I bought a prime 50mm lens that opens up to f/1.8 with some extra money I'd saved. I went over to both my parents' house and my sister's house last week to get a few quick shots of their dogs while there (and a friend's dog who happened to be there, too). Even though it opens up that wide, I still had to bump up the ISO to 400 in most shots and even 1600 in others due to low light conditions. I really hate going above 400, but its necessary at times. The dramatic DOF was really fun to play with; getting up close on their nose totally blurs their eyes and vice versa. While these are by no means perfect shots, it taught me something about where the focus needs to be if shooting at f/1.8 . I figured I'd post them here because who doesn't want to see super cute pups?
The internet has afforded me the pleasure of meeting a variety of wonderful people throughout the course of my life; some local, some in other states, some halfway across the world. It provides me access to bright minds regardless of geography which enriches my own life as a result. Social media like Instagram and Twitter continuously deliver in this regard and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be a happier person without them. Last week I received a gift for my 30th birthday from an artist called Laura in Bristol, England, and I was reminded of how fortunate I am to live in a world where I can have friends across an ocean and that someone as generous as Laura would be willing to send me a piece of her art.
I’d been fascinated by one particular piece she did awhile ago. It’s a brooch made of felt in the style of a full English breakfast, replete with sausages, bacon, fried tomatoes, toast, and (of course) an egg. I saw it on her website and told her how much I liked it. She handmade another one and sent it to me as a result (below). Every piece is carefully stitched together with colored thread to give it further detail, culminating in a felt plate with felt food perfectly arranged. Guys, I cannot overstate how perfectly this little brooch is; it’s both ingenious and adorable simultaneously. It’s a soft replica of a delicious meal I’ve only ever had a handful of times years ago, and it strikes me in a powerfully nostalgic way despite it being just breakfast.
She also sent a tremendously thoughtful, handmade card as icing on the cake. It was very sweet of her and I appreciate the gesture immensely. I’ve put it in my case of valuable artifacts from my life that represent my journey thus far (if you don't already have a case of valuable artifacts from your life, I suggest making one because they’re fun to go through from time to time).
So here’s the thing: Laura is a very talented artist. When we first connected on Twitter, I didn’t realize she was so talented because I didn't see the link to her blog with her collected works. Once I’d discovered her gallery, I was smitten with it. I think the main reason I love her work so much is because it has a distinct quality that reminds me of something specific from my childhood, but I cannot for the life of me determine what that something is. It’s this subconscious connection and feeling that draws me back to it over and over. The best explanation is it reminds me a summer day with blue skies and cumulus clouds with bees and humidity all around while not having a plan for the day, and also of a carefree rainy morning when the grass looks extra green and the plants dance around under the falling rain and you can see the bees huddled and cozy in their hive and you’re just enjoying the moment you’ve been given. I think it must be the innocence of being a child and learning about the world around you when you haven’t had long to learn from it. Everything is new and crazy but it all makes sense and it’s familiar somehow. Her art elicits these memories through carefully crafted visual vignettes that target that specific nerve. It’s honestly the best way I can describe how her work connects with me and why I enjoy it so fervently.
Every piece she does is a brilliant picnic carefully laid out on a blanket in a pastel pasture of infinite grass just waiting to be populated with lovely, smiling creatures. From cats to ghosts to hybrid beasts of her own creation, Laura infuses every shape with a proprietary cheer that cannot be found anywhere else but at the tip of her pen. When you go to her Instagram page, the first things you’ll probably notice (as of this writing) are the adorable, anthropomorphized pastel cats in various outfits. My favorite is the smug little king cat holding a scepter and looking pleased with himself.
Adorable felt creations cuter than a baby duckling riding the back of a fluffy border collie puppy are in her wheelhouse as well. Like I said about the brooch she made me earlier, these are among my favorite works of hers because they add an entire new dimension to her artistry. Just look at that smiling apple!
She also creates these quirky composites deliberately sorted to maintain interest. When she posts a new one, I find myself spending several minutes just taking in every shape and connecting them to see how they relate, if they relate at all, and contemplating what their placement relative to the others says about the piece. When I look at them again, I find myself discovering new characters and details I’d missed before. Her composites are short stories I want to be told to me again and again.
Those details are one of the key reasons I keep revising her oeuvre. They’re often small and subtle, demanding extra attention in order to see and appreciate, and they reward the sharp-eyed observer with a deeper chuckle. They’re often cheery and add layers to the focal point which adds a richer flavor to the entire piece overall. The details are the chocolate syrup on a scoop of delicious ice cream. My favorite details are found in the snail drawing below. I love that the snail is looking at "bugs!" on his computer which is next to a cat book called "Meow Vol. III."
Her monochrome pieces delve into an emotional area the other drawings seemingly avoid. These can be haunting in a way (specifically the red and white drawing below), and I like how they showcase her ability to do both whimsy as well as more serious stuff (or so I think is serious stuff). This choice to keep certain drawings monochrome is wonderful for examining the range of emotion one can feel from her art.
Some of her work is straight up abstract and devoid of a blatant narrative like the others, sometimes ditching the whimsy altogether in lieu of something harder but worth trying to understand. I really appreciate these drawings, much like the monochrome pieces, because they explore a related-yet-altogether-different scene. The colors she has chosen for each one and the way the lines are arranged each beg to be understood but remain mysterious. One can guess what they represent, but the interpretations are bound to be plentiful and varied between viewers. Sometimes the art is simply a pattern, as well. The bird pattern is my favorite.
