Trip Peek #59
Trip #123
Alternate Dixie

This picture is from my 2015 Alternate Dixie day trip. Even though I spent a night away from home. I called this a day trip since I documented none of the drive home. Two different paths between Cincinnati, OH, and Lexington, KY, were recognized by the Dixie Highway Association during its lifetime. The purpose of this trip was to drive the later of the two. It also served as an end-of-winter break. The route passes through the real towns of Independence , Falmouth, and Cynthiana and next to the faux town of Punkyville. I continued beyond where the routes reconnect in Lexington and spent the night at the Boone Tavern in Berea. I did a little research while there that including taking the photograph of the DH cotton bale sign that would be incorporated in the cover of A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway.


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.

Concert Review
Paul Simon
Riverbend Music Center

A couple of recent posts spoke of how “I’m not moving like I used to.” Neither am I going to concerts like I used to. I still like live music and often catch both local and big time performers in smallish venues but when it comes to large venues and super stars, I’ve become pretty selective. I don’t like the large crowds and the various hassles that go along with them. I don’t like the large ticket prices. Adjusted for inflation, the third row Beatles ticket I bought for $5.50 in 1966 would cost $41.64 today. My twenty-first row seat at Saturday’s Paul Simon concert was more than twice that ($91.50) though that might be justified. The sound system did seem much improved over three Vox amplifiers and some microphones. But most of all I don’t like the outrageous and unavoidable fees that are stacked on top. Those fees added more than 25% to the Simon ticket. How the hell did we let that happen?

So when I do attend a big crowded high-priced musical affair you can bet it’s someone I really want to see. It’s probably someone I’ve wanted to see for a long time but just never quite managed so that seeing them has become something of a bucket list item. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that the performer and I are both within kicking range. That was the case with last summer’s Steely Dan concert and is the case with a Van Morrison show I’ll be attending this fall. It was the case with Paul Simon.

Maybe Paul’s lost a little vocal range or can’t kick as high as he once did but how would I know? He delivered every thing I hoped for. The songs he played came from every part of his career and I knew almost all of them as did almost all of the audience. The eight piece band made me think of a cross between the Mothers of Invention and the E Street Band. They weren’t quite as tight as the E Street Band but the range of instruments and the levels of talent were pretty close. And they weren’t as loose as the Mothers but they did show a ton of flexibility. Everybody played multiple instruments — even the drummer played a mandolin at one point — and they were all good.

Paul played an acoustic guitar for “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and when the song ended a stage hand approached with a solid-body electric and they swapped. As Paul was strapping the new instrument in place he responded to shouts from the foot of the stage with “You want to hear it again?” The acoustic guitar came back and Paul and the band delivered another rousing verse or so. Maybe he’s done that before. Maybe he does it a lot. But it seemed spontaneous and we all loved it.

There were two encores. Paul had carried a baseball cap on stage and it hung on his mic stand through most of the show. I believe he carried it off with him at the end of the first set but might be wrong. I know he did after the first encore because it was on his head when he and the band came out for the second. He held it up and explained that the lower case ‘e’ on the hat represents the Half Earth Project which will receive all profits from the current tour. I am only slightly familiar with the project, which proposes to dedicate half the surface of the Earth to nature, but do not doubt its worthiness. In  my mind, both the project and Paul’s contribution connect with “How much is enough?” One species doesn’t need or benefit from manipulating every inch of the earth. One rock star doesn’t need or benefit in any real way from grabbing every dollar on earth. Paul and many musicians continue to perform long after banking enough money for several lifetimes because that’s simply what they do and folks like me and the road crews appreciate it. Wouldn’t it be a great thing if more people accepted that there really is such a thing as enough. The band did three songs in the first encore and four in the second. Then Paul brought them all to the front of the stage for a bow. Many shook hands with fans before walking off . Paul remained on stage alone.

He picked up a guitar and stepped to the mic. “Anger is addicting,” he said, “and we are becoming a nation of addicts. Look around and see who the pushers are.” That’s what I remember and what I recorded on my phone as I left my seat at concert’s end. Another review has it slightly different and there are reports of other variations at other concerts. He then ended the show with “The Sounds of Silence” which I’d been waiting to hear live since 1965. When it was over he moved a few feet to his left and stood the guitar in front of him. He seemed to study the crowd as he allowed the crowd to study him. After a few moments he moved to the other side of the mic and did the same thing. Aloha.

Star Wars Costumes

I may have missed attending a traveling exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center in the last several years but, if I did, I don’t remember what it was. The museum brings in world class exhibits which I very much appreciate and enjoy. I was, however, rather wishy-washy about Star Wars and the Power of Costume. Still am to some degree. My initial lack of desire came from a lack of familiarity. I guess I’ve been sort of wishy-washy about the whole Star Wars movie franchise beyond the first one. I feared that not knowing all the details of the full story would make it impossible to appreciate the exhibit. That turned out not to be the case at all. My current wishy-washiness comes from the price. As a museum member, attending the exhibit on Friday cost me $17. The regular adult admission is $24 or $16 for age twelve and under.

