The Words and Voice of Aralee Strange

Over two decades ago Tom Kellerman opened a used bookstore near the post office in the Gaslight District of Clifton. His idea was to create a store that was more than just a store—he was picturing a place where people would mingle and drink coffee and have literary readings and sit in a corner and read for as long they wanted. That doesn’t sound so radical now, but at the time there was nothing like it in Cincinnati.

At one of the literary readings I shared some of my fiction. On that night I was paired with someone I’d never heard of before.

Literary reading can turn into a shoutfest, and part of the reason for that may be that literature is so under the radar writers feel they have to strain to get people’s attention.

With a lightning bolt tattoo near her right eye and an androgynous face, Aralee Strange spoke in a soft voice, yet her readings were so powerful that the audience was spellbound. There was vulnerability in her voice, but there was also strength.

Kellerman’s didn’t last long, and when it closed I saw it as a confirmation of literature’s marginal existence in America.

Ultimately, though, Kellerman’s wasn’t the end of something. Really it was a beginning, forging connections between writers and inspiring thoughts about what could happen if artists pulled together. Continue reading “The Words and Voice of Aralee Strange”

Farmers’ Market in the Clifton Plaza Every Monday

It was clear when I visited the Gaslight Market in the Clifton Plaza this week that even though Clifton’s own farmers’ market has only been around a few weeks it’s is already made an impact, with a variety of vendors as well as customers who were happy to buy fresh, locally grown and organic food and other products. It also happens to take place in a location where thousands of people live within a few blocks of it.

The fact that people are beginning to dial it in became clear to me when one of the customers told me that as she was driving past her daughter yelled, “Honey! Honey!,” at which point the mother was forced to hit the brakes.

So even seven-year-old kids know by now that organic and locally-grown honey is available at the Clifton Marketplace every Monday from 5:00pm until 8:00pm. Continue reading “Farmers’ Market in the Clifton Plaza Every Monday”

Global Water Dances – Cincinnati Takes Place Saturday at 10 AM

At 10 am at Serpentine Wall this Saturday (6/22), a free event will take place that will help “bring awareness to the critical issues of pure, clean, safe available drinking water.” Global Water Dances is, as the name suggests, a worldwide event, with more than 60 cities participating this year. Starting at 10am and lasting about an hour, the performances will include music and dance, and along with addressing the issue of water quality the performance will be a celebration of water.

It’s no coincidence, then, that the performance will take place at the Ohio River. The event kicks off the Paddlefest Finish Line Festival, and more than 3000 kayakers will be floating behind the performance, creating a moving backdrop honoring our river.
Global Water Dance will include more than 100 choreographers, dancers, musicians, visual artists and key environmental groups in the Greater Cincinnati/Tri-State region under the leadership of Fanchon Shur, Lead Choreographer and Shari Lauter, Composer/Music Director, along with Connie Bergstein Dow, Co-Chairs.

How “You Are My Sunshine” Became a Jazz Classic

Released shortly after “You Are My Sunshine,” Sheila Jordan’s first album came out on Blue Note, with music as soulful as the cover.

The story of children in an Oklahoma day care singing “You Are My Sunshine” while a tornado attacked the building is deeply moving. The fact that a seemingly happy-go-lucky children’s song provided them with much-needed strength deepens our appreciation of the timeless classic.

Over fifty years ago “You Are My Sunshine” also received a radical reappraisal, and this story also involves hope and courage in the face of adversity.

Two artists played a key role in making “You Are My Sunshine” a jazz classic. In 1961 composer, band leader, theorist and pianist George Russell (a Cincinnati native, by the way) had several ground-breaking jazz albums under his belt when he entered a Greenwich Village club where a singer he’d never heard before was performing.

“Where do you come from to sing like that?” he asked afterwards.

If you’ve heard Sheila Jordan sing a ballad—and be careful, because she’ll rip you heart when she does—you can understand why George Russell asked that question. As it turned out, Sheila Jordan grew up amongst coal miners in Pennsylvania. Intrigued, Russell drove with Jordan to that area.

The poor and depressed rural setting was hardly the typical breeding ground for a jazz musician. At a tavern Russell and Jordan visited the sole patron was an out-of-work coal miner who had heard Jordan sing before. “I’ll never forget his face,” Jordan later said in an NPR interview. “It was down and out. He said, ‘Well, do you still sing ‘You Are My Sunshine?’’” Continue reading “How “You Are My Sunshine” Became a Jazz Classic”

Blues Guitarist Duke Robillard Coming to the Redmoor

Here’s an upcoming show that qualifies as a rare opportunity to see an important blues artist in an intimate setting. Guitarist Duke Robillard will be performing at The Redmoor in Mt. Lookout on Wednesday, June 12 at 8pm. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the night of the show. The Redmoor is located at 3187 Linwood Avenue, and the phone number there is 513.871.6789.

Robillard is one of the most sought-after guitarists out there, his resume including stints with some of the biggest names out there, including Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. My in-concert introduction to him came during the Tom Waits tour of 2006. As usual, Waits performed at only a few cities, and he picked places other than the huge metropolises. I was lucky enough to catch him in Louisville due to a last-minute change of plans with a buddy of a buddy. Here’s a performance with Robillard in the line-up:

Continue reading “Blues Guitarist Duke Robillard Coming to the Redmoor”

Job Fair on June 7 in Woodlawn

A job fair will be held June 7 (this Friday) from 9am to 3pm at the Woodlawn  Ohio National Guard Training and Recreation Center in Woodlawn, OH; the address is 10050 Woodlawn Boulevard, Woodlawn OH 45215. This job fair is an annual job initiative of State Representative Alicia Reese. The event is being co-hosted by Woodlawn Mayor, Susan Farley, and coordinated by Angelita Moreno-Jones, President of Eastern Personnel.

Later this week I’ll have more information on the details of this event, but count on it being significant: last year the job fair hosted 28 employers for over  100 job openings.

I assume some readers will be interested in attending this event, and if you know anyone else looking for work, pass this link along. Call Alicia Reese’s office (614) 466-1308 if you have questions. When the job fair was held last year, Reese said, “The economists are saying the economy is recovering, I thought it was time for citizens to feel that recovery at their dinner tables by connecting them to real job opportunities.” Those words areas are as relevant now as they were then.