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Whirlygig: 80: Out on the Town

Dampness deters the butterflies, but nothing can stop the crowds at the CAC

By Brandon Brady · June 4th, 2003 · Whirlygig
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Butterflies Are Free
Saturday, my friend Kristine and I decided to do something out of our usual routine and actually hang out in daylight without beers in our hand. So we headed to Krohn Conservatory to see the butterfly show.

We walked around to the side of the building to pay and encountered a little sign that read, "No fruit beyond this point." This prompted Kristine's jab of "Sorry, looks like you can't get in." I didn't have one of my usual quick-witted responses handy, but the cashier did.

"I haven't heard that one enough today," she said. While I was laughing, the lady gave us free passes to come again next week.

We went to the first of two doors where we had to wait for a worker to open yet another door so that any butterflies with big ideas couldn't escape. I expected to see the winged creatures swarming all around, but as it turns out they don't care for damp weather. This explained the free passes we were given.

It was a little crowded, so we inched along looking for the brightly-colored insects amongst the green. Finally, I spotted a pretty orange-colored one. It was a lovely color, but he wasn't being very entertaining so I meandered around looking for other performers.

There were some fruit trees, including a kumquat tree, which a couple of butterflies were hanging around. I pointed out one butterfly to Kristine, who started giggling about the kumquat tree. Apparently we were in good company.

"For some reason, butterflies only land on children," my friend pointed out. When I asked why, she said it was because they stood so still. But considering I don't know many kids who could be described as obedient little statues, I figured it was something else.

I saw conservatory workers with little bowls. When I found out it was a sweet liquid they brushed on people's hands to coax butterflies to land on them, I had my answer.

Two butterflies had set up camp on a woman's shoulder. Apparently, they thought the flower print on her shirt was a meadow. Several people were snatching photos of such cute moments, and I later learned there was an amateur photo contest for the show. I imagined coming next week with my little half-sister and camera in tow, butterflies perching on her hair. With her big, almond-shaped brown eyes, we'd win the contest easy. But it just wouldn't be fair to the others, I decided.

After visiting a room with caterpillars behind glass munching on foliage and children making cutouts of butterflies, we decided to see the rest of the conservatory. While waiting to be let in the doors, we spotted a gorgeous extrovert flying around some high trees. When he opened his dark wings, an iridescent blue was revealed.

"Show off," Kristine said jokingly. That was the pot calling the kettle black, I thought.

Once inside the first round of doors, we got our hands stamped so we could return. I looked down at the little blue butterfly stamp on my hand and felt like a kid. It occurred to me that I should be doing more innocent activities such as this. Later on, when someone was still giggling over the kumquat tree, I decided innocence wasn't entirely regainable.

After checking out the jungle plants, we headed into the gift shop. I concluded I didn't need little earrings with ladybugs on them and waited outside. My friend emerged with two butterfly-shaped suckers swinging atop long, plastic sticks and gave me one. Feeling a little too precious, we left for the real world -- lunch and coffee at Sitwell's.

Our server was a dark-haired cutie was an endearing limp, who we ogled and admitted to feeling a little lecherous. We were, after all, at least three years older than he was. We exchanged bragging stories about how our boyfriends treated us like adored princesses. While I was contemplating my upcoming birthday and nibbling on the first half of a salami, cream cheese and cucumber sandwich, I noticed Kristine had only crumbs left on her plate.

"I'm a very efficient eater," she said.

She would later confess to two facts:

1. She'd ordered two TV-advertised products.

2. There was a little trouble in paradise.

"Do you ever get bored by your boyfriend?" she asked. I honestly replied that, no, I didn't get bored with him. I did, however, admit to getting bored with myself. In which case, I usually rearranged one of the rooms in my apartment.

Personality conflicts, it seemed, had reared their ugly heads. My friend is a gregarious person whose last two boyfriends have been quiet, retiring types. She revealed she'd chosen them because being with someone too similar to herself would result in conflict. And aren't we all, I thought, looking for someone with whom we can have peace. Or at lease a state of anti-war.

It was later that day when I was reminded how lucky I am. Watching the movie Adaptation with my boyfriend, he stole a line from the movie.

"You're my flower," he said. I guess you have to see the film.

-- Ilsa Venturini

MidPoint Break
Main Street in Over-the-Rhine looks like there's a been a shooting. It's 6 o'clock and TV camera trucks are everywhere. This Thursday evening, however, the cameras were there for a positive reason: The MidPoint Music Festival press conference at Rhythm and Blues Cafe.

I get inside by 6:30, and the crowd of MPMF volunteers (this is my category) and organizers is gathering along with politicians, reporters and RBC regulars. Pike 27 is warming up on stage. Mayor Charlie Luken arrives, dressed casually. Councilman John Cranley arrives in a suit. I mingle a bit and then head for the bar. RBC's Happy Hour features $1 domestic beers, and I know you gotta dig that. I pick up a Rolling Rock and mingle some more.