If you’re not already aware of Laura, hopefully you’ll head to her website, lauripopdraws.wordpress.com, and give her entire gallery a look. She’s a nice lady whom I’m glad to have met through the internet, and I’d like the rest of my readers to befriend her as well. Follow her on Twitter (she’s very funny), catch up with her on Instagram, check out her Tumblr, like her page on Facebook, and commission her to do art for you. She’s a good egg.
Today I researched how to take an audio file and remove the background noise in Adobe Audition. I needed to learn how to do this so I can conduct interviews for an upcoming project I'm going to do for a local non-profit, so in order to test out what I'd learned in an interesting way, I walked up to Wilkymacky Alley and recorded the alley speaker (if you've been past the alley, you'll know what I mean). I took it home and removed the high pitched bleating that accompanies the warning and composed the video above using the new audio, a video of TV static to replace the grey sky for a moving visual component, and a static picture of the Wilkymacky street sign I took earlier this week. I repeated the video three times to illustrate how it can be posted to Instagram and looped infinitely.
It's not my first foray into mixed media, but it's the first time I've done anything in-depth with audio and I'm happy with the result.
A rough sketch of Bob Schwartz. He's notable as both a friendly Cincinnati persona and as a key documentarian during today’s Renaissance in the Queen City. He’s undoubtedly unique, sporting an iconic aesthetic to back up his distinctive personality, which highlights his persona among the masses in the urban core and surrounding area. People trust and relate to him on myriad levels due to his consistent support of quality people, places, and things; from local businesses to interesting venues to significant people in the community, he highlights the best the city has to offer. Many follow Bob on social media, read his informative blog, and meet up with him around town because he’s both approachable and genuinely interesting. Whenever I’ve spoken to him myself, I’ve routinely come away from the conversation enlightened in some meaningful way. He’s also an avid supporter of public transit and biking and encourages ideas to promote a more walkable Cincinnati, something about which I myself (while less vocal) am equally passionate. And he’s everywhere. If someone is tuned into the community of the CBD, OTR, the West End, or Northside, there’s a high likelihood they know or know of Bob. Being so plugged in as he is, he continuously documents the happenings around Cincinnati with camera and keyboard, reaching out to the community as a friend, encouraging positivity wherever possible, and questioning authority when it needs to be questioned.
It’s inconceivable that you’d be reading this blog without also sharing awareness of Bob’s, but in the event you’re unfamiliar, head over to 5chw4r7z.blogspot.com for a curated guide to the spirit of Cincinnati and the elements that make it so wonderful.
Cincinnati is well-known for its German heritage because of the immigrants who settled in Over-the-Rhine and the surrounding area so many years ago. But I want to take a moment to recount the story of an Italian-American entrepreneur who ventured to the Queen City in the early 20th century to open what would become a culinary staple in the city for more than a hundred years. This is the story of Salvatore Scoleri, the founder of Scotti’s Italian Restaurant.
He was born in Gerace, southern Italy in 1882. When Scoleri was 15 years old, he became an officer’s cook in the Italian army and travelled frequently, honing his talent as a chef. In 1905, he immigrated to the US with a plan to set up shop in Philadelphia. On the boat over, he befriended a man named Antonio Scotti, a baritone singer with a plan to rise to stardom in America. Once he got to Philadelphia, Scoleri opened his first restaurant, called “The European Restaurant.” While Scotti was making it big in the metropolitan area, Scoleri “had to leave town for some reason” and moved to Cincinnati (specifically White Oak) where he opened a new restaurant in 1912 along the Miami-Erie Canal (present day Central Parkway). He called it “Scotti’s” to honor his friend who had finally made it big like he planned when they met on the boat.
The restaurant moved, eventually landing at 1435 Race Street (the building directly across the street from present day Taft’s Ale House). On January 13th, 1918, Scoleri was shot in the chest by a man named John Ciullo at the Race Street restaurant during a dispute. Ciullo, after being arrested and questioned by CPD, cited self-defense. The argument was reported to be the result of a grudge between the two men dating back to their days within the Italian army almost two decades prior. Scoleri narrowly survived the shooting and lived 43 more years, serving countless dishes to paying customers until his retirement shortly after WWII. Tenerina, Scoleri’s daughter who married into the DiMarco family in October of 1930, took over the business thereafter.
Salvatore Scoleri passed away in May of 1961, only 4 months after his wife. Scotti’s moved several more times before finally settling at the present day Vine Street location and has been run by four generations of the Scoleri-DiMarco family since it opened 103 years ago.
"La Storia." Scottis Italian Restaurant RSS. Web. 07 Jan. 2016. <http://scottiscincinnati.com/history/>.
“Grudge Born in Italy.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 14 Jan. 1918: 2. Print.
“Salvatore Scoleri; Scotti’s Founder.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 25 May. 1961: 40. Print.
Ashton, Judy. “Tenerina V. DiMarco.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 13 Jun. 1992: 33. Print.
Campbell, Polly. “La famiglia runs Scotti’s by tradition.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 11 Dec. 2005: 66. Print.
