Fries Cafe Is Back!

Fries Cafe 001There was joy and jubilation Wednesday night in Clifton due to the reopening of Fries Cafe. People who went without a beer for the nine months that the long-established watering hole was closed suddenly were able to drink beer again. (My fact checker just informed me that’s a bit far-fetched – but still, it felt that way as people muscled their way up to the bar and shouted their drink orders.) So how’s the new Fries, you ask? Did they decide, during that long stretch of time between closing and reopening, to “modernize” the place, with a disco ball and some thump-thump electronic dance music blasting out of speakers, turning a friendly, casual neighborhood bar into a fancy nightclub? Heck no. It still feels as real and unpretentious as ever. And it still has a fine selection of beers (see photos). And it’s still a friendly place as opposed to a snobfest. There is one difference, though: it smells a lot better. I snapped a few photos while I was there, including a couple of Riley Martin, an iconic Clifton canine whose charismatic cameo made a special night even better (he’s never one to miss a photo-op). I’ve always been a fan of Fries, ever since I got kicked out of there at 9 o’clock in the morning on my first day in Cincinnati. I knew then that this was the town for me. If everyone’s too friendly it softens you up, and who wants that?

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Patrick Battstone at the Listing Loon

Patrick Battstone picture to use for blog entryThe Listing Loon (at 4124 Hamilton Avenue in Northside) is one of the few places around Cincinnati with an acoustic piano, and it has a nice, intimate atmosphere to go with it. For two nights—Friday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17—Patrick Battstone will be performing there for free from 8:30 to midnight. These performance are a combination of a homecoming, musical performances, and two separate CD release parties. Friday, January 16 is the CD release for Beyond the Horizon, his latest solo effort, and on that night Patrick will be performing solo. Saturday, January 17 is the CD release for a live recording of the Sound Museum, a legendary group from Cincinnati that ended up crossing paths with James Brown. The CD is entitled The Sound Museum Live at New Dilly’s. The personnel for the Sound Museum included Jimmy McGary on tenor saxophone, Kenny Poole on guitar, David Matthews on piano, John Young on bass, and Grover Mooney on drums—and the amazing Popeye Maupin on vocals. Grover’s son, Moses Mooney, will be playing drums with Patrick on Saturday. Admission is free both nights, and the dark, cozy room is a splendid place to listen to music, especially with craft beers on hand and a superb wine selection.

Patrick is a Cincinnati native who studied at Berklee and has been part of the Boston jazz scene for decades. At the same time he remains well-grounded in (and appreciative of) the Cincinnati jazz scene—he knows all the players, and he’s worked with lots of them, and he’s also deeply appreciative of Cincinnati’s rich jazz history. So come to the show, stay late, and drink a lot. As Patrick so aptly put it, “The more you drink, the better I sound!” Here’s a video of Patrick performing “Over the Rainbow.”

 

 

Natural Disasters

Keith Jarrett Mourning Star

One day a friend of mine was playing a record by Keith Jarrett called The Mourning of a Star. While the LP was playing I flipped the cover over to the back side, where I encountered a poem by a writer who I didn’t recognize. This was truly one of those times where a poem reached out and grabs you (or, as Bob Dylan put it, “Every one of those words rang true/And glowed like burning coal”). Although it was a long time before I saw that poem again, the memory of reading it the first time remained vivid, and when someone mentioned it to me ten or fifteen years later, I immediately knew what he was talking about.

It turns out the person who brought it up was the poet who wrote it.  Terry Stokes was a creative writing professor at the University of Cincinnati, and the two of us had been hanging together for months before I connected the dots between the writer and the poem. That happened when Terry was telling me about a poem that he published in Esquire. Soon thereafter Terry was contacted to find out if he would be willing to have his poem appear on an album cover by Keith Jarrett, and Terry gave his permission.

“I got fifty dollars from Esquire,” Terry explained, “and fifty dollars from Keith Jarrett. So I made a hundred bucks for my poem.

Not bad – and especially because so many more people would be able to read the poem due to the fact that it was on the back of an album cover by such a popular musician. 

By that point I had figured out that Terry and I had already bumped into each other long before I saw his poem on the Keith Jarrett album cover. At a Miami University writer’s conference where I also met Cameron Crowe and P.J. O’Rourke I had heard Terry give a reading and chatted with him at one of the parties that took place every night. 