I run into Dale Johnson.

You know, the guy who's at nearly every live show around here taking pictures (and gets many published in CityBeat. How does he do it? He buys me another beer. What a nice dude. Then the press conference is under way.

Various important people -- Cranley, a representative from DCI, the mayor and then the real men of the hour, Sean Rhiney and Bill Donabedian, the organizers of MidPoint -- take the stage to talk. Turns out the city has decided to get behind the festival this year in a major way (read: big sponsorship bucks). Also, turns out that the festival will be all in Cincinnati, all on Main Street, and that they nearly doubled their artist submissions this year. (They got nearly 1,000). This is all majorly cool.

The conference is over and the crowd is still taking full advantage of the cheap beers when Pike 27 takes the stage and plays a rockin' set. Abiyah even gets up onstage and hits the crowd with some floetry as the band backs her up. In between trying to avoid the TV cameras -- even though I'm well past 21, I still don't want Mom seeing me on TV with a beer in my hand -- I catch myself thinking a seemingly unpopular thought these days: "Cincinnati is very cool."

The band finishes, 8 o'clock arrives -- and, alas, the end of $1 beers, so my impoverished self has to lay off -- and Bill Price from Channel 9 is trying to find a regular RBC patron to interview. Some of the guys from Readymaid (one of my favorite local bands) show up. I joke to one of them that they should streak in front of the Channel 9 camera. Another of the guys quips, "Yeah. It'd be '9 on My Backside,' " to which we all have another very good laugh. No streaking happens, and when Price asks if I'm a regular I promptly say no. I'm actually not, and I'm still worried about that whole Mom thing.

I hang out a little while longer, get to chat with some of the guys from Pike 27 and Whitney Barricklow for a bit, while a couple of the members of local teenage rock sensation Premium hand out CDs. They graduated high school yesterday and sold 350 copies of their record to their class. These kids are gonna be famous. Just you watch and see.

It's now nearly 10. The juke box selection has changed to 50 Cent and my Rolling Rocks have worn off. Time to go home. Rhiney is kind enough to make sure I get to my car OK. This is, after all, still OTR. I happily cruise home with "Up in tha club, mama I got what you need, you need to feel a buzz..." stuck in my head. The bass line of that song is like MSG.

Thank you, 50 Cent. Thank you, Dale. Thank you, Charlie. Thank you, Pike 27. Thank you, Channel 9. Thank you, Sean and Bill. And thank you, RBC. Who needs "Must See TV" when you can have this much fun on a Thursday night in, gasp, downtown Cincinnati?

If this is any indication of how fun MidPoint is gonna be this year, then I can't wait. See you in September!

-- Ericka McIntyre

Furniture Fair
I've never been more pleasantly surprised with the people of Cincinnati than I was last Saturday night at the Contemporary Arts Center members opening party. The huge main tent on Walnut Avenue between the CAC and the Aronoff Center was already packed wall to wall with people when Mary and I arrived at 7:30 p.m.

I was wearing a vintage tuxedo from Casablanca and Mary was wearing a very striking floral print skirt with black lace around it with a black jacket. We had to dress very formal because not only were we going to the CAC opening but we were also going to a prom-themed party.

Mary had a little problem with maneuvering through the crowd in the tent to get near the front entrance of the CAC. Fortunately, my years of dealing with large crowds at Bogart's and Hara Arena in college paid off. I was able to guide us to the end of the line for entrance into the museum. The CAC was so crowded at the time we were trying to get in that the building was actually at capacity. They would let someone in only when someone else left.

Once inside the building we ran into my friends, Bob and Christine. Those two have been married for so long they've actually started to look alike. Since the place was so packed and we thought it was going to be hard to really enjoy the art, we decided to join forces and tour the museum together.

One of our favorite new works was a room with wood panel, shag carpeting and twin movie screens showing home movies from the early '70s. In the middle of the room was a really old couch I couldn't help but sit on. The couch was so worn out that our butts nearly touched the floor when we sat down. I actually had to help pull Mary out of the couch when we wanted to leave.

I couldn't contain my glee when we made it up to the "Un-Museum" on the top floor and I saw the Hypo-floor. It was one of my favorites at the old building. It's a floor that's a three-dimensional hyperbolic shape with chairs and tables you can sit in. I can't describe how much fun it is to walk on that floor. It's even cooler to walk underneath it and see all of the carpentry work that went into making a floor like that.

After an hour of wall-to-wall people and really cool art, Mary and I were famished and headed off to Uno's. We ended up getting a pretty romantic outside table on the upstairs balcony by ourselves, but a guy with a cigar that smelled like ass came outside and ruined the mood.

