The Art of the Brick

aotb01“Remember”, says Nathan Sawaya, “it all starts with one brick.” Sawaya is the artist responsible for all those LEGO® sculptures currently on display at Cincinnati’s Museum Center in “The Art of the Brick”. I failed to do my homework before visiting the exhibit on Monday though I actually think that might have helped as much as it hurt. Since I’m writing about it, I’m obviously not advocating that everyone attend with the level of ignorance I had but I can’t help but think my off target expectations caused me to be more impressed with some aspects of the exhibit than I would have been otherwise.

aotb02aotb03aotb04Museum mailings on the exhibit included “Make & Take” and “Harry Potter Building Part” promotions. Apparently those “fun & games” promises made more of an impression on me than the word “art” in the title. What I expected, I suppose, was a collection of technically impressive structures. My misconception was not immediately apparent as things started off with items that were either flat or fairly shallow base-relief. Most were copies of popular works which more or less supported the idea of “technically impressive”.

aotb07aotb06aotb05Next up were some fully 3-dimensional copies of some 2- dimensional works of art. These were followed by reproductions of some familiar 3-D sculptures. The technology was more complex and the results more impressive but it was still, you know…

aotb08aotb09Then things changed. I don’t really know what Sawaya had in mind when he chose the word “metamorphosis” to identify a particular subset of his work but I do know it fit what I experienced. When I first entered the exhibit I didn’t even know that it was the work of one man. I learned that during the introductory video. I now realized that the word “art” in the title was no accident. Venus de Milo and friends were essentially the last “reproductions” in the exhibit. Sawaya’s vision would pretty much rule from here on out. An athlete is captured mid-stroke in Swimmer. Facemask is a self portrait.

aotb12aotb11aotb10That Sawaya is a talented artist as well as a skilled technician becomes even more apparent in his “Human Condition” collection.

aotb13aotb14As Sawaya notes, Yellow is probably his best known piece. Its ability to grab attention gets it featured in plenty of ads and brochures. Full frontal shots are everywhere and oblique views aren’t uncommon. This “dark side of the moon” shot is a kind of rare, however. Sawaya also notes that it gets that attention from both young and old. For adults he conjectures that it is seen as a “cathartic ‘opening one self up to the world'” and for kids he thinks it’s “Probably because yellow guts spilling onto the floor looks cool.”

aotb15I know this isn’t very artsy. I guess it might even be considered a reproduction of sorts but it’s not a reproduction like that reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. In this entire exhibition made of children’s building blocks, this is the only piece that was made specifically with kids in mind. It isn’t life size but it is big — over six feet tall and a tad under twenty feet long — and it is certainly technically impressive. 80,020 pieces they say.

aotb16aotb17aotb18One more big surprise awaited. It’s a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces”. The first picture shows a group of items constructed from LEGOs by Sawaya. The surrounding walls are lined with photographs in which the items are combined with people and other real-world elements. For example, the red dress can be seen being worn in the picture beyond it.

aotb20aotb19These two pieces near the very end of the exhibit may require a little explaining. Cincinnati was once the pork packing capital of the world. Porkopolis borrows the city’s one time nickname and flying pig mascot. Sawaya made the piece specifically for this exhibit. Hugman is the name of a style of sculpture that Sawaya likes to install in various cities he visits. The three shown here are special in that they are made of bricks by visitors to other exhibits. I may have even found one signed by an unknown relative. “The Art of the Brick” differs from most temporary exhibits at the museum by not only permitting but encouraging photos, even flash. That might be apparent simply by the number of photos in this article. That much appreciated photo policy made the purpose of that empty pole obvious to me even though it wasn’t exactly spelled out.

“The Art of the Brick” is at the Museum Center through May 1 and is definitely recommended.

