A Post-Refurb Peek at Music Hall

Cincinnati’s Music Hall reopened on October 6 after an 18 month $135 million renovation. I didn’t make it to that grand re-opening. Last Sunday’s third and final performance of “American Originals, Vol 2” was my first time inside the building since I attended the MusicNOW Festival in March of 2016. That was not the final event preceding the shut-down but it was among the last and it prompted my A Pre-Refurb Peek at Music Hall post. I selected the photo at right to open this post as the closest thing I’ve got to the photo that began that article. There’s a more inclusive exterior shot here.

Although these photos do not attempt to duplicate any of those in the earlier post, they do make it obvious that the chandelier that once hung over the lobby, and which I sort of featured in 2016, is gone. Apparently it was decided before renovations started that this chandelier, as well as some others, would not be coming back.

I also took a look at the balcony and gallery before I headed to my seat. Note the panels above the orchestra pit area. They’re to improve the acoustics of a place I didn’t even know needed improving.

That chandelier that hung above the main lobby is one of the three now hanging in Corbett Tower. A drop ceiling was removed and the nineteenth century stenciled design recreated. Previously blocked windows have been cleared to let in more light and provide views of Washington Park.

With all the gawking I did at the new and freshly uncovered beauty of the wonderful old building, I was at risk of forgetting why I was there, but I didn’t. Last year the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra put together an “American Originals” project featuring the music of Stephen Foster and several world class performers. This year it was the music of the World War I era and another batch of world class performers. Specifically those performers were the Steep Canyon Rangers, Pokey LaFarge, and Rhiannon Giddens plus tap dancer Robyn Watson.

With the orchestra always adding that something extra, the artists performed alone and in various combinations. The finale was a rousing version of “I Ain’t Got Nobody” with all hands on deck. In fact, it was more than just all hands, the audience was encouraged — quite strongly — to sing a couple of lines. That’s Pops Conductor John Morris Russell doing the encouraging. The entire performance was recorded and a CD will be available. I assure you it’s safe to buy; I did not try to sing.

I ended the 2016 pre-refurb post with a shot of Springer Auditorium’s 2,000 pound chandelier from floor level. The closest I’ve got to that this time is a shot taken from the balcony. The chandelier is a relatively new addition to the 139 year old building. It was added during a 1969 renovation. That meant there was talk of removing it but public outcry kept it from going very far.

I’ve called this a peek and it isn’t a particularly good one. Among the much better photographs out there are those in an online gallery at Cincinnati Refined. I’ve provided even less of a peek at the concert. CityBeat published an excellent review of Friday’s performance which was essentially the same as what I saw Sunday. That review is here.

Book Review
50 @ 70
Denny Gibson

This could be the charm associated with third attempts, or it could be the out associated with third strikes. Seriously, though, I doubt it is either. Neither of my first two books, By Mopar to the Golden Gate or A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, were hits, but neither were they whiffs. They were, to stay with the metaphor, fouled off and I’m still at bat.

50 @ 70 follows the others in form. It’s a travelogue with lots of pictures and it documents a particular accomplishment. The accomplishment it documents is the visiting of all fifty of the states that make up the USA. That, of course is the “50” in the title. “70” comes from the fact that I hit my fiftieth state just days ahead of my seventieth birthday.

Not all states are covered; Thirty-four were already logged before I started paying attention. The sixteen states that are covered are not covered evenly. After a couple of chapters to set the scene, each chapter deals with a trip that led to one or more new states. The last two trips led to Alaska and Hawaii and together fill about half of the book. North Dakota was reached on the way to Alaska, while the rest of the book is shared by the other thirteen states.

50 @ 70 is available as a Kindle download (with color photos) as well as a paperback. Either may be purchased through Amazon and the purchase of a paperback there includes the ability to acquire the Kindle edition for a couple bucks. I’ve also set up an eBay listing in order to make providing signed copies easier. I can’t offer access to the Kindle download or the potentially free shipping of Amazon but they can’t ship books with my scribbling in them.

50 @ 70, Denny Gibson, Trip Mouse Publishing, 2017, paperback, 9 x 6 inches, 142 pages, ISBN 978-1976189371.

Signed copies available through eBay.

Reader reviews at Amazon are appreciated and helpful and can be submitted even if you didn’t purchase the book there.

Five Fives

I’ve walked in a DAV 5K every year it has existed. It all started with a single event in Cincinnati in 2013. Six cities hosted events in 2017. Veterans Day fell on Saturday this year, and three of those cities, including Cincinnati, held their 5Ks on that day. The other three took place a week prior.

