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Whirlygig: 63: Out on the Town

The doldrums of a Cincinnati winter send folks road-tripping

By Brandon Brady · February 5th, 2003 · Whirlygig

Run, Run, Run, Run, Runaways
Thank goodness we've gotten to February. That means January is behind us. I don't have any hard feelings toward January other than the weather was less than forgiving and the holiday expenditures have a way of landing in the mailbox. The unfortunate news is that the real estate tax bill and all the year-end tax documents are also arriving.

Plus, if I'm honest, January is the month when struggling relationships that were only holding on by a thread due to the holidays get the heave-ho. The first of the year is when it's necessary to clean house, pay the piper and start with a clean slate. God, winter is depressing.

I figure this is a time to look for the bright spot on the horizon or a good place to go get away from it all. The islands would be nice, but my resolution to control the lifestyle spending makes that a guilt-ridden proposition. Instead I resolve to look closer to home. I did Columbus's Short North over the holidays and loved the gallery walk festivities that remind me of Bucktown in Chicago. Chicago is an idea, but way too frigid for my thin blood this time of year. Indianapolis is an option, but Keystone at the Crossing doesn't really offer anything we can't get locally at Rockwood Commons. Hmm. East is out. West and north are shot. I look to the south, which leaves a trip down I-71 or I-75.

Lexington or Louisville? In my book Lexington is best when Keeneland is running. Since it isn't October or April, Lexington is out. So Louisville is the choice. I seem to remember seeing billboards on Norwood Lateral advertising cheap airfares, which again is a temptation I must resist. Gas for my car is expensive enough, much less trying to pay for jet fuel from any airport.

I spot an advertisement for the Speed Museum exhibit Millet to Matisse and figure the ticket is gotolouisville.com since I'm planning last minute. Doesn't everyone operate by the seat of their pants by making weekend plans on Thursday night?

Guess not. The Web page won't let me do it for this weekend. That, of course, is the last weekend for the famed art exhibit. I jot down the 800 number and decide to try Louisville on Friday morning.

Sure enough, the package deal for a mere $79 is available when I get through to the visitors bureau on Friday morning. I have a suite and two vouchers to the Speed exhibit that's visiting from Scotland. Even better is the packet the hotel hands over upon check-in that has all kinds of good information. It seems Louisville has packaged themselves well to the out-of-town adventurer by including a whole list of places, restaurants and attractions that are 2-for-1 to those that visited gotolouisville.com.

My traveling companion is my 12-year-old daughter, Lane, who's thrilled with the idea of an indoor pool and extensive cable television. I bribe her with a swim after we go out for dinner at Kilamajaro downtown. They offer a buffet dinner that includes Ethiopian, Jamaican and African dishes that warm us from the inside out. Even she agrees that the food is yummy if unfamiliar. I can't budge her off the swimming idea with the Jesus Christ Superstar production next door or the Louisville Ballet performance, so we head back for an early night of swimming in a 94-degree pool that's not only aerobic exercise but incredibly relaxing. She stays up watching cable, and I sleep like a baby.

Refreshed and eager to get started Saturday, I drag Lane out early to the Speed Museum. We decide to grab McDonald's breakfast and end up seeing University of Louisville's campus on the way. When Lane asks me what U of L is known for, all I can think of is basketball, which is scary. Two students offer up the medical school and engineering programs as viable contributions to the world and I agree. We visit the bookstore and secure a couple of T-shirts just for good measure. I will say their new football stadium is large enough to look like a pro team plays there, and I don't even think of Kentucky as a football Mecca.

Churchhill Downs is shooting distance from the football arena, and we horse-crazed people head to the Derby Museum straight away. We find ourselves the only ones in the place and love every minute of it. I'm pleasantly surprised how cool the Derby Museum really is. Lane is enthralled with the video, the stimulated race and designing silks on the computer. We reluctantly end our visit with the gift shop and go on our merry way.

