Nektar Coming to the Ludlow Garage

Once upon a time, when you flipped through albums in record stores, you saw LPs by bands you never heard of with strange names and bizarre-looking album covers. Gong, Fireballet, Hawkwind, Kraftwerk, Can, Magma, Audience, PFM, and Caravan I’m played experimental and colorful music that bore resemblance to more well-known bands like Genesis, ELP, and Yes but was even less likely to get radio play. All the bands mentioned here were from Europe, but similar groups started to form in America .  The music was deemed “progressive rock,” and new bands continue to emerge eager to take us to that musical dreamworld.

And some of the old bands are still active after all these years. On top of that, some of them are touring, including the German-then-English band Nektar. I clearly remember reading about Nektar for the first time in Rolling Stone in the mid-70s. A full-page article had a picture of the band performing in front of a light show that looked a lot like the cover of the album Remember the Future, which appears at the top of this blog entry. That album, released in 1973, was their most well-known record, and it has come to be seen as classic Nektar. A few years later the group took an extended break (almost two decades), but they’re not only active again, they have a new album coming out on January 24, 2020. The Other Side is coming out on a label called Esoteric Recordings, and it actually consists of material that was conceived in the 1970s but wasn’t fleshed out until recently.

And it gets more interesting: Nektar is going to perform in Cincinnati, at the Ludlow Garage. The concert will take place on February 28. The newly revived venue has been pulling in interesting bands that normally come to Cleveland to Chicago, but nowhere closer, and because of that the Ludlow Garage has made Cincinnati  a more interesting concert city . If you like experimental music that blends genres and pushes the envelope – and has a very interesting history – take a listen to Nektar. Here’s the first half of Remember the Future:


November Is Film Noir Month at the Esquire Theatre

November will be film noir month at the Esquire Theatre, which means that, along with a half-dozen new films showing on a daily basis, the theater will be hosting a steady stream of special events with the majority focusing on classic film noir.

You could not plunge into the genre with a finer and more twisted film than Touch of Evil, a 1958 release that Orson Welles starred in and directed. This dark and thoroughly warped piece of cinema has become a cult classic. Tom Waits is a huge fan of it, and two of the scenes from it were mentioned in his list of all-time favorite movie scenes. For all the big names in the film – the actors include Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlena Dietrich, Dennis Weaver, and Orson Welles, and Henry Mancini recorded the soundtrack – it feels like a project where a B-movie script was handed to a film genius who both played by the rules and played with the rules, which is kind of what happened. Touch of Evil is playing November 1, 2, and 3; you do not want to miss it.

Wonderfully, Touch of Evil is paired on all three nights with Double Indemnity, a 1944 noir classic starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. The film was directed by Billy Wilder, and Raymond Chandler co-wrote the screenplay with Wilder. Fans of old-school TV shows will recognize MacMurray as the father on My Three Suns and Stanwyck as the grand matriarch on The Big Valley. Those are two very wholesome roles, but Double Indemnity reveals the real Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, back  before TV came along and cleaned ’em up. In the black-and-white movie days they weren’t afraid to kill somebody for a little money, even if that somebody was a spouse. Again, Double Indemnity will be playing back to back with Touch of Evil on November 1, 2, and 3.

Other old-school noir classics showing in November include the original The Postman Always Rings Twice and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. Nicely, the Esquire is also showing noir of more recent vintage, including Goodfellas, Mean Streets, and Body Heat. Also, two Coen Brothers films, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn’t There, will put their own particular spin on the genre much as Orson Welles did with Touch of Evil. The Esquire will also host some classic movies about elections, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Jimmy Stewart. To learn more about the upcoming special event films coming to the Esquire, click this link to the Special Event Calendar for the Esquire Theatre. We’ll see you at the movies!