As I purchased my ticket, a fellow who had just emerged from the display and the fellow printing my ticket, had a brief discussion about how much they had each enjoyed it. One aspect they both liked was that the organization is by “type” rather then chronological. Once inside I very much appreciated that too. Having things displayed chronologically either by story line or movie release sequence (They’re different, you know.) wouldn’t have helped me at all and would likely have confused me.

There are small clusters of similar characters such as androids, empire soldiers, and rebel fighters.

Sometimes a single pair of related costumes are displayed together. Here a couple of different Princess Leia outfits are combined and Chewbacca and Han Solo stand side by side in front of a hyperspace image.

And, of course, some characters seem to just belong alone. Darth Vader masks used for specific scenes are displayed nearby. Bits of Jedi wisdom are projected on the wall behind Yoda.

The last room in the exhibit contains many of the Star Wars toys manufactured by Kenner and tells the story of how the Cincinnati based company ended up with the contract that nobody wanted. The line was incredibly successful and revolutionized the marketing of movie based toys but did not keep the company from being merged into Hasbro in 2000.

I was honestly quite surprised that the exhibit actually made me want to see all nine Star Wars movies. I saw the first Star Wars movie and thought it was great despite feeling that George Lucas had really ripped off Dune author Frank Herbert. I also saw and enjoyed the second and possibly even the third but I don’t think so. Then the whole prequel/sequel thing made me lose interest completely. Now that the story exists in its entirety, my curiosity is coming into play. Besides the more than sixty costumes, the exhibit contains many informative panels and videos. They remind me of something I already knew which is that Lucas borrowed from and/or honored many more science fiction and adventure stories than Dune and he seems to have done a better job presenting the essence of Dune than anyone who has actually used the name. I don’t see myself doing an all day or more binge but maybe I’ll finally get around to watching what everyone’s been talking about for years.


Now I’m going to invent a additional Cincinnati connection. A panel in the Star Wars exhibit states that some of the areas costume designers studied were World War II, Vietnam, and Japanese armor. Cincinnati is home to a serious collector of Japanese armor and the Art Museum has many pieces in its collection. Dressed to Kill, an exhibit of much of this armor, ended about a month ago and I’m going to turn this into an opportunity to post a couple of pictures I took there with my phone under less than ideal lighting. And now I’m going to turn this into an opportunity to mention that all the other pictures in this post were taken with my pocket Panasonic and the lighting for most wasn’t all that good either. Here’s hoping you won’t judge them too harshly.


Traveling exhibits like Star Wars the Power of Costume, are possibly even a little more important now than normal since they and the Children’s Museum are the only public spaces that remain open during the restoration of Union Terminal. Since my last visit. a large window has been opened into the rotunda that permits a view of a portion of the murals there. Reconstruction is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2018.

A Full Day of PT
(Public Transportation)

afdopt01On Tuesday, I climbed aboard a Cincinnati city bus for probably the first time, other than some event specific shuttles, since 1970. Prior to taking a job in South Lebanon near the end of 1970, I worked downtown and often rode the bus from Pleasant Ridge and, before that, Clifton. I don’t believe bus service extended much beyond Pleasant Ridge in 1970. Probably Kenwood. Possibly Montgomery. Now buses run all the way to Kings Island, just a couple miles short of that South Lebanon job, but they don’t run often. Their purpose is to connect people with jobs so there is a flurry at the start of the work day and another at the end. Little in between and even less on weekends. I’ve long thought of heading downtown on a bus but the sparse schedule put me off. Boarding a bus in the morning essentially means being gone for the rest of the day. That’s not really a problem, of course. It happens often. Committing to it in advance and knowing that there will be no car a shortish walk away is somewhat different, however.

afdopt02afdopt03I decided to go for the first run of the day. The route starts about a block from my home and, as can be seen in the up top photo, the bus arrived and I was on board — alone — a little before the 6:07 departure. There are two other pickup points, both a little to the north, before the bus hits the southbound expressway for downtown. Four passengers were added at the first one and sixteen at the second. The second was at Kings Island where I tryed to take a picture of the distant sign in the dark. Once on I-71, everyone, except the driver and a lady knitting, had their eyes on their phone or an e-reader.

afdopt05afdopt04Total ride time was almost exactly one hour and I arrived downtown just a few minutes past 7:00. I spent a little time on Fountain Square which is in minor disarray as the skating rink is put in place for the winter. The moon, just two days past full, plays the part of a halo for the fountain. It has been drained of water but still looks good and will look even better before the day ends.

afdopt06afdopt07I boarded the day’s second form of public transport next to Fountain Square. When I rode the Cincinnati Bell Connector during its inaugural weekend, it was always full. Today, it carried just one passenger when I boarded at Fountain Square. It was a handicapped lady and I got to watch her drive her electric scooter directly from the car to the platform when she exited a few stops before I did. Pretty slick.

