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.  

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.

SCA Conference 2017

When I travel to a conference or festival, the journal often begins to lag once I’ve arrived and organized activities begin to take up most of my time. When there is no travel involved, when the event is in the city where I live, that lag kicks in immediately. With the 2017 Society for Commercial Archeology Conference being just twenty miles from my home, there was no “trip”, only non-stop conference activities. There was just no time for the journal until the conference was over. All four days have been posted at one time. 

The trip journal is here. This entry is to let blog only subscribers know of the trip and provide a place for comments and questions.

Trip Peek #62
Trip #51
2007 National Route 66 Festival

This picture is from my 2007 National Route 66 Festival trip. The festival was in Clinton, Oklahoma. It was the centennial year for the state of Oklahoma which was a factor in holding the festival there and it also meant there were other things going on. One of those was the opening of a time capsule in which a brand new 1957 Plymouth had been buried. This was a fly-and-drive trip and I arranged my flights to be in Tulsa for the Plymouth resurrection then cover a little Route 66 before the festival. The capsule had leaked and the Plymouth pretty much ruined but it was still a cool event. My time on Route 66 was enough to get me to my first overnight at the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and a look at two almost but not quite ready to open new businesses on the Route: Boothill Restaurant in Vega, Texas, and Pops in Arcadia, Oklahoma. Among the things making the festival itself memorable was the one and only appearance of Route 66 e-group founder Greg Laxton and the first of many appearances of the now legendary Road Crew.


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.

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.

My Wheels — Chapter 27
1985 Mazda RX7

Details of timing are lacking for both this and the following My Wheels chapter. I think I’ve got the sequence right but I’m not even entirely certain of that. The two are connected by more than a lack of precision in dates but I don’t expect this chapter to explain things very well. Hopefully I’ll be able to make things clearer in the next chapter when all the pieces have been identified.

The subject of this chapter was my oldest son’s car. I cosigned the loan and he made all the payments on time and handled all other expenses, including insurance, right up until he needed it. At some point the financial load became a bit too much and he decided to sell it. No need to insure a car you’re going to sell. Right? As often happens, the decision to sell and the decision to drop insurance preceded the decision to stop driving and, pretty much on cue, there was an accident. It wasn’t a huge one and it was a single vehicle thing but it left him with something that could neither be driven or easily sold. What happened next was pretty much on cue, too. Dad the cosigner became sole owner of the undrivable, unsalable, uninsured, and unpaid for Mazda. That’s not the actual car in the photo but it’s a perfect match except for the sunroof.

I got the damage repaired and the car insured and I drove it for awhile. It was a rather a fun car to drive. The rotary engine seemed like it would accelerate — at least a little — forever. It was, however, a toy I really couldn’t afford at the time. As I said at the beginning, details of timing are lacking and some of the related details involve my second marriage and divorce. I know I had the car both before and after the short lived marriage but I’m understandably just not capable of fitting all the pieces together.

Either during or shortly after the marriage, my younger son bought the car. I’m fairly certain he did it for my benefit. He was in the Navy with no expenses. He also had no driver’s license. He hadn’t felt the need in high school and had entered the Navy on graduation. Plans were made for him to get his license then see a bunch of the country driving the Mazda to his assignment in San Diego. There was only time for one shot at a license and it was a miss. As I recall, the big dig was activating turn signals way too early but I’m guessing that a general nervousness contributed a lot. He flew to San Diego and the Mazda was parked in the garage to await his return.

Although he did eventually get his license (The Navy needed him to drive something.) he never took possession of the car. After a year or so he/I sold the car to a friend. I had let it sit idle for too long and it took some effort to get it running again. It became a daily driver for its new owner until a winter ice attack in traffic brought about its demise.

Swede Mysteries of Life

DNA testing has recently uncovered a family connection with seventeenth century Philadelphia area settlers from Sweden. An uncle, two cousins, and I are off to poke around a little though we sure don’t know enough to dig very deep. On the other hand, we actually know so little that it will be hard not to learn something. Even if we return home knowing no more than when we left, we are sure to enjoy looking into our nation’s earliest history. We have arrived in the big city and the first day is posted.

The trip journal is here. This entry is to let blog only subscribers know of the trip and provide a place for comments and questions.

Trip Peek #61
Trip #70
Some Lincoln Highway

This picture is from my 2008 Some Lincoln Highway trip. It was one of those cost cutter things I often tacked onto the end of work assignments. This assignment was near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the picture is of an abandoned bridge over Poquessing Creek northeast of the city. Built in 1805, it carried the early Lincoln Highway. It was where I started the personal part of the trip that would follow the Lincoln Highway west as far as Canton, Ohio. After visiting several roadside attractions along the way I spent the final day admiring classic cars at Canton’s Glenmoore Gathering. As I looked over the journal to prepare this entry, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that the “66 the Hard Way” idea came from preliminary planning for this trip.


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.

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!