New Americans

ncitizens01I recently had the opportunity to watch sixty-five people from thirty-eight countries transform into full fledged citizens of the Unites States of America in a matter of seconds. It was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve ever had with an aura of accomplishment and hope at least the equal of a high school or college graduation. One of those sixty-five people was a friend. He had invited me to attend and I expected to be quite happy for him. I did not expect to be affected one way or another by the others but I was wrong. It was, in fact, the group, rather than the individuals, that generated most of that uplift I mentioned.

ncitizens02A couple of people spoke informally, almost causally, to the not-quite-yet-Americans. Small US flags were distributed. A representative from the board of elections passed out registration forms and explained how to fill them out. The forms could be filled, she told the group, but not signed until they were US Citizens. It wouldn’t be long.

ncitizens03With the judge’s entry, things had become a bit more formal but no more somber. Judge Stephanie Bowman and other officials went through some scripted exchanges to establish the eligibility of those present for citizenship. Then the uplifting began. Each applicant stood and announced their name and nation of birth. Some voices were loud and firm; Others softer and maybe a little timid. Some spoke as if English was the only language they had ever known and in many cases that was true. Others spoke with heavy accents that would have made the name they spoke hard to understand even if the name was a familiar one which it often was not. With each unfamiliar name spoken by a foreign sounding voice, the ethnic diversity of the group became more and more apparent and the idea of a melting pot became more and more vivid with the saying of the names of each of those thirty-eight countries. Some, like Togo, Sri Lanka, and Morocco, sounded pretty exotic to me. Others, Canada and Mexico, identified neighbors merely a border away. All were reminders that lots of people from lots of places believe that United States citizenship is highly desirable and worth more than a little effort to obtain.

ncitizens05The day’s only truly solemn occasion followed. The Oath of Allegiance marks the magic moment when those not born a US citizen become one. It combines a promise to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America” with the renouncing of any and all previously held allegiance. It’s nothing to be taken lightly and no one did as those sixty-five voices recited it in unison. Then the new Americans and everyone else in the room recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

ncitizens06ncitizens04The official bits were over. One at a time, the newly minted citizens went to the front of the room to get their certificate and maybe take a few pictures with the judge. My friend Clyde was among the last to go up and used the time to sign his voter registration. He would hand it to the lady from the board of elections on the way out. I don’t know for a fact that everyone did the same but I have the impression that they did. I believe that the USA got sixty-five new active voters that day.

Clyde had almost missed the big day. There is one naturalization ceremony per month in Cincinnati. On the day he passed his citizen ship test, Clyde had been told that the April ceremony was full and he would be scheduled for the one in May. He came home on Thursday and collected the day’s mail. It was tossed on a table with the intention of dealing with it in the morning. On the way to bed about 11:00, Clyde decided to open that one official looking envelope. In it was a letter telling him that he’d made the April group after all. He needed to be downtown at the federal courthouse by 8:30 the next morning. He obviously made it but that’s cutting it a little close.

Trip Pic Peek #30
Trip #71
Thanksgiving 2008

pvd10This picture is from my 2008 Thanksgiving trip. It was my fourth and last (so far) Thanksgiving Escape Run. I believe it was the first trip on which I got serious about traveling the Dixie Highway and I followed it all the way from the Ohio River to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The estate was decorated for Christmas and that’s what is in the picture.

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.

Book Preview
Hues of my Vision
Ara Gureghian and Spirit

homv_cvrThis is the second time I’ve posted a preview but there’s a difference. Hues of my Vision already exists. In my review of Ara’s first book, Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash, I spoke of the wonderful photographs that fill his blog and said I agreed with his decision to not complicate that book or compromise the photos with an attempt to include them. I half expected and wholeheartedly hoped that a photo book would some day appear. Here it is. Sooner than I hoped and at less cost with higher quality than expected.