afdopt10afdopt09afdopt08I had thought to have breakfast at the recently reopened (after a fire) Tucker’s but discovered that they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I substituted the even older (1936 vs. 1946) Dunlap Cafe. It’s just a block away from the northernmost streetcar stop at Rhinegeist Brewery. Besides good and cheap eats, the Dunlap has an impressive beer can collection that includes several from Olde Frothingslosh. In the past, I hadn’t paid much attention to the little park across the street but the benches caught my eye today. I’m guessing that nearby residents are responsible for the tiles.

afdopt11afdopt12I will be traveling on November 8 so, for the second time in my life, I won’t be physically going to the polls on election day. I figured out which streetcar stop was closest to the Board of Elections location and set off on the next train to drop off my absentee ballot. A small-world moment occurred along the way. At an intermediate stop, friend, blogger (Queen City Discovery), and author (Fading Ads of Cincinnati) Ronny Salerno stepped aboard and we got to chat until he stepped off one stop before mine. At the ballot drop box, a lady in front of me posed for a selfie with her ballot in hand and the box as background then offered to take my picture dropping the envelope. I thanked her for the offer but opted for just a shot of my hand and ballot.

afdopt14afdopt13There is also something of a coincidence involved here. After dropping off my ballot, I walked back toward the center of town with no real destination in mind. I reached this park, Cincinnati’s oldest, by chance and the coincidence is that I recently read a blog post about the man who donated it to the city. Until a few years ago, I sort of assumed this was Garfield Park because of the statue of our twentieth president. It’s real name is Piatt Park. I’m sure that reading Cincinnati’s Richest Man Died In Debtor’s Prison a week or so ago has a lot to do with my taking and posting these pictures.  A statue of our ninth president, William Henry Harrison, stands at the other end of the park. Combined, the two presidents honored here served less than eight months. Harrison 32 days, Garfield 200 days.

afdopt15afdopt16Fire on the fountain. Apparently if you need to clean something big and bronze, a torch and a brush is the way to go. The workmen told me that the 145 year old Tyler Davidson Fountain (a.k.a. The Genius of Water) gets this treatment twice each year. Good ventilation, I suspect, is also important.

afdopt19afdopt18afdopt17On impulse, I ducked into the Carew Tower and rode the elevator to the observation deck for a different view of the torch & brush guys. When I was last here, in November of 2014, the ice rink was in place and in use. Today workers were still assembling it. 84.51° is both the name and longitude of the marketing company that was spun off from became a subsidiary of (see first comment below) grocery giant Kroger last year. The third picture is of the mid-demolition Pogue’s Garage which, by coincidence, I recently read about in an article whose author, by coincidence, I ran into earlier in the day.

afdopt20afdopt21afdopt22Visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was something I’d tentatively planned to do and walking down to it from the Carew Tower worked into my day quite nicely. One reason for wanting to visit today was the center’s participation in the current Foto Focus Cincinnati. I very much enjoyed the Foto Focus exhibits but took no pictures of them. The river beyond the center’s Eternal Flame was once the boundary between slavery and freedom. Construction of the suspension bridge that crosses it was interrupted by the Civil War. The third pictures shows one of the displays reminding visitors that forms of slavery still exist in the world today.

afdopt25afdopt24afdopt23The day’s third flavor of mass transit picked me up just outside the Freedom Center. Operated by the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, the Southbank Shuttle connects Newport and Covington, Kentucky, with Cincinnati’s riverfront. I rode it to near the Beer Sellar on Newport’s Riverboat Row but found it not yet open. I ended up sipping a beer on Hooters’ deck.

afdopt26afdopt27There are several new Cincinnati restaurants I’ve yet to try and today it was The Eagle‘s turn. The Southbank Shuttle took me to Fountain Square and the Cincinnati Bell Connector took be to within a couple blocks of The Eagle. It’s a place known for its fried chicken and it did not disappoint. It was accompanied by “spicy hot honey” that reminded me of how, just a few blocks away, The Genius of Water was being cleaned. I’m an admitted wimp and I know that what I thought fiery others would think just right or even mild but it was not for me. Properly warned, I sampled the honey with small drizzles on a couple of bites then put it aside and enjoyed the chicken and the spicy — but not spicy hot — cheese grits.

afdopt28Had I walked directly to to the streetcar station after eating, I could have boarded almost immediately. Instead, I watched a train stop and continue as I strolled through Washington Park. I strolled on and caught the next one after only a few minutes. Time to the next car is normally displayed at each station but that wasn’t the case at this particular station at this particular time. The wait was around ten minutes. At my three previous boardings, displayed times had been 8, 6, and 12 minutes. The first ride of the day was the only time I entered a nearly empty car. The others were maybe a third to half full. I snapped the photo, showing that my ride home was four minutes away, about a dozen minutes after I arrived at the stop near Fountain Square. The ride back to a block from my home would cost $4.25. I’d used a free ride pass (received when I signed up for Cincy EZRide) for the ride into town. EZRide supports the purchase and use of Metro Bus and Cincinnati Bell Connector tickets from both Apple and Android smart phones. I purchased and activated my $2 all day Connector pass with it although I was never called on to show the pass. Each Southbank Shuttle ride costs $1. Even without an introductory free ride I can go from my home near Kings Island to the northern bits of Over the Rhine to Riverboat Row on the south side of the Ohio River and back home again for $12.50 ($4.25+$2+$1+$1+$4.25). The last route 71 bus leaves the Fountain Square area at 5:30 so it won’t work for a normal time dinner or an evening event but it’s a very sensible way to spend a day in the big city.