Rising Appalachia Coming to the Ludlow Garage

By now you’ve probably heard the news that the newly remodeled Ludlow Garage is up and running. The sound is great, it’s an intimate space with lots of history, and the concert schedule is packed for many months to come. As you’re scrolling through the Ludlow Garage’s list of upcoming shows, don’t overlook Rising Appalachia, who will perform there on November 12. If you have a soft spot for roots music, acoustic instruments, rich harmonies,  and positive vibrations, check out these videos by Rising Appalachia. This first cut, “Shed Your Grace,” adds a gospel touch to the mix:

“Sadjuna” is a beautiful song that blends together Americana and African music;  I love the harmonies and the fiddle:

Other artists coming to the Ludlow Garage who have some roots connection include Poco (December 1), Donna the Buffalo (March 6), and Shovels & Rope (April 8).

Also slated are John Sebastian (February 6), The Outlaws (November 10), and Atlanta Rhythm Section (February 6).

Jazz and prog fans should know about Spyro Gyra, George Winston, Najee, The Levin Brothers, Kasim Sulton’s Utopia, and Brand X. That begins to tell you what’s coming to the Ludlow Garage, but here again is the full list. See you at the show!




Guess Who’s Coming to the Ludlow Garage?

The Ludlow Garage has reopened after remodeling that includes a new bar in the basement and removable chairs that allow for both sit-down shows and general admission concerts where the audience would prefer to stand. Dozens of shows have already been booked, and it struck me, after a friend asked me to recommend some of the upcoming artists, that I should do a one-song sampling of some (but not all) of the artists coming the next few weeks. Before I go there, though, I should mention the cover bands.  There are plenty of them – tributes to Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, the Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, and Billy Joel are already scheduled – and those shows are always popular. Now to some of the other artists:

Adrian Belew has a musical resume second to none, including extensive work with Frank Zappa and King Crimson and a distinguished solo career. His solo tours have included some King Crimson songs, and here’s a live performance of a real gem:

Adrian plays Friday, October 4. On Friday, October 10, Michael Martin Murphey will perform at the Ludlow Garage. He’s an excellent folksy/country singer-songwriter who became a well-known name after his lush, dreamy single “Wildfire” became a radio hit:

On Tuesday, October 15 Macy Gray will take the stage. Macy is one of the most soulful singers you’ll ever hear. Many music fans first caught wind of her when she released “I Try.” But check out her cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends”:

What a cool lady! I hope to meet her after the show.
Talking about soulful, Rickie Lee Jones will play the Garage on Saturday, October 19. How blessed we are to see artists of her stature play such an intimate venue. Here’s the song that started it all:

Man, does that song have a sound! No wonder she was 1979’s breakout artist.
A very special show is coming on Wednesday, October 16. The New Mastersounds are a British four-piece who go in all directions as along as there’s some funk involved. They know how to get a  groove going and they make people dance. This show will be a real treat; we’re lucky to get them here. Here’s a lip of the New Mastersounds a great Billy Preston hit from the 70s, “Will It Go ‘Round In Circles”:

Other recommendations include John Pizarelli’s tribute to Nat King Cole (!), John Sebastian, and Marcia Griffiths – more on those later.  Here’s a link to the Ludlow Garage Facebook page and its website. See you at the show!




Jim Tarbell’s 50th Anniversary Reunion of the Ludlow Garage

On Saturday, August 17, Jim Tarbell will host a concert celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Ludlow Garage. The event will take place at Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. Admission is free, and here are some of the highlights:

At noon the event kicks off with a performance by Rob Fetters, a veteran of the Raisins, the Pschodots, and the Bears.

Don’t miss a rare performance by Sanday Nassan, a guitarist who attended Walnut Hills High School and played the original Ludlow Garage; that set starts at 1: 50 pm. Sandy recorded a couple fine albums back in the day, including a direct-to-disc LP and a record on the Embryo label formed by Herbie Mann.

And don’t overlook Haymarket Riot, a Cincinnati rock band that formed in 1965, continued into the 70s, and recently resurfaced.

A longstanding Cincinnati blues band, the Bluebirds will, after playing a set of their own music, be joined at 6: 15 p.m. by Tracy Nelson, who performed with Mother Earth at the Ludlow Garage during its original incarnation.