I cheated a bit when I signed up this time. The online registration form included a drop-down list for indicating how many previous Cincinnati DAV 5Ks you had participated in. The “Cincinnati” part is what made it tricky. Last year I was traveling and took part in the inaugural DAV 5K in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Apparently believing that someone misinterpreted an abbreviation was easier than believing someone had entered the event from 650 miles away. When I picked up my registration in Tulsa, someone had crossed out Ohio and written in Oklahoma. Somehow that eased my conscience when I clicked “4” on that list. The count was right; It was just off a few hundred miles.

The first official activity of the event is the motorcycle roll-by. I was more or less in position near the back of the pack when I heard them rumbling behind me and turned to snap a picture. Thanks to the magic of auto-focus, I have a rather crisp rendition of the sign post. Somewhat less crisp is the photo’s actual subject matter. I did a little better as they passed by where I stood.

The scene in this picture should be familiar to anyone who has followed my DAV 5K career. I’ve posted a photo of the crowd leading me under the start banner every year except the very first, and that year I included a shot of the banner from the other side as the cyclists were about to take off.

The temperature at the start was in the 20s and I believe that’s the coldest it has ever been for the event. I’m thinking that may explain the dearth of entertainment or maybe it’s just become old hat. Other than the faithful Saint Xavier Marching Band providing some pep from their usual spot. there was just one musician on the route. He jumped into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s  “GimmeThree Steps” as I approached and that was what I was still hearing as I moved out of range.

I don’t know whether the motorcycles follow the entire route or take a short cut but a long line of them are parked near the finish each year. The riders stand on the median offering hand slaps and encouragement to all the participants. Not everyone takes advantage of the hand slaps but there aren’t many who couldn’t use a little encouragement at this point.

Here is another familiar scene but, unlike the scene at the start banner, the crowd has gotten rather thin. Despite what you’re probably thinking, it’s not because I’ve left them in my dust. There are a few (141) behind me but much more than a few (2147) ahead of me. In an alarming difference from past finishes, my time did not improve over the previous year. This year’s 1:03:55 was a full 19 seconds higher than last year’s time. Although it’s possible that the Tulsa course is itself faster (I did beat my previous Cincinnati time.) I fear that my pace has peaked and the glory days are over.

Here are links to the previous DAV 5K blog entries: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

Book Review
2 for $6 on Route 66
Debra Whittington

I wish I had $6 or even 6¢ for every time I’ve stood by an old motel or diner and wished that the aging walls could talk. There are no talking walls here but 2 for $6 on Route 66 does contain the memories of someone who spent a whole lot of time with some very interesting walls. Author Debra Whittington married into the motel business; The man she married was born into it.

In 1954 Mark Whittington’s parents built a motel on the west side of Tucumcari, New Mexico. They sold it after a few years, but before the decade was over they were building another one on the east side of town. Mark went off to college, met Debra, and the two were married just about the time he graduated. Another motel came up for sale just a few days before the wedding and Mark’s dad, thinking it would be a good business for the young couple, bought it. With little notice and less input, Debra found herself more or less in charge of a motel where she would interact with travelers on Historic Route 66 for nearly thirty years.

2 for $6… is divided into two main parts. Whittington calls the first part “History of the Area”. The subject area is centered on Tucumcari and the history includes that of Tumcumcari’s main drag, US-66. Some of what’s written here will be familiar to anyone who has looked at all into the history of Sixty-Six and other early highways but it is necessary background for the local details that Whitting relates. Many of those details she gathered from people who lived in Tucumcari long before she arrived. I personally enjoyed references to the town’s two Ozark Trails markers and descriptions of early cars and campgrounds.

Things get more personal in the book’s second part, “One Family, 50 Years in the Motel Business”. The first few chapters of this section give the history of the Whittington family’s motel experience before Debra arrived. It starts with that first motel, the Golden W, they built in 1954. Then on to the second, the Sahara Sands, built in 1959. The motel’s name and giant sign came from a motel in Amarillo, Texas, that was turning into a Holiday Inn.

The book’s name comes from the Sahara Sands period. A rash of motel construction in the mid-1960s resulted in Tucumcari having more rooms than tourists. During a 1965 price war, a hand-painted “2 for $6” sign went up in front of the Sahara Sands. A photo of the sign, which still exists, is in the book.

The motel that was purchased in 1978 was the Pony Soldier. It was built in 1964. Once Debra has described the extensive work that went into getting it ready to reopen, she proceeds to share lots of stories of her time there. What results is a picture, painted from the inside, of operating an independent motel in one of Historic 66’s hot spots. It’s funny, sad, scary, and heart-warming. It might be similar to pictures that could be painted of many other motels but it’s Debra’s picture and it’s unique. And it exists. the inside story of most of those other motels haven’t been recorded and probably won’t be.