Three for Me and the DAV

dav5k2015_01A veteran buddy talked me into walking with him at the inaugural National 5K Run/Walk/Roll/Ride in 2013. We both signed up again last year but, when I called from near the start line to see why he was late, I learned he had forgotten and was half way across the state. This year he is living out of state so I knew when I registered that I would be doing it alone. Just me and more than 3,000 strangers.

dav5k2015_02dav5k2015_03Just before the hand-cycles lead off the timed entries, the motorcycle contingent rolls by the starting line. This large group, mostly veterans, will cruise the course then park near the end to greet and cheer every participant.

dav5k2015_05dav5k2015_04The picture at the top of this article is a capture from a video posted as part of the results. Participants can view a clip of their finish based on bib number. I finished in 1:04:26. That’s 4 minutes and 3 seconds faster than last year and a mere 47:31 behind the fastest runner. I’m obviously closing in.

In 2013 the only event was the one in the DAV’s home town of Cincinnati. In 2014 an event in Dan Diego was added and this year an Atlanta event joins the other two. With a perfect attendance record to maintain, I intend to be back next year. Blog posts on the previous events are here and here.

On the Waterfront

rsrs01It was another full week in southern Ohio. The Cincinnati Film Festival continued and I caught a few more screening on board the Showboat Majestic. As she was being put to use for the first time in nearly two years, the wonderful old floating theater had some company. For three days, a ship from World War II was docked about a hundred yards down river from the Majestic and replicas of ships from an even earlier time parked a little upstream on the opposite bank for the entire duration of the festival. I eventually got to see all the waterborne visitors.

rsrs02rsrs03On Monday, I parked near the Majestic and walked over the Roebling Suspension Bridge for half-priced mac & cheese at Keystone Grill. There was hardly anyone at LST 325 when I passed her and I could have walked right on in. I foolishly decided to wait until I came back. The picture of the ship was taken from the Roebling. The Showboat Majestic can be seen just beyond her bow and sharp eyes may be able to make out the Nina and Pinta replicas over her bridge. By the time I ate and returned, there was a bit of a line but it wasn’t bad. It was time, however, for the first movie to start. Had I known it would start nearly an hour late, I’d have climbed aboard the old war ship. As it was, I walked around the showboat, including a rare visit to the unused balcony, while technical issues were worked through.

rsrs04I returned to the riverfront a little earlier on Tuesday with intentions of seeing both floating displays. I headed first to the Kentucky side of the river where those sailing ships were docked. The picture at the top of this post was taken then and, as you can see, both ships were fairly well occupied. School buses were parked near by and the dock area was crowded with students waiting their turn to board. I headed back to Ohio where more buses and a long line prompted me to delay my LST visit, too. I moved on to Smale Park and checked out the lower lever garden/playground. I took some pictures that I anticipated using in this post but can see it’s going to be quite big enough without them. I’ll do an entry on the playground someday but for now I’m just posting this single photo of another visitor.

rsrs05rsrs06rsrs07The Nina and Pinta replicas would be in town through Sunday. Not so the USS LST Ship Memorial. It was here for just three days. I’d already blown Monday by walking by and putting off boarding and I would be elsewhere Wednesday. Today was the day. I waited as long as I could then joined the line even though it was only slightly shorter than it had been in the morning. LST 325 has quite a story. Launched near the end of 1942, the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) played a role in the invasions of Sicily and Normandy as well as many other WWII operations before being decommissioned in July of 1946. She was reactivated and supported arctic construction projects between 1951 and 1961. In 1964 she was transferred to Greece where she remained until acquired by USS Ship Memorial, Inc., in 2000. Her permanent dock is in Evansville, Indiana. The three photos show visitors exiting the tank deck, the wheelhouse, and the main deck. One of the sleeping areas can be seen here and there’s a good view of the entire ship here.

rsrs10rsrs09rsrs08On Thursday I again stopped by the sailing ships docked in Newport, Kentucky, and learned that, while a crush of students like what I’d seen on Tuesday occurred every morning, afternoons were fairly calm. I was able to board with no delay. The Nina is nearest the camera in the first picture and the second is the view on her deck facing aft. The third picture is facing the Pinta’s bow from her upper deck. Both ships were hand built in Valenca, Brazil, using 15th century methods. They are quite accurate replicas of the ships Columbus sailed to and from America in 1492 although the modern Pinta is intentionally a little larger than the original. They have no home port as they are on the move ten or eleven months of the year. Check the website to see when you might have a chance to see them. Wheeling and Pittsburgh: Here they come.