Glassworks is next on the art circuit tour, and we wander through downtown looking for it. We're tempted to visit the Slugger Museum, but since this is an official boy-break weekend for Mom, we pass and find the glass galleries.

Glassworks is the culmination of a vision to include three working art-glass studios under one roof. A tour of the facility illustrates how well this works out with artists working right under our noses even on a Saturday.

The Marta Hewitt Gallery is on the first floor, which transplanted from Cincinnati a little over a year ago. I overhear Marta saying she and her husband are happy with Louisville and still visit Cincinnati regularly. Her gallery surely is missed on Main Street.

Finally, after some cheap Chinese food back on U of L's campus, we get to the Speed Museum in time for the last entry at 4 o'clock to see the Millet to Matisse exhibit. It's packed and probably a mistake not to have come here first. Lane and I wind in and out of the masses to see the Monets, Van Goghs and Chigalls along with a host of other fine examples. The crowds aren't ideal for lingering, but it's inspiring to find so many enjoying the arts on a Saturday.

We head back to Cincinnati around dusk to witness a gorgeous sunset over the rambling hills of Kentucky. Lane falls asleep in the car and I listen to Santana, realizing that even a quick trip out of our city into another is a nice reprieve from the mid-winter doldrums. It also helps to see it through the eyes of a budding teen-ager.

It won't be long before she's the one who wants to run away from it all or needs a break from reality. For now I have enjoyed innocence and enthusiasm that money can't buy.

-- Wendy Robinson

Lady in Waiting
My friend Kristine and I needed a break from this city, so we took a mini road trip to Columbus, where the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (JSBX) was to play. Little Brothers is a club much like Bogarts, but one quarter of the size. They have darkness and griminess in common, as well as an interior that's probably changed little in nearly 30 years.

On the famously un-scenic drive to Columbus from Cincinnati, we kept ourselves entertained by deciding to form a band, naming a few songs and arguing about Pixies' song lyrics. We hadn't come to an agreement on the latter, even as we reached the outskirts of town. If you've ever listened to the Pixies, you know this to be an exercise in futility. (But I'm still right about "Preachy-Preach.")

We'd bought our tickets almost a week before the show, and according to my friend we'd be able to walk right in. It was a sold-out show and there seemed to be ample parking around the club, which should have been a sign of things to come.

Kristine and I arrived ready to be rocked by the JSBX but were forced to stand out in the cold for a half-hour until the doors opened. There was a handful of people already waiting patiently in line. They shuffled around, trying not to freeze in place. Snow was falling like glitter under the street lamps.

A tall man with long blond hair in a ponytail strode up the sidewalk. "I tell you what. I'm gonna get in there to see Jon Spencer Blues Explosion tonight!" It became clear shortly that he was drunk. We weren't sure how drunk until he flung a plastic bag, filled with his dinner, against a tree. The guy in line ahead of us then had linguini stuck to his jeans.

"Looks like the show is out here," I said to Kristine. It was almost 8 p.m., and one of the opening bands was still tuning up. The doors opened and the drunk blond man, who'd jumped in line slightly ahead us, was being thrown out right when we stepped foot in the club. I've never actually seen anyone physically kicked out of a club. There he lay on the sidewalk being literally shooed out of the way for paying customers.

Finally we made it in, got our wristbands and quickly lined up for drinks at the bar. After two hours in a car and a half-hour in the cold, you'd think I'd want some coffee, but beer was on the menu for me and vodka cranberry for my friend. Next stop was the T-shirt table. A cute, dark-haired guy was working and we just couldn't resist a memento.

With T-shirts, stickers and a pair of free plastic fangs to commemorate the Plastic Fang album, we headed over to the space to see the opening band. Kristine and I found a couple of seats on a wall with a good view. But a good view is nothing without a show. And for two hours nobody played. After an hour, I suggested a game of pool to pass the time.