Attending that conference convinced Terry to move to this party of the country. Englight professors John Weigel and Milton White had much to do with that – and happened to be the two teachers who had the deepest influence on me as a writer, artist, reader, teacher, whatever. 

After Terry retired from teaching, I heard less and less from him, and it’s been over ten years since we spoke. We became friends at a good time for both of us. During that period I was editing a offbeat literary magazine called Evil Dog that published lots of interesting writers from this area. In a small way the buzz was kind of on about that magazine, which – in part because I worked downtown at that time and made lots of downtown friends – seemed to connect with people who normally didn’t read literary magazines. Terri Ford, Aralee Strange, F. Keith Wahle, and Terry Stokes – those were some of the writers who helped make the magazine something special (and fun, too!).

The poem on the Keith Jarrett album cover was called “Natural Disasters.” That was also the name of the book where it appeared as the lead-off poem, and today I scanned it so others could read it. When I read “Natural Disasters” I think of all my friends who “wrestled with the lion.” Those seem to be the kind of folks I hang with, and Terry Stokes was one of them. As another year ends while a new one begins, it’s natural to take stock of things and look inward – and this poem by an old friend certainly inspires that.

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Myrtle’s Punch House in Walnut Hills

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Have you ever been to a punch bar? Me neither—or not until last weekend, that is, when I visited the recently opened Myrtle’s Punch House at 2733 Woodburn in Walnut Hills. Already the bar is drawing a crowd, as both floors were well-populated without feeling crowded. Wonderfully, there were no big-screen television screens (no TVs at all, actually), and the only music was the performance in the basement by a jazz quartet doing a low-volume mix of old-timey songs like “Night And Day” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Once again mixologist extraordinaire Molly Wellman has opened another drinking establishment that’s added character to Greater Cincinnati—or perhaps we should say that she’s help bring back some of the character that was originally there. I generally don’t like bars, but Myrtle’s had a nice, laid-back vibe to it, and age-wise there was a nice mix. I ended up meeting new people while I was there, the porter and punch I drank were par excellence, and visually Myrtle’s was splendiferous, inspiring me to snap a few photos. Hours are Mon – Wed 4pm to 1am, Thu – Sat 4pm to 2am, and Sun 4pm to midnight. The phone number for Myrtle’s is 513.479.6554

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Meditteranean King Celebrates Its Two-Year Anniversary

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Mediterranean King recently celebrated its second anniversary, and I suspect that this Middle Eastern restaurant located at 3307 Clifton Avenue will be with us for many years to come. Two years is long enough to become part of the neighborhood, and the friendly service of this business “where everybody knows your name” is one reason Mediterranean King is so popular from people who both live in Clifton or like to visit the neighborhood.

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 The Mediterranean King is very spacious inside, with a dining room that’s open and peaceful, with lots of elbow room. Mediterranean King is located near the corner of Clifton and Dixmyth, on the same side of Clifton Avenue as Bruegger’s Bagels. Hours are Monday thru Thursday noon to 8, Friday 3 to 9, Saturday 12 to 8, and Sunday 5 to 8. The phone number for this dine-in or carry-out restaurant is 513.221.7222. Note, too, that Mediterranean King does extensive catering.

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 If you just want a quick, cheap bite, or if you want a full meal, the choices are numerous. Buffet hours for Mediterranean King are noon to 3 Monday thru Thursday and also on Saturday.  Also, Mediterranean King has daily specials, all of which highlight food from a different country, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Jordan. So how do you find out what the daily special is? By liking their Facebook page. Although it’s not vegetarian, the restaurant is very vegan friendly.

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Earlier I alluded to the friendly, personable nature of the restaurant, and the pictures below of drawings children made while eating there are a case in point. In other words, bring the whole family!

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Holiday on Ludlow Returns Friday, December 5

holidaysHolidays on Ludlow returns this Friday, December 5. The event kicks off at 6pm when the Clifton Fairview German Choir performs at Clifton Plaza. Free events include the pop-up window event and parade, horse carriage rides, kid cookie decorating, kids art activities with CCAC, a food drive, and photos with Santa.  The event takes place from 6 to 9pm, and there’s free parking after 5pm in the merchant lots on Howell Ave. Here’s a link to the Facebook page for the event. Holidays on Ludlow has ALWAYS been a lot of fun for people of all ages,as you can see from this blog entry w/photos that I posted a couple years ago. See you there!