Then – and how cool is this? – Rick Derringer will close the concert. Born in Celina, Ohio, Derringer grew up in Fort Recovery. He was all of 17 when he sang “Hang on Sloopy” for the McCoys. That song has become a staple for home games of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, and the Rolling Stones even performed it the last time they played Columbus!

It only makes sense that this show would be the handiwork of Jim Tarbell, who, after all, ran the Ludlow Garage during its first incarnation.

And the Seasongood Pavilion, well, that has some history too. That amphitheater hosted many rock concerts in the late 60s, with such bands as the James Gang, Grand Funk Railroad, and the Grateful Dead performing there. And Janice Joplin was driving her chopper around Eden Park one day, as this album cover testifies:

Here’s the full lineup for the event:

  • Noon Rob Fetters
  • 12:55 p.m. Sonny Moorman Trio
  • 1:50 p.m. Sandy Nassan
  • 2:35 p.m. Robin Lacy & DeZydeco
  • 3:30 p.m. Haymarket Riot 
  • 4:25 p.m. Warsaw Falcons,
  • 5:20 p.m. Bluebirds
  • 6:15 p.m. Tracy Nelson with Bluebirds 
  • 7:15 p.m. Jeffrey Seeman of Wheels 
  • 8 p.m. Rick Derringer Band 

Clifton Community Yard Sale on Saturday, July 27

It’s been forever since Clifton hosted a community-wide yard sale, but we’re having one on Saturday, July 27. This will be a golden opportunity for Cliftonites who have things they no longer need to sell them to other people – in other words, make some money and do some decluttering.

Anyone can participate. Many residents will sell from their front yards, driveways, or garages, while others will share a common space (we’re crossing our fingers that  Clifton Recreation Center will offer its parking lot – we’ll get back with you on that). So mark your calendar if you want to be a seller – or if you want to do a little shopping.

The nice thing about a community yard sale is that, when there are dozens of people hosting yard sales at different locations, substantially more buyers attend, which translates into more shoppers and more money for each seller. And buyers benefit from having so many yard sales close together.

If you’re hosting a yard sale and would like your address to be listed along with all the others when the community yard sale announces the yard sale locations, email with your address. (And let us know if you’re selling anyway, as we want to entice buyers with the high number of people participating.) Also, there’s a rain date for the event – the next day, which is Sunday, July 28.

Also, sellers don’t have to live in Clifton proper. Many Fairview and Clifton Heights residents have shown interest, and many of them will be setting up.

This will be a lot of fun, and shoppers are sure to find lots of interesting stuff, as Clifton is a vibrant neighborhood with a rich history.  This will be also be a golden opportunity for apartment hunters to decide which part of Clifton they want to live in. Gaslight Property rents apartments all over Clifton. If you’d like to look at some rental options, call one of our leasing specialists at 513.861.6000. From studio apartments to 6 bedroom houses & everything in between, we’ve got exactly what you want and exactly what you need! To see some of the apartments, visit our website, at


Science Fiction Month at the Esquire Theatre

It’s Science Fiction Month at the Esquire Theatre, with classic science fiction films showing almost every night. The special events calendar includes early classics like The Thing From Another World (1951) and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
The series will include some of the most well-known science-fiction films – 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example – but the Esquire will also be showing some lesser-known but equally interesting films like  George Lucas’ directorial debut, THX-1138. That’s a great film that’s so striking visually, you really need to see it on the big screen.

Also, the series offers a rare chance to see the David Lynch film Dune, which is based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert.