2015 was like trying to ride a bicycle up Elm Street between 12th and 14th. The cobblestone thoroughfare that connects the two numbered streets is a challenge to navigate on two spindly wheels as you pass the Transept, Memorial Hall, and Music Hall on your left and the massive Washington Park on your right. If you seek a smooth ride, you can attempt to ride along one of the concrete bits on either side of the streetcar track, but doing so increases your chances of falling; anyone who’s tried to cross the streetcar track without hitting it as perpendicularly as possible knows the tire can get wedged in the groove and toss you off. It’s a rough ride one way and a dangerous ride the other, but if you do it just right, it’s smooth and exciting and the view is brilliant. That perfectly sums up this year for me.
I’ve achieved more on a creative and social level in one year than I have in the last half decade altogether. The foundation I paved in 2014 allowed me to build what I wanted in 2015 while I was able to remove the parts of my life that were holding me back from reaching my full potential. Firstly, and on an interpersonal level, I met a ton of interesting, positive people this year and forged relationships I hope will last for many more years to come as well as continued to nurture the relationships I made last year. Cincinnati is filled with all of these locals that blow my mind on a daily basis with how thoughtful and creative they all are. The fact that I can leave my apartment and most likely run into someone I know and exchange pleasantries with them on the street fills me with that warm home town feeling within the urban “big city” sphere. It’s the best of both worlds which makes living in the core so much more fun than I dreamed it could be. Secondly, and on a more personal/creative level, I bought a better camera and discovered the joys of shooting in low light, I learned more about painting, I sketched more, I practiced digital art, I tried some mixed media, I honed my video editing skills, and I started actually selling my work. I shot for LG at the ballpark, I designed a logo for myself because I started shooting for the American Marketing Association on a monthly basis, I designed a t-shirt and mug for a local coffee shop, and I did a little engagement photo work for friends as well as delved deeper into portrait photography with friends. All of these things are still in the beginning stages of mastery and I still have much to learn, but all of it is extremely fulfilling and genuinely fun to practice. That productive part of the year felt like I’d found the sweet spot between the streetcar track and the cobblestone in retrospect.
History has been a large part of 2015 for me as well. I really doubled down on figuring out what happened in the past to the city and specific buildings around town. This is where I rode the cobblestone because not all of it was easy to find, but it was worth it in the end. Samuel Hannaford and his body of architectural achievements consumed my summer while I poured over his original sketches at the library. Past community fixtures like Weilert’s Beer Garden, Wesley Chapel, the E.F. Albee Theatre, Old Main Library, Royal Theatre as well as current ones like the Lafayette Bloom School, Crosley’s factory and personal estate, the Peter’s Cartridge Company, Rhinegeist’s old brewery from 1895, the Sorg House in Middletown (thank you, Emily), Hughes Highschool, Spring Grove Cemetery, the old Marburg Hotel in Clifton, Union Terminal’s Pierre Bourdelle murals, and countless others all called out to me to learn more about them. It’s crazy how much invisible history we have nestled in every alley and on every corner of this city; discovering something interesting about existing structures or discovering the ghosts of what once was is exhilarating to say the least. With all the new information I’ve absorbed this year about Cincinnati and its history, I feel like I’m better equipped to understand it and appreciate all it has been through since 1790.
But not everything was productive. I lost several months of research and creativity due to a low point in the spring and the summer where I rode the smooth concrete next to the streetcar track carelessly and hit it at an odd angle, hurting myself in the process. I got myself riding again over the cobblestone and eventually I got back onto the smooth concrete bit again. I needed that fall to knock some sense into me, and even though I emerged from that season bruised and beaten, I feel so much better now that I had the experience. I’ve never been more free to be productive both socially and creatively and that’s important to me.
Overall, 2015 had it’s ups and downs, but I climbed greater heights than I ever fell. I gained ground this year. Problems were solved, art was made, skills were honed, knowledge was gained, and I generated a life I want to live and will continue to live into next year. After reaching the end of Elm between 12th and 14th, the street is perfectly paved with renovations and revitalization efforts underway to the north. The road is smooth and everything is still exciting, but you have room to move around and the pleasant ride isn’t limited to a small strip of concrete hugging the side of a streetcar track any longer. That increased room to move around without falling is a perfect metaphor for what I have planned for 2016.
Happy New Year.
A 2015 recap video of some of the photography I did this year that was shared to Instagram.
Two weeks ago it was a Tuesday. I’m sitting at my desk at work and coworkers begin inquiring about my participation in the white elephant gift exchange that was scheduled to take place the following day. I tell them I’m not doing it this year and offer my myriad reasons for this decision. They scoff and refuse to accept the decision then suggest I paint a white elephant for the exchange. In their words “it’ll be funny.” To be fair, it is amusing and in line with my own stupid sense of humor, so I reluctantly agree despite the fact that I have less than twenty four hours to complete it. I planned on selecting a small canvas from the plethora of blanks beneath my bed and throw something together with the time I had, hoping it was satisfactory after the consumable materials were used and my time was spent on it. It didn’t have to be great, it just had to be meta.
