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.

New Americans

ncitizens01I recently had the opportunity to watch sixty-five people from thirty-eight countries transform into full fledged citizens of the Unites States of America in a matter of seconds. It was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve ever had with an aura of accomplishment and hope at least the equal of a high school or college graduation. One of those sixty-five people was a friend. He had invited me to attend and I expected to be quite happy for him. I did not expect to be affected one way or another by the others but I was wrong. It was, in fact, the group, rather than the individuals, that generated most of that uplift I mentioned.

ncitizens02A couple of people spoke informally, almost causally, to the not-quite-yet-Americans. Small US flags were distributed. A representative from the board of elections passed out registration forms and explained how to fill them out. The forms could be filled, she told the group, but not signed until they were US Citizens. It wouldn’t be long.

ncitizens03With the judge’s entry, things had become a bit more formal but no more somber. Judge Stephanie Bowman and other officials went through some scripted exchanges to establish the eligibility of those present for citizenship. Then the uplifting began. Each applicant stood and announced their name and nation of birth. Some voices were loud and firm; Others softer and maybe a little timid. Some spoke as if English was the only language they had ever known and in many cases that was true. Others spoke with heavy accents that would have made the name they spoke hard to understand even if the name was a familiar one which it often was not. With each unfamiliar name spoken by a foreign sounding voice, the ethnic diversity of the group became more and more apparent and the idea of a melting pot became more and more vivid with the saying of the names of each of those thirty-eight countries. Some, like Togo, Sri Lanka, and Morocco, sounded pretty exotic to me. Others, Canada and Mexico, identified neighbors merely a border away. All were reminders that lots of people from lots of places believe that United States citizenship is highly desirable and worth more than a little effort to obtain.

ncitizens05The day’s only truly solemn occasion followed. The Oath of Allegiance marks the magic moment when those not born a US citizen become one. It combines a promise to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America” with the renouncing of any and all previously held allegiance. It’s nothing to be taken lightly and no one did as those sixty-five voices recited it in unison. Then the new Americans and everyone else in the room recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

ncitizens06ncitizens04The official bits were over. One at a time, the newly minted citizens went to the front of the room to get their certificate and maybe take a few pictures with the judge. My friend Clyde was among the last to go up and used the time to sign his voter registration. He would hand it to the lady from the board of elections on the way out. I don’t know for a fact that everyone did the same but I have the impression that they did. I believe that the USA got sixty-five new active voters that day.

Clyde had almost missed the big day. There is one naturalization ceremony per month in Cincinnati. On the day he passed his citizen ship test, Clyde had been told that the April ceremony was full and he would be scheduled for the one in May. He came home on Thursday and collected the day’s mail. It was tossed on a table with the intention of dealing with it in the morning. On the way to bed about 11:00, Clyde decided to open that one official looking envelope. In it was a letter telling him that he’d made the April group after all. He needed to be downtown at the federal courthouse by 8:30 the next morning. He obviously made it but that’s cutting it a little close.

Ten and Twenty Years in Cincinnati

asm10bd2This coming Tuesday, April 28, marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the American Sign Museum. Ten events are planned to celebrate the ten years of success and growth. First up was a birthday party, complete with cake and balloons, last Sunday. Others include special hours and gifts in conjunction with this year’s Major League Baseball All Star Game which will take place in Cincinnati and a gathering of an elite group of sign painters known as The Letterheads for their fortieth anniversary.

asm10bd3asm10bd4The Texas Weiners sign is a recent addition to the museum. Most signs like this have rusted away but this one survives because the flashing sign did not meet local codes and its owner was not permitted to install it. There’s a more complete version of the story here. I know I’ve posted several pictures of “Main Street” but there’s always room for one more and this one includes museum founder Tod Swormstedt taking a break in the chair at the far right.

My Oddment page on the museum’s 2005 opening is here and other blog posts on visits to the museum are here.


kcbp2kcbp1Krohn Conservatory has been around since 1933 but 2015 marks its twentieth butterfly show. This year Butterflys of the Philippines are featured. I actually set out to attend the show on its first day, April 3, and drove by the conservatory about half an hour after opening time. All parking spots were filled and there were a couple of school buses in the mix. Drive by was all I did. The building was hardly empty when I did stop on Monday but it was not overly crowded and there were no lines. The winding marked path and large tents indicated that long lines were fairly common and an attendant confirmed that lines were the norm on weekends.

kcbp3kcbp4kcbp5I’m not much of a butterfly expert but, with the aid of labeled photos viewable at the conservatory, I can say with some hope of being correct that these are pictures of a Julia Butterfly, a Zebra Longwing, and an Owl Butterfly.