The Esquire Theatre now posts online an events calendar you can click on the website’s home page; the events calendar is on the right side, near the top. Here’s the home page for the Esquire’s website:

The Esquire Theatre has long been one of the reasons Clifton is a great neighborhood to live in. Gaslight Property rents apartments all over the Gaslight District and Clifton in general. If you’d like to look at some rental options, call one of our leasing specialists at 513.861.6000. From studio apartments to 6 bedroom houses & everything in between, we’ve got exactly what you want and exactly what you need! Consider, for example, this apartment, which is located a block and a half from the Esquire…and is also within close walking distance of Ace Hardware, Gaslight Bar & Grill, the Ludlow Garage, Whole Bowl, two Indian restaurants, etc., etc. Take a look!






Steve Lansky’s New Art Show

Steve Lansky is a writer and artist who lives in Clifton. If you’re been a part of the writing scene around town, you’ve attended readings where he performed, including excerpts from his novella A Black Bird Fell Out of the Sky, which was published in 2017. Steve’s new art show, Art Like Water, is currently on display at  Ruth’s Parkside Cafe in Northside. The show features 14 ink reproductions from his book Life is a Fountain, which was published by Dos Madres Press. Other works on display include large color abstract expressionist canvases, small shadow boxes with fine-line sketches, and a few other figurative pieces.  Steve has traveled to 18 countries since 2000, and his sketches include fountains from Lisboa, Habana Vieja, Firenze, Querétaro, and Clifton with additional scenes from Northern California, Ontario, Guyana, and Croatia.  Recently Steve and I drove to Ruth’s in order to see his art and discuss the inspiration behind it.

Steve’s art begins at Harvard in 1975, where he took basic drawing.  Independent work completed without a class or direct mentor also counted toward the degree requirements.  In 1979, after a period of experimentation, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and effectively discarded into a series of institutions for four years during which he painted, sculpted, and wrote. “My art flowed like water,” Steve wrote in his artist’s statement for Art Like Water, “finding spaces to fill my life with serenity, resolve, and commitment starting in a locked room at The Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati.”

Steve’s work also owes something to Roy Sebern, dubbed The Secretary of the Interior by Ken Kesey for painting the Magic Bus. Also,  Ann Newburger Pappenheimer provided expressive art therapy, an open door to talk, and encouragement in Cincinnati.  Arthur Schneider, a Detroit artist, also contibuted.  Leigh Alfred Waltz, Phil (Po) Roberto, and Jeff Siereveld also helped him learn computer graphics, which were essential to this show.

Steve’s show continues through May 4. Come check it out, and if you see something you like, buy it! Here are some photos we took during our visit to Ruth’s.

The Over the Coffee Guy

Although nearly half a century has passed since this happened, I clearly remember looking out a top-floor classroom window of Perkins Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa early one afternoon. Usually the make-shift lunchtime football field emptied as soon as the bell rang, but on this day there was an ambulance on the field. “What happened?” “Someone broke his leg.” “Who was it?” No one knew, but obviously this was a younger kid, as the epic football battles my classmates and I experienced had by then become a thing of the past.

At that point I had no idea who the boy was who broke his leg, but eventually I met him. That happened later that school year, after a teacher introduced the newest member of our class, who, it turns out, had just skipped a grade. The rumor going around school was that, while recuperating from his broken leg, Chris Kaul engaged in a sort of warp-speed tutorial project that force-fed him a year’s worth of knowledge. Soon I discovered, though, that the leap ahead was already in the works and people were waiting for the right time to give it the okay. Hearing the true narrative taught me this valuable lesson: when life throws roadblocks at you, sometimes a broken bone or two helps expedite the process.

Perkins Elementary was an excellent school that instilled a love for learning at the same time that it allowed for fun and frivolity. I won’t say I never got in trouble, but usually my classmates and I were able to balance learning with our desire to get a laugh. Where the new guy with straight red hair and bangs fit into the scheme of things was hard to say. We always had the same classmates and our roster rarely changed, and this was the first time someone leaped ahead a year, and we were the smart class. If a genius was going to outshine the rest of us, well, that could be a problem.