Book Review (not really)
A Prayer for Owen Meany
John Irving

apfom_cvrI’m not really going to review this twenty-seven year old book that I’m guessing thousands of professional reviewers have written millions of words about. When I first read it, more than two decades ago, I thought it was one of the best books I had ever encountered.  A recent re-read only reinforced that. The re-read was prompted by plans to attend a performance of a play based on the novel. I’m going to say some things about that performance but this really isn’t a review of it either. In fact, I find myself stumped in trying to explain just exactly what this is. What ever it is, it was triggered by my recent experience with a book and a play.

From the moment I saw that Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park would be presenting A Prayer for Owen Meany I wanted to see it. I knew nothing about the play but recalled how much I loved the book. As is often the case, I recalled my love of the book better than I recalled the details of it and decided that reading it again would be a wise move. I reserved a digital copy at the library but the Playhouse’s announcement had obviously given others the same idea. The waiting list was long and it moved slowly. It became apparent that I might not even receive a copy before I saw the play let alone have time to read it. I turned to Amazon where money solved the problem. A little more money provided a new experience.

When I purchased a Kindle version of the book, I was given the option of adding an audio version from Audible for a few dollars more. I bit, thinking that it might help me get through the book before showtime. It did. The two versions were synchronized so that I could listen as I walked to a nearby restaurant, read while I ate, then listen some more as I walked home with Kindle picking up where Audible left off and vice versa. I don’t think it will become my default method of “reading” but it is a very effective way of using all available minutes to move forward.

So I finished the book and made it to the play. I have no illusions that a play or movie can be a complete replacement for a well written book but I do know that a well done play or movie can sometimes cut through minutia while preserving a theme and making it more easily accessible to more people. This was not, in my opinion, one of those times.

First, in defense of the production, the Playhouse cast and staff did an admirable job in staging and performing a complex script. Second, in defense of the playwright, the novel itself is certainly complex with loads of characters and locations, multiple time periods, and a narrator whose inner thoughts sort of fuel the whole thing. That this is built atop a doubly volatile core of both politics and religion no doubt makes a stage adaptation quite challenging.

I’ve just one knock on the production. The acting was excellent as was the use of space. The flying, however, wasn’t so good. The script (I assume) calls for Owen Meany to go airborne several time in a Mary Martin/Peter Pan sort of way. The problem was that, before each lift-off, actors spent on-stage time connecting the support apparatus to Owen’s body. The audience was left with a more vivid memory of the preparation than of the “flight”.

That aspects of the novel needed to be eliminated in a stage play goes without question. I don’t even question screenwriter Simon Bent’s choices of what to eliminate. Big stuff from the book that didn’t make it to the stage include John Wheelwright’s three cousins, his lengthy comments on the Iran-Contra affair, and the removal of his finger to avoid the draft. The armadillo that soloed on the cover of the first edition didn’t make it to the stage either. Nor did Owen Meany’s time as The Voice or his conflicts with school administration that cost him scholarships and led to his enrollment in ROTC. I recognize the fact that to include these or some of the many other things eliminated might have complicated things beyond reason. Whether or not the simplification made the play accessible and understandable to anyone unfamiliar with the book is not for me to say.

I expect things to be simplified when a book goes the the stage or screen. Not only must things be eliminated but sometimes thing must be simply changed. Changing the armadillo to a ball and glove makes sense. Adding the Lenny Bruce scene as a device to express some inner thoughts is reasonable. But why change the day of Owen’s death? I don’t think it’s particularly important in the book. There it is July 8 and a follow on to Independence Day but is not, as far as I can tell, otherwise significant. If there is a purpose to changing it to March 31 in the play, it’s lost on me. And it’s irritating.

The majority of comments on the Playhouse’s Facebook page are positive. Some are glowing. Only a few are really negative. Some mention language, others the flying apparatus, and some give no reason at all. It would not have surprised me if people who had not read the book found the play hard to follow but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I only spotted a couple of comments suggesting that. More common are comments from people who intend to read the book now that they’ve seen the play. That’s a good thing, I think, because I believe they’ll find that a picture — even a moving picture — isn’t always worth a thousand words.