 

 

PICTURES OF THE HOLIDAYS ON LUDLOW

Santa Claus at Holidays on LudlowI strolled up to Ludlow Avenue last night and snapped some photos of Holidays on Ludlow, and this morning I got up and went into the dark room to look at all the negatives and decide which pictures I should develop and, more importantly, which was the best picture of all.

Sometimes that’s a tough decision because nothing really stands out, but this time we have a clear winner.

Let’s start, though, with the also-rans. Here’s a photo of the wall inside Brown’s Tours and Travels, where travel agent Suzanne Sanchez helps people plan their dream vacation, including destination weddings, which are all the rage these days. Her office is located at 3410 Ormond Ave; her phone number is 513.731.3369; and her email address is Suzanne@BrownsToursandTravel.com.   This rather psychedelic photo is a combination of Christmas lights and brochures for vacation packages to exotic places (like Norway, for instance):

Next, the free carriage rides:

And the Sinfonian Brass Ensemble playing Christmas carols:

That was near the Clifton Plaza, where I chatted with Rob Taylor from Gaslight Property; they were collecting canned good donations that will be given to FOCAS Ministry’s Foodshare program. The collection was very successful that evening, but it’s not over:  Gaslight Property will collect canned good donations through the New Year at their office at 311 Howell Avenue in Clifton. As I continued to walk, I saw Lagniappe performing in front of what will soon be our newly revived grocery store (which would be good, because then I won’t be hungry all the time):

There was a big crowd inside Ludlow Wines:

There was some serious hat-making taking place at Aquarius Star, where I took this photograph of hatmakers hard at work:

While I was there I met Missy Miller, who’s the Program Coordinator for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. In that role she’s passed along information to me about upcoming events at the Center that we’ve posted on the website, so we had met in cyberspace – but it was good to meet her in person and witness the  hatmaker handiwork:

Those were some of my favorite pictures, but now all that’s left are the very, very best photographs of the evening. Winner of the runner-up prize is this pic of Christopher Pazowski in a photo-op with none other than Santa Claus:

And finally the winner (and by a landslide). While at Aquarius Star I of course asked permission for all the photos I took. “Will she let me take her picture?” I asked an adult as both of us faced a child who was wearing one of the recently-made hats. ”Her? She’s a ham,” the adult said. The child was happy to have her picture taken, and it shows. (If someone knows her name, can you email me at disdat@hotmail.com; I’d like to give her credit.)

 

Woodward Theater Is Now Open

Woodward Laura Hegel 004The Woodward Theater is officially open. While watching the Tiger Lilies/Hiders/Culture Queer triple bill last week, I snapped a few photos. It’s good to know that the Woodward is now part of the local woodwork; it definitely will help fill a gap for interesting bands that would draw a crowd too big for a bar. Here’s a link to the Facebook page for the Woodward TheaterThe Woodward Theater is located at 140 Main Street, close to Another Part of the Forest, Iris Book Cafe and other small businesses on Main Street and Over the Rhine. While I was there the place filled up, and I saw a lot of familiar faces that I’ve seen at places like the Northside Tavern, the Comet, and Sudsy Malone’s, and I was glad to see the word is spreading.

 

 

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Short Vine Springs Back to Life

On a sunny day last week I strolled over to Vine Street in Corryville and snapped some photos and talked to some business owners, all of whom were happy to see construction wrapping up, revealing an attractive streetscape and a neighborhood that has a nice mix of spiffy new storefronts and long-established businesses. Finally you could look down the entire street without seeing orange barrels or construction vehicles, and it was clear that the work paid off:

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One of the newer shops, Red Mango Cafe, has a nice juice bar. Here’s a link to its Facebook page:

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The sandwich shop Which Wich has been there a few years now; I wrote about them in this earlier Short Vine update.

