Alternate Dixie

pic05cI took advantage of a not-snowing above-freezing day (It’s all relative.) to take a day trip on part of the Dixie Highway to Berea, Kentucky. Rain washed away any thoughts of making it a multi-day outing but the drive down was very pleasant and the stay in Berea both pleasant and worthwhile.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments

Bock to Rock

b2r01I stole the title. There’s a music store in Greenville, Ohio, called Bach to Rock which I think is the coolest name for a music store ever. On Friday, I followed up the 23rd annual Bockfest parade with a Dave & Phil Alvin concert. Voila! Fits like a glove.

While looking up the music store’s web address, I discovered that there is now a bunch of franchised music schools called Bach to Rock. They started in 2007 and the store has been around a lot longer than that. The store could probably sue the school but I doubt they will. We Darke Countians are a mellow lot.

b2r02b2r03The sun was shining — at a very low angle — as the parade “formed” on 8th Street near Arnold’s . Perhaps words like “formed” and “organized” are a little out of place when applied to the Bockfest Parade but it somehow happens. This year both marchers and watchers were plentiful despite the temperature being right at the freezing mark. Or maybe it was because of the temperature. WE ARE READY FOR SPRING.

b2r04Another word, “irreverent”, has always applied to the Bockfest parade. That definitely won’t be changing for the event in general but it does no longer apply to one major piece of the parade. Previous grand marshals have included the likes of the four-legged mayor (It’s a dog, don’t you know?) of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, but henceforth, in recognition of the serious celebration of Cincinnati’s past underlying this event, the organizers will select grand marshals for their “contribution to local culture”. This year’s choice is Elmer Hensler, founder and President of Queen City Sausage. The company is turning fifty this year. With honesty and quality, Elmer built it from nothing to being the official brat and mett of both the Reds and the Bengals and the last surviving meat packer in what was once Porkopolis. This year, the company’s bockwurst can be had wrapped in a Servatii (another Cincinnati favorite) pretzel as the Bockfest Pretzelator.

b2r05I really liked this Wizard of Oz themed group and walked a few steps with them so I could ask who they were. The first person I asked answered “Mustard Club” then, when I said something like “What’s that?”, turned me over to another marcher who explained they were from Mecklenburg Gardens, a popular local German restaurant. I later learned that this isn’t your run of the mill mustard club that likes just any old mustard. It’s the Händlmaier’s Mustard Club Cincinnati who go to great lengths to acquire their favorite condiment. If I had an award to give, they would get it because: 1) The Wicked Witch of the West was most convincing when she warned, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little goat too.” 2) There’s a bunch of them, from the group leading the yellow Hummer, through Dorthy and friends on the trailer it’s towing, to the pack at the back. 3) They covered both mustard and beer in their theme title “Follow the Yellow Bock Road”. 4) One of them handed off that giant lollipop to the traffic cop in the picture at the top of the page.

b2r08b2r07b2r06There were familiar entries like the Trojan Goat, Arnold’s self propelled bathtub, and the dancing pigs. Arnold’s previous tub, which appeared with some snow on it a couple paragraphs back, had some issues at last year’s Bockfest and, although it was repaired, I guess it’s never been the same. I suppose the new high class ride is more reliable but I still prefer the basic tub and motor style myself.

b2r09b2r10And there were some new themes like Bock to the Future (This is THE year, after all.) and the Bock Street Boys.

 

b2r12b2r11Here are a couple of entries which don’t have any really clever bock related names and really don’t have any particular bock connection at all but I like ’em. On reason I could not leave out the League of Cincinnati Steampunks is that I’m pretty sure this is the way to melt snow. Lastly is the very talented Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle that we last saw here.

b2r13Yeah, I guess there does seem to be a lot more bock than rock but it was really good rock. Dave Alvin and his brother Phil, both formerly with the Blasters, are currently touring together and they deliver one tremendous load of music. I wish I’d seen them years ago but I’m sure happy that I’ve seen them now.

