Bibliophilia at the Mercantile

Despite natural first impressions, the title is one of of my most accurate and straightforward. Bibliophilia is the name of a Cincinnati Museum Center CurioCity program that was held at the Mercantile Library of Cincinnati on Thursday. The Museum Center (a.k.a., Union Terminal) is currently undergoing a major renovation and numerous events that would normally be held there are being spread around the city. The Mercantile Library is one of the city’s oldest institutions and it is with considerable chagrin that I admit to this being my first visit.

Bibliophilia exhibits included Sarah Pearce’s artistic creations and a letter press from the Museum Center. Pearce made that dress out of pages from a book of patterns following one of those patterns. The letter press was fully operational and even I managed to produce something legible with it. There was also a station with manual typewriters that attendees could use to write Tweet sized (140 character) stories and a place where they could bind their stories into pamphlets. A rather major activity was a scavenger hunt that had people prowling all through the library to answer a set of questions.

I didn’t take part in the scavenger hunt but prowled nonetheless. The Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association was founded in 1835. It lost a couple of homes to fire and moved around a bit during its first seven decades but has occupied the purpose built upper floors of 414 Walnut Street since 1904. It’s here under a $10,000 10,000 year lease that guarantees space even if the building is replaced.

The place looks exactly as a library should. In fact, it looks a lot like what it did in 1904 and some of the furnishings and many of the books predate that considerably. But there have been changes over the years. You can now be neither young nor male and still join and, even though “mercantile” is still part of the name, a connection with commerce is no longer required.

The library was recently the subject of a great Cincinnati Refined article accompanied by some marvelous photos. Check it out here.


A surprise bonus was running into a couple of travelers I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. We’ve sometimes joked online about probably meeting each other beside a narrow road in some semi-distant state. Although the Rowlands (Chris & Katherine) and I both live near Cincinnati, a crossing of paths on two-lane roads seemed more likely than the meeting in a library in the heart of downtown that happened Thursday. I tried to get a candid shot of the two of them but my attempts turned out to be the blurriest of the blurry so I asked to use a picture that Katherine took of Chris & I. Catch up on their travels and learn a lot about Reubens here.

Three Fortnights to Go

On Friday, I made my second excursion to see Buckeye Chuck with no more planning than the first and with worse timing. In 2016 I arrived long enough before sunrise to look around a little and down a free SPAM sandwich before the big event. I cut it a little closer this year and, while I did have a few minutes to wait, the SPAM (i.e., ground hog) sandwiches provided by local sponsors were all gone. To be honest, they weren’t entirely gone but the last few had been distributed moments before I arrived and all I could do was watch them disappear into the mouths of nearby spectators.

My arrival preceded sunrise by only about ten minutes and co-hosts Scott Shawver and Paul James filled the time with banter and guests including Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer. I’m guessing that Schertzer appears every year (he did in 2016) but this year he has a little extra claim to fame. Just two weeks ago, Cincinnatian Connie Pillich picked him as her running mate in her campaign for governor. Pillich is an occasional patron of the place where I eat pizza, drink beer, and play trivia. When James and Shawver polled the crowd to see who came the farthest, my shouted “Cincinnati” was the apparent winner but, because there was no one from out of state, not much was made of it. Actually nothing was made of it at all.

James and Shawver claim to alternate duties but, having only been here in two even numbered years, Shawver is the only one I’ve personally seen deal with Chuck. He bravely — it was 12 degrees Fahrenheit — stripped down to shirtsleeves and briefly studied the situation before announcing the obvious. In the bright sunlight. Buckeye Chuck couldn’t help but see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter.

Before leaving town, I again satisfied my need for ground hog with sausage and eggs at Baires Restaurant then stopped by President Harding’s memorial. Look at those clouds and consider how much different Chuck’s prediction would have been if delivered just a short while later.

Seventy-Six Years After

Thursday was the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the day following the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” and it does, even though public events marking the day are decreasing. That’s to be expected as the number of people with personal memories of the day gets a little smaller each year and other horrible events occupy the memories of following generations.

The town of New Richmond, Ohio, holds a Pearl Harbor Remembrance event each year on the Sunday preceding December 7. When it began, about thirty years ago, approximately twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors attended from the surrounding area. For my first time there, in 2011, just three remained and only one, Joe Whitt, was healthy enough to be there. The others have since passed on while Joe, at 94, continues to attend the event and share his memories.

This year I also attended an event on the actual anniversary of the bombing. The VFW Post 7696 event at West Chester Township’s Brookside Cemetery was the only one that turned up in an online search. Things began with a recounting of key events surrounding the attack.