I spent around two hours painting this piece. It’s acrylic on an 11x13” stretched canvas. I chose to work in monochrome because I didn’t feel like I had enough time to properly mix colors and because it was something I’d never done before. This was a rush job and I needed to cut corners where I could, but I also wanted the process to be interesting. I’d planned for it to have an abstract look about it but it slowly demanded more detail and ended up becoming something entirely different in the end. The reason for the solid black background is a testament to this original vision. Elephants are surprisingly fun to paint because they have such varied textures between their face and trunk and their forehead and body. Some sections of skin are smooth and require single brush strokes to create them whereas all the parts which actively stretch and move are craggy with wrinkles. It makes for an interesting process because no two parts feel the same. To my surprise, I enjoyed doing this piece more than any other piece I’ve done recently, so I think I’ll continue to paint without color just to see if I can experience that again. The relatively short amount of time it took to make coupled with the general satisfaction I feel toward the final product makes for a pleasurable experience overall. “White Elephant” currently hangs in an apartment in Crescent Springs, KY.
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.
“At one point in time, King Kong was hanging on the Carew Tower.”
This sentence, uttered to me in passing by my father sometime in the early-aughts, casually charmed me on and off for years. A replica of King Kong clinging to the prototype for the Empire State Building, the tower to which genuine Kong clung in the film from 1933, was an image I envisioned over and over again. How big was it? Why was it there? When did this happen? How long was it up there? The conviction in his statement reassured me it was true and I did a little digging for information on it at the time, but never turned anything up. I wasn’t as diligent about research back then, and I attribute this lack of success to my own incompetency, so the whole thing took a back seat priority-wise. I would think about it from time to time, make an empty promise to myself to research it further when I had a chance, and end up forgetting about it again.
But this past week has been very different. I was looking online for information about the Lafayette Bloom School in the West End and ended up buying a subscription to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s newspaper archive on Newspapers.com. This access to 170 years of local information spurred me to start looking up different things, from the first Lincoln assassination article to the weather on the day I was born. It was neat coming up with different topics to research because the archive was a previously untapped source of information waiting to be read. Then I remembered the King Kong Carew Tower story; I did a quick search and instantly found several articles from different dates about it. Finally, I confirmed it was real and on paper, bytes of black ink staring me in the face and vindicating my father’s claim from over a decade ago.
So here’s the story in a nutshell: Mark Phillips, an ex-P&G guy, operated a company called Airborne Specialty Advertising Promotions that he started in 1985. In November of 1987, Mark’s company received a commission to hang multiple 2,900 pound, 70 foot tall inflatable gorillas on buildings in 6 cities within the US to promote a Channel 5 rebroadcast of the 3D feature Gorilla at Large, a 1954 B-movie directed by Harmon Jones during the golden era of 3D films. Rax restaurants, a chain specializing in roast beef that peaked in the ‘80s, were selling 3D glasses for a dollar so viewers could watch the movie on November 28th of that year. 60 cents of the dollar was then funneled into the Ruth Lyons Children’s Christmas Fund, a local charity that brought toys and materials to the playrooms of the hospital for many years. Cincinnati was one of those 6 cities set to receive a giant inflatable gorilla (affectionately named Mr. Goliath) with the chosen location being the Carew Tower. And so, on an unseasonably mild autumn day under a sunny sky in late 1987, ten men set out to inflate a massive primate on the upper levels of Cincinnati’s tallest and most iconic skyscraper.
“For King Kong’s* Carew Tower appearance, Phillips and crew had to wedge the deflated beast into an elevator for transportation to the 45th floor, rig a t-shirt to the 50-foot wide gorilla and pop King Kong out of a narrow window before inflating him.”
–Cincinnati Enquirer, December 20th, 1988
Apparently the entire job took 72 hours of work to finish. Mr. Goliath hung on the side of the building in a Rax shirt from November 18th to the 21st of that year. There’s a good photo of it on the eastern side of Carew in the November 19th Enquirer (above). I cannot find any other existing photos of it anywhere else online, but I’m not convinced they don’t exist. There’s also no indication about where the gorilla went after it was removed. If this promotion took place today, social media would be oversaturated with pictures of it for weeks on end. By comparison, last summer's projection of the Cincinnati Reds player during the 2015 All-Star Game on the side of Carew garnered hundreds of photos for weeks. These two examples placed side by side do well to illustrate how two decades’ time can almost completely change the landscape of simple documentation.
And just like that, the mystery was solved. I stared at the image of the awkward, alien gorilla hanging on the familiar tower and marveled at the surrealism of the whole scene. That ape hung out there for four straight days in the urban core of my home town to help a roast beef restaurant sell blue and red-lensed glasses for a film made thirty years prior for charity. I have no idea how much money it helped raise, I’ve never seen Gorilla at Large, I’ve never eaten at a Rax restaurant, and I was too young to remember this first hand, but be sure to note the conviction in my words when I say I love everything about this story.
* this Enquirer article incorrectly referred to Mr. Goliath as “King Kong.”
Knippenberg, Jim. “Bigger and Better.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 13 Nov. 1987: 53. Print.
Keating, Michael E. “Going Ape for Charity.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 19 Nov. 1987: 53. Print.
Kiesewetter, John. “Gorilla at Large.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 26 Nov. 1987: 92. Print.
VonderBrink, Tim. “Big on Santa.” The Cincinnati Enquirer 20 Dec. 1988: 101. Print.
I edited the design to work better on a shirt. The final, reworked design is below.
It features a downward triangle to artfully mirror the shape of the “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture and I put the Coffee at Lola’s logo in a circle below it, giving the whole thing sort of an exclamatory effect that should pop out when the eye meets it. I also simplified the shading on the ship. I think this design works so much better than the original prototype.