My reservations were soon resolved, however. The shift in perspective occurred after I saw our new classmate sitting in a corner and throwing spitballs into a trash can. What he’d done to irk the teacher I didn’t know, but I now knew this guy could be trusted. We quickly became friends, and he quickly became part of a larger group of friends I had since early grade school. Chris Kaul and I played violin in the Perkins Elementary School Orchestra conducted by Glenna Greutzmacher, who also became our sixth-grade homeroom teacher. During that year, we often began our school days by toying around with percussion instruments and autoharps before homeroom, and we ended our days in an English class taught by Mrs. Gallagher. Every Friday closed with story time, which started with a blank page and dead silence. Many of us applied ourselves passionately to this assignment, which involved not only writing but, after time was called, reading our words to the class.

By this time I was no stranger to competition, the life-or-death battles on the lunchtime football fields leading to fist fights whenever my team lost, as I was convinced, once the bell rang and the final score set in, that the other side had cheated—but that was nothing compared to the intensity experienced during story time. Probably that was more of a guy thing, as there were maybe a half dozen sixth-grade boys vying for chief laugh-getter, and on Friday afternoon you never knew who was going to bomb or hit it out of the park. Sometimes Chris Kaul prevailed; sometimes Dana Reddick, another transplant who turned out, after a quiet first month, to be as crazy as the rest of us won all the imaginary awards; and sometimes top honors went to Chuck Franklin, whose surrealistic scrambled narratives made William Burroughs seem like a mundane and all-too-linear realist.

In this competition we were all hit and miss, which meant you never knew who would win the comedy war. Sometimes, when I stood in front of Mrs. Gallagher’s desk and faced the class, I struggled to get a single laugh. I didn’t know what I did wrong when I did wrong or what I did right when I did right. And the next Friday, no explaining it, the class would roar, and I’d think, heck, this is easy, but it wasn’t, not the next week anyway, or maybe that week was, but there was always the next week, when, after I composed what I considered the Great Comic Masterpiece of the 20th Century…nobody laughed.

There came a point late in the year, though, when I hit my stride. What changed I couldn’t say; it’s not like I had a formula. I do recall, however, altering the lyrics to some songs we sang in music class, including “Have You Seen the Ghost of John?” Somehow, I remember, I rewrote these lyrics—“Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?”—to comic effect. Not sure how I changed it.

In second grade I became sports-obsessed after seeing Johnny Unitas lead the Baltimore Colts to a come-from-behind victory where, until the last few minutes, his team seemed destined to lose. (I was to see many such Colts games in upcoming years.) I had never watched a football game before that, but it plunged me not only into football but sports of all sorts. In the morning I would snag the Des Moines Register off the porch and plunge into the sports section, a ritual that included lots of stats and name memorization, to the point where, when I attended the Drake Relays one year, the two-mile relay team for Oregon wondered how all that info got crammed into my head. (I assumed that in my age group such knowledge was universal.) With time I began wandering around to other sections of the newspaper, so I knew about the column entitled Over the Coffee before I met Chris Kaul, which I point out because it was written by his father, Donald Kaul. Like most grade-schoolers, I associated coffee (and alcohol and cigarettes, and EZ-listening music) with the taste-bud deterioration that seeped into people as they grew into adulthood. Over the Coffee seemed like a conversation between adults, and I assumed that grown-ups welcomed those moments when, mentally at least, the kids left the room. But I didn’t read it much; it might have helped if Donald Kaul had written about sports, but he didn’t care much about that, other than Iowa’s rich tradition of 6-on-6 girls’ basketball, which he wrote about with such a keen appreciation that you wondered why he didn’t become a full-time sport writer.