We beat the first competitors easily, my game improving as I drank. The opposite was true of my friend, however, and we lost the second game and returned to our "seats," which had been confiscated by a couple who needed a room. Kissy-Kiss sat on the wall and her kissy face man stood below her. Floor space was slowly filling with people, but it still seemed pretty vacant for a Rock show.

"What's going on?" my friend asked, "I thought the show was sold out."

At 10, the first band went on. We struggled through that, eagerly awaiting Jon Spencer. When they were done, half an hour elapsed before -- groan -- another opening band played. Over the course of their set, their sound seemed to morph from Alterna-Metal to Blues. It was painful -- not because they were awful, but because, by the time they were done, we'd been at the club for four hours.

Kristine went to get another round of drinks while I sat alone and lit a cigarette. The smoke must've gotten to our lovebird neighbors -- or they finally decided to get a room -- and I had the wall to myself. Then, I saw a very thin, leather-pants-clad person brush by my feet, which dangled over the wall. Was that him, I wondered? No way. He was too short and hair too long. Minutes later, the leather pants (with Jon Spencer in them) were up on stage.

Kristine came back and I told her the story. I don't know whether she believed it or not, but her narrowing eyes -- and my lagging third wind -- were telling me we wouldn't make it any longer.

Jon Spencer did his regular stage antics, dropping to the floor and springing back up, but I had a feeling time was catching up with him. And it was catching up with us as well. After a debate about whether to spend the night in Columbus and see the rest or go back to Cincinnati, I began to crave my own bed with one of the other sexiest men alive in it.

We left after only a few songs. Although he still has my love, Jon Spencer and crew broke a cardinal rule -- you never keep a lady waiting or they'll surely know the blues.

-- Ilsa Venturini

A Just Escape
I decided to take a break from the dating scene this weekend and just spend time with friends. I went to Riverside Korean Restaurant in Covington on Friday night with Shannon. We haven't seen much of each other with her college schedule, so it was nice to catch up.

Both of us were running a little low on funds, so we decided to not go hog wild like we normally do. It's not unusual for us to run up a $60 to $80 bill for just the two of us there. We forced ourselves to one entrée apiece. I ordered Stone Bowl and Shannon ordered Huge Veggie. Shannon actually ordered her entrée in Korean. Of course the only words she knows in Korean are her favorite foods on Riverside's menu.

While we waited for our food, Shannon told me about her quarter so far. She'd just finished writing an English paper comparing our modern times to the 1950s. More specifically, how people lived somewhat happy lives focusing on economic prosperity while also dealing with the threat of nuclear war hanging over their heads. Her theory was that people could only take so much before they just got tired of worrying and started focusing on their own personal happiness.

On Saturday, that theory was proven to me. I woke up in the morning expecting to watch my usual four hours of cartoons, only to spend most of the time watching news coverage of the Columbia tragedy. After a few hours of watching all of the major networks tell me next to nothing about the tragedy, I decided to get out and away from my TV.

The first stop was Wal-Mart so I could buy a new cordless telephone. Normally the first thing you see when you walk into Wal-Mart is the professional greeter. This time the first thing I saw was a huge TV showing more news coverage of the disaster. I was so busy looking at the screen that I walked into two people.

I turned off the TV for the rest of the afternoon and waited to head out with Cathy. We'd made plans earlier in the week to see Beowulf: Doom of the Just at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.

The really cute girl that was sitting to the left of me started coughing really loudly at the start of the play. People five rows in front of me started to turn around. Then she grabbed both armrests, started rocking back and forth and started saying "Bullshit" over and over again. I really thought she had Turret's Syndrome. Only after she got up and started walking to the stage and arguing with the one of the actors did I realize that she was actually part of the show. It was definitely one of the most memorable beginnings to a play I'd ever seen.

Cathy and I both enjoyed the play. Like the other non-Shakespeare plays I've seen there, it was a thinker. You had to pay careful attention to the play, or you could get lost in the plot and all of the multiple characters that each actor plays.

-- R.L. Newman

You read Whirlygig every week, now we want to hear your stories. Send them to whirlygig@citybeat.com.


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