2 for $6 on Route 66, Debra Whittington, 2015, 8.6 x 5.5 inches, 140 pages

I believe the book is available in several shops in Tucumcari. I bought my copy in the coffee shop at the Historic Route 66 Motel. According to a review at Route 66 News, the book is available direct from the author  “by sending $10 plus $3 shipping in the U.S. in check or money order to Debra Whittington, Debra Whittington, 923 S. Hawthorne St., Tucumcari, NM 88401″

I Care Not How. Only If. (2017)

This post from 2014 is making its fourth appearance. Last year a pre-election post by Mike Rowe got a lot of attention and caused me to rethink my own post. I used a line of Mike’s to end last year’s preamble: “Because the truth is, the country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed, or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process.”

Besides talking about needing only “voters who wish to participate”, Mike’s post speaks of the need for voters to be qualified. It’s possible to see the results of last year’s presidential election being partially due to the participation of unqualified voters. It’s also possible to see it as the result of non-participation by qualified voters. That non-participation is doubly troubling when it is the result of folks being denied their vote by those in power. I’m closing this year’s preamble with a line from an image that has appeared at the end of each of my pre-election day posts: “Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.”


yvyvWe fought a war to get this country going then gave every land owning white male above the age of twenty-one the right to vote. A little more than four score years later, we fought a war with ourselves that cleared the way for non-whites to vote. Several decades of loud, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous behavior brought the granting of that same right to non-males a half-century later and another half century saw the voting age lowered to eighteen after a decade or so of protests and demonstrations.

dftv1Of course, putting something in a constitution does not automatically make it a practice throughout the land and I am painfully aware that resistance followed each of those changes and that efforts to make voting extremely difficult for “the other side” are ongoing today. I don’t want to ignore partisan obstructions and system flaws but neither do I want to get hung up on them. I meant my first paragraph to be a reminder that a hell of a lot of effort, property, and lives have gone into providing an opportunity to vote to a hell of a lot of people. Far too many of those opportunities go unused.

There are so many ways to slice and dice the numbers that producing a fair and accurate measure of voter turn out may not be possible. A Wikipedia article  on the subject includes a table of voter turnout in a number of countries for the period 1960-1995. The United States is at the bottom. The numbers are nearly twenty years old and open to interpretation so maybe we’re doing better now or maybe we shouldn’t have been dead last even then. But even if you want to think we are better than that, being anywhere near the bottom of the list and having something in the vicinity of 50% turnout is embarrassing… and frightening.

dftv2In the title I claim to not care how anyone votes. That’s not entirely true, of course. I have my favorite candidates and issues. I’ll be disappointed in anyone who votes differently than I do but not nearly as disappointed as I’ll be in anyone who doesn’t vote at all. I’m reminded of parents working on getting their kids to clean their plates with lines like, “There are hungry children in China who would love to have your green beans.” I’m not sure what the demand for leftover beans is in Beijing these days but I’m pretty sure some folks there would like to have our access to ballots and voting booths.

Book Review
Onramps and Overpasses
Dianne Perrier

You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover. Or, sometimes, by reading the title. That was the case for me with Onramps and Overpasses and the impression I got from the title and cover pretty much explains why it stayed on the unread pile so long that I don’t remember where it came from or why I have it. The cover is a nicely done long exposure photo of cars on a divided four-lane highway passing through what looks to be a rather scenic area. The title reinforces the image of high-speed limited-access roadways. The subtitle, “A Cultural History of Interstate Travel” does a better job of describing what’s inside but the preconception created by the cover and title led me to overlook the word “cultural” and misinterpret the word “interstate”. In my opinion, Perrier goofed on the cover and even more so on the title. Those are, however, virtually the only mistakes she makes here.

A concept central to any view of American transportation history is that new roads follow old paths. As we all know, expressways superseded two-lanes which paralleled railroads which ran beside pioneer trails which followed Native American paths which mimicked animal traces. The new routes were rarely exact duplicates of what came before but they were similar. Hunting parties might take advantage of a shortcut too restrictive to be used by a herd of bison. Steam engines were simply unable to climb slopes that a man on horseback might. Paths might not precisely follow what came before but they passed through the same corridor. Perrier’s book is organized around the current set of interstate highways but her story is of what came before and why the corridors those interstates follow exist and are important.

