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.

Da Vinci — The Genius

dvtg01A new exhibit opened at the Cincinnati Museum Center just over a week ago. Da Vinci — The Genius opened on Friday the 20th and I was there on Monday. It’s a dandy. The exhibit is billed as having “17 themed galleries” and I’m sure that’s true. Another simpler — though not entirely accurate — view is that’s its the “Mona Lisa” and everything else. I say that because the “Mona Lisa” display is quite large and is different from the others. It is the last area reached in the exhibition and the last discussed here.

The bulk of the exhibit consists of modern implementations of devices envisioned by da Vinci some five centuries ago. Using his drawings and descriptions and utilizing materials available when the the ideas were committed to paper, more than 70 of da Vinci’s concepts have been brought to life. Most are full size.

dvtg02dvtg03Devices related to flight appear early in the exhibit. The photo at the top of this article is of the helicopter-like Vite Aerea. In addition to wings, screws, and propellers targeting actual flight, da Vinci sketched out mechanisms intended to test ideas or measure natural forces. Almost all of his “flying machines” were impractical because of weight or other issues. A partial exception is the “parachute” seen in the foreground of the second picture. In 2000, British daredevil Adrian Nichols stepped out of a hot air balloon with a ‘chute built to da Vinci’s specifications. Jumping from 10,000 feet, Nichols rode the 500 year old design to within 2,000 feet of the surface before turning to something more modern. Freeing himself from the pyramid shaped device and deploying something more up to date was not because of any failure of the device to do its job but to prevent being injured by the heavy wood frame on landing.

dvtg06dvtg05dvtg04Leonardo’s earth bound inventions were more viable. The second picture is of a machine used to cut threads on a shaft. The third picture shows an area that breaks from the normal “hands off” museum policy. Here attendees are encouraged to touch and operate the mechanisms to better understand the principles involved and to better appreciate da Vinci’s genius. Da Vinci didn’t invent the “Out of Order” sign but it can be useful in his world. On the day of my visit the Ingranaggio a Lanterna don’t work cause the vandals took the handle.

dvtg08dvtg09dvtg10Enlarged examples of da Vinci’s anatomy studies are displayed as are reproductions of several other drawings and paintings. His “Last Supper” is the subject of a video. The anatomical drawings demonstrate da Vinci’s talent but are also evidence of his boundless curiosity. It’s obviously good to have a healthy supply of both but I find myself thinking that curiosity without talent is to be preferred over talent without curiosity.

dvtg13dvtg12dvtg11A sad truth is that concocting dreadful machines of war was frequently da Vinci’s “day job”. That’s not to say that it was entirely unpleasant to him. He had an interest in the science and art of war at an early age but he often obtained patronage for his artistic endeavors by promising the means to destroy enemies. He certainly wasn’t the last artist/scientist to find that the case.

dvtg14Of his Stanza Degli Specchi, an eight-sided mirrored room, da Vinci said that someone in it “will be able to see every part (of himself) endless times”. There are, of course, parts of me that you are better off not seeing even once but this from-the-shoulder shot is alright.

dvtg17dvtg16dvtg15In 2004, researcher Pascal Cotte was given unparalleled access to the original “Mona Lisa”. The painting was removed from its frame and photographed multiple times with a purpose-built ultra-high-resolution multispectral camera. Analysis of the captured data has resulted in things like an understanding of the original colors and a possible explanation for the apparent absence of eyebrows and lashes. The data was also used to produce a full-sized replica of the original. That’s it in the second picture. That’s also it in the third picture in a true “dark side of the moon” rear view. The two large portraits on the far wall relate to Cotte’s most controversial claim. Cotte believes that four fairly distinct layers can be identified in the painting and that one is an almost finished picture of a completely different woman than the one visible on the surface. On the right is a recreation of that other portrait. Everyone agrees the the painting changed during the many years da Vinci worked on it. Some authorities, however, believe all changes were along the lines of constant tweaking. They are not ready to accept that substantially completed layers were overlaid with other entire layers.

dvtg18Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have spent about fourteen years on the “Mona Lisa” and he still wasn’t entirely done with it when he died. You can use your mobile phone and a chair, frame, and background provided by the museum to complete your own in a fraction of a second. Bring your own Lisa.

