Must Be the Season of the Fish

Back in 2011, while traveling in northern Ohio during the month of March, it occurred to me that checking out a Lenten fish fry might be a nice break from eating at establishments practicing commercialism full time. It was and I’ve made a habit of patronizing such operations ever since. This year, for what I believe is the first time, I managed to eat at a Friday Fish Fry during every week of Lent and here they are.

Woodlawn Firefighters Association Fish FryWoodlawn Firefighters Association Fish FryThe first Friday of Lent coincided with the start of Bockfest. I’m thinking that might not be a coincidence but don’t really know. Since the Bockfest Parade was firmly on my schedule, I opted for one of the few fish fries serving in the afternoon. As it turned out, a downtown church operated their fish fry more or less in conjunction with the festival and I could have combined the two but didn’t realize that until it was too late. While I ate my dinner at the Woodlawn Firefighters Association Fish Fry, a large ambulance and a smaller fire truck sitting next the truck in the picture went speeding off to answer a call.

St. John the Evangelist Fish FrySt. John the Evangelist Fish FryThe second week I left home for something some distance away but changed my mind as soon as I pulled into traffic. Congestion prompted me to head for the reasonably near St. John the Evangelist Church in West Chester. I chose the sampler which got me some fried shrimp, a crab cake, and baked fish. I could have had fried fish with my sampler or I could have had just fish, baked or fried. I also could have had pizza. For crying out loud! Pizza? I suppose you could claim that things started down the slippery slope when they started offering non-fried (i.e., baked, grilled, broiled) fish at functions called “Fish Fries” but, to me, at least, that seems to be much more in keeping with the spirit of things than pizza. At least it was cheese pizza which is in line with the “meatless Fridays” concept on which this whole fish fry business is built.

Saint Colman of Cloyne Fish FrySaint Colman of Cloyne Fish FOn week three I drove to Wilmington to meet my friend John with intentions of taking in a fish fry in Lebanon on the way home. When the conversation turned to my fish fry plans, mention was made of very popular one in Washington Court House. Wilmington is roughly midway between my home and Washington Court House which meant that, while it was still several miles away, I was the closest I was likely to be during serving time. I made it to the Saint Colman of Cloyne church with about fifteen minutes to spare. John thought the fry’s fame and popularity came from an abundance of walleye parishioners brought back from the Great Lakes. While that may have once been the case, the big draw currently, in addition to it being an all-you-can-eat affair, is pollock. Apparently it is such a big part of the attraction that they preempt  confrontations when they run out by posting the news on the main entry door. The “Sorry, we’re out of pollock” sign was displayed when I arrived and apparently had been for awhile. The cashier reiterated the absence of pollock and suggested I check out remaining offerings before paying then charged me $5 rather than the advertised $8. All that and a cupcake, too.

St Francis of Assisi Fish FrySt Francis of Assisi Fish FryI would be spending week four’s Friday in Ann Arbor, MI, which meant a little extra research but it sure worked out well. I picked a fish fry within walking distance of my motel for its convenience and lucked into an excellent meal. That salad is from a salad bar. At $2, the add-on clam chowder was a real bargain. There is baked tilapia, mac & cheese, new potatoes, and green beans on the big plate and it was all delicious. And that includes the beans which, unlike the overcooked mush that is all too common, actually had a nice snap. St Francis of Assisi has the best fish fry in the entire state of Michigan AFAIK.

St Columbkille Fish FrySt Columbkille Fish FryWeek five found me back in Wilmington for birthday eve drinks with buddy John which led to this year’s only repeat, St Columbkille. Baked tilapia was on the menu but was at least temporarily in short supply and its consumption was ever so slightly being discouraged. I didn’t mind a bit and enjoyed a more traditional fish fry meal of cod that was actually fried. Cherry pie included.

St Veronica Fish FrySt Veronica Fish FryThis is where I was headed on week number two when the traffic caused me to reconsider. St Veronica is just down the road from Mt Carmel Brewery where I had intended to stop after dinner. Since then, I learned that the taproom now opens at noon on Fridays so I left home earlier, avoided the traffic, and visited the taproom before dinner. This was a good meal and I’m happy that clam chowder is starting to show up more and more. Also showing up more and more are non-fish items like pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches. I believe I actually saw grilled ham & cheese on the menu here but I’ve got no proof so maybe I imagined it. I’d like to think that’t the case.