Twenty Mile Stand Two Years On

tmhcurrent2It was two years ago today that a nearly two centuries old stagecoach stop named for its distance from Cincinnati was demolished. When I first wrote about the building in early 2012, it was still standing. That article included a photo taken from the same position as the one at right. That photo can be seen here. The row of shops in the more recent picture were there in 2012. They were just blocked from view by the old roadhouse.

tmhcurrent0The stage stop turned roadhouse turned restaurant turned night club was leveled on April 16, 2013, to make way for a convenience store. The new business opened a few months later. That’s it, a Big Mike’s Gas N Go with Shell brand gas, in the picture at left. Big Mike is Mike Schueler, president of Henkle Schueler and Associates the real estate outfit behind all of this.

tmhcurrent1Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioI don’t have a 2012 photo from the spot of the previous picture but I do have one from nearby. I’ve paired it with one taken Tuesday from essentially the same location. The 2012 shot includes the entire Twenty Mile House but the only part of Big Mike’s that shows up in the recent shot is a standalone sign. Hmmm.

tmhgoogle2012tmhgoogle2013tmhgoogleb1Here’s a different view. Thanks to Google Earth and its Historic Imagery feature, we can see what the lot looked like on August 29, 2012 (the first picture) and October 10, 2013 (the second picture). The third picture is a blend of the first two and shows a new light rectangle where a portion of the older structure once stood. That rectangle is a concrete slab containing a half dozen or so parking places. Those parking places clearly could not exist without removing a corner of one of the twentieth century additions.

tmhgoogleb2I don’t think even the most preservation minded among us cared one bit about any part of those additions but what about the original early nineteenth century building? You could say I’m beating a dead house here but I did one more thing. I outlined what I believe to be the original historically significant portion of the building and overlaid just that on the 2013 image. A slightly rough estimate of the distance between roadhouse and parking pad is 25 yards. There’s maybe 50 yards between roadhouse and gas pump or convenience store.

tmhcurrent3Big Mike’s convenience store fills most of the new building but a little space still remains. Good thing for Mike his nice big empty lawn has room for this decorative sign.

My 2012 post on the standing building is here. The 2013 post on its destruction is here.

Celebrating

bd2015_00The Findlay Market Opening Day Parade was a full thirty hours away and my birthday had barely begun when last week’s post went up. Here’s an update.

Last Sunday was a long way from blisteringly hot but it was reasonably warm (60s), dry, and sunny. I spent much of the day driving a familiar loop along the banks of the Ohio River. I haven’t decided whether or not the new chapeau is a keeper but I got it for almost nothing with an about to expire credit and I’m going to give it a chance.

bd2015_01bd2015_02Breakfast was had at Brew River Gastropub in Cincinnati. Even though I cringe at the word “gastropub”, I’d stopped in here one night for beer and live music and decided it was OK. It’s location on Riverside Drive and a reputation for a  good Sunday brunch made it a reasonable choice for a place to start the day. My Easter eggs came in what is essentially an omelette known as “Eggs Du Drop”. It was quite good with house-made goetta, Irish Cheddar, and green onions. From there it was east along the river’s north bank, a crossing at Maysville, and a return to Cincinnati on the Kentucky side.

od2015_04od2015_03od2015_02On Monday I parked near Arnold’s with the intention of having breakfast there as I did last year but it was simply too crowded. Instead, I stopped in at the Sports Page Restaurant for another helping of geotta. That made timing just about perfect for a one beer test of Cincinnati’s newest brewery. Taft’s Ale House had planned to open last fall but, when construction surprises made that impossible, decided to open in sync with the Reds. Today was the official grand opening and, while they didn’t make enough to cover their $8 million investment, they got a good start.

odp2015_01odp2015_02odp2015_03I had time to snoop around the staging area a bit then found myself a good spot just a few blocks into the route as the parade started. This year’s Grand Marshalls were the Nasty Boys from the 1990 World Champion Reds. Relievers Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, and Rob Dibble had a combined 44 saves as the Reds stayed in first place for the entire season. Other local sports figures were also on hand including the only Bengal in the NFL Hall of Fame (Anthony Munoz) and a key piece of the Big Red Machine (George Foster).