A Soldier’s Cross ceremony followed. A bayoneted rifle is thrust into the ground then “dog tags” are hung from it. Boots are then placed in front of the rifle and the cross completed with a helmet placed atop the rifle. The event concluded with a rifle volley and the playing of Taps.

This year’s Pearl Harbor Remem-brance Day was  a little bit different for me by virtue of having visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for the first time in the spring. The opening photo of the Arizona’s anchor is from that visit as are the three on the right. My journal for the visit is here..

The singing of a familiar medley of service songs was part of Sunday’s activities in New Richmond. As the songs associated with each of the five US military branches was performed, veterans of the branch stood. It seemed to me that close to half of the crowd stood at some point. Later, one of the speakers asked all WW II veterans to raise their hands. I counted three including Joe Whitt.

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.

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.

BLINK Cincinnati

It’s big. Twenty blocks big, they say. The southernmost installations are in the Banks area south of 2nd Street; The northernmost is a little north of Findlay Street. That’s where the twenty block measurement comes from. In between, displays can be found in an area three or four blocks wide. The simplest description of BLINK is that it’s a light show. Colorful images, such as the one at right, are projected on buildings throughout that twenty block area of downtown Cincinnati. Thursday was the first night; Sunday is the last.

I made it Thursday night, but not as early as I should have. I had thoughts of parking in the Washington Park and catching the nearby opening night parade. I was way too late for that, however, and could see that streets around the park were blocked off. I turned onto Walnut Street and headed toward Fountain Square. As I drove, I grabbed the picture at the top of the article from the car. Vehicle traffic was heavy but nowhere near what I’ve frequently seen in the past. It was foot traffic that was unusual. It didn’t approach gridlock levels either but it was certainly heavy throughout a large area. At this point, I wasn’t really surprised to see the Walnut Street entrance to the Fountain Square Garage closed. I was, however, feeling a little discouraged and the blocked entrance added to that. I decided to swing around to the other side and if it was also closed, as I expected, I would simply head home and try again on another night.

I did not have to cut and run. The Vine Street entrance was open and there were plenty of spots open in the garage. After a brief look at the area around Fountain Square I headed toward the river. These two photos are of the eastern side of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The lighted tops of the PNC and Carew Towers can be seen in the first one. All projected images are either constantly changing or in motion.

South of the Freedom Center, seesaws with illuminated beams occupy an area between it and the Roebling Bridge. I walked beyond the seesaws and looked back north for the second picture. Images are projected on all three sections of the Freedom Center. On the left are the PNC and Carew Towers with the Scripps Tower on the right.

The Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, is a participant with a large display of the event’s name and and a series of baseball themed images.

Food and beverages are available in a number of Hospitality Areas and there are several locations with live music. The first picture is of The Mambo Combo who were performing on the Freedom Center Stage. The second is of the Queen City Kings performing in the Saint Xavier Backlot. The King City projection, with rotating tape reels, is on the rear of Saint Xavier Church. I kind of wanted to talk with the young lady in the picture about what she was reading but I didn’t.

There was another snag besides my late arrival. As stated in the online FAQ, “BLINK is designed around the Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar route.” Around 9:00, when I decided to take the streetcar to the north end of the event, it was not moving. It wasn’t the streetcar’s fault. A section of 5th Street was blocked for what I assume was an accident. Yellow police tape crossed the streetcar track. When any part of a loop is blocked, the whole thing, in effect, is blocked. I chose not to walk the fifteen or so blocks so I missed a considerable portion of the exhibits. Just more bad timing on my part.

Then There Was One

Keith Emerson died in March of last year; Greg Lake followed in December. Carl Palmer looks like he might be around forever. Keith was 71. Greg was 69. Carl was the baby of the progressive rock trio that ruled the 1970s but even the baby is now 67. At 67 Carl Palmer is nearly as quick and powerful as he was at 27 and quicker and more powerful than just about anyone else at any age. Of course, there is a lot more to Carl than speed and power.

I first saw Carl Palmer in 1971 when Emerson, Lake, and Palmer opened for The James Gang at Cincinnati Gardens. There were two openers that night. One, Free, I knew of and had heard a song or two. The other was completely new to me. ELP blew me away that night with such force that, until I looked up some concert details earlier this week, I had totally forgotten that Free had appeared between them and the headliners.