After dinner we headed off to Gusto's in Mount Adams for the fictional prom of St. Pepperoni High School. This prom was exponentially better than the two I went to in high school. For starters, it was all you can drink for $15 (thank goodness Mary was driving). Secondly, I didn't get stuck on a triple date where the two other guys ditched their dates for girls they met on Fountain Square.

-- R.L. Newman

Intersection Interchange
The event is the grand opening preview party of the Contemporary Arts Center. The evening is the culmination of a multitude of creative and committed minds. Even in the wildest imagination it's hard to wrap your mind around the reality of how we metamorphed a CAC above a Walgreen's drug store into a huge gala on Sixth and Walnut streets at the feet of a brand-spanking new modern art icon. Certainly it wasn't simple or inexpensive, but it's a great excuse to celebrate.

The number of people who turned out to toast Zaha Hadid's architectural genius was bigger than anything I've ever seen at an art premiere. My friend Richard commented that he didn't know this many people liked contemporary art. I countered with the idea that quite possibly everyone was just excited to be dressed up and looking fabulous under a see-through tent the size of a house. We didn't mind navigating the line for bar tickets. Rubbing elbows with all the other art patrons staved off the brisk Canadian air. Plus the cleavage in abundance was just fingertips away and caused us to snicker more than once.

Acoustically the tent played havoc with our eardrums. I longed to hear some consistent stream of music. Instead it seemed like everyone but musicians ravished the mike at the front of the tent. As the noise level grew, the snaking line to actually enter the CAC grew larger than a monstrous boa constrictor in the Amazon. Richard and I decided to postpone jumping in line until, say, 10 o'clock, when this town normally heads back to the suburbs. Of course, we weren't sure this noisy crowd resided in the suburbs or in the city, but we were thrilled to see them as a refreshing alternative to the carnival crowd at other Cincinnati summer music festivals.

We scurried out a side exit and over to Bella, where we realized many others had beaten us to the punch. It was equally great to rub elbows there with the martini-and-chardonnay crowd. When Cincinnati comes out of the woodwork, it does so thirsty. We found a table of friends and were slightly jealous of their appetizers and seats but said our hellos without drooling openly.

Richard and I had both chosen to valet our cars at La Normandie earlier and meet there for a drink or two, so it seemed time to cross the street over to Nicholson's as we left Bella's. Why not hit all the places? We both agreed Ruby's was next on the list, but I reminded Richard I was going to see the inside of the CAC before the night was over!

Fortified by dinner and more drinks at Nicholson's, Richard and I returned to the tent around 10 ready to walk the galleries at the CAC. We were right that the lines would have disappeared by this time, but the crowds were still present and jubilant as we entered the main doors. I have to say that art is best experienced when surrounded by others. It gives me the feeling that all artists are happy in heaven and on earth, as art is indeed meant to be shared. The good news is that a lot of sharing was going on in all six floors of the CAC.

The stairs give the appearance of an escalator but, alas, at closer inspection they indeed were immobile and our legs had to do the walking. Enormous freight elevators became our alternative mode of transportation when we realized that standing on asphalt and concrete for the last several hours had fatigued us more than we realized. But I really did prefer the view from the steps as we peered up and down the slanted and somewhat austere facades of the galleries. It surprised us both that the street isn't more visible from the building, but we suspected that some of the private gallery areas have views. Then again, it could've just been difficult for us to get our bearings surrounded by so many people and after so many cocktails.

We bumped into my friend Stephan on one of the upper galleries about the time Richard was beginning to raise his eyebrows about the artists being showcased. As we floated from the hot tub among driftwood to the video of multiple Asian men dropping their trousers sans underwear, we arrived just in time to see the continuous thread video of the artist shaving her pubic hair rather savagely. It became obvious that, in the 13 years since Mapplethorpe, art continues to push the envelope. The jury is still out, at least in my trio, as to whether the art has merit.

Stephan and Richard laughed that the rotunda-style Astroturf building in another gallery was similar to the hideouts their parents made them take down in the woods when they were in puberty. I pointed out the men in boxes in a gallery over where one man was experiencing puberty on camera. We did manage to find the humor in it all. While we didn't volunteer to shed our clothes and climb in the yellow-tinged water of the hot tub, Stephan did take a stab at the exhibit named "Paavo's Hands," though I preferred to watch and smile on the sidelines.

My favorite part of the evening was the fact that everyone seemed proud of the CAC. I'm not sure we all agreed that it's the most important event since the Cold War -- which is how Jay, a UC student, remembered The New York Times describing this international event in contemporary art and architecture. Who knows what exactly was said? We were all drinking and having fun.

Let's just say it's a great addition to a city that could use a kick in the pants, even if it's a guy wearing a feather boa and embroidered pants. By the way, the cowboy hat did accent the pants nicely.

-- Wendy Robinson


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