Much Miscellany

concord01It didn’t start out that way but the week got quite busy toward its end and there were several good candidates for the weekly blog post. I couldn’t pick one or, to be more accurate, I couldn’t throw any away. So, I’ve included them all. Because of timing the last one does get its own entry. The rest appear here.

The picture at right was taken Sunday. It was a beautiful day and, as frequently happens, I found myself cruising east along the Ohio River’s north bank. New Richmond, OH, is a common turn around spot although I’ll sometime go on to cross the river at Maysville, KY, and return on the river’s south side. This time I went all the way to Portsmouth before crossing over. I’ve idly followed the river to Portsmouth before but I guess I’ve always headed home through Ohio. I wasn’t expecting to come upon the town in the photo but it looked familiar and I soon realized why. I’d been here before, arriving, quite intentionally, from the west. The reason? This is Concord, KY, where the very first episode of the Route 66 TV series was filmed.

concord02concord03I drove through the town and found it even emptier than I had in 2008. Just before I drove on, I used my phone to snap that opening picture and post it to Facebook where it got a few comments from Route 66 fans. That would likely have been the end of it had not Route 66, co-star Martin Milner (Tod Stiles) died the very next day. He was 83 and died quietly at home. His passing prompted this post using a couple of pictures from Sunday to help with an after the fact “update” of my first visit to Concord. The first picture is of the lawn that Ed was mowing when I first saw him. I took the house to be where he and Johnny lived. On Sunday, there was a cluster of old chairs near it just as there had been in 2008 but today they were all empty with no hints as to when they were last occupied. The second picture shows the building that had the newspaper article in the window in 2008. There was no article this time and unidentified items were stacked against the inside of the windows. There was a handwritten “CLOSED” but I’ve no idea whether it was for the day or forever. Of course, Milner’s passing also brought back memories of the only time I ever met him. It was in 2003 at my very first Route 66 festival. The meeting was brief (It was an autograph session.) but he was quite friendly and readily agreed to a photo which someone (I think it was his daughter.) took with my camera. Communication was less than perfect and somewhere I have an 8 x 10 glossy signed “To Benny”.


lft03lft02lft01Even before he finished the full-sized working replica of the Civil War era steam locomotive Leviathan, Dave Kloke realized that his dream of using it to recreate the 1865 journey of Abraham Lincoln’s body from Washington, DC, to Springfield, IL, would not come true. Having the old style technology share tracks with modern diesel powered trains just wasn’t feasible. However, the big engine and an exact replica of the funeral car that carried Lincoln home are visiting many of the cities that were on the 1865 route including Troy, Ohio. That’s where I was Thursday afternoon to see the train on the first of its four days in town. Take a peek inside the cab and car here and here and visit the train’s website here.

The train is in the background of the third photo. In the foreground is a 30 foot tall version of Seward Johnson’s Return Visit. Visitors to Gettysburg, PA. will likely have seen the life-sized original in front of the Wills house where Lincoln put the finishing touches on a certain speech. Troy has displayed various Seward Johnson sculptures in the past and is the first to display the giant Return Visit. It has been there all summer (Here‘s a picture I took about a month ago.) and will remain through October.


cff15-01cff15-02cff15-03Thursday evening saw the opening of the ten day Cincinnati Film Festival. I’ll admit to being almost as interested in the venue (The Carnegie) as the program. Apparently not many were interested in either or — more likely — hadn’t heard about it. A couple of the speakers mentioned an audience of thirty-five and I think they were just about right. There was only one film screened on this night but it was preceded by about half a dozen local female comedians and the movie’s star, Rain Pryor. After the showing of of That Daughter’s Crazy, Rain (Richard’s daughter) and producer Daryl Sledge fielded questions from the audience. The movie was quite good and the unfiltered Q&A very informative.

cff15-06cff15-05cff15-04Friday night’s venue had me even more excited. This was my first time on the Show Boat Majestic since attending one of the final shows there in 2013 and the first, as far as I know, she has been used since that run ended. Here‘s a full view of her. Attendance was even poorer than the previous night with no more than ten audience members for either of the two films shown. Three films were scheduled but that was cut to two because of equipment problems. Searching for Home tells the stories of veterans damaged by war and various healing and coping methods. The Battle Buddy Foundation is one of the organizations featured in the excellent film and co-founder Kenny Bass, along with his battle buddy Atlas, was on hand to answer questions after the screening. That’s Kenny in the middle with his wife on his right and his brother Jon Campbell, also a Battle Buddy co-founder, on his left. The second film, Bad Moon Rising, was a Japanese language drama with English sub-titles. It was entertaining but not easy to follow. A Q&A session with actress Chihiro Seko and festival director Kat Steele followed.