odp2015_04odp2015_05odp2015_06odp2015_07odp2015_08odp2015_09odp2015_10odp2015_11Here are more parade entries that are uniquely Cincinnati starting with some currently active athletes, the Cincinnati Roller Girls. Next is a float from current Cincinnati success story Pure Romance and a car from one time Cincinnati powerhouse Crosley Corporation. In about a month, a new carousel will be put into operation on Cincinnati’s riverfront and a few of the custom made figures filled a parade float. From a little to Cincinnati’s west comes the Rabbit Hash General Store and from the east comes the Cardboard Boat Museum. In the race for Most Flamboyant Cincinnatian, Bootsy Collins might edge out Jim Tarbell by a little bit but neither has been called a wallflower.

od2015_07od2015_06od2015_05I guess the closest I got to Great American Ball Park was Fountain Square and even the tail of the parade had passed by the time I got there. Cincinnati will be hosting this year’s All-Star Game and a count down sign was unveiled yesterday. I grabbed a shot of that and watched some of the game on the big screen before heading up to the City View for dinner and the rest of the game. Dinner was a ‘burger and the game was a rain delayed win for the Reds. The stadium can be partially seen from the bar. The wisp of smoke visible between the couple on the deck is from the win signalling fireworks.

bw201501bw201502The game was over but the birthday celebration had a couple more days to run. Ovenmaster Mary brought peanut butter brownies to Tuesday’s trivia gathering for some low-key great-taste celebrating. On Wednesday, I headed north to Dayton. Last year I finally experienced what many consider Cincinnati’s premier steakhouse, the Precinct. At that time, I stated that a steak I’d had at Dayton’s Pine Club remained a contender for “best ever”. I noted that more research was needed and tonight I went back for that research. The trip was infinitely worthwhile but it didn’t exactly lead to a decision. I’d ordered that Precinct steak with options while my Pine Club cut was unadorned. I had a mild sense of being slightly more impressed with the Precinct meal but realized that might be the crab meat and Béarnaise talking. Both filets were superb. In the end, I decided that debating the merits of steaks at this level or price point is like debating whether a lily looks better with silver or gold gilding. The two restaurants are different but no meat eater with functioning taste buds would be disappointed with either.

bw201504bw201503I made one more stop for birthday week. Pinups & Pints, “The World’s Only Strip Club – Brew Pub”, is just a few miles northeast of Dayton and I have, duh, wanted to go there ever since I first heard about it. The problem has been that I’m hardly ever in Dayton in the evening with free time and that’s when Pinups & Pints tends to be open. The brewery operation is an almost tiny fifteen gallon system and only a single rotating brew is available. At present, that’s Thigh High IPA which was, although IPAs are not my first choice, quite good for the style. Even though there’s no doubt that the brewery is something of a gimmick, it’s definitely not a joke. Owner/brewmaster Scott Conrad is serious about it and puts in the effort required to produce a quality product. I had intended to have just one beer but the dancers were attractive enough to make me order a second. Although two beers wasn’t enough to make the reasonably pretty dancers drop dead gorgeous, a few more might. Nearly naked women that make you want another beer that makes the women prettier which makes the beer taste better which makes the… I think Conrad might be onto something.

Pie Are Round

piday01Yesterday was Pi Day. It was, in fact, the Pi Day of the Century and, for most people, the Pi Day of a Lifetime. It is possible that some individuals will see Pi Days like the most recent twice in their lifetimes but the chances are good that they will be either too young or too old to wield their own fork on either occasion.

Pi is the name (actually the Greek letter π) given to the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is an irrational number which means calculating it leads to an infinite number of decimal places. To keep discussions from being infinitely long (although they may still be irrational), the number 3.14 is often used as a reasonable approximation. Since folks in the USA usually write dates as mm/dd/yy, the fourteenth of March looks a lot like the short form pi and some clever person, taking advantage of the fact that the Greek letter and the English language name of a tasty edible are homophones, decided to call March 14 Pi Day and celebrate pie. In addition to being limited to people who speak English, the holiday is pretty much restricted to the United States of America. For most of the rest of the world, including other residents of North America, yesterday was 14/3/15 with no connection to either circles or baked goods. But, for English speakers living between Mexico and Canada, yesterday was 3/14/15. The short form pi, when extended by a couple of digits, is 3.1415 and those two digits are what make yesterday the Pi Day of the Century.

piday02I chose to celebrate my Pi Day of a Lifetime at the Bluebird Bakery in Glendale. Glendale is known for its black squirrels and has a number of squirrel statues — almost none of which are black  — displayed around town. This was my second Pi Day visit to the Bluebird and I’m sure it won’t be my last. There are some very good goodies here.

piday04piday03That’s a peanut butter pie at the top of this post and several other varieties were available as well. I settled on key lime since it sort of hints at warmth and sunshine and that’s something I’m definitely ready for. The approximation of pi can be extended as far as desired and it is a simple matter to get the clock involved along with the calendar. I took the picture of my slice of pie exactly twenty-six minutes after 9:00 AM then carefully timed the eating so that I chomped down on the first bite at exactly 3/14/15 9:26:53.