Da Vinci — The Genius runs until September 25. Major restoration work will close much of the Museum Center on July 1. The Children’s Museum and the da Vinci exhibit space are in the basement and will remain open. Entry will continue to be through the main doors of Union Terminal.

Rhinegeist Maker Day

rmd01Libraries and breweries can both be considered major contributers to the advancement of mankind and one of each came together on Saturday to give that advancement a boost. In early 2015, something called MakerSpace opened at the Cincinnati Public Library. MakerSpace provides many pieces of modern techonogy in support of learning by doing. A selection of MakerSpace equipment filled a section of the Rhinegeist Brewery on Saturday afternoon.

rmd02rmd03rmd04Library personnel were present to assist people of all ages with hands-on activities like decorating ping-pong balls and making buttons. Most MakerSpace equipment made available at the brewery was from the low-tech end of the spectrum but some higher-tech and decidedly more complex equipment is part of the set up at the library. 3-D printing is among the high-tech capabilities available at the library and one was being demonstrated at the brewery but it was not part of the hands-on activity. That’s it in the opening picture midway through printing a copy of a Pokémon Pikachu.

rmd07rmd06rmd05Ella Mumford, who I know through my friendship with her proud father, is Team Leader for the Main Library’s MakerSpace. The table top version of Ella as a 100% redhead is a product of 3-D printing. Being a library presentation, there are, of course, some books on display. While these happen to be about the concept of the “maker” movement and not the product of it, book publishing is a MakerSpace capability.

rmd08rmd09Several cornhole games were taking place in front of the MakerSpace area and the brewery’s normal activities (i.e., selling beer) continued. The markings on the floor are for the whiffle ball games frequently played here.

A Futbol First

fcc0416_01Cincinnati has a new professional futbol… er, soccer team. It’s not the first. Rummaging through an assortment of teams, vanishing leagues, and shifting designations it looks to me as if the most recent fully professional soccer team to call this city home was the 2006 Cincinnati Kings. The match that the new team, Futbol Club Cincinnati, played yesterday was not their first. That was a March 26 loss to Charleston Battery. Nor was it their first win. That occurred April 3 at Bethlehem Steel. It wasn’t even their first home match or their first home win. Both of those were accomplished  with last Saturday’s game against Charlotte Independence. The match was, however, a first for me. It wasn’t just the first FC Cincinnati match I’ve attended or my first professional soccer match. It was the first “real” soccer match of any sort that I’ve ever seen in person.

All three of my kids played soccer at some point or another and I saw many of their games. I don’t want to belittle those games or the players efforts but the truth is that they often knew little more about soccer than I did. My oldest son, Cris, was an exception. He became a real fan. On his most recent visit to Ohio, we spent an evening in a bar specifically to see a World Cup match of particular interest to him. He worked hard to keep his old man from looking too stupid but I retained very little of what I learned. On his way to becoming an adult soccer fan, Cris did some fairly serious playing himself. Not long after high school graduation he joined an indoor soccer team and I attended a number of their matches. Those games were some of the fastest and most exciting competitions I’ve ever witnessed but indoor soccer is not the same sport embodied in the World Cup.

Part of the attraction of any sport is the culture that surrounds it. I have the feeling that that is more so with soccer than other sports but that could simply be the result of my outsider’s viewpoint. With help, I was able to overcome a little of my ignorant outsider status for my first match. Apparently formal supporter groups are standard procedure in the world of soccer. They exist in other sports, Cincinnati’s Rosie Reds immediately comes to mind, but they seem much more prominent in soccer. I am aware of three such groups, The Pride, The Den, and Die Innenstadt, associated with FC Cincinnati. I’m reasonably well acquainted with one of Die Innenstadt’s organizers and close friends with someone who joined a bit later. I experienced my first pro soccer match as a Die Innenstadt hanger-on.

