Why you should help Keep Noah Rolling this Thanksgiving

Editor’s note: In a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday, reporters for the Shopping section of Court Street Stories have decided to “shop” for a local Athens charity. What better way to say “thanks” than to find an organization worthy of a donation or volunteer work? And full disclosure: Both the author (Dan Shisler) and editor (Bob Benz) of this story are part of Keep Noah Rolling, the organization that’s attempting to secure funds for Noah’s van.

 Thanksgiving, for many Americans, means a time to stuff themselves, watch the Detroit Lions, get their holiday shopping done or purchase a new set of appliances at an insanely low price. Yet the true spirit of Thanksgiving, giving thanks, often sadly takes a back seat to more commercial and materialistic interests.

I would like to gently remind our readers to put the turkey, football and discounts aside for a moment, and take some time to count your blessings. This holiday is a great opportunity to give thanks for all the small things that many people take for granted every day. For example: the basic abilities to walk and talk. Now, imagine your life without them.

Noah Trembly
Noah Trembly

For Noah Trembly, an Athens resident, that is his reality. Noah has cerebral palsy. Since birth, Noah has been living with a condition that prevents him from performing the most mundane actions that able-bodied people perform mindlessly every day. Noah uses a motorized wheelchair to move around and a sophisticated communication device to speak. At first glance, many people see a broken man. But I assure you: sitting inside that uncooperative body is a brilliant mind, a deviously witty sense of humor and a genuine and selfless soul.

I first learned about Noah in my strategic communication senior capstone class at Ohio University, when my professor, Bob Benz, announced that we would be working on a special project: helping one of his disabled friends raise money for a new handicap-accessible van. At first, I thought it was a good cause, but the kind of thing you hear about all the time. Just another guy in a wheelchair, just another charity case. Until I met Noah.

When Noah came to speak to the class, I could sense there was something different about him. The way he rolled into the classroom with bright eyes and a devilish grin instantly gave credence to Benz’s many anecdotes of an infectious and amicable personality. Noah, speaking through his device, told us his story. He told us how he has been living with this terrible condition his entire life. He told us about how it was an incredible struggle for him to get through school. He told us how one of his principals told his mother that he would probably never amount to anything, that he would probably never live a fulfilling or meaningful life.

The principal couldn’t have been more wrong.

Noah Trembly has been defying the odds ever since. His story is one of resilience and inspiration. Noah did not let his condition define him; he has overcome expectations and defined himself. Noah lives independently, albeit with the constant assistance of a caregiver. But that hasn’t stopped him from living his own life. Noah is a Grateful Dead fan. Noah is a skier. Noah is a gardener. Noah is a vegetarian (in fact, you may have seen him zipping around the Athens Farmers Market). Noah is an artist. But most importantly, Noah is a worker.

Noah, working through his company, Noah Trembly Enterprises, is an advocate for the disabled and a handicap-accessibility consultant. He is currently heading an initiative to improve the quality and wheelchair accessibility of sidewalks in Athens. Noah has consulted for Ohio University and has even been a lecturer at the institution. For someone with no control over his vocal cords, Noah speaks a lot. In fact, Noah has traveled throughout the state and the country giving talks. For travel, Noah relies on an old and decrepit van that is on its last legs. For Noah’s meaningful work to continue, a new van is essential.

The decked-out van Keep Noah Rolling is raising money for.
The decked-out van Keep Noah Rolling is raising money for.

Our capstone class devised a social media strategy to raise awareness and produce donations for Keep Noah Rolling, the charity whose goal it is to raise the $60,000 required for a new accessible van. With the help of Tony’s Tavern and Jackie O’s Brewpub, we held an event on Nov. 14 that we called Keep Noah Shuffling, our take on the age-old Court Street tradition. But instead of raising our BAC, we raised money for a great cause. A portion of every signature Tony’s Hot Nut sold that night went directly to the new van. Jackie O’s even brewed a very tasty beer especially for the occasion, with $2 from every pint sold going directly to the cause. We also accepted donations from generous patrons. All said and done, we raised over $2,000 that night. Unfortunately, that accounts for only a fraction of our lofty goal. For me though, the reward was the expression on Noah’s face after the event.

While we counted the donations in front of him at the end of the night, Noah’s face lit up and he let out what I’ve come to know as one of his signature bouts of boisterous belly-laughter. His smile was that of a man overwhelmed with gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community, local businesses, friends and total strangers alike. Our event was but the start of a movement; we still have a long road ahead of us.