She includes anecdotes from and descriptions of various periods in the development of each corridor. This is the “cultural” flavoring of history that I’d missed in the sub-title. That these corridors were and are the paths of travel between states is the intended meaning of the word “interstate” that I initially took to mean the multi-lane expressways we commonly identify by that word. Once I picked it up and discovered how off my expectations were, I didn’t want to put it down. As I was enlightened by plenty of details, I was entertained by stories and sidebars. I’m just sorry it took me so long to look beyond those four lanes of car lights.

You can’t judge a sister by looking at her brother.
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.

— Willie Dixon, 1962

Onramps and Overpasses, Dianne Perrier, University Press of Florida (November 15, 2009), 9.3 x 6.5 inches, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0813033983

My Wheels — Chapter 28
1978? Yamaha 400

In the previous episode of My Wheels I mentioned that both that chapter and this one would suffer from foggy memory regarding timing. I also mentioned that in this installment I would try to at least explain how the vehicles were related even if I couldn’t explain when. That I will and I’ll even tie up a loose end from several chapters back.

Once again the vehicle I actually owned is not the one pictured. I’m not even sure it’s the right year. The photo shows a 1978 model and it looks about right so the model of the motorcycle being discussed must have been within a year or so. The bike was a gift of sorts from my oldest son. Regular readers may recall that the Mazda in the previous chapter came into my possession when that same son could no longer handle a loan I had cosigned. When he moved to California he presented me with the Yamaha more or less as payment for dropping the Mazda in my lap, etc.

I initially shied away from riding the bike because of brakes. My Wheels — Chapter 21 concerned my 1979 Chevy Van and ended with the phrase “until a trade opportunity came along.” This was it. A mechanic friend put new brakes on the Yahama in exchange for the abused Chevy. I rode the bike some after that but not a whole lot. It really wasn’t the bike I would have bought for myself had I gone shopping for a bike which I hadn’t.

Before long another trade opportunity came along. I had ignored the RX7 so long that the rotor became frozen in place. I knew a fellow who was familiar with Mazda rotaries having raced them for awhile, and we worked out a deal to get the idle Mazda running in exchange for the nearly idle Yahama. He did get the rotor free and cleared up some other issues but did not have complete success. The friend who bought the car had to pay someone to get it running. I clearly wasn’t the winner in either of those trades but there was a lot of that sort of thing going on then. It was the season of my second divorce.

Trip Peek #63
Trip #57
Ohio Barn Dance

This picture is from my 2007 Ohio Barn Dance day trip. It was something of an impromptu outing made to take advantage of a warm and sunny late October day. The photo is of the Belle of Cincinnati docked at Augusta, Kentucky, which is where the trip ended. The name comes from the old barns I photographed while driving some Ohio roads on the way to the ferry that would deliver me to Augusta.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Movie Review
The Vietnam War
Ken Burns & Lynn Novick

This isn’t a very deep review. It is, however, a very deep and sincere recommendation. The eighteen hour documentary is simply the best thing I’ve seen in years. PBS broadcast the first of ten episodes on September 17. I watched it and the next one, and was hooked. Circumstances kept me from watching the remaining episodes when broadcast, but I did eventually see them all via online streaming. It was announced that the stream would only be available through October 15 but it still appeared to be functioning on the 17th. Check The Vietnam War for details and other sources.

There’s no question that one reason I found this production so engaging is its familiarity. I recall many of the described events from when they happened in the 1960s and early 1970s. There was both a refreshing of memories and a filling in of unknown details. But there was also plenty of totally new information, particularly concerning the earliest years, that made me realize things were even more screwed up than I thought they were; And I thought they were really screwed up.

Burns and company pulled together a lot of sources in an attempt to present every aspect from every angle. The result probably isn’t perfect but it’s mighty close. Recent interviews with a variety of participants help illuminate some of those angles and add insight and credibility.

I was more on the sidelines than not, but I was there. Watching this movie made me remember some of the clearly stupid and arguably evil things my country did. Someone in their 20s or 30s for whom the Vietnam War is more ancient than World War II was for me, won’t have those memories to be reawakened. We will see the history telling aspect of the movie differently. But I can’t imagine anyone watching this epic and thinking of it as nothing but a history report. Seeing the divisiveness associated with the Vietnam War in the divisiveness of today seems unavoidable to me. I believe that the twentysomethings of both the 1970s and the 2010s can’t help but see some similarities.

If you’re looking for a little entertainment that will take your mind off the world, this ain’t it. This will, in fact, press your mind firmly against the world of fifty years ago and help it remember and/or understand that world. I’m betting it will also get your mind thinking about the world of today although it probably won’t help in understanding it.