For the first home game, members met at the Rhinegeist Brewery near downtown and walked to the game from there. For this and all future home games, Mecklenburg Gardens is the official meeiting place. The distance is about the same but the walk is now fairly level rather than a one mile climb up a Cincinnati hillside. Our participation was not quite as complete as we had planned. Mecklenburg Gardens was packed when my friend and I arrived. The group started their march several minutes ahead of the announced time and, more importantly, several minutes before we had worked our way through the long and slow moving beer line. We “marched” to the stadium as a group of two.

fcc0416_02By the time we arrived, the group was in place in an end zone area known as the Bailey. We took our place in the Bailey but chose seats off to the side thinking that would avoid some of the major flag waving and such and might give us a clearer view of the near goal. That helped to a degree but the entire Bailey was filled by game time and most of those fans stood through every minute of play.

fcc0416_05fcc0416_04fcc0416_03Players were on the field warming up but took off ahead of the opening ceremonies. Both teams reentered the field together. Each player was accompanied by a jersey wearing youngster. That’s something I wish I’d made an effort to learn more about.

fcc0416_06fcc0416_07fcc0416_08The home team scored first and the Bailey celebrated with an orange smoke bomb. A blue bomb had started the match. FC Cincinnati would score one more time but it was in the final minutes long after visiting Louisville City FC, who had their own small but energetic group of supporters in the stands, had three points on the board.

fcc0416_09So I got to see FC Cincinnati’s first home loss but I had a great time and may have even learned a thing or two. And I also got to be part of a record setting crowd. The 20,497 in attendance last night was a USL regular season record. Cincinnati may really be ready for soccer. Just before the match started I texted my futboler son to let him know I was about to experience something new. His reply was the best thing I read all day. “Don’t forget your scarf!”

Cincinnati Strut

od2016_01I’m sure some folks get tired of hearing about how special Opening Day is in Cincinnati but that’s not going to stop me. I won’t write as much about the history as I did back in 2012 but I will again mention that the world’s oldest professional baseball team always opens at home and always has a marvelous parade. The picture at right shows people gathering for the parade on Race Street. Behind them is Washington Park and Music Hall stands beyond the park. The park was completely renovated a few years ago and is now a popular gathering place for families. Music Hall will be closing soon for its own renovation. I reported on a performance there a couple of weeks ago.

od2016_02Lou Piniella managed the Reds in their last World Series win in 1990. I remember it vividly and recall thinking that it had been a long dry spell since The Big Red Machine wins in 1975 and ’76. But that was just fourteen years and the Reds have now played twenty-five seasons without even getting to a World Series let alone winning one.

od2016_03I snapped a picture of the Corvair station wagon as it approached but didn’t realize who was in it until it was beside me. That’s legendary King Records studio drummer Phillip Paul with who I believe is his good friend Roberta Narcisse beside him. Paul recorded the original “The Twist” with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, “Train Kept a Rollin'” with Tiny Bradshaw, “Hide Away” with Freddie King, and an incredibly long list of other hits. Paul isn’t quite as flashy as another local music legend who was in last year’s parade but, while Bootsy Collins performs only occasionally, the ninety year old Paul has a steady weekend gig in downtown Cincinnati.

od2016_04President William Howard Taft threw a ceremonial first pitch to start the Washington Senators 1910 season and every president since has thrown a first pitch at an Opening Day, World Series, of All Star game at some time while in office. Taft was a Cincinnati native and his former home is now a National Historic Site. A fancy brewpub right on today’s parade route bears his name. If you have any thoughts of being a Taft impersonator, Cincinnati is the place to be.

od2016_07od2016_06od2016_05In less than a year of existence, the Red Hot Dancing Queens have made me a most sincere fan. As I told a small group of them I encountered after the parade, if everyone could have a mere fraction of the fun these gals have, the world would be a much better place. Watch for them at parades and festivals throughout the summer.

od2016_08od2016_09od2016_10Here’s another parade group that I like a lot. I recall first seeing the Wapakoneta Lawnmower Precision Drill Team a long time ago in a Saint Patrick’s Day but they haven’t been in that parade for many years. They might have realized that the fun was draining from that parade well before I did. After completing one of their precision choreographed drills, there was a pause in the parade and some of the team members dashed over to the curb to high-five some of the spectators. Only after he had rejoined the formation did the group of boys in front of me notice the faux southern exposure on the guy they had just exchanged high-fives with. As we all know, a little snicker makes everybody feel better.