Like so many of us, Noah simply wants to live independently, without government assistance, and to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. Noah doesn’t want a donation; he wants an investment. By investing in Noah, you are investing in his ability to help enable and empower others in similar situations.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks, give a damn, and give your support to this wonderful cause.

For those interested in donating, you can do so here. If you can’t support Noah financially, please like and share his Facebook page here.

 

group shot
Author Dan Shisler, Bob Benz and the rest of the Keep Noah Rolling capstone team.

 

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime: Which streaming service is right for you?

It’s the timeless philosophical question: if you were stranded on a desert island and you could only bring one streaming service, which one would you choose?  Netflix?  Hulu?  Amazon Prime?

This question has haunted college students for eons- well, at least the better part of a decade.  Melodrama aside, often times college students are faced with the difficult task of choosing which streaming service to commit their scarce cash to every month.  We’re here to help.  We’ll take a brief look at the pros and cons of each.

Netflix

For a time, Netflix was the only streaming player on the stage.  Netflix changed the college dynamic by taking procrastination to new heights.  Entire seasons of obscure television shows and scores of B-movies  were now available at the click of a button.  Netflix is the reason why “binge-watching” is part of our collective vernacular.

Netflix has come along way since it’s inception.  Original shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and the recent Narcos (a personal favorite) are the brand’s selling points.  Along with recyclced network TV series, Netflix original series are worth the entry-level $7.99/mo. subscription fee.

Netflix, in this reporter’s humble opinion, leaves a lot to be desired in the feature film department.  Aside from a few classics and some well-done original movies like Beasts of No Nation, Netflix hosts a myriad of pretty mediocre straight-to-DVD releases.  I often feel like I spend more time trying to find something worthwhile to watch than I actually spend watching anything.  However, Netflix has the clear advantage in a special category: I bet you’ve never heard anyone planning a “Hulu and chill” session.

Hulu Plus

Admittedly, I do not subscribe to Hulu Plus, but I’ve heard nothing besides good things from friends and acquaintances who do.  For the same monthly fee as Netflix, Hulu Plus offers the most recent episodes of major current TV shows.  Hulu Plus, like Netflix, is also available across multiple platforms, whereas the free version of the service is only available on your computer.  Hulu Plus subscribers have access to all past seasons of a series, where the free versions of Hulu only offers a series’ five most recent episodes.

I currently use the free version to get my weekly Southpark fix, but I might be switching allegiances from Netflix to Hulu Plus as I rapidly exhaust my supply of new material on Netflix.

Amazon Prime

If you’re part of the cultural movement that is Downton Abbey, Amazon Prime is your go to streamer.  Offering other big-name series and even boasting some HBO content, Amazon Prime should be seriously considered.  Don’t get sticker shock when you see the $99 yearly fee, with the help of some basic arithmetic that comes to a manageable $8.25/mo.  I can understand possible apprehensions if you’re like me and have commitment issues (I’m lucky if I can maintain a relationship for longer than two months), but Amazon Prime also offers its customers free priority shipping on mostly everything you can buy from Amazon.  For a college student, this could potentially pay for itself if you purchase your textbooks online.

Where the streaming service stands out from its competitors, in my opinion, is its extensive range of new(er) released movies.  Featuring the latest Hunger Games and The Wolf of Wall Street, Amazon Prime might edge out its competitors in the movie category.  In a bid to rival Netflix, Amazon Prime is also pushing out some promising original content in the forms of the gritty Western drama Edge and the Nazis-win-the-war dystopian alternate reality thriller The Man in the High Castle.

 

In case you missed it: Dads’ Weekend

Last weekend was Ohio University’s annual Dads’ Weekend.  This was probably obvious to those of you who participated, or  if you just ventured uptown to see it flooded with Levi 559s and Nike Monarchs.  For everyone who missed the excitement, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

For a pretty vanilla recap of the weekend, check out this Post article.

Did you know Alden Library put in a mini golf course for students and their dads? Check out the Athens News’ coverage here.

And finally, the pièce de resistance.  Everyone is talking about an alleged fight that occurred this Dads’ Weekend at the Overhang on Court Street that ended in a bleeding dad and a shattered window.  The Post has the scoop here.

‘The Post’ has the scoop on Halloween arrests

Halloween is one of Athens’ and Ohio University’s most notorious parties.  The annual block party blowout is one of the most anticipated nights of debauchery all year.  With so many people coming in for the weekend, Halloween usually has its fair share of troublemakers.  This Halloween was no different.  While the town was busy partying, the increased police force was busy keeping the peace.  In case you were were wondering how many Halloween arrests were made over the weekend, The Post has you covered here.

