Revving Up for CliftonFest!

During my daily stroll, I happened upon some folks who were decorating the streetlights on Ludlow Avenue, which was something that begged documentation. At 8pm all of the light sculptures are going to light up, and tomorrow night CliftonFest begins. Gaslight Property is once again a proud sponsor of CliftonFest, which is one of many reasons the Gaslight District is a great place to live!

Blood, Sweat & Tears Coming to the Ludlow Garage

Blood Sweat & Tears is coming to the Ludlow Garage for two shows on Friday, October 12. No history of late 60s and early 70s rock is complete without Blood Sweat & Tears. Their second LP was the #1 album for seven weeks, and it produced three top 5 singles. The album received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and it has been certified quadruple platinum, with sales of more than four million units in the U.S. Blood, Sweat & Tears also played Woodstock and, along with Chicago, who also added horns to their sound, helped create jazz rock. Here is You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” the lead-off single from BS&T’s #1 album:

And here’s the second single from the album, “Spinning Wheel”:

Here’s the third single from that album that managed to crack the top five, a song Laura Nyro wrote, “And When I Die”:

This will be a great night of music – classic songs and first-rate musicians. Here’s a link to Ludlow Garage’s website, where you can buy tickets for this and all other Ludlow Garage shows:

https://www.ludlowgaragecincinnati.com/

 

 

 

Double Digits

On January 2, 2008, a group of people wearing caps and masks watched someone of similar attire plunge a knife into my neck. But the people gathered around me meant me no harm—in fact, they were trying to do me some good, as I had, it turns out, not one but two cancerous nodules inside my thyroid, so a complete thyroidectomy was in fact in order. The second nodule I never really told anyone about until now (other than some doctors) because I didn’t want to acknowledge it myself at the time, as two nodules is more worrisome than one and while #1 was the least dangerous form of thyroid cancer (papillary) #2 was some sort of papillary/other cocktail that increased the cause for concern (plus I was nearing 50, which for males especially makes those mortality charts change in ways you don’t want them to), that’s the stone cold scary truth.

I had woken up in an operating room before that day, so I knew what to expect: arctic temperatures (they help you to wake up) and chattering docs + nurses (that also helps). This time, though, I came to in a dark room by myself, and everything was silent. All I knew for sure was that I was still in a hospital. I couldn’t hear any voices, and no one was passing by in the hallway in front of me. I could tell it was dark outside, which seemed weird considering that my surgery began early that morning (or was it that morning?). What little voice I had kept asking if anyone was there. Finally a sixty-ish nurse entered the room. She stared bluntly at me and said in a most serious voice:

“You know what happened, don’t you?”

“No, and you don’t have to tell me,” I said.

She told me anyway: I had stayed under so long that standard post-operating procedure had been abandoned. My parents had left the building, and the hospital was now a very quiet place. Later, in my hospital bed, with plenty of morphine to keep me company, I watched television during the awake/asleep cycle that kept repeating itself that evening. In the middle of the night the local news showed some footage that looked like a helicopter crashing into the hospital where the surgery had been performed, and in my altered state I quickly imagined a narrative wherein, as the surgeon was about to make the first and biggest cut, the entire building wobbled. While that wasn’t entirely accurate (and in fact, I came to learn, the accident that occurred was slightly less dramatic than what I first assumed and actually took place the day before my surgery), I have sometimes embellished this story in order to impress my friends with just how tough I am. Much to my disappointment, thus far everyone has read through that particular tall tale.