Book Review
Dixie Highway
Tammy Ingram

dhti_cvrWhen I first heard about a forthcoming book titled Dixie Highway. I got kind of excited. I looked forward to having all my questions about the historic highway answered and all the blank spots filled in. Then, as details about the book started to emerge, I began to think it would not tell me anything about the Dixie Highway outside of Dixie; maybe nothing outside of Georgia. Reality, of course, is somewhere in between.

In the early pages of Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930, Ingram tells of the Good Roads Movement that preceded organizations such as the Dixie Highway Association then talks about the formation of the DHA. Here, even though supportive examples might come from Georgia, Ingram is talking about the entire US or at least the strip of states north of Florida that the Dixie Highway would serve. She paints an appropriately muddy picture of the problems facing farmers and small businesses who needed to transport goods or deliver services. The picture she paints of the various factions involved in solving — or not — those problems is muddy in a different sort of way.

Ingram reminds us that roads, particularly long roads, were not always seen as a good thing. Railroads didn’t want the competition and neither farmers nor working class city folk wanted to pay for roads to be used by the rich and their expensive motorized playthings. , And no one wanted to give up control which, at the start of the twentieth century, was almost all county based and very local. A lot of the story of the Dixie Highway, and every other road of the time, has to do with getting control to units large enough to see that what roads there were did not end at the county or state line.

One way the Dixie Highway Association addressed this was to get state governors involved from the beginning. Ingram identifies and describes the players and chronicles the steps taken as the DHA went from nothing to something in fairly short order.

When the book moves from getting things organized to getting things built, the focus tightens on Georgia. This makes sense from a number of angles. It had more miles of Dixie Highway than any other state and many of the problems encountered in Georgia were the very same problems encountered in every other state. But Georgia had other issues, too, including racial attitudes and political traditions. Ingram discusses these to show the affect they had on building the Dixie Highway and the affect the Dixie Highway had on the south.

Tammy Ingram is a college professor. Her writing is factual and precise in a way that makes the reader feel that it is the well researched truth. It is not without style. While it is somewhat dry, it is not the mechanized recital of facts and statistics that academics sometimes produce and which can induce drowsiness better than any drug. I enjoyed reading Dixie Highway and I learned quite a lot from it.

I couldn’t help noticing that Ingram calls the Dixie Highway and similar roads “marked trails”. It certainly doesn’t affect the value of the book in the slightest and it probably won’t even register with most readers. I’m used to seeing the pre-1926 routes referred to as “named trails” or “named auto trails” to distinguish them from the numbered highways that followed. As I said, most readers probably won’t notice and it really isn’t a problem for those of us who do although I did initially find myself pausing for a second or two whenever I encountered it. I got better.

Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930, Tammy Ingram, The University of North Carolina Press, March 3, 2014, hardcover, 9.2 x 6.2 inches, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1469612980

My Wheels – Chapter 15
1969 Opel Kadett

opel1969When it came time to replace the Dodge, we opted not for another American sedan but for a small import. However, since this was to be the family car, we made it a small import wagon, a 1969 Opel Kadett B Caravan. The family had, in fact, grown and there were now two young boys to fill the back seat. I don’t recall the purchase price but do remember that we bought the car from a couple professing to be witch and warlock and that the sickly Suzuki motorcycle was part of the deal.

The engine was an inline four which online sources indicate would have displaced something between 1.0 and 1.9 liters. Since I believe the car had something like 60 horsepower, the most likely power plant seems to be the 1492 CC unit rated at 64 HP. The transmission was a four-speed manual. What set this car apart from other Kadetts was the after market air conditioner hanging under the dash.

As you’ve probably guessed, sixty-four (or possibly less) horsepower wasn’t really enough to run the AC compressor and move the car too. The AC was pretty much useless in city traffic, where it would have been appreciated, and even on the highway it demanded a certain amount of awareness. It was fitted with a thermostat controlled clutch so that the compressor was only driven as needed. If it happened to be “needed” when climbing a hill or passing another car (Oh yes I did.) the climbing or passing was severely attenuated. One soon learned to switch off the AC when starting a pass and keep a hand near the controls in any situation that taxed the engine. Even at a steady pace on level ground, the compressor kicking in was an event that couldn’t be ignored. We joked that we should probably be wearing helmets when running the AC because the abrupt jerk might slam our heads into the windshield.