Fantasy football frenzy

If you’ve ever watched football at a sports bar, you’ve probably encountered rowdy fans that are way too into the game. If you’re with these people, you’re embarrassed. If you’re not, you’re frightened. When you’re sitting at the bar, sipping your beer while you casually watch the game, and some jersey-clad lunatic erupts into a frenzy after a sack or fumble, you can’t help but wonder what is going on inside their head. Why is this person so invested in this game?

The answer to this question is simple: fantasy football.

Fantasy football is deserving of its name. It gives regular Joes everywhere something to cling to and live out their post-high school football fantasies. This kind of delusional make-believe can be intoxicating, even dangerous. Especially when you add money to the equation.

Some fantasy leagues are among friends where no money is at stake, only bragging rights. Some leagues however, can have big buy-ins where the pot can exceed hundreds of dollars. When you consider the financial aspect, you can understand why some people are so prone to outbursts while watching football.

I witnessed them firsthand when I was uptown Sunday night.

It was late in the third quarter of the Steelers-Rams game. I was sitting at the bar when it happened. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, but the Rams defense brought pressure. Ben went down, sacked. Groans erupted around the bar because of the sack, but when Ben didn’t get up right away, that’s when it hit the fan.

As Roethlisberger was helped off the field, I could hear one patron in close proximity begin a meltdown. I approached him cautiously.

“That’s my f—-ng quarterback, man! That’s my f—-ng season right there! I’m f—ed, man,” the fan lamented, referring to the detrimental impact Roethlisberger’s injury would have on his fantasy season.

This triggered a flashback to a similar scenario a few weeks ago.  I was at Buffalo Wild Wings when Tony Romo broke his clavicle just a week after Dez Bryant’s season came into question with a foot injury.  This precipitated much of the same from unlucky fantasy players who thought they hit the jackpot at their draft when they secured either one or both of these star players for their teams.

If you’re just a casual football fan, I strongly advise caution when interacting with these crazies.  Give them a wide berth if you aren’t prepared to risk life and limb when one of their players catches a concussion, a broken bone, or an MCL sprain.

If you’re a fantasy fanatic, I encourage you to rethink your life and consider making some changes for the sake of your sanity and overall health.


 

In the following days, it would be reported that Roethlisberger would be out 4-6 weeks.

I sure hope he has a good backup.

The best bars to shoot pool on Court Street

If your billiards skills are on par with those of Tom Cruise a la The Color of Money, then you probably won’t be caught dead in the small-time venues that Court Street has to offer.  For the rest of us, Court Street is more than accommodating for some casual billiards.  No matter your skill level, the uptown bars provide a great atmosphere to shoot pool with friends.  The entries aren’t ranked in any particular order as they all have their pros and cons, but they all qualify as the best places to shoot pool on Court Street.

Lucky’s

Lucky’s is a prime venue to shoot pool uptown.  With relatively new tables and equipment, Lucky’s Tavern offers a relaxed atmosphere for pool players.  With two tables, it’s easy to find one available in the evening.  The tables themselves are also unique due to their red felt, and the lighting is a lot brighter than most of the other bars uptown.  Just a word of warning: it is nearly impossible to play at Lucky’s on Wednesday nights among the throngs of thirsty patrons that the weekly “liquor pitcher” promotion draws.

The C.I.

Zach poses at CI
Ohio University senior Zach Moneypenny poses by the pool table at the C.I.

The College Inn is one of the largest and most popular bars uptown.  These reasons are precisely why the C.I. is a great place to play pool.  The spacious bar features two tables upstairs and another in the basement (only open on weekends).  The C.I. is great for those hoping to avoid the crowds and sneak in a few games on a weeknight.  Prior to Thursday night on most weeks, the C.I. is usually pretty barren before 9 p.m.  When the bar is not crowded, the pool area at the rear of the building offers patrons plenty of room and relative privacy.

The Pigskin

Usually known as a destination for ping pong, the Pigskin is also a great destination for a round of pool.  With a cavernous amount of space to work with, the Pigskin’s lone pool table offers tremendous maneuverability for those looking to escape the semi-cramped conditions that can be found at other bars.  As an added bonus, the Pigskin’s table features some of the nicest felting to be found in Athens.  Due to these luxuries however, the ‘Skin’s table is a coveted treasure for pool enthusiasts and can be hard to secure during peak hours.

David lines up a shot at Pawpurr's
Ohio University grad David York lines up his cue at Pawpurr’s.

Pawpurr’s

Pawpurr’s offers two tables with plenty of space to maneuver your cue stick.  With a table at each end of the bar, there is always plenty of space.  That is one of the reasons David York cited for Pawpurr’s being his favorite bar to shoot pool in Athens.