Again, the date of that surgery was January 2, 2008, which makes it ten years ago today, which takes us to double digit years of cancer-free living, and that’s a really nice number. After the thyroidectomy, four months passed before we ran the tests that determined if the cancer had spread beyond my thyroid (it hadn’t), but I will always mark January 2 as The Big Anniversary because that’s the date (as we eventually came to learn) that cancer left my body. Surgery is no no fun, but those four months that followed were the hard part, and I’ll freely admit that during that time I experienced some good old-fashioned fear. Not a crazy amount, but it was tough sometimes. Everyone who has cancer handles it differently, and I’m well aware, as I’m sure you are too, that some folks respond to a cancer diagnosis with a burst of good karma and positive energy and do a superb job of dodging the heebie-jeebies. That’s a perfectly fine approach, but it isn’t universal, and if these words should happen to reach a person who either has cancer or is being tested for it, I hope you know you shouldn’t second-guess yourself if that diagnosis sends a shiver down your spine. It’s okay to worry, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

On the other hand, when it comes to the regimen of tests involved when suspicions of cancer arise and the treatment that’s required, you need to follow through on all that. Maybe you’re not the Rock of Gibraltar, but you need to give other people permission to save your life. One of the fringe benefits you’ll experience along the way is a deepening of friendships and other relationships that can only happen when you undergo such trials. I can vouch for that, and today, as I began a list of the people whose support during that time is still fresh in my memory, it really hit home how lucky I was to have them in my life. Here my mind travels first to Dr. Timothy Freeman, the primary care physician who ordered the test that revealed something we weren’t even looking for (“Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes” is how he put it); Dr. Fischer, the surgeon who performed the thyroidectomy, which included some intricate parathyroid work; Dr. Silberstein, the nuclear medicine specialist at UC Hospital; and my endocrinologist, Dr. Denny-Queen.

My mind also travels my brothers and sisters (and I’ve got lots of ‘em), and I should also mention my brother-in-law, Ed Holder, who I saw during that time and was always supportive. Molly and Jack Bredl were there for me, as was Mary Jo Wilson. Greg Bredl and Kristin LaCroix, both cancer survivors, helped boost my spirits. And Jim Schwartzhoff, now deceased, was a pillar of strength.

The list of friends who helped me keep my spirits up during this time included Luke Domet, Pam Sweet, Laura Kristal (thank you for the flowers), Vivian Vinyl, Bill King, and Tom Wendel. The comedy team of Maarten and Ashu, whose wild antics during that four-month period kept me laughing, also deserve a shout-out. Also, Jeff King, who is now deceased, was a bedrock of support during that period.

My mind also travels to people I knew at work, including, definitely, Sonja McLaughlin and Anita Clary. And how lucky I was to have as an “officemate” Asmaa Gharbi Alami, who offered support and prayed for me—and made me laugh, for that woman has a wicked sense of humor. It’s been too long since the two of us have conversed, but we are friends for life, and she knows it.

Looking back on that time, I’m especially grateful for my parents, John and Gary Wilson, who, along with providing emotional and practical support, endured many inconveniences while dealing with the post-surgical logistics (and weren’t bothered a bit by it). Many decades ago, in Des Moines, Iowa, a friend of our family surreptitiously placed in front of our house a huge roadside sign announcing that it was my mother’s birthday and that anyone driving past was invited in for donuts and coffee. That sign brought in many visitors who were previously strangers, and it provided lots of laughs. Anyone who knows my parents will tell you that the same welcoming spirit so prominently on display that day has always defined them. Lest there be any mystery, that’s how we all should live.

Taft’s Brewing Company Opens in Spring Grove Village


Located at 4831 Spring Grove Avenue in Spring Grove Village, Taft’s Brewing Company had absolutely perfect weather for its grand opening last weekend. The event drew a large crowd that including children eager to show their strength at the high striker. The 50,000-square foot space includes a brewery as well as a tap room (“brewporium”) with a wide assortment of beer. Taft’s Brewing Company also serves a New Haven coal-fired, crispy Neopolitan-style pizza and sandwiches. The building benefits from some glass garage doors, which look great and gives the brewporium an indoor/outdoor feel. While there I ran into friends from Spring Grove, Clifton, and Northside, which makes sense as Taft’s is within a stone’s throw of two of those neighborhoods and is part of Spring Grove Village, where new stores keep popping up lately, including Sally’s Treats & Treasures and Flamingo Haven—and I should mention that Flamingo Haven is hosting a community yard sale this Saturday. Taft’s Brewing Company is located near the intersection of Spring Grove Avenue and Mitchell Avenue. Regular hours for Taft’s will be 3pm to 10pm Wednesday; noon to midnight Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; and noon to 9pm Sunday.