ORIGINAL POST 10/27/2015:
This past Sunday, I was walking down west 3rd street to get some photos of a mural in the alley next to the Enquirer when I noticed a coffee shop called Coffee at Lola’s under the Blind Pig. I remembered seeing it before, but never had a chance to stop and go in. I made a mental note and went on with my business with the intention of coming back later in the afternoon to check it out. When I finally did go, I was met with a little white pup named Noodles at the door who greeted me with a wagging tail and big, black eyes. Any coffee shop with a dog in it already has my approval, especially one as adorable as Noodles. I spoke a little with Pete, the owner, and ordered a cup of his Buddha’s Belly medium roast and sat down to do some work.
But I honestly couldn’t sit still in there because I wanted to engage with the space and the people more (weird, I know). There was only one other patron in there besides me, so I felt emboldened to talk to her and Pete about the shop and offer my photography services since I liked the place so much, hoping dearly that my self-promotion came off as enthusiastic fandom and not obnoxious; networking sometimes feels a bit gross that way if not handled with tact. They were both super friendly and we had a nice chat about a variety of things. It felt very hometown and warm. Later on, I was speaking to Pete again and he talked about his wine and beer selection, as well as his previous coffee endeavor in the MainStrasse Village in Covington. I ended up staying a full 3 hours there because it was so nice and the shop itself was comfortable with a variety of seating options and ample outlets for laptops.
But there was one thing Pete said that stuck with me. He casually described a design featuring an Enterprise-like ship with the words “brew strong and prosper” since that’s the way he prefers to brew his own coffee. He likened the design to vintage iron on tshirts from the 70’s. I thought this was a pretty amusing idea, frankly, and secretly planned to attempt to make it myself. It’d be a fun exercise and a departure from the stuff I normally do if anything else. Last night, I sat down and started sketching out a ship that resembled the Enterprise and took measures to differentiate it so the entire thing wasn’t exactly the same as the original pop culture icon. The engines were lowered and tightened around the hull of the middle portion (warp drive?) and the front bit was intentionally made into the shape of a coffee cup. I drew it out on paper, digitized it, cleaned up the lines and tweaked the whole thing in Photoshop, and added text, stars, red accent lines, and the Coffee at Lola’s logo at the bottom. Still feeling like there was something missing, I decided to add stylized steam trails emanating from the top of the cup to balance out the upper right corner of the image. After adding some glow effects to the ship, steam and stars, I’d finished the design.
I highly recommend checking out Coffee at Lola’s for both good drinks and a pleasant atmosphere. It’s located at 24 W 3rd Street, between Vine and Race, under the Blind Pig. Get the Buddha’s Belly (it’s a very good cup of coffee) and say hello to Pete and Noodles while you’re there.
Yesterday I went to the Peters Cartridge Company with some friends. The company was founded in 1887, and the current building nearest the bike trail was constructed in the early 20th century after rebuilding from tragedy. It produced gunpowder and cannon balls at that time, and on July 15th, 1890, a massive explosion occurred which killed twelve on the spot and mortally wounded many others. The incident took down two thirds of the site because much of it was built with wood. There is a lot of weird history to the factory in the years afterward that has been covered by other blogs, so I’ll link them at the end of this post instead of listing it all here.
I’d seen it looming over the river from time to time over the years when I’d drive out to Kings Island or visit a past girlfriend who lived over there, but for whatever reason, I never really took the time to stop and take it all in. It looks like an abandoned factory, and much of it is, but it’s very much still owned and surveilled. It’s almost as if it’s just resting in a coma while the construction crews attempt to revive it. The most immediately obvious thing once you get up to the gate is how seriously the owners do not want you there; signs referencing cameras, criminal trespassing prosecution, and even “beware of dog” scatter the chainlink and barbed wire fences. It’s barely physically secure but it does well to scare you away from entering with the threat of legal ramifications. We decided not to get arrested that day, so only admired what we could from the allowed area just before the gate. Luckily, I brought my tripod and took some shots with a 70-300 lens so I could get up closer. Most of those shots weren’t worth editing, but a few of them turned out fine.
But the most exciting thing about being at the front gate was realizing the powder factory was littered with feral cats. One ran up to us for a moment and trotted back to his friends. An orange one and a grey one nuzzled as they walked past one another. A tortie and a blonde cat sat like loafs of bread back a bit behind the others. All of them kept their distance but didn’t seem too bothered by us standing where we were. They stared at us and made sure we weren’t coming into their little hovel, though. I settled the camera on the tripod and zoomed in to grab a few (fifty to eighty) shots with a remote. They were so adorable.
We then wandered around the side of the building and found an unsealed entrance into a disheveled, nightmarish room filled with rubble, old doors, creative graffiti, and old furniture. It was properly out of order and looked like people had been in there recently judging by the relatively fresh miniature wine bottle we found (someone was barely getting their Barefoot on, apparently).
I didn’t realize it at the time, but there is actually an interesting reason this room partially looked the way it did. Only after reading up about it once I got home did I realize a lot of the stuff in that room are the remains of a haunted house that was set up there in 1992. Apparently there was also another haunted house in another location within the factory the following year. The graffiti and props we found scattered around the rubble wasn’t only put there for show by just anyone; the stuff we found was literally the detritus of an event that occurred 23 years ago in the bowels of this old factory. If I had known that going in, I would've paid more attention and tried to identify what was left 23 years ago and what was brought in afterward. Sadly, we left the scene aching for more and unfulfilled due to being prohibited from going further into the building.