Almost Dixie ‘Burgers

adb01I attended a Dixie Highway presentation on Thursday. It was in Cridersville, Ohio, about a hundred miles north of my home. Another fan of old roads, Russell S. Rein, lives about the same distance north of Cridersville as I live south of it and he would also be attending the event. In fact, it was Russell who had made me aware of it. Since Criderville is very near Lima, Ohio, Russell suggested we meet at the downtown Kewpee Restaurant there for dinner. I’d actually been thinking of that myself so needed no convincing. We had a plan.

adb02It was a fine looking day so, with ample time for the drive, I set off to follow the Dixie Highway, more or less, to Lima. In Troy, I slipped about a block off of the route to visit K’s Hamburger Shop. The Dixie Highway Association disbanded a few years before K’s 1935 birth and, although there are sources that describe its route as running right in front of K’s on what is now OH 41, it’s more likely that the highway turned south on Market Street just a little west of the shop. Unbeknownst to me, K’s celebrated their 80th anniversary on July 31. I’m sure sorry I missed that but I did have a hamburger and a piece of pie today for a belated one man party.

adb03Kewpee Hamburgers began in 1923. This location opened the same year that the Dixie Highway closed, 1928. The highway ran a few blocks west of the restaurant so, while it was closer in time to the Dixie than K’s, it was a tiny bit farther away in distance. The Kewpee also has wonderful pies but I opted for some soft-serve frozen yogurt to go with my ‘burger.

adb04adb05Russell arrived shortly after I did and we had plenty of time to eat and chat. Of course, we chatted just a little longer than we had time for and arrived at the presentation as the speaker was being introduced. Fortunately, the common aversion to front row seats meant we didn’t have to climb over anyone to reach the empties. The speaker being introduced was retired educator LaRee D. Little who we later learned is the father of Ohio Lincoln Highway League president Scott Little.

Little opened with a nice overview of what the Dixie Highway was and how it came to be. He fleshed things out with stories of his own journeys on the Dixie, which began as a youngster traveling with his parents, and and a series of slides that included some photos from those journeys. There is an announcement for the Auglaize County Historical Society event here and a video report on it here. I don’t believe either Russell or I learned anything new about the Dixie Highway but the presentation was quite entertaining and I’m betting that some of the others did learn a thing or two. Regardless, it sure was nice to see a whole room full of people showing interest in the Dixie Highway.

All-Star (and more) Week

asg-01Behold the Great American Ball Park. On Tuesday, Cincinnati hosts its fifth Major League All-Star Game. There were two (1938 & 1953) in Crosley Field and two more (1970 & 1988) in Riverfront Stadium. This is the first in what would be the best named stadium in the country if that name weren’t bought and paid for by the Great American Insurance Company. I remember both the 1970 and ’88 games and I attended the latter. Neither of those games had anything even remotely comparable to the hoopla and pre-game activities of this one.

asg-02That hoopla includes twenty bench sized moustaches scattered around the area and many other marked photo ops, too. A multi-day Fanfest started Friday in Convention Center and there are game related events throughout the weekend including many in communities fairly distant from downtown and the stadium.

asg-04asg-03And even in the stadium’s neighborhood, the All-Star Game isn’t the only reason for celebration. I’m on the Kentucky side of the river not only so I can afford to park my car ($20 to $30 is currently the going rate in downtown Cincinnati) but also because there is a riverside party there as part of Covington’s bicentennial. It was just opening when I was there so it wasn’t overly raucous yet but Bucket (Lee Rolfes, Bam Powell, & Bob Nyswonger) had the crowd dancing with their first song.