The traditional method of publishing photo books is expensive. High quality offset printing is really only feasible in quantity which means considerable up front costs. Print on demand books require no up front outlay but have justifiably higher per unit costs. Plus, the digital printing techniques that allow print on demand publishing, while quite good, are not yet the equal of offset printing. Ara has turned to crowd funding as a way to get the cost and quality advantages of offset printing without emptying his not unlimited bank account. In essence what he is doing is using Kickstarter to handle advance orders. If 1000 or more orders are placed during the campaign, backers get an offset printed book for $40 including tax and shipping. Presumably, if the campaign fails, Ara will resort to making the book available through a print on demand facility and folks who really want the book will pay $90 plus tax and shipping for a digitally printed version.

The Kickstarter campaign is here.

Update 13-May-2015: With only eight days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign and a little less than a quarter of the necessary money pledged, the project seems set to fail. That’s a big disappointment all around but is certainly bad news for those of us who were excited about getting a hard copy of the book for $40. Even with a few days left, Ara has decided to go ahead with the backup plan and make a print on demand version available. As expected, the cost is above $90 although electronic versions are also available for much less. Ordering information is here.

It has been just over a year and a half since I posted that first preview. In it I expressed confidence that a book by Andrew Forsthoefel, possibly called Walking to Listen, “…will exist and that it will be worth reading”. I must admit that, while my confidence in its worth remains high, my confidence in its eventual existence has slipped. I still read Andrew’s blog and know that he is still traveling, though not always walking, and he is still listening. I also know that he has struggled with the book. A recent post indicated that he may be ready to dive in and see it through. I hope so.


Jefferson Highway Association Conference

ja1965It’s a logical progression. First the Jefferson Highway, then the Jefferson Airplane, and finally the Jefferson Starship. The original Jefferson Highway Association was organized in November of 1915. The current Jefferson Highway Association was organized in 2012. I’m on my way to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where the fourth annual conference of the modern JHA is to take place. I intend to drive part of the Oklahoma portion of the highway on the way to the conference and the remainder after. The centennial of the original JHA will certainly be celebrated during the conference. This is also the year of the Jefferson Airplane’s semicentennial but whether or not there will be a celebration I have not heard. I do know that I’ve not yet received an invitation.

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.

Ten and Twenty Years in Cincinnati

asm10bd2This coming Tuesday, April 28, marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the American Sign Museum. Ten events are planned to celebrate the ten years of success and growth. First up was a birthday party, complete with cake and balloons, last Sunday. Others include special hours and gifts in conjunction with this year’s Major League Baseball All Star Game which will take place in Cincinnati and a gathering of an elite group of sign painters known as The Letterheads for their fortieth anniversary.

asm10bd3asm10bd4The Texas Weiners sign is a recent addition to the museum. Most signs like this have rusted away but this one survives because the flashing sign did not meet local codes and its owner was not permitted to install it. There’s a more complete version of the story here. I know I’ve posted several pictures of “Main Street” but there’s always room for one more and this one includes museum founder Tod Swormstedt taking a break in the chair at the far right.

My Oddment page on the museum’s 2005 opening is here and other blog posts on visits to the museum are here.

kcbp2kcbp1Krohn Conservatory has been around since 1933 but 2015 marks its twentieth butterfly show. This year Butterflys of the Philippines are featured. I actually set out to attend the show on its first day, April 3, and drove by the conservatory about half an hour after opening time. All parking spots were filled and there were a couple of school buses in the mix. Drive by was all I did. The building was hardly empty when I did stop on Monday but it was not overly crowded and there were no lines. The winding marked path and large tents indicated that long lines were fairly common and an attendant confirmed that lines were the norm on weekends.

kcbp3kcbp4kcbp5I’m not much of a butterfly expert but, with the aid of labeled photos viewable at the conservatory, I can say with some hope of being correct that these are pictures of a Julia Butterfly, a Zebra Longwing, and an Owl Butterfly.

