The day was done.
A man crossed the canal onto Vine Street after a long day’s work, a powerful thirst ready to be quenched with a stein of cold beer at the end of a four block walk on a warm July evening. Upon entering Weilert’s beer garden, the scent of wiener schnitzel and fried potatoes demanded his immediate attention. Brand’s orchestra, which was getting better every week, delicately threaded songs between the throngs of people gathered beneath rows of hanging plants; two men in black top hats on their zweite lager laughing together through pipe smoke, a lavishly-dressed woman introducing her daughter to a smiling man politely doffing his cap, the regular Boss Cox and his entourage lounging comfortably at a table covered in sticky rings of old beer, a contemplative man sitting alone with a thousand-yard stare and four and a half full steins ahead of him, a young barkeep holding position behind the counter waiting to pass another round to another eager customer, and a quiet man in the middle of the room surveying the scene while sketching it into a notebook.
Weilert’s was the largest and most popular beer garden in the city and it was brimming with life as usual. It’d been open twenty years since the owner, that gallant Union veteran soldier of the Civil War, turned the block between Vine and Walnut at 14th into a covered gathering place for new Germans and native Cincinnatians alike. Nary a sour face beneath beard nor bonnet could be witnessed among the crowd; only high spirits and a familiar energy punctuated the collective heartbeat of the garden’s inhabitants. And as the bar poured amber drink into heavy glass, and as the band played golden melody to the contented mass, the man knew he belonged nowhere else but at Weilert’s this perfect summer evening.
It was 1893. It was OTR.