Des Moines wasn’t a place where famous people lived or grew up or moved, so I thought it was cool that a bit of a celebrity lived a few blocks away from me and that, on a regular basis, I visited his house. Anything but an anonymous, behind-the-scenes journalist, Donald Kaul was, in the public eye, a comedian whose eccentricities inspired cartoon figures by Pulitzer Prize winner Frank Miller. One of Miller’s Kaul drawings depicts the writer wearing the same aviator helmet Snoopy wore, ankle-length plaid slacks, and pointed shoes. Even though no eyeballs appear behind his glasses he delivered a deadpan stare. “I don’t want to be standing here for this portrait,” his stance and his face seem to say. “Please get it over with.” Another Miller caricature depicts a domestically-challenged Kaul sitting in a room where water drips from the ceiling and cracks line the wall. His hands clasped together as he bends forward anxiously in a chair with a goofy flower pattern, Kaul imagines a proud, confident version of himself in full Safari garb, decidedly more comfortable deep in the jungle than in the discomfort of his own home.

Photographs of Donald Kaul from that period include a picture where he’s wearing a less-than-snug Detroit Tigers baseball cap on his head and horn-rimmed glasses and has a cigar hanging out of the side of his mouth. In this photo he’s holding a baseball mitt so close to the camera that the mitt looks like it was made for a giant. Among other things, his deadpan stare make you question if, in spite of the appropriate memorabilia, the man in the picture was really much of a baseball fan.

That imagery underscored the fact that Donald Kaul was a public figure, a full-fledged persona, and a grown-up class clown—so it’s interesting that, in the presence of Donald Kaul, I never experienced a stream of one-liners. At home he seemed more like an aloof intellectual who could easily have been mistaken for a literary novelist or a museum curator. He spoke so softly that his voice was almost muffled, and while I witnessed brief flashes of wit, they were so subtle that it would have taken several minutes to process his subtle asides deeply enough to work up a laugh.

Every time I walked inside the Kaul house it registered how different it was from the other houses I entered in Des Moines. While shag carpet was all the rage at that time, the Kaul household was filled with oriental rugs. In the living room there was a life-sized white plaster sculpture of a man sitting on a chair with his legs crossed. The paintings on the wall including several female nudes, all of whom looked, to my eyes, too wide and round to register as prurient, but the fact that they seemed centuries old led me to wonder if…well, I didn’t know what to think. The den contained built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of hardbacks and a black leather daybed that even this dumb little Des Moines schoolkid associated with neurotic patients spilling the beans to cartoon psychiatrists.

For Des Moines the inside of the house looked different, and the conversations were also different. One of the first times I walked in the door Mr. Kaul and one of his daughters were practicing and discussing British accents, and that was the first time this grade schooler witnessed such a conversation. That same night Mr. Kaul shared his belief that missing the beginning of a movie ruined the film. I had never heard that opinion before, and to me it sounded quite suspect, as I already knew that the first hour of most films was something you endured in order to get the part where the shooting, explosions, or fast-paced zaniness took place. I failed to share my wisdom, though, as Mr. Kaul was an adult, which meant he was already set in his ways.

More evidence the Kauls were different: the family vehicle was an old Checker Cab. They were the only family I knew who owned one, and while I wondered what that was all about, I enjoyed the fact that, on a rare occasion, on that rare occasion when their car drove down a street where I was walking I knew exactly who it was.

You might think that, while visiting a house where the father was known for his sense of humor, children might get some wiggle room when it came to discipline, but on more than one occasion Mr. Kaul lashed out at his son and his son’s friend with the type of anger that came so naturally to Midwestern fathers. On one such occasion I was staying overnight, and the reprimand occurred early enough in the evening that I expected to be on pins and needles until I fell asleep, but the tone quickly shifted. Shortly after the reprimand Donald Kaul received a visit from a posse of young men and women who were out on the town that evening and were clearly in high spirits. These friends who spontaneously decided to drop were full of energy and frivolity, and there was something touching about a group of friends who dropped by because…well, just because. Mr. Kaul enjoyed the spontaneous funnery, but even then he remained soft spoken, slowly rubbing his mustache while delivering sly witticisms to his friends. The visit was brief—twenty minutes, maybe—but long after the group left I wondered about the kind of lives those people led who seemed so different from the other adults I knew in Des Moines.