Music Review
Dead Man String Band

dmsb_i_cvrThis CD makes me smile. Not laugh. Smile. It’s not funny but it sure is fun. It opens with a scene reminiscent of Michael Jackson walking with his girl in Thriller or Brad and Janet stumbling through the rain in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Then, instead of dancing ghouls or an invitation to do the Time Warp, the stranded couple encounter the Dead Man String Band making a come back of sorts. It happens as an old man on a porch explains how death might not be exactly final for the truly obsessed and DMSB starts building a tune called “Resurrection Waltz” in the background.

The opener, like almost everything on the album, drives hard with biting guitar and pounding drums all delivered, as is the vocal, by Rob McAllister. He also wrote every tune and every word including the skits. One man albums, with one person playing every instrument through the magic of overdubbing, are not at all uncommon. One man bands, particularly hard driving rock & roll one man bands, are. Dead Man String Band is such a band and Rob McAllister is that one man.

For convenience and precision, a little overdubbing was employed in making this album but a live performance sounds, as the saying goes, “just like the record”. With a splitter and crafty finger picking, Rob pulls lead, rhythm, and bass from his hollow bodied Gretch while pounding a bass drum with his right foot. In keeping with his “all appendages all the time” philosophy, the left foot is usually banging a snare drum or pumping a tambourine topped high-hat.

Song topics tend to be a bit off center. One’s titled “Organ Donor” and another, with a bright almost ragtimey sound, talks about going to the river with “those deep water cinder block blues”. Delivery and clever writing make these tunes a lot more playful than sinister, however. The opening skit gets its own track then, after six high energy rockers, the last two tracks ease off just a bit. It’s all relative though and nothing on this album could be called low energy. The medium speed bluesy “Josephine” is one of my favorites and so is the following “Already Gone” with Chet Atkins style licks behind lines like:

You can hang me atop the tallest tree that you find.
Take my body. Put it in a sack. Throw it in the riverside.

The CD should eventually be available on line but the only way to get it at present is at a performance. That’s not at all bad since Dead Man String Band should definitely be seen as well as heard.

My own post on the release show is here and a downloadable track from the CD is here.

Green Day

fa1It’s beginning to look a lot like summer. That was basically true last weekend for my circumnavigation of Indianapolis and has become ever more true with each passing day. Yesterday I went to a favorite nearby breakfast spot, Paxton’s Grill. The food and service are always great but a wonderful bonus is the option of eating outside in warm weather. The temperature was in the fifties as I crossed the street intending to enter but, as I approached the front door, I noticed that the outside tables were set up and ready. I asked, got an enthusiastic “OK”, and took a seat on the empty patio. It wasn’t empty when I left. It was, in fact, pretty much filled.

fa2fa3The temperature had gone up as I ate which meant the top could go down when I left the restaurant and set out on a little Saturday morning drive. It was more or less aimless although I did sort of meander along the Little Miami River. When I crossed the road leading to Fort Ancient, I made it a destination. The photo at the top of the article was taken looking northwest from an overlook in the park. That’s the Little Miami River and a bridge carrying OH-350 on the right. The leafless trees may not look too summery but the green grass proves that the next season is coming our way rapidly.

fa4Morgan’s Canoe Livery and public access to the river is less than a mile from Fort Ancient. As I stood watching the water flow by, two couples arrived in a pickup truck carrying two small kayaks. I admit to being a little surprised when I realized that the two women would be traveling by water while the menfolk drove down river to meet them. I wasn’t shocked and I spent zero time questioning it but it honestly was not what I expected. As the women headed off on the rather high and rapid water, I learned from the men that the kayaks were newly acquired and that this was the women’s first outing in the new green boats. I was impressed and I was envious. I used to live by this river about fifteen miles downstream from here. I miss it. I had a canoe and a kayak and a bunch of inner tubes and I miss them, too. I chatted with a fellow who was heading off in a rented canoe for some fishing then walked up to the office to check out prices and stuff. I’ll be back.