Added 21-Sep-2016 8:00: A Prayer for Owen Meany begins with the narrator stating “I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” Questioning then embracing faith is the book’s most basic theme. What I’ve personally questioned is my attraction to a book whose message seems so different form what I believe. Skillful writing and the fact that it makes me think must be the reasons. The following quote from John Irving makes me much more comfortable with my admiration for a book that seems almost an endorsement of Christianity.

I’m not religious. In writing “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” I asked myself a fairly straightforward question — namely, what would it take to make a believer out of me? The answer is that I would have to meet someone like Owen Meany. If I’d had Johnny Wheelwright’s experience in that novel, I would probably be a believer too. But I haven’t had that experience — I only imagined it.

 

Cannonball Lunch Break

mccb16_01It was just over a week ago, on the tenth, that ninety old motorcycles pulled out of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and set off for Carlsbad, California. Yesterday, most of them pulled into Dodge City, Kansas, where the riders get a day of rest before continuing west on Monday. This is the 2016 version of the Motorcycle Cannonball and these motorcycles are not just old; They’re very old. And that, of course, is one of the reasons only most of them made it to Dodge City. The newest of the entries was built in 1916 and stuff happens when hundred year old machines are called on to perform mile after mile and day after day. The photo is of event leader Dean Bordigioni on his 1914 Harley Davidson. I’m fairly certain that Dean is not using his cell phone to see if he needs to bring home milk. My guess is that he’s making use of its GPS function or possibly just checking the time. The modern technology that keeps riders safe and on course can seem like it’s from a very different world than the technology propelling them.

The first Motorcycle Cannonball took place in 2010 and I was a spectator as participants approached and departed their overnight stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My journal for that outing is here. The competition has been held every two years since then but I completely missed both 2012 and 2014. This year the route passed through Ohio with a lunch stop at Powder Keg Harley-Davidson just a few miles from my home. That’s where all photos in this post were taken.

mccb16_02Bordigioni wasn’t the first rider to reach the lunch stop. He was just the first to reach it after I did. I had missed the arrival of Jeff Tiernan. That’s his 1913 Henderson in the picture with Bordigioni’s Harley behind it. The Cannonball is not a race. It is an endurance run with points awarded based on miles traveled. The motorcycles are divided into three classes with lower classed motorcycles ranked higher than others that have covered the same distance. Bordigioni started and ended Tuesday in first place by virtue of being the only Class I (single cylinder, single speed) entry to cover every mile. Tieman started the day tied (I believe) for fourth and end the day tied (I believe) for third.

mccb16_05mccb16_04mccb16_03The bulk of participants arrived over the next half hour or so. Most were in small groups of five or six. A few riders took advantage of the stop to make adjustments or small repairs but most headed inside for lunch and a seat that didn’t bounce.

mccb16_06mccb16_07mccb16_08What space the competitors didn’t require was filled to overflowing by other motorcycles. Modern Harley-Davidsons comprised the majority but other brands were represented and many spectators arrived on decidedly non-modern machines. There were plenty of HDs among the older bikes and I’ve included a picture of one along with a Triumph, a BSA, an Indian, and a good looking “snortin'” Norton.

mccb16_11mccb16_10mccb16_11Here are a few more or less random shots of riders returning to the road after their little break. That first one isn’t all that random. Doc Hopkins’ 1916 Harley-Davidson is hooked to the only sidecar in the Cannonball which makes Dawn Hamilton the only passenger. The other photos are of Rick Salisbury on a 1916 Excelsior and Australian Chris Knoop on a 1915 JAP.

mccb16_12Yeah, this photo is out of sequence. It’s not a Cannonball entry and I don’t know who the rider is. It’s a HarleyDavidson but I don’t know its vintage beyond knowing that it is too new to enter this year’s competition even if its owner wanted to. I’m posting it as the day’s last picture because I really agree with the assessment of the guy riding sidecar. Thumbs up Cannonballers and Powder Keg  HD. Nicely done.


Dean Bordigioni on that 1914 H-D was still leading when what I take to be 72 entries arrived at Dodge City yesterday afternoon. 22 competitors have covered every mile and have perfect scores. Among them are Jeff Tiernan and Doc Hopkins who are mentioned in the article above. Jeff is listed in 4th and Doc’s in 16th. Also mentioned above are Rick Salisbury and Chris Knoop who are currently listed in 53rd and 46th respectively. All the riders appear to be having entirely too much fun, sore butts and all.

