The new Cincinnati Wing at the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) in Eden Park has suffered just a tad from the whirlwind of excitement over the opening of the new Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). A slight overshadowing at least occurred in my mind due in large part to the fact that the CAC was indeed bringing a new building along with the hope of new life for our urban center. Still, I had a mental note stored to remind myself to see the display of local masters in Mount Adams.
On a rainy Wednesday evening, with the promise of free admission and the museum open until 9, it seemed appropriate to explore the Cincinnati Wing and partake of a museum walking tour commencing at 7:30. As I rounded the bend at Mirror Lake on my way up the hill to the museum, the sunbeams broke through the clouds illuminating the water. Walkers and runners were visible all around along with families enjoying the scenery. The effect of the gray week was somewhat lifted when I realized summer is green and alive in this little piece of heaven situated on a hill overlooking the river.
It was only 7 p.m. when I entered the art museum, and it seemed more alive than the last time I was there, which had to be in part due to the number of other visitors present. Certainly we have the Rosenthal Foundation to thank for making the free admission possible. It opens the doors to those previously intimidated by the enormous desks in the main hall manned by individuals with computers.
I've often thought that it can be intimidating to enter a museum as it's usually deathly quiet and cavernous -- not unlike a grand cathedral. Imagine being able to breeze in without stopping and removing the fear of not being able to afford the price of admission and you undoubtedly make art more accessible and inviting. Hats off to the Rosenthals for not just making the CAC happen downtown but also to making the CAM a busier place!
I had enough time to get the lay of the galleries and sneak a peak at the redesigned bistro menu. There weren't many diners at 7 p.m., but this would be a great place to meet for lunch or dinner with friends or a new love interest. The green of Eden Park is splendid as viewed from the large windows. Solo dinners would be comfortable here as well -- reading or drawing while grabbing a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. If the food is halfway decent, it'll be popular as it scores very high on style and atmosphere. Plus, let's face it -- the place has culture on its side.
The walking tour of the evening was focusing on four landscape artists and commenced in the gallery called Extraordinary Gifts: Selected Paintings from the Procter and Gamble Company. A small group of 15 or so had gathered to hear our speaker give interesting and historical perspective to the landscape paintings on display that were by artists with Cincinnati ties who also had paintings featured in the new Cincinnati Wing.
We listened intently as we were told that one of the paintings was of Eden Park while another was a winter scene from Avondale. It brought the art alive. As we moved through the galleries to find the specific paintings we were looking for, it also occurred to me the people around me made the art more exciting as well.
The talk lasted a mere 45 minutes, and we dispersed to look around at our leisure at the multitude of extraordinary pieces on display. It seemed like this museum I've visited a multitude of times over the years was suddenly new again and as intriguing as any other art museum in the world -- including the one everyone is talking about just down the hill at Sixth and Walnut.
Cow, Got Your Tongue!
After a business trip took me to out of town for two days, it was nice to come home. Indianapolis has a thriving downtown that puts our city to shame, but it lacks all the people I know and care about.
Saturday afternoon, rested and refreshed from the trip, I went to Starbucks in Clifton for a little instant wake-me-up -- some overpriced coffee.
With armor in hand, my boyfriend and I bypassed the ghetto Kroger we normally shop at and drove through the downpour to Over-the-Rhine's Findlay Market.
First we bought a couple of items for our backyard garden -- jalepeno and roma tomato plants. Not having green thumbs, I wonder if they'll ever find their way into the ground.
Before I started looking like a wet T-shirt contestant, I urged my boyfriend to buy one thing. It didn't take much convincing on my part, considering the weather of late. Next purchase was an umbrella from an entrepreneurial fellow at an incense stand.
As I fumbled to open the umbrella, hold my latte and smoke a cigarette, I spotted Over-the-Rhiner Jim Tarbell. While I got caffeinated on the sidelines, my boyfriend jumped into play and ordered a ton of produce. He was to prepare Father's Day dinner so we loaded up on veggies, then headed into the yet-to-be-renovated stall where meats and cheeses are sold.
I stood in awe of the selection. By this measure, my PB&J workweek lunch routine seemed stale. At a counter with little German flags all around, I felt at home. I made faces over the Braunschweiger as images of my grandmother slicing the brown roll and its smell like nothing else filled my head. A German apple juice made with sparkling mineral water would surely wipe the rancid stuff from my memory.
Suddenly salami sounded good to me, but there were about eight kinds to chose from. After the tough decision, it was time to pick out cheese. There was triple cream this and peppered that. It all looked so heavenly and fattening.
Since they didn't have gouda, we were given a sample of edam to taste, which wasn't too far off. Not a terribly fancy eater, I simply wanted something that would work with the salami.
"Excuse me," I said to the woman behind the counter, "but do you have American cheese?"
"Surprisingly, we do," she said.