Unlike most of the vehicles that preceded it, the Opel was undamaged and running when we parted. This time it wasn’t a wreck or blown engine that ended our time together. The motor didn’t fail. The marriage did. The Opel went with the wife.

Book Review
Cincinnatus
Rusty McClure & David Stern

cincinnatus_cvrWhen this blog’s About page mentions reviews, it says they will not include “the latest novel”. When I wrote that, I was probably thinking “any novel”. I don’t read much fiction these days and I did not really expect to be reviewing any. I waited long enough to read this book that it is no longer the latest novel so my claim is still good. So is Cincinnatus.

One day months or maybe years ago, a friend told me about a really good book he had just finished but, when he looked for it to loan to me, it couldn’t be found. Another day months or maybe years ago, I attended a lecture on Powell Crosley given by Rusty McClure, co-author of the non-fiction book Crosley. I had read Crosley; Had actually bought a copy at a signing when it was first published. The lecture was quite interesting and, at its conclusion, everyone was given a paperback copy of Crosley. We were also given a hardback copy of a novel. As I said, I don’t read much fiction and I figured that something someone was giving away copies of wasn’t worth my time to read. I put it in the stack of stuff to be read if I ever get snowed in for three months with no internet connection. Then, on another day just a couple of months ago, my friend once again brought up that book he had mentioned previously. It had been found and he had enjoyed reading it so much that he had read it again. That is not normal behavior for my friend or very many other people. That must be a really good book. Yes I would like to borrow it. Then, as he talked more about the book, I realized it was the very novel that sat at home scorned and unread. I decided to reconsider.

Crosley is a very good book. McClure and Stern are clearly good writers. However, the ability to produce good non-fiction does not always translate to the ability to create good fiction. I was still a little skeptical when I finally wiped the dust off of my copy of Cincinnatus and opened it. After a little back story set in 1938 Florida, the book’s action begins in modern day Columbus, Ohio, and fairly quickly moves to Cincinnati. At first my skepticism had me seeing the use of local names and landmarks in a harsh light. Maybe the authors were trying just a little too hard to convince the reader that they had been to Ohio. Despite my friends recommendation, I found myself wondering if this was like those customized books from Santa Claus that kids like to read because their family’s names are in them. Was this fun for Cincinnatians to read purely because it talked about Cincinnati? But, even as I asked myself that, it became apparent that the answer was no. The adventure was rolling and, while it was nice to know what Cincinnati’s Fountain Square looked like when the plot traveled there, it wasn’t necessary.

Any fears that the novel would drown in Ohio minutiae were unwarranted. The plot visits California, Florida, and a few other places and everywhere the details do what they’re supposed to do — make the story believable. The book is a thriller. Political thriller I’m guessing is the right description. There is ample well researched history and more than a smattering of golf which I’m confident is as well researched and accurate. And there’s some accurate real science and some of the “science fiction” variety that is accurate enough.

The action is almost non-stop and the twists frequent enough that predicting who shoots who is rather fruitless. Maybe my description so far makes the book seem shallow. It isn’t. Now and then the reader might look up from the page for a while to follow some thought on politics, or technology, or religion that the book hatched.

I enjoyed reading Cincinnatus a lot but I don’t expect my fiction/non-fiction ratio to suddenly flip flop. I guess that could change, though, if I could be guaranteed a Camp Washington Chili appearance within the first hundred pages of every novel.

Cincinnatus: The Secret Plot to Save America, Rusty McClure & David Stern, Ternary Publishing, November 1, 2009, 9.2 x 6.2 inches, 523 pages, ISBN 978-0984213207

Congrats WNKU

bwphhOnce again I was within minutes of posting a Trip Pic Peek when I decided to do something like what I did a couple of weeks ago and make a quick post with a picture of my favorite thing from the week. I didn’t do much this week. We had record-for-the-date temperatures and snowfall and I spent a few days battling a cold. It was all I could do to see sixteen bands.