For starters, they sounded good. Nobody sounded good in Cincinnati Gardens but ELP did. What I mostly remember of Greg Lake that night was his singing. I know he played bass and guitar and may have even temporarily wowed me with his playing but it is his voice I remember. Emerson grabbed everyone’s attention. The synthesizer was new and exciting and seemed capable of delivering every sound imaginable. And Keith Emerson was its master.

But the drummer got a lot of my attention, too. At the time, I was an active (ever so slightly) drummer myself and, while I wasn’t particularly good, I knew enough to realize that this guy was great. Carl Palmer didn’t just pound on his massive kit; He played music on it.

I saw ELP once more but, while I was just as impressed with their individual performances, I was actually disappointed in the concert as a whole. It was 1977 and they were touring with an orchestra. A former co-worker thought this was possibly the best concert he had ever attended and an on-line article I just discovered gives me new appreciation for the accomplishment but it just didn’t do it for me. Part of what made my jaw drop back in ’71 was that three guys sounded like an orchestra. I didn’t find a 58 piece orchestra sounding like a 58 piece orchestra nearly as impressive.

There was no orchestra for Friday’s show at Live at the Ludlow Garage. Nor was there a keyboardist or vocalist. Carl occasionally stepped forward to introduce a song or tell a story and that’s what he’s doing in the first photo. Paul Bielatowicz stuck with his six string electric. Simon Fitzpatrick played both a six string bass and a ten string Chapman Stick.. A Chapman Stick can mimic a variety of instruments and both guitarists worked with plenty of effects. It wasn’t ELP but it was three guys sometimes sounding like an orchestra. We had joked about the possibility of getting a two hour drum solo. It was anything but. Carl had some very talented musicians with him.

Of course, it was Carl that everyone came to see and he did not disappoint. There were a couple of time he sat quietly and gave Paul or Simon a chance to show off a little but he never left the stage during the hour and a half show and wasn’t sitting quietly at all for most of it. No, it wasn’t 1971 again but it was closer than I had any right to expect.

The Birthplace of Carl Festival

I didn’t make it to last month’s Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in Missouri but I did make it to Saturday’s somewhat smaller Birthplace of Carl Festival in Indiana. Well, it wasn’t a festival exactly. It was the dedication of a new monument and by somewhat smaller I mean approximately 100 versus 53000 attendees. The monument dedication took place in the town of Greensburg and the Carl being celebrated was Carl Graham Fisher who was born there in 1874. Fisher was one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and an instigator in the founding of both the Lincoln and Dixie Highway Associations. He got his start as a automobile dealer and owner of a company making automobile headlights.

With all those automotive connections it is only natural that many showed up at the dedication. There were some beauties including several Packards which was a brand Fisher drove.

The 1915 Packard that Fisher once owned and used to pace the 1915 and 1916 Indianapolis 500 races sat in front of the Decatur County Museum. The tarp covered monument was close by.

At 12:30 the crowd’s attention turned toward the museum’s front porch and a number of speakers. Among them was the mayor of Greensburg who proclaimed it Carl Fisher Day. The photos I’ve posted are of Allen and Nancy Strong, current owners of Carl Fisher’s Packard and Jerry Fisher, Carl’s great-nephew and author of the biography The Pacesetter.

When the time came for the unveiling, Jerry and his wife Josie moved to the monument and pulled back the tarp. The monument’s text can be read here.

Following the ceremony, I walked to the nearby courthouse where a plaque honoring Fisher was erected in 2014. The sign’s text can be read here and here.

 

Aside from being the birthplace of Carl Fisher, Greensburg is known for the tree growing from its courthouse tower. Some extensive renovation is underway but the tree, not quite visible in the photo, is still there. The last two photos have even less to do with Carl Fisher than the tree topped tower. Greensburg is the only town I know of with an even number of Oddfellows buildings on the town square. Strange.

Positively Pike Street

Last Sunday, a website I follow (Cincinnati Refined) posted an article about a free walking tour in nearby Covington, KY. It sounded promising and my interest level climbed a little more when the information was shared to the Dixie Highway Facebook group. The connection came from the fact that the walking tour was on Covington’s Pike Street and Pike Street once carried the Dixie Highway. On Wednesday I took part in the weekly tour. The picture at right was taken at the end of the tour so I’ll cover it at the end of this post.

The tour start point was at the Kenton County Library on Scott Street just a short distance north of Pike’s eastern end. The Dixie Highway followed Scott and Pike through the intersection. A life sized Abe Lincoln stands at the entrance to the library’s parking lot. Beardless Lincoln’s aren’t as rare as they used to be or maybe they never were as rare as I thought they were. Few, however, show a Lincoln as young as the Matt Langford sculpture unveiled in 2004. That’s one good looking dude.