The basis for Pi Day may be silly but some of its effects are not. Silliness is just the thing for drawing attention and the day is being used more and more to make kids aware of the practical uses of pi and some of those other numbers, too. Some area libraries and museums offered pi/pie related activities and an evening program at the Cincinnati Observatory Center demonstrated practical applications of pi along with pieces of pie from local restaurants. Throw in a mention or two of it being Albert Einstein’s birthday and those kids may just learn a little history, math, and astronomy without it hurting a bit.

Bock to Rock

b2r01I stole the title. There’s a music store in Greenville, Ohio, called Bach to Rock which I think is the coolest name for a music store ever. On Friday, I followed up the 23rd annual Bockfest parade with a Dave & Phil Alvin concert. Voila! Fits like a glove.

While looking up the music store’s web address, I discovered that there is now a bunch of franchised music schools called Bach to Rock. They started in 2007 and the store has been around a lot longer than that. The store could probably sue the school but I doubt they will. We Darke Countians are a mellow lot.

b2r02b2r03The sun was shining — at a very low angle — as the parade “formed” on 8th Street near Arnold’s . Perhaps words like “formed” and “organized” are a little out of place when applied to the Bockfest Parade but it somehow happens. This year both marchers and watchers were plentiful despite the temperature being right at the freezing mark. Or maybe it was because of the temperature. WE ARE READY FOR SPRING.

b2r04Another word, “irreverent”, has always applied to the Bockfest parade. That definitely won’t be changing for the event in general but it does no longer apply to one major piece of the parade. Previous grand marshals have included the likes of the four-legged mayor (It’s a dog, don’t you know?) of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, but henceforth, in recognition of the serious celebration of Cincinnati’s past underlying this event, the organizers will select grand marshals for their “contribution to local culture”. This year’s choice is Elmer Hensler, founder and President of Queen City Sausage. The company is turning fifty this year. With honesty and quality, Elmer built it from nothing to being the official brat and mett of both the Reds and the Bengals and the last surviving meat packer in what was once Porkopolis. This year, the company’s bockwurst can be had wrapped in a Servatii (another Cincinnati favorite) pretzel as the Bockfest Pretzelator.

b2r05I really liked this Wizard of Oz themed group and walked a few steps with them so I could ask who they were. The first person I asked answered “Mustard Club” then, when I said something like “What’s that?”, turned me over to another marcher who explained they were from Mecklenburg Gardens, a popular local German restaurant. I later learned that this isn’t your run of the mill mustard club that likes just any old mustard. It’s the Händlmaier’s Mustard Club Cincinnati who go to great lengths to acquire their favorite condiment. If I had an award to give, they would get it because: 1) The Wicked Witch of the West was most convincing when she warned, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little goat too.” 2) There’s a bunch of them, from the group leading the yellow Hummer, through Dorthy and friends on the trailer it’s towing, to the pack at the back. 3) They covered both mustard and beer in their theme title “Follow the Yellow Bock Road”. 4) One of them handed off that giant lollipop to the traffic cop in the picture at the top of the page.

b2r08b2r07b2r06There were familiar entries like the Trojan Goat, Arnold’s self propelled bathtub, and the dancing pigs. Arnold’s previous tub, which appeared with some snow on it a couple paragraphs back, had some issues at last year’s Bockfest and, although it was repaired, I guess it’s never been the same. I suppose the new high class ride is more reliable but I still prefer the basic tub and motor style myself.

b2r09b2r10And there were some new themes like Bock to the Future (This is THE year, after all.) and the Bock Street Boys.

 

b2r12b2r11Here are a couple of entries which don’t have any really clever bock related names and really don’t have any particular bock connection at all but I like ’em. On reason I could not leave out the League of Cincinnati Steampunks is that I’m pretty sure this is the way to melt snow. Lastly is the very talented Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle that we last saw here.

b2r13Yeah, I guess there does seem to be a lot more bock than rock but it was really good rock. Dave Alvin and his brother Phil, both formerly with the Blasters, are currently touring together and they deliver one tremendous load of music. I wish I’d seen them years ago but I’m sure happy that I’ve seen them now.