asg-05asg-06John Roebling may appear to be directing attention to the ball park in this article’s first picture but he is really gesturing toward the first bridge to connect Ohio and Kentucky (and the one featured in this blog’s banner). He was responsible for the design and construction of this engineering marvel in the 1860s. This is also the weekend of the 11th annual Roebling Fest which this year has been somewhat blended into the bicentennial celebration. Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee members offer tours of the bridge, the nearby murals, and a number of riverside statues during the festival and, yes, I did learn something. The family in the center of the second photo have just finished a Color Run in which participants become very colorful by the end of the 5K event. Just one more piece of the All-Star party. In the picture’s background, a Roebling Bridge light and the Scripps-Howard building can be seen in their All-Star get-ups.

asg-09asg-08asg-07I had planned on visiting Cincinnati later but, since the bridge tour ended in the middle of the river, decided that I might as well complete the crossing now. Signs of the approaching game are everywhere and preparations continue.

asg-10asg-11I have yet to visit the river level portion of Smale Park but something new catches my eye every time I walk past/over it. Today it was the recently completed chimes. Operated by the big keyboard below them, they have been called the “Riverfront Foot Piano” though I don’t know if that name will stick. The building above and behind the chimes contains Carol Ann’s Carousel which I rode at its official opening. Don’t you wish your city was cool like mine?

Broadside, Northside, Riverside

id2015-01There’s something in that display case that is 238 years 11 months and 26 days old. Twelve of America’s thirteen British colonies voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The thirteenth, New York, had not authorized its Continental Congress delegates to vote on the declaration. On the night of the fourth, Philadelphia printer John Dunlap produced at least 200 copies of the document with one of those copies reaching the New York Provincial Congress on July 9. Before the day was over, New York had joined the other colonies in approving the Declaration of Independence and ordered another 500 copies from New York printer John Holt. The Holt Broadside, as the second printing is known, contains the text of the New York resolution along with the full text of the declaration. Some copies were sent to the Continental Congress back in Philadelphia where it seems they somehow helped in getting the official parchment copy of the Declaration prepared. The signing of that official copy commenced on August 2.

id2015-02A copy of that second printing made it to Cincinnati. One of four copies known to survive, it is in the pictured case. It is believed to have been brought to Cincinnati in 1810 by Richard Fosdick who, in 1815, was a member of Cincinnati’s first town council. The copy has been in the history library’s possession since at least the 1870s but was not recognized for what it is until about five years ago. The Holt Broadside is the centerpiece of the temporary Treasures of Our Military Past exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Yesterday was the 239th anniversary of that day when men of courage and vision agreed to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” in the creation of a new country. The day before was the 239th anniversary of the writing of a letter by John Adams in which he anticipated the happenings of the next day and told his wife that he expected it to be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

I tried to do my share. I’ll admit that I didn’t actually go looking for guns and I gave up quickly on finding any bonfires. It’s even possible that the only bells I heard were electronic but I saw plenty of games, sports, and shews. I saw two parades, a fine set of illuminations, and there was pomp everywhere.

nsp2015-01There was no shortage of parades in the area. Picking one wasn’t easy but I have absolutely no doubt that I picked the right one. Northside’s first 4th of July parade happened in 1864 when orphans were moved from downtown to a new orphanage by canal boats with members of the Turners, Oddfellows, Butchers Association, Bricklayers Society, and the Catholic Orphans Society.marching alongside. The parade developed into a fundraiser that continued until the 1960s when the orphanage again moved. It was restarted in 1970. This year’s Grand Marshall was two-year-old Quincy Kroner who received some national attention after meeting the garbage collectors he admired. The event website is here.

nsp2015-02nsp2015-03nsp2015-04Picking parade pictures from my 200+ was even tougher than picking the parade. I didn’t quite manage to trim them down to a reasonable number so here’s the start of an unreasonable number. I liked the big headed Spirit(s) of ’76 and Ben and Captain America, too. The patriotically attired lady next to me was not at all out of place as a spectator but she was there for a higher purpose. When the local steam punk group came by, she pushed the stroller forward and stepped right in.