Bruegger’s Is Back In Business

Bruegger’s reopened today, and it’s better than ever, with streamlined service and an even cozier atmosphere (I like the dark walls and soft lighting). A place to grab a quick bite to go or a place to linger for whatever length of time with a laptop or book – or friends. Seems like the Gaslight District just keeps getting better, with our new grocery store, Clifton Market, now up and running, a new barbershopthe Whole Bowl an instant hit – and the Clifton Plaza music series back in action (it’s every Friday and Saturday night), along with the long-established businesses and the real sense of neighborhood. Welcome back, Bruegger’s – we missed ya!

“An Evening In Paris” This Thursday

This Thursday a free concert will take place at the Burnet Woods Bandstand. The event, titled An Evening In Paris, will be a celebration of  French music. From 6-7:30pm on June 1 the versatile Faux Frenchmen will perform their mix of gypsy jazz and other genres. They’ve been a favorite around Clifton for quite some time, combining their high level of musicianship with wit and camaraderie. Here’s the Faux Frenchmen a song Fletcher Allen wrote and that Django Reinhardt recorded, “Viper’s Dream.”

At 8pm the CCO (Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra) Wind Quintet will launch their set of French music, with compositions by Milhaud, Rameau, Tambourin, Bizet, Debussy, and Ibert. These are great composers who wrote beautiful music that’s quintessentially French. To whet your appetite, here’s a wind quintet performing Debussy’s Reverie.

 

 

So You Wanna Win A Pulitzer Prize?

On the day our family left Des Moines, Iowa—this happened in August of 1972—my self-image changed completely. Whoever I thought I was before vanished, and the city where I was born and where I lived until we headed upstate also underwent a mental revision. School would start in about a week, and I planned to make sure that my fellow eighth-graders understood right away that the new kid from the cosmopolitan epicenter of Des Moines (population 250,000) had a thing or two on folks from Storm Lake, which only 10,000 people called home. As I walked around downtown—or “uptown,” as the locals called it for some upside-down reason—before classes started I assumed culture shock would soon overwhelm me. Although Storm Lake had its charms, with wide, tree-lined streets, and a picturesque downtown, when I saw farmers driving pickup trucks and walking around in overalls I pictured myself starring in a TV show that was basically the Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. I was prepared, when I met my future classmates, to convey all kinds of attitude.

That plan, it turns out, dissolved almost instantly. As dumb as I was, I soon realized that I was very lucky. Both in and out of the classroom, my grade school years were wonderful—lots of friends, endless fun and laughter—but the junior high I attended, larger and more impersonal than Perkins, was about as laid back as a prison. It was a dangerous school where students were afraid of other students and where law and order came hard and fast, much more so than at Perkins, although at Perkins you got a better education. When our parents announced that, in Storm Lake, their six children would be attending a Catholic school once again after a long hiatus, I thought oh no, here it comes, my assumption being that nuns were even meaner in small towns than in booming metropolises like the one where I grew up.

But the eighth-graders at St. Mary’s were the rowdiest classmates I would ever have, and no teacher could hold us back. I remember a day when maybe half the class stayed after school. At some point the teacher left; I can’t remember if she planned to return or if we were simply supposed to remain there on the honor system. We responded by tipping over desks and throwing books on the floor and basically wrecking the room. No one said anything to us the next day. Now that was my kind of school. I remember wondering if the public school, which was right across the street, was even rowdier. All of my guy friends that year were from St. Mary’s, but the girls I cavorted with were all from the public school; therein lies everything I know about the public schools of Storm Lake between 1972 and 1973 (or at any time, for that matter).