Cincy Got Rail

csclaunch01It has been said that Cincinnati is a place where big ideas come to die. That may not be entirely fair but neither is it unfounded. Especially when the big idea involves public transportation. The biggest of the deceased big ideas is the subway. Tunnels were dug in the 1920s but death came before any track was laid. The streetcar line that opened on Friday barely escaped a similar fate. On Friday morning Cincinnati photographer/writer Ronny Salerno’s blog post consisted of a brief personal recounting of the steps leading to today’s launch which in turn provides a pretty good overview of the history of the big idea itself. The original big idea, a multi-county and multi-state transit system, has been repeatedly beaten and bashed but a downtown streetcar was a small part of that big idea and it is now a reality.

csclaunch02csclaunch03csclaunch04Another big idea that faced serious opposition before becoming reality was the revitalization of Washington Park. The new streetcar line passes on two sides of the park and that is where a little ceremony was planned. I guess it wasn’t too little because, when I arrived about an hour early, the 450 car garage beneath the park was already full. I parked several blocks away and took the picture at the top of this post as I walked back. The presence of every local media outlet was another indication of how big this event was to the city. After a stirring fanfare by trumpeters from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, I moved around the crowd to watch the proceedings from the rear.

csclaunch05Of course the rear wasn’t the best spot for photos but I managed. One of the first to speak was John Schneider. Schneider is a developer and planner whose support of this project earned him the nickname “Mr. Streetcar”. Each speaker introduced the next and as Schneider finished up his remarks he noted that one of his few regrets was not getting autographs from all of the dignitaries present at the streetcar groundbreaking. He had the shovel he had used with him and he intended to correct his error beginning with the next speaker, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. That’s Schneider on the left and Cranley on the right. Cranley was  a very vocal opponent of the streetcar and campaigned on a promise to end its construction. Only the fact that it would cost more to abort than complete kept him from making good on that promise.

csclaunch06csclaunch07Past mayors Mark Mallory and Roxanne Qualls were next. Both are long time supporters of the streetcar and, not surprisingly, were roundly cheered by the crowd who had come to celebrate its opening.

csclaunch08Another nine speakers followed the current and former mayors but their remarks, which were largely thank-yous, were brief and the presentations wrapped up roughly an hour after they started. Several small balls were then tossed into the crown in preparation for a digital “ribbon cutting”. Anyone catching a ball earned a seat on one of the bicycles standing by the stage. The bicycles were provided by Red Bike, Cincinnati’s rental/sharing service, and each had an electric generator under its rear wheel. When sufficient power was generated, a large screen turned red and confetti shot from it. There were actually two such screens. I never did get a view of the cyclists and barely got my camera pointed toward the screen in front of them when the confetti erupted. When that happened, I heard a noise behind me and turned to find an identical screen flashing red and spewing confetti. That screen was free of the tight crown near the bicycles and pretty much ignored. I was at the right place at the right time but I sure wasn’t facing the right direction.

csclaunch09csclaunch10csclaunch11With the screens red and the confetti fired, dignitaries began boarding the cars and I moved to the corner to watch the first filled streetcar depart. Officially this new mode of transportation is named the Cincinnati Bell Connector. Cincinnati Bell ended arguments over if and when the system would become self-sustaining by purchasing ten years of naming rights for $340,000 per year.

csclaunch13csclaunch12Once the several car loads of special guests completed their circuit of the 3.6 mile route, the Connector would begin carrying the general public and people started lining up almost as soon as the speeches were over. I spent a little over an hour in the park’s cool shade before getting in line and I should have waited even longer. Another half hour passed before I boarded a car and it wasn’t the one in the first picture. In order to pick up riders at other stops, cars left Washington Park about one third full. I reached the door just as the car reached its quota. Suddenly I was first in line.

csclaunch14The car I did board was completely filled by the time we reached the Banks which is where I got off. I snapped the picture at left then walked down to the Moerlein Lager House for a Connector beer and a commemorative glass. I then re-boarded at the same stop and completed the circuit (plus a little) to reach Rhinegeist Brewery for a Traction beer and another commemorative glass. As planned, I ended my initial streetcar experience here and headed to my car parked nearby.

The opening weekend when rides are free and various businesses have special offers and activities provides no real indication of how popular or successful the Cincinnati Bell Connector will be. My own impression was positive and I fully intend to make use of it in the future. I also overheard several others express similar feelings. It’s going to be a while before we know whether or not those impressions, intentions, and feelings will lead to success but at the moment it sure doesn’t look like an idea that came here to die.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Last Week

chartickAs threatened, I did go to last Sunday’s The Beatles At Crosley – 50 Years Later! I probably should have coughed up $1.29 for a Wild Thing MP3 but I didn’t so there was no point in cruising the Senior Center. I did, however, make the drive with the top down despite the fact that number of wheels and a collapsible top are about the only things my 2003 Miata has in common with my 1959 Impala. Other differences between 1966 and 2016 include the presence of a camera in my hands. I still had no souvenirs but I could photograph other people’s. The ticket stub pictured above (note the word “bleaches”) belongs to long time friend Charlotte Wiltberger. By long time I mean that, although I didn’t know her when she bought the ticket, we would meet in a matter of months.

bacf50_01bacf50_02A five foot blowup of one of Gordon Baer’s Cincinnati Post photographs was placed on the field to provide a nice spot for attendees to pose for their own photos. I walked to the first base side of the field to snap a shot that approximates my field of view at the concert.