Twenty Mile Stand Two Years On

tmhcurrent2It was two years ago today that a nearly two centuries old stagecoach stop named for its distance from Cincinnati was demolished. When I first wrote about the building in early 2012, it was still standing. That article included a photo taken from the same position as the one at right. That photo can be seen here. The row of shops in the more recent picture were there in 2012. They were just blocked from view by the old roadhouse.

tmhcurrent0The stage stop turned roadhouse turned restaurant turned night club was leveled on April 16, 2013, to make way for a convenience store. The new business opened a few months later. That’s it, a Big Mike’s Gas N Go with Shell brand gas, in the picture at left. Big Mike is Mike Schueler, president of Henkle Schueler and Associates the real estate outfit behind all of this.

tmhcurrent1Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioI don’t have a 2012 photo from the spot of the previous picture but I do have one from nearby. I’ve paired it with one taken Tuesday from essentially the same location. The 2012 shot includes the entire Twenty Mile House but the only part of Big Mike’s that shows up in the recent shot is a standalone sign. Hmmm.

tmhgoogle2012tmhgoogle2013tmhgoogleb1Here’s a different view. Thanks to Google Earth and its Historic Imagery feature, we can see what the lot looked like on August 29, 2012 (the first picture) and October 10, 2013 (the second picture). The third picture is a blend of the first two and shows a new light rectangle where a portion of the older structure once stood. That rectangle is a concrete slab containing a half dozen or so parking places. Those parking places clearly could not exist without removing a corner of one of the twentieth century additions.

tmhgoogleb2I don’t think even the most preservation minded among us cared one bit about any part of those additions but what about the original early nineteenth century building? You could say I’m beating a dead house here but I did one more thing. I outlined what I believe to be the original historically significant portion of the building and overlaid just that on the 2013 image. A slightly rough estimate of the distance between roadhouse and parking pad is 25 yards. There’s maybe 50 yards between roadhouse and gas pump or convenience store.

tmhcurrent3Big Mike’s convenience store fills most of the new building but a little space still remains. Good thing for Mike his nice big empty lawn has room for this decorative sign.

My 2012 post on the standing building is here. The 2013 post on its destruction is here.

Dandy Trail

pic08bEver wonder what it would be like to drive to a city a hundred miles away, drive half a circle around the city for breakfast, then drive the other half circle and go home? If so, you’re kind of weird but I can answer that question for you. On Sunday, I drove to Indianapolis, followed the circular Dandy Trail around the city, and met friends for breakfast in a west side suburb.

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


bd2015_00The Findlay Market Opening Day Parade was a full thirty hours away and my birthday had barely begun when last week’s post went up. Here’s an update.

Last Sunday was a long way from blisteringly hot but it was reasonably warm (60s), dry, and sunny. I spent much of the day driving a familiar loop along the banks of the Ohio River. I haven’t decided whether or not the new chapeau is a keeper but I got it for almost nothing with an about to expire credit and I’m going to give it a chance.

bd2015_01bd2015_02Breakfast was had at Brew River Gastropub in Cincinnati. Even though I cringe at the word “gastropub”, I’d stopped in here one night for beer and live music and decided it was OK. It’s location on Riverside Drive and a reputation for a  good Sunday brunch made it a reasonable choice for a place to start the day. My Easter eggs came in what is essentially an omelette known as “Eggs Du Drop”. It was quite good with house-made goetta, Irish Cheddar, and green onions. From there it was east along the river’s north bank, a crossing at Maysville, and a return to Cincinnati on the Kentucky side.

od2015_04od2015_03od2015_02On Monday I parked near Arnold’s with the intention of having breakfast there as I did last year but it was simply too crowded. Instead, I stopped in at the Sports Page Restaurant for another helping of geotta. That made timing just about perfect for a one beer test of Cincinnati’s newest brewery. Taft’s Ale House had planned to open last fall but, when construction surprises made that impossible, decided to open in sync with the Reds. Today was the official grand opening and, while they didn’t make enough to cover their $8 million investment, they got a good start.