We met inside the library then walked past Abe to where Pike Street Ts into Scott. There our guide Krysta gave us an overview of the tour and some background on Pike Street. The street takes its name from the Covington and Lexington Turnpike that was chartered by the state in 1834. The street really was something of a commercial and transportation center with railroad freight and passenger terminals being built beside it.

Pike Street jogs south at Madison Avenue then slants off to the southwest. These buildings are in the obtuse angle on the north side of the street. I’ve driven through this intersection countless times and walked through it a few but never thought about how the buildings fit into it until another tour member mentioned it. They are, as the overhead from Google Maps shows, literally wedged in.

As we walked west on Pike we stopped frequently as Krysta told us about specific buildings and people associated with them. Two of the buildings in the preceding photo were included. The short white building in the center was most recently the home of Bronko’s Chili. It is currently being renovated for some unknown purpose. The fancy mosaic arch was added to the building next door in 1929. That’s the year that Casse’ Frocks, the name embedded in the arch, opened several stores in what was intended to be a nationwide chain. October’s stock market crash brought the effort to an abrupt end but no one has seen fit to replace the classy facade in all the years since. An identical storefront still stands on Main Street in Cincinnati.

Frank Duveneck was born in Covington and a statue of the famous artist stands in a small triangle park formed by Pike, 7th, and Washington Streets. We didn’t actually enter the park but we learned a lot about Duveneck’s life with the statue in view. We are standing on Washington Street with Pike then 7th crossing in front of us. Back in the day, Washington was something of a dividing line with stores, restaurants, and taverns to the east and grittier enterprises such as livery stables, distilleries, and mortuaries to the west.

We walked beyond Washington to the middle of the block. The brick building farthest away in the picture is the former passenger terminal. The fence next to us encloses an area where several buildings, including a former distillery where a friend operated a bar back in the 1970s, stood until earlier this summer. Bricks falling from one of the buildings last fall left one person with permanent injuries and sent three others to the hospital temporarily. Safety was a big factor in the decision to demolish the buildings.

It was here that the tour officially ended and most people headed back toward the library. I used some of the time on the walk back to raise the subject of the Dixie Highway. Neither the article where I’d learned of the tour nor the library’s online description gave me any reason to expect the Dixie to be mentioned but, as a fan of the old road, I sort of hoped it would be. Krysta’s answer to my query was simply that they had not spent any time learning about the Dixie Highway. That matched what I was seeing. The focus of the tour and of the guides’ ongoing research was the individual buildings along the street. The beginning comments about the turnpike era were pretty much taken from a marker in that park with Duveneck’s statue. The Dixie Highway thing is minor and somewhat esoteric. The tour’s purpose was to inform participants about the buildings and it did that quite nicely.

Now for that opening picture. I noticed the moon on the walk west but merely gave it a glance. With a fortune teller in the background and without my attention being directed elsewhere, it hooked me solidly on the way back. Swami! How I love you, how I love you!

There Goes the Sun

We just had a total eclipse of the sun and by we, I mean me. The United States, has had total eclipses before but we (i.e., people within shouting distance of me) haven’t. I actually thought we had but that’s clearly not the case. I have a memory of standing on the school playground watching the image of an eclipse created by a pinhole in a piece of paper. Total eclipses have been visible in the U.S. in 1954, ’63, ’70, and ’79. Two of those are within my school years but both took place in the summer (June ’54, July ’63) when classes would not have been in session. But what really stomps on the idea that I’d previously seen a full sized solar eclipse in person is the fact that the 1954 event was visible only in Nebraska, Wisconsin, and neighboring states. The only states caught by the 1963 eclipse were Alaska and Maine. The best explanation I can come up with for my school playground memory is that some group met at the school specifically for the 1954 eclipse and saw about 79% obscuration. Maybe that’s it or maybe not. My recall sometimes reaches 79% obscuration, too.

Last Monday’s eclipse delivered 100% obscuration to fourteen of the United States and partial obscuration to all of them except Alaska and Hawaii. I could have stayed home and had 90.43% obscuration but I wanted to not see the whole thing. Not all complete obscuration is equal, however. NASA identified two “greatest” points. The self explanatory point of Greatest Duration was in Illinois near the town of Makanda. The point of Greatest Eclipse, which NASA defines as “the instant when the axis of the Moon’s shadow cone passes closest to Earth’s center” was in Kentucky near the town of Hopkinsville where most of the 30,000 plus residents embraced the name “Eclipseville”. Hopkinsville is about 240 miles from my home.