My favorite radio station, WNKU, celebrated its first thirty years and raised a little money for the next thirty with a two night event at The Southgate House Revival featuring fifteen performers each night. A Saturday pre-show party with one of the performers from Friday and two new additions brought the total to thirty-two. I didn’t see them all. That would have meant staying up way past my bedtime. I concentrated on seeing acts that were new to me and, having seen both night’s “headliners” before, I was able to cut out early each night. However, I did stay a little later than planned on Saturday. I intended to listen to just a few songs from Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle but ended up staying for their full set. They are this week’s favorite thing.

When I first started hearing of them, I kept putting a “The” in front of the name and thought it odd that these two bands kept getting booked together. I eventually learned that it was a single group and this week I learned that Buffalo Wabs isn’t a band. It’s guitarist Matt Wabnitz’s nickname. Their website says he handles “most of the vocal duties”. That may be true but The Price Hill Hustle (Casey Campbell, Ian Mathieu, and Scott Risner) all sing and the harmonies are fabulous. They’re almost as much fun to watch as they are to listen to. It’s kind of hard to see but that really is a log chain that Casey’s playing that snare with.

Here’s the full line-up, with the acts I saw in bold:

Friday – Wild Carrot500 Miles to Memphis, Jason Wilber, Will Kimbrough, The Tillers – Alone at 3AMFrontier Folk Nebraska, Noah Wotherspoon Band, Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound, Charlie Mars – My Brother The Bear, The Great Wide Open, The Repeating Arms, Honey & Houston, The Part-Time Gentlemen.

Saturday –  Chardez, Nikki LaneJason Wilber – The Bromwell Diehl Band, The NewbeesBuffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, Noah Hunt & The Scotty Bratcher Band, The Cliftones – William Matheny, Ben Knight & The Well Diggers, Tyler Childers & The Food Stamps, Hocking River String Band, New Country Rehab – Willow Tree Carolers, BMV, The 220 Breakers, Nick Dittmeier Band, The Ready Stance.

Trip Pic Peek #28
Trip #76
Memorial Weekend 2009

pv58This picture is from my 2009 Memorial Weekend trip. The purpose of the trip was to research a magazine article on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. That made the journal a little strange since I didn’t want to include photos or other items intended for the article. As the article was never published, the fact that the journal contains so little about the trip’s primary target may seem even stranger now than when it was posted. The photo was taken inside the Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, Maryland. The restaurant was celebrating its 70th anniversary then which means it is turning 76 this year.


Trip Pic 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 trip journal it is from.

Not A Bad Week At All

wnile01It’s been a pretty full week. It included several things that could have been turned into blog posts if I felt the urge but none for which the urge was felt. I was about to schedule a Trip Peek to fulfill my Sunday morning commitment when I decided to just list the week’s activities and include a few pictures from my favorite.

On Sunday I went to the afternoon performance of Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash at Playhouse in the Park. The play was over before the big football game started so I watched some of that, too, but I liked the play a whole lot more.

Monday was Groundhog Day and, although I didn’t didn’t actually travel to the home of any of the prognosticating rodents this year, I did make the quasi-traditional visit to Bob Evans for ground hog & eggs and I did follow the reports. There are three furry forecasters whose jurisdictions I think I might be in. One is Punxsutawney Phil who is the most famous and whose forecasts might, for all I know, apply to the whole world. The others are Buckeye Chuck, Ohio’s Official State Groundhog, who makes his predictions in Marion, and Rosie who lives and works in nearer-to-my-home Dayton. Phil and Rosie saw their shadows. Chuck did not. What now? There isn’t even a geographic pattern. I don’t know whether to hunker down for six more weeks of winter or get ready for it to be over in a month and a half.

Tuesday I did nothing but meet the gang for some Buzztime trivia. The temperature was in the 40s on Wednesday so I walked down to Flipdaddy’s for exercise then ate a Burger of the Month to nullify it.