The stall was bustling with people of all shapes and backgrounds. It was really like being in another city, shopping at the market. Behind me, I found an Italian counter and quickly spotted a favorite treat but couldn't remember if it was called "cannelloni" or "cannoli." Once I made up my mind to risk embarrassment, I ordered and got exactly what I wanted.
On the way back to the car, we stopped in at another meat store for sirloin tips. I saw a large, pinkish meat that looked possibly like seafood, only it was too neatly square and folded over. When I learned it was cow's tongue, I almost cleared the store with disbelief. Once I piped down, I had to rethink my mental picture of cows gently grazing in a pasture. How they aren't able to wipe clean an entire farm I'll never know.
Driving home, the rain tapered off and I became exceptionally hungry.
"So, where do you want to eat?" I asked. Considering my typical 2 fast 2 furious food diet, this wasn't a surprise. Instead, we made sandwiches at home (an ingenious concept) with food from the market.
Later in the day, the rain clouds reappeared when I learned Semantics had been raided by police. Apparently, only moments after I'd left last week cops arrived at the gallery thinking there was a rave going on. They didn't find what they were looking for but did find the donation jar and some beers. Thinking the gallery was illegally selling alcohol, a citation was given. I felt my heart sink for David Dillon, who only uses the donations to keep the gallery afloat.
I'd only been offered beers there and couldn't even remember anyone intoxicated. Of all the places in this city, Semantics is the last place I would expect the city to attack. It was truly unbelievable.
When I saw David later that night at The Comet, he wasn't allowed to speak about the situation for obvious legal reasons. But I expressed my sympathy, support and hopes that things be settled fairly and quickly. It's times like these that I dream of living in a city that doesn't burn out its brightest stars.
What a Bunch of Chickens
The first weeks of June mark the beginning of the summer festival season. My favorite festival in Cincinnati is still the Greek Festival, but my favorite overall has to be Poultry Days in Versailles (pronounced "Ver-Sails"), Ohio.
Versailles is a small town of 2,300 people about an hour northwest of Dayton, near Piqua. Poultry Days, as the name would suggest, is a festival dedicated to chicken. According to the Web site, the town cooks over 20,000 smoked chicken dinners during the three-day festival. There's also a small carnival complete with pony rides, kid-sized roller coasters, bingo, Mrs. Chick competition for high school girls and, my personal favorite, cheap beer.
I also like going to Poultry Days every year because it also holds one of the largest Ultimate Frisbee tournaments in North America. There were 70 teams at this year's tournament, which means that there are nearly 1,000 Ultimate players camping in the small town for the weekend. There were teams this year from as far away as San Diego, Seattle and even Dallas. It's kind of an Ultimate players reunion. I always run in to people who I never see anyplace else besides Poultry Days.
After the team I was playing on, Gizzard (all team names have to have a chicken theme for the weekend), went two for two during very wet and muddy pool play on Saturday, we all decided to head to the carnival to drink our fair share of Busch Light. Walking around the carnival for a couple of hours made me wish I'd chosen dentistry as a profession. If I had, I could have made a fortune off of some of the locals there. It was hard to tell if I was still in Ohio or walking the streets of London when someone smiled at me.
After beer run No. 4, my friends and I decided to check out the cover band that was playing underneath the main tent. As soon as we got there, they started playing one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix songs, "Voodoo Child." The weird thing was that they were actually covering the Stevie Ray Vaughn cover of "Voodoo Child." Ten minutes into the song, the guitar player launched into a solo of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," while the rhythm section kept playing "Voodoo Child." For some reason I found the mix of the two songs very disturbing and made everyone leave the tent area so that we could explore one of the local bars in town.
The bar we all could agree on was ironically named Moo's Tavern. It was empty except for one drunken guy at the end of the bar and the six bartenders when we showed up. When I asked the bartender why it was so dead, she said it was always like that during Poultry Days until the festival lets out at midnight, and then the bar is standing room only.
While all of my friends broke off into little sub-groups of activity like playing pool, putting money into the jukebox and playing the video-touch screen games, I decided to strike up a conversation with the drunk local. He looked just like Steve Zahn in the movie Happy, Texas, complete with the baseball cap, flannel shirt, John Deere hat and long mustache.
At first he asked me a lot of questions about Ultimate Frisbee, but before I knew it we were arm wrestling. Even though we were similar in weight, he beat me easily. It turns out that not only is this guy a carpenter, but he was also a pro arm wrestler for a couple of years. We spent the next half an hour talking about arm wrestling. He even showed me three easy moves I can use to beat people who are twice as strong as I am.
I've lived in medium to big cities all of my life, and every time I go to a small town like Versailles I'm stunned by how uncontrollably friendly people are. Every local we passed on our long walk back to the camping site smiled and wished us "Goodnight," no matter how drunk they were. If only people in Cincinnati could be that nice when they've been drinking.
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