That only begins to tell you what was good about Storm Lake. The house we moved to was bigger and older than the one in Des Moines and had beautiful woodwork inside. It was located across the street from a park, and beyond that was the lake. Lakeshore Drive was part of the route that all the teenagers made as they scooped the loop, and in my mind Storm Lake was one big circle where all the fun people passed our house at least once a day. The soda fountain at Ben Franklin’s, the grain silo on the main drag, the huge motorcycles that all the St. Mary’s student kept crashing, wide alleys, and even, strangely enough, the squealing pigs at Hygrade, all those things and countless more contributed to Storm Lake’s charm. To me it was like a countrified and modernized version of American Graffiti, with nature hippies instead of guys with short, slicked-back hair. When John Fogerty sings “We could make music at the Greasy King” during “Sweet Hitchhiker,” my mind flashes immediately to the burger joint—can’t tell you the name, can’t tell you the street—where we went after the football and basketball games (unless, that is, we were roaming the railroad tracks with the public school girls).

Clearly we had found the Promised Land, but after a year we he headed east, to Ohio. Since then I’ve only been back to Storm Lake a few times. Even though the houses aren’t as big as they were in my memory (how could they be?) and I lost track of my old buddies and your perspective tends to change as you grow older, I still think Storm Lake was the right place and the right time for me.
         With a family of eight, it’s hard, after people have moved around the country, to reunite everyone, but recently seven Wilsons were in the same house, including our oldest sister, who’s now the only family member living in Iowa—close to Storm Lake, in fact. She brought to Celina, Ohio (where my parents now live) a copy of the Storm Lake Times that contained the jubilant article its co-owner and editor, Art Cullen, wrote after the Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting. The judges commended the Times for “editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.” Along with shedding light on the nitrate pollution caused by bad farming practices, the paper exposed the dark money used to suppress that conclusion. The damage isn’t limited to Buena Vista County, where Storm Lake is located. “It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico,” Cullen wrote in an editorial. “It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes.” If you think about it, the story has parallels to Flint, Michigan—or more directly to Celina, Ohio, where similar shortsightedness has forced officials to post a closed sign for entire summers on a lake that has long been a big tourist draw.

There is a message here. Typically the Pulitzer Prize goes to the big city papers, but not this time. The judges deserve credit for recognizing the value of a twice-a-week newspaper with a circulation of 3,000. And the staff at the Storm Lake Times deserve credit for taking their role as journalists seriously instead of delivering the fluff (or clickbait) so many magazines and papers resort to in a desperate attempt to “build their base.” “We’ve always believed that the Storm Lake Times should be as good at covering Storm Lake as the New York Times is at covering New York,” Cullen has written. Ultimately no matter where you are there’s a story to be told. That’s true if you’re a journalist or a fiction writer or a songwriter—meaning you don’t have to move to Greenwich Village to tap into something vital.

And sometimes the wide-open spaces far from the madding crowd are the best launching pads for progressive ideas. No one thought much of it when, in August of 1973, some folks decided to ride their bikes across Iowa. Since then RAGBRAI has become a huge event that prefigured the ecologically-conscious and fitness-minded bicycle craze. Storm Lake was one of the stopping/starting points for that first ride, and Lakeshore Drive was on the route. As a result I found myself chatting, in my own front yard, with some of the Des Moines crowd, including co-RAGBRAI founder Donald Kaul, whose Over the Coffee column was a highlight of the Des Moines Register, and his son Chris Kaul, one of my grade school buds. Here you see Donald Kaul explaining to some old-school Iowans that highways were built not for cars but for bicycles and tractors.

While preparing this screed I discovered that that, along with growing up in Storm Lake, Art Cullen went to St. Mary’s and was probably (based on our ages) one grade ahead of me. No one in my family seems to know him, myself included. Whatever his school history, I hope his class behaved better than we did, as we gave the nuns more than enough grief. Now, though, he’s raising all kinds of hell. I always thought Storm Lake was a good place—and I’m sticking to that story.