I didn’t talk a lot to Donald Kaul, which meant that in that respect he was like most of my other friends’ fathers. With Chris and I both competing for class clown honors, though, I am happy to report that one thing I said actually made Donald Kaul laugh. (Not that I was there to witness it, but still.) One day I shared this joke with Chris: “If Raquel Welch married Eddie Flatt, she’d be Raquel Flatt. Impossible!” The next day Chris told me his dad cracked up when he heard that. I explained that the joke came out of a comic strip for Laugh-In and I had no idea who Eddie Flatt was, but Chris was nice enough to keep that to himself.

When I visited the Kaul household, Chris and I played Nerf basketball and listened to records, and our playlist included Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. I, Who’s Next, and Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story. Once, in the bedroom of his older sister, we stumbled upon a copy of Woodstock, which for us had achieved mythical status due to the reports that had filtered down to us from people we knew who had actually heard it. Finally, after all that waiting, we got to hear Hendrix play “The Star Spangled Banner.” We cranked that as loud as we could while bombs bursted in air. When Country Joe screamed “Give me an F!”—a religious experience, or so we’d been told—we responded by dropping to our knees on the oriental rugs and flailing our arms, as we were convinced that something that outrageous deserved the utmost reverence.

We also did some wandering. When the 1970 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Tournament came to Des Moines, we snagged the first two tickets and, until less-committed fans arrived, had Drake Stadium to ourselves. On Saturday afternoons we caught some double features at the Varsity Theater, where the hippies who always showed up in big numbers whenever the Marx Brothers played and had big, shit-eating grins on their faces as they waited in line at the concession stand. On some Saturdays we’d walk down to a head shop called Elysian Fields with a sign in the front window that said “Yes, We’re Closed” on one side and “Sorry, We’re Open” on the other. Inside the dark store Afghan dogs lounged behind the counter and incense filled the air. While reverb-drenched blues records with deep bass played at loud volume, we’d kill an hour or two flipping through records and staring at huge posters that covered every inch of wall space.

We also took a trip or two downtown. There may have been a movie that sent us there, but if so, I forget what it was. I do remember seeing a billboard announcing that only one newspaper had earned more Pulitzer Prizes than The Des Moines Register; for this the sign congratulated The New York Times. On that same block we entered a building where journalists were clacking away on their typewriters and Donald Kaul was talking to a colleague. The image of that room was still fresh in my head when, at the beginning of college, I decided to major in journalism. I ended up becoming more of a literary type, but as sometimes happens in the serendipitous world of liberal arts majors, life bounced me around so many times that I ended up doing what I set out to do (I’m now a magazine editor). I too bang on a keyboard, although I do it at home and the keys don’t have the same rich timbre as a steel type hammer banging against a carriage.

Memory is fickle. What it wants to retain it does, and everything else is lost. Sometimes monumental occasions get zapped while something that left no impression on you at the time locks in permanently. One of my casual memories has to do with bicycles, which to me, the proud owner of a Huffy stingray, were prime targets for abuse (it’s a good thing I didn’t own a horse). The Kaul family had a different philosophy about bikes. They rode multi-geared bicycles that were several strata above the finest Schwinn and actually took care of them. Donald Kaul had the most expensive model, and it was purchased, I’m sure, after careful research. So he was flummoxed when he discovered, during a bike ride, that his wife, who owned a cheaper bike and rode behind him most of the time, went zipping past him whenever they coasted. When I heard that story I pictured the couple enjoying a leisurely bike ride on a quiet road out in the country. Donald Kaul died on July 22, 2018. Although his spirit left this planet, I still picture him on that country road, where, as so often happens in his columns, he finds humor in his frustration.