Book Review
Cincinnatus
Rusty McClure & David Stern

cincinnatus_cvrWhen this blog’s About page mentions reviews, it says they will not include “the latest novel”. When I wrote that, I was probably thinking “any novel”. I don’t read much fiction these days and I did not really expect to be reviewing any. I waited long enough to read this book that it is no longer the latest novel so my claim is still good. So is Cincinnatus.

One day months or maybe years ago, a friend told me about a really good book he had just finished but, when he looked for it to loan to me, it couldn’t be found. Another day months or maybe years ago, I attended a lecture on Powell Crosley given by Rusty McClure, co-author of the non-fiction book Crosley. I had read Crosley; Had actually bought a copy at a signing when it was first published. The lecture was quite interesting and, at its conclusion, everyone was given a paperback copy of Crosley. We were also given a hardback copy of a novel. As I said, I don’t read much fiction and I figured that something someone was giving away copies of wasn’t worth my time to read. I put it in the stack of stuff to be read if I ever get snowed in for three months with no internet connection. Then, on another day just a couple of months ago, my friend once again brought up that book he had mentioned previously. It had been found and he had enjoyed reading it so much that he had read it again. That is not normal behavior for my friend or very many other people. That must be a really good book. Yes I would like to borrow it. Then, as he talked more about the book, I realized it was the very novel that sat at home scorned and unread. I decided to reconsider.

Crosley is a very good book. McClure and Stern are clearly good writers. However, the ability to produce good non-fiction does not always translate to the ability to create good fiction. I was still a little skeptical when I finally wiped the dust off of my copy of Cincinnatus and opened it. After a little back story set in 1938 Florida, the book’s action begins in modern day Columbus, Ohio, and fairly quickly moves to Cincinnati. At first my skepticism had me seeing the use of local names and landmarks in a harsh light. Maybe the authors were trying just a little too hard to convince the reader that they had been to Ohio. Despite my friends recommendation, I found myself wondering if this was like those customized books from Santa Claus that kids like to read because their family’s names are in them. Was this fun for Cincinnatians to read purely because it talked about Cincinnati? But, even as I asked myself that, it became apparent that the answer was no. The adventure was rolling and, while it was nice to know what Cincinnati’s Fountain Square looked like when the plot traveled there, it wasn’t necessary.

Any fears that the novel would drown in Ohio minutiae were unwarranted. The plot visits California, Florida, and a few other places and everywhere the details do what they’re supposed to do — make the story believable. The book is a thriller. Political thriller I’m guessing is the right description. There is ample well researched history and more than a smattering of golf which I’m confident is as well researched and accurate. And there’s some accurate real science and some of the “science fiction” variety that is accurate enough.

The action is almost non-stop and the twists frequent enough that predicting who shoots who is rather fruitless. Maybe my description so far makes the book seem shallow. It isn’t. Now and then the reader might look up from the page for a while to follow some thought on politics, or technology, or religion that the book hatched.

I enjoyed reading Cincinnatus a lot but I don’t expect my fiction/non-fiction ratio to suddenly flip flop. I guess that could change, though, if I could be guaranteed a Camp Washington Chili appearance within the first hundred pages of every novel.

Cincinnatus: The Secret Plot to Save America, Rusty McClure & David Stern, Ternary Publishing, November 1, 2009, 9.2 x 6.2 inches, 523 pages, ISBN 978-0984213207

Congrats WNKU

bwphhOnce again I was within minutes of posting a Trip Pic Peek when I decided to do something like what I did a couple of weeks ago and make a quick post with a picture of my favorite thing from the week. I didn’t do much this week. We had record-for-the-date temperatures and snowfall and I spent a few days battling a cold. It was all I could do to see sixteen bands.

My favorite radio station, WNKU, celebrated its first thirty years and raised a little money for the next thirty with a two night event at The Southgate House Revival featuring fifteen performers each night. A Saturday pre-show party with one of the performers from Friday and two new additions brought the total to thirty-two. I didn’t see them all. That would have meant staying up way past my bedtime. I concentrated on seeing acts that were new to me and, having seen both night’s “headliners” before, I was able to cut out early each night. However, I did stay a little later than planned on Saturday. I intended to listen to just a few songs from Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle but ended up staying for their full set. They are this week’s favorite thing.