A string of nights out began on Thursday with the Bare Boards Theater Company‘s performance of Rabbit Hole. This isn’t a trivial play but the BBTC nailed the first performance of their first production. I attended with my daughter and both of us were entertained and impressed.

wnile02wnile03wnile04On Friday it was a Willie Nile concert at The Southgate House Revival. I became an overnight fan of Willie after seeing him for the first time last year and bought my ticket to this show as soon as I heard about it. I learned just a few days ago that, rather than the anticipated full band show, this would be a performance with just Willie and bassist Johnny Pisano. I thought things might get toned down and I’d be disappointed. No so and not so. I’ll admit to missing Matt Hogan’s guitar licks now and then but I got to focus on and appreciate Johnny’s outstanding bass work even more. Far from being disappointed, it was, as you can see, my favorite event of the week.

The Cincinnati Winter Blues Festival took place on Friday and Saturday. I wrapped up my week by going to the festival’s second night with a few friends. The night’s headliner was young guitar phenom Joanne Shaw Taylor and she did not disappoint. The festival was successful to the point of being uncomfortably crowded. Maybe I’m just getting too old for this sort of thing even when it’s got chandeliers and marble staircases.

Dinner and a Movie – Cincinnati Style

asmdm01I put Wednesday’s screening of the movie Sign Painters at the American Sign Museum on my “maybe” list as soon as I heard about it. It was moved to “probably” when I learned dinner would be included. When I found out the museum’s almost neighbor Camp Washington Chili would be doing the catering, I bought a ticket. I’ve eaten at CWC many times and I’ve eaten many things there but never a salad. I don’t believe it ever occurred to me that they would even have a salad. It was quite good and apparently can be had with grilled chicken at the restaurant. Who knew?

asmdm02asmdm03The beverage table never really got crowded but I hit it before even a hint of a line formed. Local (Mount Carmel & Christian Moerlein) and “other” beer was available along with wine and soda. I made my food line pass after the initial rush. There were 3-ways and coneys in addition to the aforementioned salad and they even had cold-cut sandwiches. I’m guessing those were for the out-of-towners.

asmdm05asmdm04The tables that were empty when I took my picture of the beverage table, were filled as soon as the food was served as were other tables throughout the museum. Paint trays and cans held a variety of movie-appropriate sweets and one pail was filled with small paper bags so you could carry a supply of Lemonheads, Charleston Chews, Bulls-Eyes, Necco Wafers, and other goodies into the viewing room.

asmdm06asmdm07asmdm08As showtime approached, a drawing of museum founder Tod Swormstedt (accurate enough to identify him should he ever go missing) was replaced by the real thing and Tod introduced the movie. Two large screens were filled by a pair of synchronized digital projectors so everyone had a good view. The event had sold out several days earlier. I don’t really know what that means but something like 200 attendees seems a reasonable guess.

Sign Painters features interviews with a number of painters plus quite a bit of footage of some of them at work. A few of the painters are in their thirties but most are older and there is, as you might expect, plenty of talk about the good old days when sign painting was a thriving profession. There is no question that automation and the availability of cheap — in every sense of the word — product have wreaked havoc on the field but not everything is doom and gloom. There are still people who feel called to paint signs and there are still some customers who appreciate the value of hand crafted advertising. In particular, large wall signs are often seen as worthwhile and they remain something that takes a human touch.

At one point in the movie, I found my mind returning to thoughts of a couple weeks ago. I was loosely following an online discussion about ghost signs. Ghost signs are always old so they are almost always faded and they often, but not always, advertise something that is no longer available. They can be considered eyesores or glimpses of history. People may tend to lean one way or the other but opinions are often of the “it depends…” sort. I believe my participation in the discussion was limited to sharing a link to a local radio story on ghost signs. The story uses the words “art” and “pollution” but that’s really just another way to say “history” and “eyesore”. In the movie, when a large and fading hand-painted advertisement is painted over — by hand — with a new and very different advertisement neither of the signs seem very important. It doesn’t matter whether some history gets covered over or if an ugly wall is made beautiful. What matters is that an art form, a skill set, a profession gets to breathe a little.

The museum’s parking lot is not huge and, in addition to the chili and beer and candy and movie, there was free valet parking. I tucked a couple of bucks into my shirt pocket for a tip but by the time my car was pulled up to the door, I’d already heard what the valet would say to me. “No, I can’t take that. No tips. We’ve been taken care of.” Me too.