Knights of Columbus 3908 Fish FryKnights of Columbus 3908 Fish FryPlans with friends meant I couldn’t make a Good Friday fish fry for dinner but I found one that fit my schedule. Lunch at the Knights of Columbus in Erlanger was my only fish fry outing in Kentucky this year although I’ve gone to other locations in the state in the past. Their dinner menu is pretty complete with baked and fried fish along with shrimp, chicken!, and hamburgers!!. The only thing on the lunch menu is the sandwich in the picture but it’s a pretty good sandwich that comes with french fries and hush-puppies for a mere $5. I asked about those Lenten hamburgers and was told they don’t sell many. Maybe one a week to some youngster. Chicken nuggets, however, move rather well. But fish fries aren’t restricted to Lent for this particular K of C council. In addition to being held every Friday during Lent, they hold a fish fry on the first Friday of every month during the rest of the year. Non-Lenten hamburgers sell really well.

Concert Review
Willie Nile
Southgate House Revival

Willie NileWhen Willie Nile‘s American Ride appeared on my road trip oriented radar last spring, I thought his name sounded vaguely familiar but couldn’t really connect it with anything. When I later heard a tune, Vagabond Moon, from his 1980 debut album, it, too, sounded vaguely familiar. I probably did hear both the name and the music thirty years ago but I didn’t hear it enough or pay enough attention for it to stick with me. I’m now realizing that I am certainly the poorer for that and I’m learning that I’m not alone.

I was pretty happy when I first learned that Willie was coming to the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky. Then, when I found out it would be on Groundhog Day Eve and my plans for the holiday started to form, Willie’s concert got pushed aside. I intended to visit a friend in northern Illinois where another Willie, a groundhog named Woodstock Willie, is the focus of a pretty good party in the town where the movie Groundhog Day was filmed. Then weather forecasts, which turned out to be rather accurate, called for several inches of snow in Illinois and I decided to stay in Ohio which meant I could make the concert and that was a very good thing.

Even after the event was firmly on my agenda, I had no idea that it would compel me to post my first actual concert review. I didn’t have a camera with me and, though I could have tried to grab something with my phone, I did not and resorted to a stock publicity shot to start this post. Fortunately, Kirsten O’Connell shared this photo of the show on Willie’s Facebook page so you can get a glimpse of how things looked.

Thinking I would not be be going, I did no research and had no idea what to expect. I thought it quite possible that it would be a solo show with just Willie and a guitar. Boy, was that ever wrong. Willie took the stage with a topnotch high-powered 4-piece that blew me and the rest of the packed Revival Room away.

There are three performance spaces at SGHR. The Sanctuary is the biggest and there is a stage in the smallish Lounge. The Revival Room is a mid-sized place on the second floor. Yes, SGHR is a re-purposed church; the 1866 Grace Methodist Episcopal Church. How they resisted calling the upstairs venue The Upper Room, I’ll never know. I’ve seen a few shows in the Sanctuary and a couple in the Lounge. This was my first time in the Revival Room and it instantly became my favorite. It held forty-eight folding chairs. There would have been fifty but the middle of five rows was truncated by support posts. Every seat was filled and another thirty or so people stood at the back and along the walls.

The show was riveting from beginning to end. Despite never having seen Willie Nile before and knowing only a few of the songs, I felt right at home. There was a touch of Springsteen and Dylan and Grahm Parker and Lou Reed and Elvis Costello and other rock ‘n’ rollers I can’t exactly name. But it was all Willie Nile. Willie doesn’t bring to mind first tier singer-songwriters because he mimics them but because he is one.

The band was top tier, too. I believe Alex Alexander, who played drums on the American Ride album, has been touring with the group but Larry the Chicago Guy (Sorry, forgot the last name.) is wielding the sticks for a few shows. If that subtracted anything from the performance, it’s hard to imagine what. The group was tight and professional. Matt Hogan’s guitar solos were impressive without being over indulgent and bassist Johnny Pisano got in his own share of fancy licks — and leaps. Hogan and Pisano both appear on American Ride. In addition to looking good and sounding great, it was obvious that all four musicians were enjoying themselves to the max. Nothing impresses me more than an entertainer having fun while delivering quality.

Things mellowed briefly when Willie sat down at an electric piano — after they found the plug — and the band left the stage. The piano is Willie’s first instrument. He performed The Crossing solo then moved onto Love is a Train. One by one, the others returned as the song progressed and before long the train was a rockin’. Apparently a song and a half of mellow is enough for Willie. Other songs I remember were three dedications to musicians the world lost quite recently. Heaven Help The Lonely was dedicated to Phil Everly, One Guitar to Pete Seeger, and a rousing version of Sweet Jane was dedicated to the man who wrote it, Lou Reed. Surprisingly, he did not play American Ride and I did not miss it and I mean that both it not being played and me not missing it were surprises. I don’t mean that I did not notice its absence; I mean that the concert seemed full and complete and satisfying without it.