nsp2015-08nsp2015-07nsp2015-06nsp2015-05When a portion of this cycling group started placing their bikes sideways down the center of the street, I expected some sort of slalom maneuver but noooo.

nsp2015-09nsp2015-10Someone told me that this same group marched in Cincinnati’s Gay Pride parade last month and much of the crowd simply turned their backs as they passed. It seemed that few did that today and, in my case, by the time I’d read all the signs, there was little point in turning. “I STAND WITH ISRAEL”, JESUS IS YOUR ONLY HOPE”, “…BEHOLD, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION”.

nsp2015-13nsp2015-12nsp2015-11I believe this was my favorite parade entry. Essentially a live performance of Yellow Submarine with a Beatles soundtrack, it seemed to have it all. “Full speed ahead, Mr. Parker, full speed ahead!”

nsp2015-14nsp2015-15nsp2015-16nsp2015-17It might not have been quite as thrilling as the folks jumping over each others’ bikes, but these skateboard cowboys still put on a pretty exciting show with their moving ramp.

nsp2015-20nsp2015-19nsp2015-18Lots of people accepted the “Dare to dance” challenge of the parade’s last float. Dance music blared as a street full of happy folks danced and smiled their way to the end point.

nsp2015-21The end point was at the Northside Rock n’ Roll Carnival in Hoffner Park with twenty-one bands over three days. That’s “Daniel Wayne and the Silver Linings” on stage. The Stroh’s shirt is a bonus. As a similarly aged friend observed, the parade and carnival do sort of have a ’60s feel. It’s not a “we’re wearing beads and tie-dye” feel but a “we’re having fun and caring about stuff” feel.

lff2015-03lff2015-02lff2015-01I headed to Loveland for some fireworks and was pleasantly surprised to get there in time to catch part of another parade. It’s a little smaller and a bit more traditional than the one in Northside but it was still quite cool in its own way.

lff2015-04lff2015-05lff2015-06On the way to a fireworks viewing spot, I snapped a picture of Cindy’s holiday tree and the festival stage. Entertainment for Loveland’s Firecracker Festival included the Rusty Griswolds.

lff2015-09lff2015-08lff2015-07Loveland is the home of Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks so the city usually has a pretty decent “illumination” above the Little Miami River. This year’s grand finale didn’t seem all the grand but the overall show was quite good. Mr. Adams, I’m happy to report that we appear to still be observing this most important day pretty much the way you envisioned. I’m even happier to report that, at least in Cincinnati’s Northside, a little independent thinking can still be observed on Independence Day.

Concours Caravan

concours15_01I became a Mazda Miata owner in May of last year and joined the Greater Cincinnati Miata Club almost immediately. I was a member in time for the club’s 2014 Ault Park Concours d’Elegance outing but missed it because I was already on the way to the Lincoln Highway Association conference in Tooele, Utah. I attended a couple of meetings during the year but other activities kept me away from club outings until the concours rolled around again. This year my friend Clyde and I were able to meetup with another twenty GCMC Miatas plus seven more from the Dayton area Miami Valley Miata Club for a colorful caravan to the June 14 show.

concours15_02concours15_03Benefits of attending with the club include discounted admission and a group parking area very near the main entrance. Everyone arrived pretty much on time, we departed on schedule, and cruised to the park without incident. Hmmm… Wonder if that’s typical Miata behavior. As a result, we had time to spare before the gates opened.

concours15_06concours15_05concours15_04There were ten “must see”s identified in the program and — due to show layout and not our careful planning — we saw two of them almost immediately. The bright red beauty is a 1936 Auburn 852 Boattail Speedster. The 1947 Chyrsler Town & Country Convertible not only has wood trim but there is wood veneer on the metal trunk panels. The Chyrsler and I are the same age but it sure looks a lot better than I do.

concours15_07concours15_08concours15_09I was hardly diligent in either my picture taking or in identifying what it was that I did take pictures of. The imposing black car is a Duesenberg though I don’t know what year or model. Likewise, I know the yellow car is a Cord but that’s about it. I don’t even recall the make of the car that the pictured wheel belongs to. I believe it was one of two spares and there were four identical wheels on the ground. There were many other cars with a half dozen spoked wheels as well as some with five or four. I took the picture of the wheel because it was while looking at it gleam that I was struck by just how much spoke polishing a concours requires.