“Pawpurr’s is my favorite bar to play pool.  It’s actually just my favorite bar in general.  It’s really the only bar I like to play pool at,” says York, a recent OU grad.

Sticking true to the name, a round of pool at Pawpurr’s costs less than most other bars.  While the going rate is usually seventy-five cents at most other places, a game only costs two quarters at Pawpurr’s.

The Overhang

Rounding out the list is The Overhang, one of the newer and nicer bars on Court Street.  The Overhang boasts a tandem of new and well-maintained tables for its patrons.  Also, the pool tables have a clear view of the big screen televisions behind the bar, perfect for those wishing to catch a game while enjoying a few rounds of pool.  For those accustomed to the convention of placing a quarter on the table to reserve the next game, be warned.  The Overhang utilizes a chalkboard where patrons add their names to a queue to secure a spot on the table.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of bars with pool tables uptown, it can be seen as a guide to finding the best spot to shoot a few casual games.  Armed with this knowledge, go forth and tread water in a sea swimming with pool sharks.

Court Street shaped by fire through history

The flames have long since been extinguished, but they have certainly left their mark.  In the wake of the fire that ravaged almost half a block of West Union Street early in the morning of Nov. 16, Athens residents and members of the Ohio University community alike look to move forward from the disaster.  Nearly 40 Ohio University students living in second-floor apartments were displaced by the fire, and four of the block’s businesses were affected, with The Union Bar and Grill receiving the brunt of the damage.

To the students and business owners who watched helplessly as their possessions and livelihoods went up in flames, the disaster will undoubtedly be a bitter pill to swallow as they struggle to figure out where to go from here.  Relief efforts began pouring in from the city, university and Athens community to expedite the process of recovery.  But this is a process that should be old hat to the city of Athens.  Fires have been devastating the Uptown area for more than a century and are responsible for a major part of its current aesthetic.

November’s fire on West Union came nearly 140 years after a devastating blaze wiped out nearly half a city block on the opposite side of Court Street.  The great fire of 1877 saw several Athens businesses and residences turn to ash.  The conflagration, which started in a grocery store, destroyed almost everything from what is today the College Bookstore, on the corner of Court and East Union, to the Athena Cinema.  The timber-framed buildings proved little match for the blaze as the flames consumed them one by one.

An archived report in the Athens Messenger estimated the fire caused approximately $20,000 worth of damage, which today would amount to almost half a million dollars.  In the aftermath, on the site of the fire, the Phoenix Building was erected, so named sardonically for the fire from which it arose.

Fire again licked Court Street in 1922.  This time, it was the First National Bank of Athens that burned.  The site ignited again in 1971 as Bank One.  Today, the Chase branch occupies the location at the corner of Court and East Washington.

Until the 1950s, the fires had been relatively isolated to the southern end of Court Street.  It was in November 1952 that Uptown’s north end received its first taste of flames when the Athens Armory caught fire.  The sturdy brick building escaped destruction and still stands today.  Ironically, the Armory is where the Athens Fire Department now houses its archives.

Fire struck the southern end of the Uptown district again in 1955.  This time, the site of the blaze was the First Methodist Church on South College Street, across the street from Kantner Hall.  The fire gutted the church that had stood there since 1908 and the flames threatened neighboring sorority houses.  The fire was contained, but the damage was done.  The original church was irreparably destroyed.  According to the church’s website, the congregation held its services in what is today the Templeton-Blackburn Memorial auditorium until the new church building was completed in 1958.

Disastrous fire returned to Court Street in 1962, when a kitchen fire erupted in The Coachman, an Uptown bar and restaurant.  The bar would later reopen, and in the same style of gallows humor as those who christened the Phoenix Building, The Coachman changed its name to The Inferno.

Besides the Bank One fire of 1971, Uptown Athens enjoyed a few decades’ respite from major fires.  However, the 1980s would see a string of three major fires in as many years, and as a 1985 edition of the Ohio University Alumni Magazine would put it, contributed to Athens adopting “the bombed-out look that was characteristic of post-war eastern European cities of the mid-twentieth century.”

Until 1982, the parking lot on North Court Street between Lucky’s Sports Bar and Attractions Hair Salon had been Belk’s Department Store.  The building was erected in 1902 as Zenner’s Department Store and would later change hands as Butler Brothers.  Eventually, the Belk’s chain bought the store, which would become their northernmost franchise.

In May 1982, the store would cease to be the chain’s northernmost franchise, as the store would cease to exist.