Steven Paul Lansky Reading at Chase Public

Steven Paul Lansky will read selections from his novella A Black Bird Fell Out of the Sky at Chase Public on Friday, May 5 at 7:30pm. The novella has just been published, and it marks a fresh new milestone for an author whose other publications include two chapbooks (2002’s Main St. and 2009’s Eleven Word Title for Confessional Political Poetry Originally Composed for Radio) and an audio novel (2004’s Jack Acid). Lansky has been published in Cosmonauts Avenue, This: a serial review, Whole Terrain, New Flash Fiction Review, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, and Evil Dog. Those attending the reading can expect to hear experimental, postmodern fiction that, according to Josip Novakovich, details “exploitation of Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Serengeti by Westerners, local mafia, and journalists, rendering the last genuine wild-lands into a theater of deceit and theft….The prose moves with extraordinarily beautiful language, painterly images and poetic logic.” In Michael Henson’s words, “If Ernest Hemingway and Karen Finley had a literary love-child, it would look something like this.” The evening will also feature readings from Keith Tuma and Bill Comparetto. The reading is free, and copies of the new book will be on sale that evening. Chase Public is upstairs at 1569 Chase Avenue in Northside.

Community Yard Sale at Flamingo Haven April 29


On April 29 Flamingo Haven Antique Mall will host a community yard sale on its lawn. Sellers will include some mall dealers bringing new and different things as well as lots and lots of non-dealers who just have stuff they want to sell—so if you’re interested, sign up! It costs ten dollars to do so, and payment is due by April 25. Set up begins at 8 and the sale will run from 10 to 4. Expect the front lawn to be full of cool stuff; there will also be a food truck, and as long as you’re there, take a look around the antique mall, which has been open for almost a year now. Recently it expanded, adding a new building that’s connected to the original space. For many neighborhoods (including Clifton, Avondale, Northside, St. Bernard, Spring Grove, and Hartwell), it’s easily the closest antique mall, and the fact that it’s located near an intersection (Spring Grove + Mitchell) that thousands of cars pass every day makes it that much more convenient (plus it’s right off I-75). Flamingo Haven is open seven days a week, and its phone number is (513) 541-1812. Its address is 4530 W Mitchell Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45232. If you’re coming from Northside on Spring Grove Avenue, take a left at W. Mitchell, and after a third of a mile you’ll see the building on the right. Pay attention, though, because the building is set back from the street; there are parking lots on both sides of the building. See you on April 29!

Pop-Up Shop on Ludlow Avenue This Friday

pop-up-shop

This Friday, December 2, from 6pm to 9pm the annual Holidays on Ludlow will be celebrated throughout the Ludlow Avenue Business District. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 6pm – UC Bearcat leads DAAP Pop-Up Light Parade
  • 6:15pm – Santa arrives via fire truck at Plaza
  • 6:30pm – Story time with Eric at Clifton Market
  • 6:00-9:00pm – Free Horse Drawn Carriage Rides
  • Strolling carolers: Smooth Transitions Barbershop Quartet & carolers from United Methodist
  • Cincinnati Bethel Choir at Clifton Plaza
  • Petey’s Pet Stop & Howell Animal Hospital – free pet photos with Santa + free refreshments

The event will include a pop-up shop where the library used to be, at 351 Ludlow Avenue. Twenty-four vendors will be selling their wares, and items for sale will include jewelry, art, Christmas items, plants, handmade weavings & cards, jewelry boxes, stained glass creations, bicycle recycle, pottery, grass-fed gourmet, and record albums. This is the first pop-up store I’ve heard of in the Gaslight District, and it’s a great idea. Come hang out that night, check out the pop-up store, the carols, the carriage rides, the soon-to-be grocery store, and start getting in the Christmas spirit! Here are some photos of art by some of the artists whose work will be on display that evening:
pop-up-shop-2 pop-up-shop-3
pop-up-shop-clint-wood-iii pop-up-shop-colleen-wood pop-up-shop-african