Area motel rooms and campsites sold out months in advance. I visited Hopkinsville about 24 hours before the big event but lodged more than 60 miles away in Owensboro. Food and souvenir vendors lined downtown streets and entertainers performed in areas set aside for the purpose. It wasn’t as jam packed and hectic as I had feared and my understanding is that even on the next day, when it was jam packed, it was not terribly hectic. People came to see something not say something.

My plan for eclipse day was to get somewhat close to Hopkinsville then seek out a parking spot on some back road. The Western Kentucky Parkway was busy but tolerable until it neared the Pennyrile Parkway where traffic tightened up in a way that promised congestion from that point on. I turned north (away from the congestion) on Pennyrile, took the next exit, then followed secondary and tertiary roads south to the path of the eclipse about twenty-five miles away.

It really was kind of ridiculous for me to even try photographing the eclipse. Without even considering the pros at NASA and other organization, thousands of real photographers with much better equipment and infinitely better skills would be recording images that would capture the event for all of us to enjoy. I was here because I wanted to experience a total eclipse not because I needed a photograph. But… I got some anyway. I found a spot at the edge of a corn field about fourteen miles from Hopkinsville. It was far enough from population centers to keep my phone from picking up a signal. That’s why the screen capture is for the town of Trenton some two miles distant. I set up my tripod and mounted my camera on top. I snapped on the hood with a welder’s lens duct taped to it. I put on my googles. I took some pictures and I watched something marvelous unfold.

The first picture at right is the very first picture I took. Things had started happening as I parked the car and aimed the camera. A little bit of the sun was already gone by the time of the first shutter click. The photo of totality at the top of this post is sized to minimize fuzziness and to show some of the black sky. Although it does not show up in the photo, a star (or more likely a planet) was quite visible to the right of the sun and moon. A vision of totality with unfettered fuzziness is here. The second picture is my version of the diamond ring effect that appeared as totality ended. The third picture shows the sun starting to reassert itself. The Greatest Eclipse point was about 12 miles west of Hopkinsville or about 26 miles from where I stood. The duration of totality at that point was 160.1 seconds. The point of Greatest Duration, 90 miles beyond, beat that by 0.1 second. At my spot next to the corn it was 159.7 seconds. To paraphrase a slogan from an event that occurs in Kentucky on a more regular basis, it was “The most exciting two minutes in amateur sky gazing.”

Witnessing the sun’s disappearance, the mid-day darkness, and the drop in temperature was definitely exciting. It was also thought provoking. To some it was spiritual. More than anything, though, it was uniting. For a short period the eclipse was at the center of the actions of a huge number of people and the conversations of even more. And almost all of those conversations were quite friendly. Sure, in Kentucky I heard some grumbling about traffic and comments about “crazy Texans who drove all that way for two minutes” but there was no real anger in the grumbling and chuckles accompanied the Texan comments.

It was way short of a “The Day the Earth Stood Still” moment but there was just a tiny glimmer of that “tiny ball in a big universe” understanding. In the diner where I overheard the comment about “crazy Texans”, I also observed one fellow explaining the positions of earth, moon, and sun during the eclipse to what seemed to be a regular breakfast meeting of a local “Liars Club”. He wasn’t breaking new ground or fighting against doubt. All the old timers at that table understood the basics but were just a little foggy on the details.

A few weeks ago I visited some mounds in eastern Ohio that are believed to have been constructed at least partially to study the movements of the moon. On the day of the eclipse I held a device in my hand that, bad reception in the cornfield aside, was capable of telling me the precise effect that two heavenly bodies were about to have on the exact spot I was standing on. I thought of Arthur C. Clarke’s well known statement about advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. It somehow applied but far from perfectly so. I’ve since learned of other lines from other writers that proceeded Clarke’s and may have influenced it. One that seems quite appropriate to me comes from Leigh Brackett’s 1942 The Sorcerer of Rhiannon: “Witchcraft to the ignorant, … simple science to the learned.” Even though, as the latest and loudest news stories often show, plenty of ignorance remains, we really aren’t quite as ignorant as we used to be. I’m guessing that those mounds helped.

There will be another total solar eclipse within range of Cincinnati in 2024 and again in 2045. Those guys in the diner knew about both. There’s a decent chance I’ll be around in 2024 and a very slim but non-zero chance I’ll still be here in 2045. If I am, I hope that someone drags my ancient bones outside and makes sure my chair is facing the right direction.