odp2015_01odp2015_02odp2015_03I had time to snoop around the staging area a bit then found myself a good spot just a few blocks into the route as the parade started. This year’s Grand Marshalls were the Nasty Boys from the 1990 World Champion Reds. Relievers Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, and Rob Dibble had a combined 44 saves as the Reds stayed in first place for the entire season. Other local sports figures were also on hand including the only Bengal in the NFL Hall of Fame (Anthony Munoz) and a key piece of the Big Red Machine (George Foster).

odp2015_04odp2015_05odp2015_06odp2015_07odp2015_08odp2015_09odp2015_10odp2015_11Here are more parade entries that are uniquely Cincinnati starting with some currently active athletes, the Cincinnati Roller Girls. Next is a float from current Cincinnati success story Pure Romance and a car from one time Cincinnati powerhouse Crosley Corporation. In about a month, a new carousel will be put into operation on Cincinnati’s riverfront and a few of the custom made figures filled a parade float. From a little to Cincinnati’s west comes the Rabbit Hash General Store and from the east comes the Cardboard Boat Museum. In the race for Most Flamboyant Cincinnatian, Bootsy Collins might edge out Jim Tarbell by a little bit but neither has been called a wallflower.

od2015_07od2015_06od2015_05I guess the closest I got to Great American Ball Park was Fountain Square and even the tail of the parade had passed by the time I got there. Cincinnati will be hosting this year’s All-Star Game and a count down sign was unveiled yesterday. I grabbed a shot of that and watched some of the game on the big screen before heading up to the City View for dinner and the rest of the game. Dinner was a ‘burger and the game was a rain delayed win for the Reds. The stadium can be partially seen from the bar. The wisp of smoke visible between the couple on the deck is from the win signalling fireworks.

bw201501bw201502The game was over but the birthday celebration had a couple more days to run. Ovenmaster Mary brought peanut butter brownies to Tuesday’s trivia gathering for some low-key great-taste celebrating. On Wednesday, I headed north to Dayton. Last year I finally experienced what many consider Cincinnati’s premier steakhouse, the Precinct. At that time, I stated that a steak I’d had at Dayton’s Pine Club remained a contender for “best ever”. I noted that more research was needed and tonight I went back for that research. The trip was infinitely worthwhile but it didn’t exactly lead to a decision. I’d ordered that Precinct steak with options while my Pine Club cut was unadorned. I had a mild sense of being slightly more impressed with the Precinct meal but realized that might be the crab meat and Béarnaise talking. Both filets were superb. In the end, I decided that debating the merits of steaks at this level or price point is like debating whether a lily looks better with silver or gold gilding. The two restaurants are different but no meat eater with functioning taste buds would be disappointed with either.

bw201504bw201503I made one more stop for birthday week. Pinups & Pints, “The World’s Only Strip Club – Brew Pub”, is just a few miles northeast of Dayton and I have, duh, wanted to go there ever since I first heard about it. The problem has been that I’m hardly ever in Dayton in the evening with free time and that’s when Pinups & Pints tends to be open. The brewery operation is an almost tiny fifteen gallon system and only a single rotating brew is available. At present, that’s Thigh High IPA which was, although IPAs are not my first choice, quite good for the style. Even though there’s no doubt that the brewery is something of a gimmick, it’s definitely not a joke. Owner/brewmaster Scott Conrad is serious about it and puts in the effort required to produce a quality product. I had intended to have just one beer but the dancers were attractive enough to make me order a second. Although two beers wasn’t enough to make the reasonably pretty dancers drop dead gorgeous, a few more might. Nearly naked women that make you want another beer that makes the women prettier which makes the beer taste better which makes the… I think Conrad might be onto something.