Along the bike path, I spoke with a construction worker about getting a tour and he laughed and politely denied me. He said the plan is to convert the main factory building into apartments, the white building behind it into commercial space, and didn’t mention what the plan was for the separate structure behind the rest of it. He added that it was all supposed to be done within a year and expressed doubt that it could be done.
Links to more blogs about Peters Cartridge Company:
It was the Battle of Chickamauga, September 20th, 1863. Confederate forces led by General Braxton Bragg and Union forces led by General William Rosecrans clashed on bloody Georgian soil. On the slight ridge west of the Dyer field close to the Widow Glenn House, brigadier General William Haines Lytle, a Cincinnati native, met fearsome Confederate forces on the battlefield. Leading from the front of his men, he valiantly put himself head first into danger; a ball launched from the steely bowels of a Confederate musket entered the left corner of Lytle’s mouth and left through his right temple, brutally knocking him from his horse. At merely 36 years old, General William Haines Lytle, esteemed poet and commander of Union soldiers in the goriest war in American history, died within minutes. When the enemy realized who he was, they protected him and later read Lytle’s poetry over his body in an unofficial funeral service. Lytle was admired by Northerners and Southerners alike due to the poetry he had published over the course of his lifetime. He never married and never had any children. He has no direct descendants.
But as Cincinnatians, I can't help but feel we’re all partially responsible for carrying on the legacy of William Haines Lytle. According to legend, after his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral on 4th, people lined the streets to pay their respects in such great numbers that it stalled the funeral procession and his casket wasn’t delivered to Spring Grove until sundown. He was beloved for myriad reasons and affected the lives of enough Cincinnatians to warrant that turnout. But time has a way of lessening the potency of emotions, and since he was killed 152 years ago, many of us today don’t remember him. It’s not out of disrespect, it’s simply because he’s not in the public eye to the degree he was in the mid-19th century. Many may only know ‘Lytle’ as the park in front of the Taft Museum without knowing about the man behind the namesake. That’s why it’s important to spread the word and tell his tale. William Haines Lytle is an essential piece of Cincinnati history and we would be remiss to forget him.
I want to share a poem he wrote in 1858. In William Henry Venable’s book Beginnings of literary culture in the Ohio valley: historical and biographical sketches, which can be found in the Cincinnati Public Library’s Cincinnati Room, the rare book depository full of incredible artifacts (including this one), he details the story behind the making of Lytle’s most revered poem, Antony and Cleopatra:
“Antony and Cleopatra was written at the Lytle Homestead, Lawrence street, Cincinnati, in July, 1858. The author dashed it off in a glow of poetic excitement, and left the manuscript lying upon the writing-table, in his private room, where it was found by his friend, Wm. W. Fosdick, the poet. 'Who wrote that, Lytle?' inquired Fodsick. 'Why, I did,' answered Lytle, 'How do you like it?' Fosdick expressed admiration for the poem, and taking the liberty of a literary comrade, he carried the manuscript away, and sent it to the edition of the Cincinnati Commercial...” [source]
So here’s to remembering William Haines Lytle, the poet, the civil war general, and Cincinnatian. Continue to rest in peace, friend.
Antony and Cleopatra
by William Haines Lytle, 1858
I AM dying, Egypt, dying.
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
Gather on the evening blast;
Let thine arms, O Queen, enfold me,
Hush thy sobs and bow thine ear;
Listen to the great heart-secrets,
Thou, and thou alone, must hear.
Though my scarr'd and veteran legions
Bear their eagles high no more,
And my wreck'd and scatter'd galleys
Strew dark Actium's fatal shore,
Though no glittering guards surround me,
Prompt to do their master's will,
I must perish like a Roman,
Die the great Triumvir still.
Let not Cæsar's servile minions
Mock the lion thus laid low;
'Twas no foeman's arm that fell'd him,
'Twas his own that struck the blow;
His who, pillow'd on thy bosom,
Turn'd aside from glory's ray,
His who, drunk with thy caresses,
Madly threw a world away.
Should the base plebeian rabble
Dare assail my name at Rome,
Where my noble spouse, Octavia,
Weeps within her widow'd home,
Seek her; say the gods bear witness--
Altars, augurs, circling wings--
That her blood, with mine commingled,
Yet shall mount the throne of kings.
As for thee, star-eyed Egyptian,
Glorious sorceress of the Nile,
Light the path to Stygian horrors
With the splendors of thy smile.
Give the Cæsar crowns and arches,
Let his brow the laurel twine;
I can scorn the Senate's triumphs,
Triumphing in love like thine.
I am dying, Egypt, dying;
Hark! the insulting foeman's cry.
They are coming! quick, my falchion,
Let me front them ere I die.
Ah! no more amid the battle
Shall my heart exulting swell;
Isis and Osiris guard thee!
Cleopatra, Rome, farewell!
Often I'll think about how a fair number of talented visual artists have called Cincinnati home over the last 225 years, and I'm so grateful to be within the same space the luminaries who made a name for our city within the art world shared throughout our history. Henry Mosler (1841-1920) is a shining example of such an artist; originally from Silesia (the part of which is now in modern-day Poland), he came to Cincinnati at the age of ten with his parents and honed his craft within the area. He taught himself how to draw and did illustrations for various publications related to Civil War coverage. He studied under several different artists and learned how to paint. And in 1893, at the age of forty eight, Mosler painted The Chimney Corner, an incredible piece that now hangs in the Cincinnati Art Museum today.