The wreckage of Belk's Department Store, 1982 -- photo courtesy of The Post
The wreckage of Belk’s Department Store, 1982 — photo courtesy of The Post

Fire erupted in the wee hours of the morning, with students still patronizing the Uptown watering holes.  One such student was at the adjacent Cat’s Den tavern and would later tell Messenger reporters that he witnessed lightning strike the department store. The claim was never confirmed by firefighters’ examinations, as the cause of the fire is still unknown.

However, no one disputes that the building was completely destroyed.  Belk’s Department Store, with its oiled wooden floors and textile inventory, was quickly consumed by flames.

Firefighters battled the flames for hours and the spectacle drew a crowd as spectators watched in trepidation as the fire department worked to contain the blaze as it threatened nearby apartment buildings.

One such spectator was then-student Karrie Kalail, now an Ohio University alum, who remembers the event vividly.

“At the time, I was a freshman living in Tiffin.  We could hear the sirens and commotion from the dorm so we headed Uptown to see what was going on.  We caught sight of the flames leaping into the sky.  It was horrendous.  I had never witnessed such a terrible fire before.”

The inferno was eventually put out by the firefighters’ efforts, but the building was utterly destroyed.  The front of the building had collapsed onto a car parked out front and rubble spilled into Court Street.  The lot remained vacant for years to come, with a fence erected to cordon off the rubble.

Almost two years later, disaster returned to Court Street.  This time, the flames returned to the Phoenix building, now known as the Carpenter Building for the family-owned hardware business that had occupied the space since 1944.

In March 1984, the building caught fire.  Firefighters would never determine the cause.

The blaze destroyed the hardware store and five neighboring businesses as the flames swept through a shared overhead crawlspace.  The fire destroyed Carpenter’s, Beep’s Video Arcade, The Parthenon Greek restaurant, the Athens Flower Shop, Paulinda’s Small World gift store and Your Father’s Mustache barbershop.  The fire also displaced several students living in the apartments above.

Initial estimates of the damage were figured to be in the $6 million range, but that figure was later reduced.

The building was later restored and now is home to Ginger, CVS pharmacy and Brenen’s Cafe.

Firefighters battle a fire at the Athens Hotel in 1985 -- photo courtesy of The Post
Firefighters battle a fire at the Athens Hotel in 1985 — photo courtesy of The Post

The last of the 1980s trio of Court Street fires came in January 1985, when the old Athens Hotel was gutted by fire.  It is now the site of Subway and Insomnia Cookies, and the apartments situated above.

The fire’s cause was determined when Gary Lee Gilkey, a one-time Ohio University student and resident of the Athens Hotel, turned himself in for intentionally setting the blaze.

Contemporary Post articles reported that Gilkey had started the fire because “he had a grudge against the landlord.”

Since the 1985 Athens Hotel fire, Uptown has not experienced such a destructive fire until now, with November’s Union Street blaze putting an end to nearly 30 years without incident.

Fires have dotted Athens’ history for almost 150 years and Athens has always rebuilt.  Now is no different.  The Athens community has vowed to return to normalcy.  The displaced students have been provided with temporary housing and Jackie O’s Pub is already back to business as usual.  Benefit events are already being planned to help The Union and other affected businesses recover.  The process may seem daunting, but history has shown that Athens will always rebuild.

***

Dan Shisler is a junior journalism major at Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.  Hailing from Akron, Ohio, Dan is a self-described bon vivant who enjoys international travel,  gourmet charcuterie and fine cigars.  Dan can be found relaxing at his home with a good book and his nose in a glass of vintage port.

 

 

Union Street fire sheds light on Athens Fire Department

Athens Fire Department had a busy few days last month responding to the fire that affected nearly half a block of West Union Street on Nov. 16.  The fire displaced nearly 40 Ohio University students living in the block’s second-story apartments and gutted The Union Bar and Grill.

The fire had all available resources responding to the blaze, requiring assistance from nearby communities’ fire departments.

The Union Street fire was a standout incident in the fire department’s already busy year.  The Athens Fire Department currently averages over 800 responses, or runs, annually, with the department on pace to exceed that figure this year.

The current average has increased dramatically within the last decade. Ten years ago, the fire department averaged about 300 runs per year.  Fire Chief Robert Rymer says he doesn’t know what accounts for the large increase.

Athens Fire Department maintains two fire stations in the greater Athens area.  Station 1 is located north of town on Columbus Road and Station 2 is to the south on Richland Avenue.

The fire department is staffed by 22 firefighters, with seven firefighters on staff every shift.

Rymer says that nearly 35% of all runs are made to Ohio University buildings.

No data is kept for residential runs that distinguishes between university students living off-campus and local Athens residents.