concours15_11concours15_10This year’s featured marque was Mercedes-Benz but 70 years of the Volkswagen Beetle and 60 years of the Ford Thunderbird were also being celebrated. One of those ten “must see”s was a 1963 Thunderbird Landau Tri-Power. We saw it but I didn’t photograph it. I actually like the 1961-63 “bullet birds” better than many of the nameplate’s wildly different incarnations but I’ve included photos of a couple of pre-rearseated T-Birds to show that in the beginning it really was a cool car.

concours15_12We walked by a long line of Beetles and even stopped to look over one or two but I took no pictures. I guess these cars, including the 1956 Type 1 Sedan listed among the “must see”s, were just too familiar to snag our attention. It was only after we had reversed course at the end of the field and were headed back toward the cluster of Mercedes-Benz on the other side that I grabbed this shot of the line on Volkswagen rears. Maybe I was already feeling a little guilty about not studying them more closely. I know that I did feel some regret when I scanned through my pictures and realized how little time we had spent on that line of iconic people haulers.

concours15_15concours15_14concours15_13These are the head-liners. It was 130 years ago, in 1885, that Karl Benz built the three-wheeled “motor car” for which he would be granted a patent the following year. This is a replica. Because of its unusual “gull wing” doors, the 300 SL Coupe is probably the most recognizable Mercedes in the world. It was the car’s lightweight tubular space-frame that made the top-hinged doors and super wide threshold necessary. This 1954 model was another of the show’s “must see”s.

concours15_16Due to the special parking arrangements and the desire to do a little parading, our arrival time had been fixed. Viewing the show and departure were “on your own”. It was a little before 2:00 when we got back to where we’d parked and I was kind of surprised to see that, despite our short-circuiting of the Beetles, my little car was among the last of its breed in the area. We settled into the non-optional heated seats and there was soon one less Miata in the park.

Celebrating King Records

ckr01Remember The Twist? How about Chubby Checker? Hank Ballard? Just about everybody will recognize the first two and two out of three ain’t bad — unless you’re from Cincinnati. Cincinnatians should know it was Hank Ballard and the Midnighters who first recorded the song that made Chubby Checker famous. They should know because that version was released by Cincinnati’s King Records. The Twist was a regional hit for the Midnighters and it got them booked on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. They didn’t make it and Clark got a fellow named Ernest Evans to lip-synch to Ballard’s recording then recorded and released an identical version with Evans using the name Chubby Checker. Why did Ballard miss his Bandstand session? Various stories have been told but the man in the photo above says Hank was in Atlanta with a lady. He should know. He’s Phillip Paul who played drums on The Twist and 400 or so other King recordings.

ckr02ckr03Not all of those were hits but many were. Several, in fact were major milestones on the route of rock and roll. Paul drummed on Little Willie John’s Fever, Tiny Bradshaw’s Train Kept a Rollin’, Wynonie Harris’ Good Rockin’ Tonight and Freddie King’s Hide Away. Today those song titles are more familiar than the artists’ names because they have all been covered over and over but, as he was with The Twist, Phillip Paul was there at the beginning; There when the originals were recorded. And he’s still “there” today, playing every Friday and Saturday at The Cricket in downtown Cincinnati. He was there Sunday, May 31, in Washington Park providing some “good rockin'” and good stories as the opening act for a reading of a new play about King Records.

ckr04That play, Cincinnati King by KJ Sanchez, tells the story of King Records largely in the words of people, including Paul, who were part of it. Many of the words are from the nearly fifty interviews conducted by Sanchez. Others come from recordings and printed material. The story of King Records is really the story of Syd Nathan. Nathan owned King and ruled it with an iron fist that usually held a cigar when it — the cigar not the fist — wasn’t in his mouth. He did things his own way and, more often than not, he did them himself. He started with a record store. When labels started gouging him for records, he started his own. When his “style” created problems with recording studios, he built his own. When pressing plants sent inferior product, he built his own. Eventually King did it all including designing and printing its own packaging.