There's a lot to say about The Chimney Corner. Upon first glance, it's immediately obvious this painting is masterfully rendered. The color palette is a pleasant mix of warm brown tones surrounding a core of vibrant green, blue and red hues. The chimney and two figures, along with their props, are all precisely measured and realistically depicted. Not an ounce of doubt betrays the shape and size of everything in this scene; it's a testament to Mosler's expertise when it comes to his art. But, skillful execution aside, it's the subject that's most striking about this particular piece. This painting embodies the timeless spirit of young love. The period dress and scenery do not date this painting in the least; the dress may be different, but the feelings are familiar. You can feel it as you study it. The girl just finished or is about to fan the flames embedded in the wall, a metaphor for the budding romance situated and burning between them as they flirt with each other alone in their corner. The grinning boy is holding up a pipe and gesturing to her to try something she possibly hasn't before. She measures him in a kind, decisive stare as she smiles brightly against the ruby glow of the flames beside her. Their lips would touch the pipe separately but represent the precursor to their first kiss. The pipe represents the physical bond they're about to forge over the literal and metaphorical fire between them while little floating embers dangle like fireflies and split the direct line of the eye contact they're making. The boy's umbrella, that which keeps him safe from the hazards of the world, is not needed here with her and rests folded in his lap, symbolic of his comfort and lowered guard. Both are bathed in the light of the fire in such a beautiful way that you have to wonder if Mosler truly knew beforehand how incredibly romantic the scene would turn out to be or if it organically worked out that way as he painted.
We don't know the fate of these two people, unfortunately. Did they discover love on their own or was their relationship arranged? Did they grow old together? Or was this merely just a scene where a young apprentice passing through some town on a dreary October night sat down with the daughter of an innkeeper in the corner of the room to give her a moment of attention before his master called to him to get a move on? The possibilities for setting the scene are many, but the central idea of the painting is constant: even if just for a few seconds, and regardless of the statuses of their lives or how they got there, they were together and they loved sharing that moment with each other in the chimney corner.
This is a tough post to figure out because I want to properly pay homage to the person about whom I’m writing. Every once in a while you meet someone doing something uniquely creative that blows your mind a little bit and challenges you to reexamine the world around you. That person can influence your own creative endeavors in ways you didn’t imagine possible; you can look at something familiar, something you’ve seen a thousand times and thought you’ve already figured it out, and realize you’re looking at it in a completely different way than they are. Their signature perspective suddenly starts materializing through your own eyes and you’re hit with the realization that beauty has many faces, not just the one you’re predisposed to see. They transport you to an alternate reality within the exact space you occupied this entire time and the world you thought you explored becomes abruptly immense and full of new adventures. They push the proverbial head of the fireplace bust backward to reveal a switch that spins and places you on the opposite side of the wall you never dreamed separated you from the rest of the hidden castle. Their secret passage forever alters the adventure you chased up until that moment and you’re eternally grateful for the opportunity to see anew. This person is the Sherpa who leads you through your journey to the top of the mountain to see the world below from a height unseen by the majority of humanity.
I’ve found my Sherpa.
The social networking platform Instagram introduced me to Emily Whitmore (@Emilyseeks) not quite a year ago. I noticed her photography because she wasn’t doing what many others I followed were; she would find a house in a variable condition and photograph it head-on in a matter-of-fact way that I’d rarely seen before. Her style spoke volumes to me because of how plainly full of love it was. Every photo softly declared, “This deserves your attention. It is here, it is beautiful, and it is worthy of our affection.” She found gorgeous homes in which people currently lived but had been built long before any of us were born. She found dilapidated homes which had long since seen their last tenants move out, their corridors and parlors now inhabited only by ivy and mice. She found weathered but livable homes which were architecturally stunning in some precise way that I’d never seen until she posted them. She scoured the area outside of the urban core for things the rest of us hadn’t noticed or weren’t around to love ourselves. It was her mission to point out the underdogs who were doing the aesthetic heavy lifting within the areas many people weren’t paying attention. To say I’ve never clicked the “follow” button fast enough on anyone’s profile would be a gross understatement.
Her photography started evolving over time. She was better at what she shot with every new week; noticeable strides in framing and composition were made and she began finding ways to edit the photos to better reflect her signature style. She avoids harsh black tones in many of her photos which make her shadows seemingly always gentle with an air of unexplainable nostalgia. They have this haunting, magical quality that pinpoints the heart in your chest and goes after it in a weirdly aggressive yet careful manner. You always feel something after you see what she has done because you can tell she spent so much time figuring out why the image she’s presenting to us matters. The deliberateness of each picture isn’t unintentional; they’re tailored to make you feel something different every single time you gaze upon them. She shares them so we can see what she sees so we can feel something too. You can see her finding her voice while developing her style with every post. Eventually she ventured beyond just house photography and pointed her lens toward pieces of urban scenes in various states of decay: a rusted vehicle in Knoxville, an old pump station façade, an upside down “no outlet” sign on a rough sidewalk, an alley here, a ghost sign there, bricks covered in vines and close-ups of graffitied boxcars. Each shot espoused an unusually powerful underlying message about the passage of time and the effects it has therein while shining a spotlight on the natural beauty underneath the grime trying to cover it. Her pictures underscored in bright red ink the splendor hiding within each of her enduring subjects. An old thing, once shiny and new, eroded by years of neglect and wear and presented in such a thoughtful, loving way was, and still is, her expertise. Emily is the champion of the abandoned, the seeker of those unsought, the one who loves the spilled guts of a building because she can see more of what makes them who they are. She photographs these scenes in life as they are because, to her, these scenes are something to be noticed and remembered. The affectionate integrity in her art is unparalleled.