bacf50_05bacf50_04bacf50_03The event was sponsored by radio station WVXU and the brainchild of John Kiesewetter. That’s John on the left of the first picture introducing Dusty Rhodes. Dusty is now Hamilton County Auditor but once upon a time was a radio discjockey and one of the men responsible for bringing the Beatles to Cincinnati in both 1964 and 1966. The middle picture is of The Beatles Invade Cincinnati author Scott Belmer. Discjockey Jim LaBarbara, in the third picture, didn’t move to Cincinnati until 1969 but “The Music Professor” had contact with the Beatles in other cities.

bacf50_06bacf50_07Other folks sharing memories included discjockey Tom Sandman and musician (Haymarket Riot) Steve Helwig. That’s Bev Olthaus and Charlotte, whose ticket appears at the top of this post, in the second picture. Bev attended both the 1964 and ’66 concerts and has both tickets and a scrapbook filled with memories. There’s a better look at what Charlotte has in that frame here.

bacf50_09bacf50_08Jeff and Misty of the Newbees wrapped things up by leading a sing-along of Beatles songs. No screaming. No crying or fainting. Just a bunch of people with fifty year old memories mouthing the words to songs that helped many of us through quite a few of those fifty years.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today…

bcftic…that the Beatles finally got to play — at Crosley Field. I was there. I was also there the day before when they didn’t get to play. Thinking about that weekend still brings a smile despite details having seriously faded from many of my memories and others turning out to be dead wrong. I have no souvenirs or photos. The ticket in the image above isn’t mine (It’s from RareBeatles.) but I once had eighteen of them.

Tickets went on sale in April as my freshman year at the University of Cincinnati was winding down. Someone down the hall from my dorm room was a friend of Joe Santangelo, the younger brother of concert promoter Dino Santangelo. That was certainly lucky but was not nearly as miraculous as the fact that I had money at the end of the school year. Joe could provide third row tickets and I had a hundred dollars. I bought eighteen at $5.50 each. That was face value. No service charge. No handling fee. No Ticket Master. I’m not certain but I’m thinking that the money may have come from a few weeks of wearing a stinky T-shirt and letting people sniff my armpits. Proctor and Gamble often used students in product tests. I participated in a couple and their completions marked some of the few time I actually had cash in hand in those days.

I sold fifteen of those tickets for as much as ten dollars a piece. It was my only serious scalping venture and I remember minor feelings of guilt at selling something for nearly double what I’d paid. I also remember that I didn’t like being a salesman and it showed in my lack of total success. When August 20 arrived I still had three tickets in my possession. Two were for me and my date. The third was left over inventory.

Yes, I had a date but it hadn’t been easy. School was out and I was back in Darke County with the concert about a hundred miles away. None of the few girls I had any sort of contact with could or would go. As I recall, Micky was the friend of a co-worker. What I do recall vividly is picking her up. This was in the final days of my 1959 Chevy co-ownership. The sky was clear and the sun was shining as I pulled up to her house with the top down and those big white fins spread out behind me. The Troggs’ Wild Thing was playing on the AM radio as I turned off the car and headed to the door to meet a girl I’d only talked with on the phone. There is simply no denying that the Beatles and Troggs can make you feel cool even when you’re not.

I can’t remember when the top went up. Maybe we made the whole drive with the car open or maybe we closed it to help with conversation and to keep Micky’s hair in place. It’s really strange what details stick and which disappear. At the stadium it quickly became clear that I had little chance of selling my extra ticket. The concert had not sold out and the scalping scene that we know today did not yet exist in any case. I ended up giving it to the usher who showed us to our seats near first base. No one ever appeared for the seat so he may very well have the souvenir that I don’t.

When the rain hit, someone magically produced several big plastic sheets and everyone in our section tried to form some shelter. Attempts to dump pools that collected without drenching someone weren’t always successful and waterfalls could appear at any time where sheets came together. But I don’t remember anyone becoming the least bit angry. We were all wet and arms got tired as we struggled to hold that plastic above us while hoping against hope to hear the music we had all come for. The huddled masses under that plastic may have been soggy and disappointed but we were having fun and laughing. Maybe it was because we were all younger. Maybe it’s because the world was.

I recall Micky having a good time and laughing along with everyone else and there was a solid reason that she couldn’t return the next day. Even so, we never saw each other again. I suppose that a pair of two hour rides separated only by sitting in the rain for two hours might not be the ideal first date.

Fortunately my buddy Dale was able to make it and the two of us headed to Cincinnati for the rescheduled concert. We didn’t quite make it in time although I’m not 100% sure when we did make it. Combining our sketchy memories with author Scott Belmer’s “the best we can figure” sequence of opening acts and songs from The Beatles Invade Cincinnati, I think we must have reached the ballpark about the time the Cyrkle took the stage. Belmer lists the sequence of acts as the Remains, the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, and Bobby Hebb and he thinks the Cyrkle opened their set with Red Rubber Ball. I recall hearing that song before we reached our seats; Maybe even before we entered the park. So we probably caught part of the Cyrkle’s set, all of Hebb’s, and missed the Remains and Ronettes completely. Besides doing their own short set, the Remains were the backing band for both the Ronettes and Hebb so we would have at least seen them perform. Had we seen them open we would probably remember them much better. Something that I only learned in putting this post together is that they began the show with Hang On Sloopy. It wasn’t the Remains that had put the song on the charts the preceding fall. That was the local band the McCoys who Dale and I both knew rather well. We might have actually remembered that if we’d heard it.