ckr05ckr06Partly because of Cincinnati’s half-north half-south location, Nathan’s store did a good business in “hillbilly” and “race” records and that’s what his record company initially made. Those names have been replaced by country, bluegrass, blues, rhythm & blues, and a few other genres. King’s stable included Grandpa Jones, the Stanley Brothers, Cowboy Copas, Bill Doggett, the Delmore Brothers, Moon Mullican, Charles Brown, and on and on. Of course, the biggest star ever at King was James Brown. Nathan’s independent and demanding ways irritated just about everybody at some point and “The Godfather of Soul” was just as independent and just as demanding. The two were like oil and water but they made each other a lot of money and even managed to occasionally look like great friends at an award ceremony or some such.

ckr08ckr07Just as the musicians that King recorded were a mix of black and white, so, too, were the other employees. In time, King’s employment application included a question about whether working with a person of another race would be a problem. It’s said that Nathan would sometimes hire someone who answered “yes” then make a point of assuring that the new employee was put in the situation they thought would be a problem. Syd Nathan didn’t solve all the race issues in the world but maybe he did his share.

This concert and reading was part of the OTR Performs Series and a Cincinnati Fringe Festival Special Event

Phillip Paul turns 90 on August 11. The city of Cincinnati has proclaimed the preceding Saturday “Phillip Paul Day”. Look back at this article’s first picture. To me, that sure looks like a man who is enjoying himself.

Zero and Ten Years in Cincinnati

cac01Cincinnati has a new carousel and an old brewery. Carol Ann’s Carousel officially opened on Saturday and Mt. Carmel Brewing Company celebrated its tenth anniversary the same day. The carousel is part of Smale Riverfront Park on the Ohio River between the baseball and football stadiums. It’s inside the low brown building near the center of the picture at right. I parked on the south side of the river just so I could get that picture (and park free).

cac02cac03cac04Musicians and other entertainers kept things lively until the opening ceremonies began. Parks Director Willie Cardens spoke briefly himself and also introduced others, including the mayor and the artists and planners who created the carousel. They were all just as happy as he was. Music from the Cincinnati Children’s Choir included Happy Birthday for the carousel’s namesake, Carol Ann Haile. It would have been her 92nd birthday. She’s been called “everyone’s Aunt Mame” and someone who knew her said the carousel is a perfect match for her “spirit of whimsy and wonder”

cac05The ceremonial ribbon cutting marked the culmination of a two and a half year 5.5 million dollar project. The carousel itself was $1 million. The building accounted for the rest.

 

cac06cac07cac08With the ribbon cut, VIPs were ushered in for a ride while everyone else pressed against the glass walls for a glimpse. Actually, it was all good. Those VIPs included the Cincinnati Children’s Choir and lots of other children and parents were allowed to slip inside to photograph the happy youngsters. I joined the line and was soon rewarded with my first view of the carousel without looking through tinted glass or at a computer screen. It’s a beauty with unique Cincinnati related critters and objects, carved by Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio, everywhere. A description of the figures and a lot more is available through the link at the beginning of the article or directly here.

cac11cac10cac09When my turn came, I laid back a bit to let others mount something they’d been targeting. I was just happy to be there and didn’t want to block someone from their favorite. When I saw that the cicada remained available I was all over it — literally. If you really need to know what the bottom half of an old man on a cicada looks like, here you go. I don’t own a selfie stick and my arms just aren’t that long but you can see that I’m having a good time and get a sense of those lovely red eyes.

cac12cac13cac14There is a lot more to Smale Park. These are some pictures I grabbed in the area near the carousel. The playground in the third photo was just opened in the last week or so. More will be coming online in the near future.

mcbff02mcbff01Beer wasn’t the only thing pouring when I got to to Mt. Carmel Brewing Company. The rain had been heavier, though, plus nobody really minded. The oldest brewery currently operating in Cincinnati was celebrating its tenth year with a Firkin Fest.

mcbff03mcbff04mcbff05It was dry in the tap room and dry spots had been found in the brewery for the music and the firkins. Birthdays with beer and carousels really are special.