Early on, Willie let it be known that he thought SGHR was a pretty cool place. He also talked of it being his first time in Kentucky until a fan in the front row reminded him of his 1980 gig opening for The Who in Lexington. Willie smiled at the correction and said he intended to be back again before long. I believe him and I’ll be waiting.


I learned of the song American Ride, first on the radio then in this video, in the week preceding the start of my Lincoln Highway centennial drive. The album had not yet been released but the title song was available as a 99 cent download. I bought the song and had thoughts of it playing as we departed Times Square. I failed at making that happen but, at 7:23 AM on June 22, as we were leaving Manhattan, I did send the following pre-written Tweet:

Leaving New York City with a tank of gas.
Got my bag and my camera, I’m gonna get out fast.

The album was released June 25.

Cincinnati Christmas Traditions

Among the many interesting pieces of information presented in Cincinnati Museum Center‘s most recent Brown Bag Lecture, “Cincinnati’s Winter Holiday Traditions”, was a listing of the city’s four oldest Christmas traditions.

cintrad014. Duke Energy Holiday Trains – 1946
Duke Energy gave its name to the trains in 2006 when it bought Cinergy Corporation. In 2011, it gave the trains to the museum. Before Cinergy was formed in 1994, the company name was Cincinnati Gas & Electric so these trains spent most of their lives as the CG&E trains and that is still how many people think of them.

cintrad03cintrad02The O gauge layout was originally constructed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as a training tool just prior to World War II. It came to Cincinnati in 1946 and for years was displayed in CG&E’s lobby each Christmas season. Today it is the centerpiece of the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Holiday Junction which includes several other model trains, the “Toys through Time” exhibit, Grif Teller railroad paintings, and more. Kids can ride a train or have a conversation with Patter & Pogie, the talking — and listening — reindeer who were a long time Christmas fixture at Pogue’s department store.

Holiday Junction and the Duke Energy Holiday Trains are are inside the fee required museum but free passes are available to all Duke Energy customers.

cintrad113. Boar’s Head Festival – 1940
I have never attended the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival and I won’t again this year. Tickets for the free event go fast and those for this year’s festival have long been gone. The first Boar’s Head Festival took place in Oxford, England, in 1340 which means it had been going on exactly 600 years when Cincinnati’s Christ Church Cathedral held its first. The locals have now added 70+ years of their own traditions to establish a unique event for the city. I confess to not even knowing of the festival before the lecture but, the more I learn about it, the more I want to go. There are three performances on January 4 and 5. Tickets were distributed, first-come, first-served, on December 14. Maybe I can snag one of those hot ducats next year.

cintrad212. W & S Nativity Scene – 1939
Officially known as Western & Southern Financial Group presents the Crib of the Nativity, this Cincinnati tradition has one year on the Boar’s Head Festival. Western & Southern’s President, Charles F. Williams, had the crib built in 1938 for display in the company’s parking lot. It went public and started the tradition during the very next Christmas season. Initially displayed in downtown’s Lytle Park, it was moved to Union Terminal after the country’s entry into World War II in 1941. It stayed there, a welcome sight to the train loads of GIs who passed through the station, until the war was over. It returned to Lytle Park in 1946.

cintrad22cintrad23With the upheaval and shrinking of Lytle Park that came with the construction of I-71, the nativity scene moved to Eden Park in 1967. It remains there, next to Krohn Conservatory, today.

cintrad26cintrad25cintrad24Parking and visiting the outdoor nativity scene is free. Entering the conservatory is not. The conservatory’s Christmas display is not one of Cincinnati’s oldest but it is one of its most beautiful. If you have parked to visit the nativity scene, you should at least consider spending the $7 to see “A Cincinnati Scenic Railway”, a ton of poinsettias, and other holiday themed displays. The railway incorporates “botanical architecture” which uses “locally gathered willow and other natural materials” to build structures such as the Roebling Bridge, the Tyler Davidson Fountain, and the Christian Moerlein Lager House..

cintrad311. Fountain Square Tree – 1913/1924
According to the “Cincinnati’s Winter Holiday Traditions” lecture, Cincinnatians first put a tree on Fountain Square in 1913. A large crowd had gathered for the ceremonial lighting when someone yelled “fire” and the resulting stampede caused enough injuries to keep the city from trying again until 1924. Things went much better that year and, although the fountain and the square have moved around some, a Christmas tree has stood on Fountain Square every year since.

cintrad32cintrad33cintrad34There was a snag this year when the first tree selected snapped in two at a weak spot in its trunk. A replacement was quickly obtained and the 55-foot Norway Spruce was placed on the square after a one week delay.