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The tasty and friendly Caribbean restaurant Island Frydays is another store that has been there several years, offering good food, a chill vibe, and some fine reggae music as part of their dining experience. Here’s a link to their Facebook page:

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The 86 Club is a coffee house and concert venue at 2820 Vine Street with nice employees and some very comfortable places to sit/drink coffee/peck away at your laptop/read the paper. If you’re looking for a friendly, spacious, comfortable coffee house, this is the place to go. Here’s a link to their Facebook page:

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Here’s another shot inside the 86 Club:

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Next I chatted with Randall Henderson and Katie Reynolds, who were chilling in front of the Corryville Library. Both of them said they lived in the neighborhood and were happy to see the new changes on Short Vine:

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The attractive and business-savvy Joyce Burson, with a nice, confident smile, stood in front of Cute Pieces, her very stylish clothing store at 2726 Vine Street. Here’s a link to her Facebook page, and here’s an insightful article about Joyce and her store before it moved to its current location:

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At 2722 Vine I encountered Exclusive, a clothing store with lots of team jerseys, ballcaps and other sports-related items. The owner, Congo, has had two businesses (this one + the Steak and Lemonade store) for ten years, so he’s a Short Vine veteran, and he’s confident that in this post-construction phase Short Vine will become all that. A nice guy with a good sense of humor, he’s also – as the picture testifies – Cincinnati Reds fan. Here’s a link to his Facebook page:

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And don’t forget Taste of Belgium, a restaurant and bar that in warmer weather has lots of outdoor tables. After snapping a photo of the bar I asked what their best beer was, and that question sparked a huge controversy. The bartender rated Old Rasputin above all the others, while two hard-at-work researchers argued the merits of Triple Karmeliet and Pauwel Kwak. Clearly I’m going to have to go back there and settle this controversy myself. Here’s a link to the Facebook page for the Corryville location of Taste of Belgium, at 2845 Clifton:

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Just off Short Vine is the stylish and tasty restaurant + bar, Hangover Easy, which has a killer breakfast menu:

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A centerpiece of the neighborhood is Bogart’s, which has been a successful venue for decades and actually, as this earlier blog entry makes clear, has made some significant improvements lately.

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Here are a few other picture of stores on this street that boasts a diverse mix of small businesses that combine to make Short Vine a great neighborhood to shop in and visit. Come check it out – it’s prettier than ever, and there’s plenty to do there!

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Northside Record Fair on November 22

record fair 2014The Northside Record Fair is back! On November 22 you’ll be able to paw through thousands and thousands of albums and 45s; they’ll have classic rock, punk, soul, country, classical, electronic, and every other genre that has been put on wax. From common titles to the rarest of records, the record fair always delivers. Along with vinyl, there will be t-shirts, posters, memorabilia, and all sorts of fun items! Also there will be DJs spinning all day. Here’s the facts:

NORTHSIDE RECORD FAIR
Saturday, November 22nd
@ Northside Presbyterian Church
4222 Hamilton Ave

11am – 4pm = $5 admission
10am early bird entry = $10 admission

DJ’s For the Evening:

Yoni Wolf ( of Why?)
Alex Cobb (of the fantastic Students of Decay label)
Carl Truman (seen behind the counters of Everybody’s Records)
John Rich ( ex-Art Damage DJ)

Here’s a report on, and some photos of, the first ever Northside Record Fair:

http://blog.gaslightproperty.com/the-northside-record-fair-a-huge-success/

And here’s the Facebook page for this event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/349767128518398/

Bob Huggins For Mayor

bob huggins 003From 1989 to 2005 the University of Cincinnati had the most dynamic, charismatic, and intense basketball coach in the NCAA. The memory of watching Bob Huggins and his posse walk out out onto the court every game is imprinted permanently in the minds of sports fans everywhere. Brimming with attitude, Hugss & Co. lumbered out there like they were preparing for a street brawl. They played as tough as they looked, with a tenacity on defense that few teams have rivaled.

Ah, the good old days. As you may know, Bob Huggins continued to coach – and as you may also know, he would still be coaching at the University of Cincinnati were it not for some odd decision-making from a decision maker high up in the Ivory Tower. Bob Huggins now coaches for West Virginia, and as a result I have gone from caring less about their program to being a huge fan. I wish them luck in the upcoming season; everything starts with the right coach, and Bob Huggins is definitely the right man for the job. What prompted these reflections on Huggy Bear was eating breakfast at the Proud Rooster at 345 Ludlow Avenue the other morning. There’s a lot of sports memorabilia on the walls, and when I’m there I always look around a little, but for some reason I never fully digested the photograph at the top of this blog entry. Back in the glory days the Rooster was so enthusiastic about Huggs that they put up a sign that said Bog Huggins 4 Mayor and then took a photograph of the sign, framed it, and put it on their wall. Admittedly, my photo of the photo didn’t do it justice, but that doesn’t matter, because you need to see the original anyway, which you can do the next time you’re seeking breakfast food or fried chickcn.