I said some stupid things when I was young, and unfortunately I remember them. For example, I told Chris Kaul his father had an easy job. For this I got rebuked, and I deserved it. Along with being a strong prose stylist and possessing a sharp wit, Donald Kaul was wise enough not to pander to his audience. He wasn’t trying to shake up Des Moines, but at the same time he assumed that the person drinking coffee while reading the paper in the morning could handle subject matter that was, at times, pretty highbrow. Imagine a current columnist writing about Allen Ginsberg, Alexander Calder, or Mies van der Rohe today—you can just see the editor telling the writer to dumb it down. Politically Donald Kaul held nothing back even though he knew some readers would be offended by his liberal views. Nor did he engage in nonstop flattery of his fellow Iowans. Yes, some natives were offended by his columns on girls’ basketball, but they overlooked the fact that those articles were highly educational. Consider, for example, this question on a multiple choice test Donald Kaul devoted to the subject:

When a coach is see with his team gathered around him during a timeout:

1—He is telling his players how to break a zone-press.

         2—He is telling his players how to install a zone-press.

         3—He is telling his players, “The round thing here is what we call a basketball.

With seventh grade came a new school. On my first day at Franklin Junior High an English teacher called out Chris Kaul’s name, but Chris Kaul wasn’t there, as he’d chosen to attend a more racially integrated school in Des Moines. The Kaul family moved to Washington, DC in 1972, which was the same year my family moved to Storm Lake, Iowa, where we lived across the street from a park that was on a lake. While sitting on our front lawn that day, the Wilson family saw bicyclists from the first RAGBRAI wrap things up for the day, and that was the first time I’d seen anyone in the Kaul family since they moved to DC.

After a year in Storm Lake our family moved to Ohio, but we still returned to Iowa a couple times a year. Once, while driving back to Ohio, I saw an old Checker Cab traveling in the same direction as our station wagon. That’s odd, I thought, I haven’t seen an old Checker Cab since the Kauls lived in Des Moines—and guess who was inside it? At first the Kauls stared at me like I was crazy (why’s that dimwit waving at us?), but someone finally figured out who I was. That was the last time I saw anyone in the Kaul family. The fact that our paths crossed was a neat coincidence at the same time that it was frustrating. There was no place to pull over, and all we could do was wave.














Holidays on Ludlow Photos – 2018

The weather was great for Holidays on Ludlow last night – cold like it should be but not too cold and not the least bit windy – and people came out in full force for the festivities.  That includes Santa Claus, who stopped by Petey’s Pet Stop to take pictures with some Santa-loving pets. There was a line out the door for this rare photo-op, and the pets loved it, as you can tell by this particularly felicitous canine, who was virtually brimming with the holiday spirit:


Again, there were carriage rides:

People love the new Sitwell’s. One of the owners, Florencia, was serving coffee drinks well as some more spirituous substances like spiced cider (yum!) and Irish coffee at Clifton Plaza while carolers sang:

The owner of Maya was feeling the holiday spirit:

And after a glass of his sangria, we were too!

When we walked past Lydia’s on Ludlow, Ma Crow was setting up for her performance there that evening, where she played to a packed house. Don’t forget that Lydia’s has open mics every Thursday!

Santa covered a lot of ground last night. Here he’s seen hustling to his next gig:

We’re SO happy to see Clifton Market spring back to life. At this table, folks signed up to win a $50 gift certificate.

Clifton Area Neighborhood School (CANS) partnered with Kindflash to provide hats and gloves to 600 students as a service learning project for pre-K through first grade.

Gosh, where are we? Oh, that’s…none other than Gaslight Bar & Grill, which had a soft opening last night. It felt mighty cozy – and how ’bout that woodwork, not to mention the view?

Another Santa sighting, this time at Ludlow Wines, which hosts wine tastings every Friday and Saturday night:

On to his next gig:

Santa also visited Ace Hardware, where they served goodies for kids and adults:

Eventually the carolers on Clifton Plaza moved to a warmer climate, sharing the Christmas spirit with the crowd at Ludlow Wines.

Once again, Holidays on Ludlow was a huge success, and spirits were especially high due to all the new businesses (including Sitwell’s, Gaslight Bar & Grill, and new ownership at both Clifton Market and the Ludlow Garage) that so quickly integrated with the old businesses. And we’re not done yet – there’s a record store right around the corner! More on that later…