Morristown 2012 Holiday Tour of Homes

Methodist Church MorristownOn Saturday I toured several nicely restored and decorated homes on the National Road in Morristown, Ohio. An Oddment page on the Holiday Tour of Homes is here.

This entry provides a place for comments on that Oddment as well as covering some “support activities”.

Twin Pines MotelTwin Pines MotelMy bed for the night was at the Twin Pines Motel a few miles east of Morristown. I had read a couple of reviews that made it sound OK and it was. It’s a clean and reasonably maintained older place with no frills but all the necessities including wi-fi. Price was about $50 with tax. There is a look at my room here.

ChapzChapzChapz is on the National Road between Morristown and the Twin Pines. I stopped there for a beer before the home tour and for a ‘burger after. Anything that looks that unhealthy just has to taste great and it did. Just as the sign shows, female bartenders and waitresses wear Daisy Dukes and motorcycle chaps. Depending on age and size that can look really hot… or not.

 

Monroe’s Magnificent Mile

Solid Rock Church, Monroe, OHHustler Hollywood Store, Monroe, OHMonroe, Ohio, is a city of 12,000+ that sits on I-75 about halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton. A little more than a mile of the expressway lies within the city limits. The southern boundary is right where the northbound ramp of exit 29 begins. Turn left from that ramp and you’ll find one of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Hollywood stores doing quite well. Something of an entirely different nature is doing well at the northern edge. There the Solid Rock Church sits just east of the expressway and east of the Monroe city limits. The huge church with its electronic billboard is definitely hard to miss but it was even more of an eye catcher when the King of Kings statue stood there. The statue attracted national attention while it stood and I’m sure the eyes of the world were on Monroe, Ohio, when lightening struck it in June of 2010. A different but similarly sized replacement is due to be completed by the end of this year and the frame is already in place. Apologies for the dark and crappy picture I took from the expressway.

Treasure Aisles Flea Market, Monroe, OHTreasure Aisles Flea Market, Monroe, OHSo what lies between Monroe’s offerings of sin and salvation? Shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. Facing off across the interstate are two humongous flea markets. Treasure Aisles is on the west side inside the Monroe limits. They say this pirate themed market is where the barrrgain hunters go. There was live music inside although it neither looked nor sounded particularly nautical and there was an optional gun & knife show which I skipped.

Traders World Flea Market, Monroe, OHTo the east and, like the church, just outside the city limits, is Trader’s World. The theme there might be “jungle”, though “Jungle Jim’s” seems even more accurate. Both the area’s one of a kind grocery and Trader’s World have a lot of large animals prominently displayed plus lots of stuff with no jungle connection at all. Trader’s World has murals inside and out, there’s no shortage of things to look at overhead, and antique cars and wagons are displayed in several of the unoccupied booths. No live music that I found.

I drive this stretch of I-75 a lot so have often driven by all of these sights. All four have huge signs and while the Hustler store isn’t visible from the expressway its tall sign is. For the others, the signs almost seem unnecessary since pirate flags, roofs full of giraffes, and a 62 foot Jesus are all fairly successful attention getters. But despite getting my attention over and over, they never got me to stop until yesterday. I was driving by on Thursday when I was struck by the fact that this is exactly the sort of thing I chide others about: Not stopping at attractions in your own neighborhood. Maybe flea markets, churchs, and porn shops aren’t typical roadside attractions but they are using time honored tourist trap techniques to make passers-by aware they are there.

So I visited both flea markets on Saturday. I bought some Brita filters at Treasure Aisles and a slice of pizza at Trader’s World. I haven’t decided if I’ll also visit the church and the porn shop but if I do, I’ll probably hit both of them on the same day to see if I can spot any parishioners picking up DVDs on the way home.


Although they ever so slightly miss the limits of the actual “Magnificent Mile”, two sites just south of the city add to its magnificence. One is the recently opened Cincinnati Premium Outlets which caters to upper crust bargain hunters not yet ready to mingle with giraffes or pirates. The other is LB Ranch. LB is Lawrence Bishop who is not only a very successful horse trader but the founder and Senior Pastor of the Solid Rock Church. Photos of his ranch and his church abound on the Internet but I’ve always been fond of his silo. Before the big Jesus and the elephants and giraffes came along, the horse topped cylinder was the biggest attraction along this stretch of interstate. At one time the horse fell over but remained atop the silo on its side. It was returned to an upright position sometime in the last year or so but appears to be on its last leg.