When I first started hearing of them, I kept putting a “The” in front of the name and thought it odd that these two bands kept getting booked together. I eventually learned that it was a single group and this week I learned that Buffalo Wabs isn’t a band. It’s guitarist Matt Wabnitz’s nickname. Their website says he handles “most of the vocal duties”. That may be true but The Price Hill Hustle (Casey Campbell, Ian Mathieu, and Scott Risner) all sing and the harmonies are fabulous. They’re almost as much fun to watch as they are to listen to. It’s kind of hard to see but that really is a log chain that Casey’s playing that snare with.

Here’s the full line-up, with the acts I saw in bold:

Friday – Wild Carrot500 Miles to Memphis, Jason Wilber, Will Kimbrough, The Tillers – Alone at 3AMFrontier Folk Nebraska, Noah Wotherspoon Band, Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound, Charlie Mars – My Brother The Bear, The Great Wide Open, The Repeating Arms, Honey & Houston, The Part-Time Gentlemen.

Saturday –  Chardez, Nikki LaneJason Wilber – The Bromwell Diehl Band, The NewbeesBuffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, Noah Hunt & The Scotty Bratcher Band, The Cliftones – William Matheny, Ben Knight & The Well Diggers, Tyler Childers & The Food Stamps, Hocking River String Band, New Country Rehab – Willow Tree Carolers, BMV, The 220 Breakers, Nick Dittmeier Band, The Ready Stance.

Dinner and a Movie – Cincinnati Style

asmdm01I put Wednesday’s screening of the movie Sign Painters at the American Sign Museum on my “maybe” list as soon as I heard about it. It was moved to “probably” when I learned dinner would be included. When I found out the museum’s almost neighbor Camp Washington Chili would be doing the catering, I bought a ticket. I’ve eaten at CWC many times and I’ve eaten many things there but never a salad. I don’t believe it ever occurred to me that they would even have a salad. It was quite good and apparently can be had with grilled chicken at the restaurant. Who knew?

asmdm02asmdm03The beverage table never really got crowded but I hit it before even a hint of a line formed. Local (Mount Carmel & Christian Moerlein) and “other” beer was available along with wine and soda. I made my food line pass after the initial rush. There were 3-ways and coneys in addition to the aforementioned salad and they even had cold-cut sandwiches. I’m guessing those were for the out-of-towners.

asmdm05asmdm04The tables that were empty when I took my picture of the beverage table, were filled as soon as the food was served as were other tables throughout the museum. Paint trays and cans held a variety of movie-appropriate sweets and one pail was filled with small paper bags so you could carry a supply of Lemonheads, Charleston Chews, Bulls-Eyes, Necco Wafers, and other goodies into the viewing room.

asmdm06asmdm07asmdm08As showtime approached, a drawing of museum founder Tod Swormstedt (accurate enough to identify him should he ever go missing) was replaced by the real thing and Tod introduced the movie. Two large screens were filled by a pair of synchronized digital projectors so everyone had a good view. The event had sold out several days earlier. I don’t really know what that means but something like 200 attendees seems a reasonable guess.

Sign Painters features interviews with a number of painters plus quite a bit of footage of some of them at work. A few of the painters are in their thirties but most are older and there is, as you might expect, plenty of talk about the good old days when sign painting was a thriving profession. There is no question that automation and the availability of cheap — in every sense of the word — product have wreaked havoc on the field but not everything is doom and gloom. There are still people who feel called to paint signs and there are still some customers who appreciate the value of hand crafted advertising. In particular, large wall signs are often seen as worthwhile and they remain something that takes a human touch.

At one point in the movie, I found my mind returning to thoughts of a couple weeks ago. I was loosely following an online discussion about ghost signs. Ghost signs are always old so they are almost always faded and they often, but not always, advertise something that is no longer available. They can be considered eyesores or glimpses of history. People may tend to lean one way or the other but opinions are often of the “it depends…” sort. I believe my participation in the discussion was limited to sharing a link to a local radio story on ghost signs. The story uses the words “art” and “pollution” but that’s really just another way to say “history” and “eyesore”. In the movie, when a large and fading hand-painted advertisement is painted over — by hand — with a new and very different advertisement neither of the signs seem very important. It doesn’t matter whether some history gets covered over or if an ugly wall is made beautiful. What matters is that an art form, a skill set, a profession gets to breathe a little.

The museum’s parking lot is not huge and, in addition to the chili and beer and candy and movie, there was free valet parking. I tucked a couple of bucks into my shirt pocket for a tip but by the time my car was pulled up to the door, I’d already heard what the valet would say to me. “No, I can’t take that. No tips. We’ve been taken care of.” Me too.