Coincidence at Play

tcamb1I’ve yet to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I have seen the 1962 movie multiple times and now I’ve seen the play. I had hoped to read the book between learning that the play would be performed this season at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and actually seeing it but that didn’t work out.

The Friday night performance would be the biggest event of my week but I didn’t expect it to lead to a blog post. I anticipated that a canned Trip Peek would be published this morning. A Friday morning email got me to thinking differently.

The email was the April E-News from the Smithsonian. One of the topics was “The Scottsboro Boys” with this two sentence tease: “The case of the Scottsboro Boys, which lasted more than 80 years, helped to spur the civil rights movement. To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, is also loosely based on this case.”

I read the article referenced in the email and could easily see similarities between the 1931 real world incident and the fictional one Harper Lee set just a few years later. Both involved black men accused of imaginary crimes against white women and both occurred in a world where color mattered a whole lot more than truth. Later I read that in 2005 Harper Lee said this was not the incident she had in mind when writing To Kill a Mockingbird but that it served “the same purpose”. Despite there not being an official connection between the Scottsboro Boys and To Kill a Mockingbird, reading about the incident and its repercussions served a purpose for me, too. It provided an unpleasant picture of this country near the midpoint between the Civil War and today. The accuracy of that picture is reinforced by a contemporary pamphlet, They Shall Not Die!, referenced in the Smithsonian article.

tcamb2I took my seat on Friday with the Scottsboro story fresh in my mind. The stage was bare except for a single light bulb which would actually be removed at the play’s start although it would return later. The stage consists of a large circular center and a surrounding ring both of which rotate. Sometimes they rotate in opposite directions which can seem to expand the distance between actors or the distance they travel. Set Designer Laura Jellinek states that “our main goal was to eliminate any artifice between the audience and the story” and this set certainly accomplishes that. As one audience member observed during the discussion that followed the play, she briefly looked around for the jury during the courtroom scene before realizing that “we were the jury”. At its most crowded, the stage holds nine chairs for the key figures in that courtroom scene.

The discussion I mentioned happens after every performance. Anyone interested moves close to the stage to listen or participate. There were naturally questions about this specific production but there were also questions about the story. There is a sign in the lobby that I now wish I’d taken a picture of. “Don’t read books that think for you. Read books that make you think.” might not be 100% accurate but it’s close. Friday night’s discussion was evidence that this play is prompting some thinking and I’ve no reason to think that discussions following other performances are any different.

tcamb3There is also a set of blackboards in the lobby. As I assume is true at every performance, the blackboards started out empty except for a question at the top of each. By the time people started heading home, the boards were full. It’s pretty clear that some thinking is going on here, too.

It was the coincidence of the Smithsonian email showing up on the day I was set to see the play that nudged me towards making it a blog entry. There is another coincidence of sorts that I find interesting.  Each week, the blog This Cruel War publishes an article on lynchings. The article is published on Wednesdays but, since I subscribe via RSS and I seem to always be behind in my RSS reading, it is often a day or more after publication before I read a specific article. I read this week’s post the morning after my Playhouse visit. In it, the source of the series’ title, “This Disgraceful Evil”, is given. It comes from a 1918 Woodrow Wilson speech in which he calls upon America “…to make an end of this disgraceful evil.”

We don’t have to deal with actual lynchings now as much as in 1918 but there’s still plenty of crap going on. “It cannot live”, Wilson continues, “where the community does not countenance it.”

Originally scheduled to end today, April 3, To Kill a Mockingbird‘s run a Playhouse in the Park has been extended through April 9.