerspace in 2018. Adapting to challenges presented by COVID-19, KCPL created the position of School Services Coordinator to help provide organized educational resources to schools and families throughout the library system.

In addition to these initiatives, KCPL delivers a wealth of traditional resources, including a robust local history and genealogy department, which includes Faces & Places, a searchable photographic archive of Northern Kentucky with more than 100,000 images. kentonlibrary.org

Mason Public Library

Established as a branch of the Lebanon Public Library, MPL went independent in 1977. The collection holds more than 550,000 items and serves more than 50,000 registered patrons.
masonpl.org

The Lane Libraries

Hamilton, Fairfield, and Oxford branches serve residents of Butler County. The octagonal core of the Hamilton location was designed and built by machine manufacturer (and library founder) Clark Lane.
lanepl.org

Clermont County Public Library

From one office and a bookmobile in 1955, CCPL has grown to a 10-branch system, putting a library within a 15-minute drive of every county resident.
clermontlibrary.org

Campbell County Public Library

This four-branch system, started in 1978, offers cardholders free books that they can use to stock a Little Library. Its newest branch, in Alexandria, opened in January 2018.
cc-pl.org

Boone County Public Library

In July 2019, the sixth branch of this county library system opened in Hebron. It’s home to the Boone Innovation Lab, where patrons can reserve time on equipment including 3D printers, laser engravers, and even a quilting machine.
bcpl.org

You Can Hang With Cats at This New Covington Café

In 2015, Louisville-based entrepreneur Chuck Patton sold his business, Traffic Builders Inc., and began looking for his next venture with the goal of creating something fun and different. Three years later, he opened his cat café, Purrfect Day Café.

“When I tell people what we do, most people have no idea what that is.” he says. “Basically it’s a coffee and wine shop meets an adoption center.”

Now, the Northern Kentucky native is opening a second location of his café in Covington, targeting a launch in the coming weeks. The area’s first cat café will be located at 17 West 8th St. and will partner with the Kenton County Animal Services (KCAS) to help find homes for cats.

Attempting to be an “industry disrupter,” Purrfect Day changes the way felines are adopted. Patton strives to keep cats out of the traditional shelter environment, where animal euthanasia is prevalent. “You don’t have to turn [animals] back out into the woods or put them down,” he says. “There are lots of homes out there and people that want them.”

In the summer of 2019, Becky Reiter, director of Kenton County Animals Services, approached Patton about opening a location in Northern Kentucky. Faced with an opportunity to grow the business, he was excited to open a second location. “When I was asked, I’m like, well it was fun the first time,” Patton says. “Why can’t I just expand our impact and expand the business as well?”

So what does the cat café look like, and how does it work? There are two sections of the building, the café and the cat room. The café offers cat-themed tea, coffee drinks, and pastries such as “Pawmpkin Spice Scones,” or “Purr-ific” sugar cookies. Purrfect Day also has a liquor license and serves wine, local brews, bourbon, and specialty cocktails. Patrons can sit in the café and enjoy their drinks while anywhere from 15-25 feline friends frolic in the next room.

For $15, you can reserve 50 minutes in the cat room to cuddle, play, and sip in a fun and cozy atmosphere. To comply with health guidelines, once a drink is brought into the cat room, it cannot be taken back into the café. Food, however, is not allowed to enter the cat room. If guests find a kitty they have a bond with, they can make an adoption and welcome a new member to their family. Since opening in 2018, the Louisville location has seen more than 3,500 adoptions.

Excited to return to his hometown, Patton is looking forward to providing a warm and joyful experience in a time of so much uncertainty. To maintain safe operations during COVID-19, the café will operate under half capacity, allowing eight people, wearing face coverings, in the cat lounge at a time.

“During all this turmoil, everybody still comes to the cat café because it’s a happy place to be,” Patton says. “When I’m in the café, it’s so rewarding, watching faces of little kids and adults alike. It’s very accepting, and it’s a very happy place.”

Purrfect Day Café, 25 W 8th St., Covington