I have learned that at least one of my memories was absolutely wrong. For many years I told people that the Beatles had opened with Paperback Writer and that the opening harmonies sounded very non-harmonic. Every account I’ve seen says they opened with Rock and Roll Music and Paperback Writer was their tenth and next to last song. I obviously misremembered the sequence but I’m sticking by the non-harmonic part. I think there may have been some speakers along the base lines and we could hear the music to some degree. There was stiff competition, however, and I think I watched the screaming and crying girls in the stands nearly as much as I watched the show on the fairly distant stage. Neither Dale nor I screamed or cried and I don’t think Micky would have either. Of course, we’ll never know for sure.

The Beatles flew directly to Saint Louis to perform that evening. Four more shows (New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco) completed the tour. They never toured again. Crosley Field served as the Reds home for three and a half more seasons before being replaced and demolished. In 1988 a replica of the field was constructed in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash. Later today, the fiftieth anniversary of the concert will be celebrated there. (The Beatles At Crosley – 50 Years Later!} The weather looks promising so maybe I’ll put the top down on the Miata, crank up Wild Thing on the iPod, and see if any of the chicks at the Senior Center want to go.

ADDENDUM 28-Aug-2016: There’s a post on the anniversary celebration here.

Diggin’ the Dan

tdwktm01You’ve probably seen those “I MAY BE OLD, BUT I’VE SEEN ALL THE GOOD BANDS!” T-shirts. I’m pretty sure I could get away with wearing one but I won’t for two big reasons. One is the implication that “all the good bands” have come and gone which is just not true. There are good bands emerging every day and I intend to see some of them, too. The second reason is that, even if I limit the field to bands of my g-g-g-generation, there were plenty I missed and that includes, even though I quote them, The Who. I also missed The Doors, Cream, and, until last Tuesday, Steely Dan. That’s when they opened the main leg of their “Dan Who Knew Too Much” tour at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center. Sure, it wasn’t the Skunk Baxter, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder Steely Dan. That particular good band has indeed come and gone. But the thirteen piece that Fagan and Becker fronted down by the river was for darn sure another good band and one that I did get to see.

swrb02swrb01swrb03Back in the day I also missed the The Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, and Traffic and I got to make up for just a little bit of that on Tuesday, too. Steve Winwood, a member of all those groups, opened the show and managed to work in tunes from all three as well as from his solo career. He delivered most of those songs from behind his Hammond B-3 but occasionally stepped out to put his considerable guitar skills to use. It’s hard to imagine a better way to get this show started.

tdwktm03tdwktm02As you’d expect, Donald Fagan did most of the Steely Dan lead vocals with Walter Becker taking over for Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More and the three female backup singers doing an outstanding round-robin job on Dirty Work. Those female voices were an important part of the mix throughout the concert.

tdwktm04A four piece horn section was another key part of getting close to that “just like the record” sound. Jon Herington handled most of the lead guitar work with Becker playing behind him. But Becker did get his licks in here and there including some sterling solo work in Josie. Fagan stood to play melodica (I think) on a couple of songs but stayed at the electric piano most of the night. Behind him, Jim Beard took care of a lot of the keyboard work. Bassist Freddie Washington and drummer Keith Carlock complete the band.

tdwktm05For me, Carlock was a surprise bonus. I’d done no homework for the concert and had never heard of Keith Carlock although he has played with Steely Dan since 2003 and has plenty of other impressive credits, too. My time as a mediocre drummer helps me recognize good ones. I was impressed immediately and in awe after just a few songs. My take is that he plays with the finesse of a jazz drummer (think Buddy Rich) and the power of a rock drummer (think Max Weinberg) and that’s pretty much what Steely Dan needs.

I learned a little about Carlock at breakfast the next day. Half Day Cafe is a great breakfast spot that I manage to reach a few times each year. I don’t know why I picked Wednesday for one of those times but I did and it makes a fine morning after story.

I walked in and sat at the counter. Behind it three employees were chatting and laughing but quickly stopped and turned their attention to me. “Don’t let me ruin the punchline”, I joked. They laughed and one said, “Oh, we were just talking about the concert.” She pointed to the employees on either side and explained, “They went to see Steely Dan last night:” Of course I said “Me too” and got back “So did they” with a motion toward the couple in a booth behind me. The exchange of random memories — all positive — was on.

One of the concert attendees was a Cafe server who is also a drummer in a successful local band. He is a long time Keith Carlock fan and filled me in on some of Carlock’s history. The cafe owner was not at Tuesday’s show but had seen the band multiple times in the past and contributed memories of earlier Steely Dan concerts. Spontaneous fan club meetings are the best.