An E-book Cometh

kindle_bmttggSometimes hordes of fans demand an e-book version of a publication which prompts the publisher to pull out all the stops and produce one immediately. Sometimes one or two people casually ask about an e-book version and probably forget about it by the time one appears a year or so later. One of these sentences describes my situation perfectly.

It’s not too tough, of course, to figure out which one. It was just a little over a year ago that By Mopar to the Golden Gate was published as a paperback. I was immediately and understandably asked if an electronic version was or would be available and I had my answer ready. Nope, I said. It was too much work. I suspect those who asked were as surprised by my answer as I had been surprised to learn that making a document completely comprised of digital computer files available to electronic readers wasn’t simply a matter of checking a box and clicking a button. After all, I had published through Amazon and anyone somewhat familiar with their collection of services might be more inclined to believe that than those knowing nothing at all about them. The Kindle side of Amazon’s website clearly states “Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.” That’s not a lie. It’s just not the whole story.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s e-book publishing component. There really is a button that will transfer a book produced through Create Space, Amazon’s hard copy publishing arm, to KDP in “less than five minutes” and I don’t doubt in the slightest that it would be “on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours”. It will even be readable if — and here’s the rub — it is formless and free flowing. Most are. Most, in fact, are 100% text. Fiction, they say, is what drives e-book sales. If, on the other hand, your book has, say, 160 or so carefully sized and positioned photographs, it’s a different story.

This topic came up recently in an e-versation with a couple of friends heading down the self publishing trail. The discussion benefited from some expert insight that reinforced the fact that, for certain books, there is no single box to check or magic button to click. And it prompted me to revisit the issues I’d ran away from a year ago, work through them, and produce an electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate.

The central issue — it can’t really be called a problem — is the variety and flexibility of e-readers. Content designed for a specific sized sheet of paper just doesn’t get along well with all the different hardware variations and the ability of users to customize things like font style and size. Publisher types talk about two styles of e-books, reflowable and fixed layout, both of which are pretty much described by their names. Reflowable documents make few or no assumptions about the devices used to display them. When a bigger screen is available, more of the document is displayed on each “page”. If the user selects a larger font, less is displayed at one time but the entire document will ultimately flow across the screen if the user just keeps scrolling. That’s different than with a fixed layout document. It may be possible to zoom the display so that characters are larger and more readable but zooming magnifies a portion of the “page” and other portions may never be seen by scrolling. If you’ve ever used an e-reader for something digitized by capturing an image of each page, you’ll immediately understand. Reading a zoomed fixed layout document can sometimes seem like reading a billboard with a jeweler’s loupe.

kindle_bmttgg2Other than correcting a couple of spelling errors, absolutely no text was changed in generating the e-book. The same pictures are in the e-book as in the paperback with essentially the same dimensions. I did utilize color versions so they ought to look a little prettier on some devices. To make things reflowable, I unhooked the pictures and their captions from fixed positions on the pages and placed them between paragraphs. If you think of the sizing and positioning of a book’s non-text elements within the text as design, then what I did was undesign the book. To be honest, there wasn’t very much “design” in it. I placed pictures where I thought they looked good and I chose sizes to spotlight those I particularly liked or to allow some to be grouped together. Design is too kind a word. At best what I did was layout. I arranged some block images so that they looked alright, appeared near any text that referenced them, and didn’t disrupt that text too much. But other books truly are designed and their designers agonize over scaling and placing elements so that a page — a physical page with fixed dimensions — looks good and works well. That sort of design is no better accommodated in the e-reader world than my clunky picture layouts.

At present, the electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate is available for Kindle through Amazon and Nook through Barnes & Noble. Whether it ever goes to other platforms or distribution channels is undecided. It’s my impression that software supporting one or both of these formats is available for most devices. At Amazon, By Mopar to the Golden Gate is part of the MatchBook program which means that all past and future purchasers of the print version can get the Kindle version for just $1.99. I haven’t yet figured out how to provide Kindle versions on the cheap to those who purchase the book elsewhere but I’m working on it. Click on the images below to go shopping.

amzkindle bnnnook