Every photo is a reflection of her in some way, but there are some that directly address who she is as a person. I’m not talking about the few self-portraits she has posted. One photo in particular stood out to me when she shared it a while ago; it’s a picture, out of focus, of Race Street in front of Taft’s Ale House. Blurry streetcar tracks descend into the horizon where a car is stopped in the road at a red light. The image is dark with little pinpoints of hazy light here and there to dot the area and act as beacons in the blackness. It’s such a radical departure from her normal style and it screams “help me.” The tracks are fixed to a single path and she’s unable to change trajectory. They’re conspicuously illuminated in the darkness which ascribes a melancholy mood and “irreversible” feeling to the image. The red lights, symbolic of wanting to stop, remind us there’s so much more to her story in this moment that she’s not directly saying. The lack of clarity throughout the whole photo makes the blackness even scarier. She’s on a single path, hurtling through a dark, lonely world she cannot choose to navigate. This image represents a woman in peril and it’s even more poignant when you see the images she shared around it.
Her evolution continued and she also started taking photos of nature in addition to her city scenes, posting lovely collections of flowers and other pieces of organic life within her same signature style. But I think the thing that differentiates Emily from everyone else besides the obvious stylistic approaches are her #EmilyseeksSunday posts (gallery below). She takes her nature photos or mural photos and places them into her architecture photos by replacing the sky or immediate area with them to create a unique scene of a beautiful old building surrounded by the natural beauty of our world and posts them on Sunday. She has done this many times and her hashtag is filled with splendid examples of her edits. They’re mashups of the way she sees the world and, as a fan of her photography, they’re a breath of fresh air to behold. When I’m scrolling through picture after picture of similar sunsets and similar buildings in similar settings, to see her City Hall picture in front of a bed of violet flowers is like taking a drink of fresh water from a well in the middle of the desert. It’s original yet familiar but also brilliantly and tastefully outlandish. The confluence of her artistic eye, her distinctive perspective, and her imagination is the epitome of perfection, in my opinion.
Not only is she incredibly good at immortalizing pieces of the city and making us feel something with every photo, she’ll also educate her audience about local history. She’s a Samuel Hannaford fan and will post pictures of his creations and pages from his personal journal with text about what it is and why it matters. She’ll remind you of the E.F. Albee theater that once stood on 5th Street, she’ll give you reason to research the Crosley mansion, and you’ll want to look up different murals located on the sides of buildings around town because of a photo she shared. Her pictures are the main reason to follow her, and the additional information she provides broadens your mind. She’s not just posting pictures of things without some sort of insightful quote, fact, or joke about the image; she puts effort into her words as well as her vision. There aren’t many other accounts that take the time to illustrate and educate like hers and her art isn’t where her greatness stops, either. She’s a positive person who continuously supports others to do their thing. Personally, she has influenced and inspired me to be better at my own creative endeavors through continuous feedback and taught me a great deal about my city. Whenever I’m feeling poorly about my own stuff, her kind words help expedite the passing of those negative feelings. Emily doesn’t just love the abandoned underdogs lining our streets; she cares about her contemporaries equally as much. We would all do well to emulate that same level of creativity and empathy because so few of us actually do.
Emily is someone worth knowing and her art is incredible. To raise awareness about her is my distinct pleasure because she has brought so many positive hours into my own life by both being a phenomenal role model as well as a fantastic friend. Every once in a while you meet someone doing something uniquely creative that blows your mind a little bit and challenges you to reexamine the world around you. This person is the Sherpa who leads you through your journey to the top of the mountain to see the world below from a height unseen by the majority of humanity. Emilyseeks is my Sherpa.
Sample of Emilyseeks' Private Collection
There are ghosts in Cincinnati, but not the traditional ones like you may be imagining. There are invisible outlines of the buildings our ancestors built and their descendants demolished all over the city streets we walk every day and we don’t know they're around us. Memories of the buildings our parents and grandparents couldn’t save linger on every corner where a high rise now stands or a green space now grows or a highway now sits. We’ve torn down a lot of our physical history to make way for new developments despite the fact that the history absorbed by every brick we’ve demolished is part of the story of Cincinnati. We can’t remember every word uttered between the bricks of the homes in the West End before the highway crews annihilated it, or all the legislative matters handled within Hannaford’s original courthouse, and we cannot remember every musical number that graced the E.F. Albee’s stage at the end of the roaring twenties. We can’t remember because a lot of us weren’t around for it and the ones who were only remember the moments they encountered. Collectively, we cannot remember the majority of what happened in those places. But the buildings themselves were there for everything and they house the details we’ve forgotten. By destroying them, we lose the physical entity that surrounded pivotal moments in people’s lives. We break apart the bricks saturated with the facts of our past and the adventures we’ve had. Specificity is the soul of narrative, and we are erasing it with every swing of the wrecking ball.
So why am I talking about this? I want you to remember a particular ghost in Cincinnati. Remember the Wesley Chapel, built 1831, which sat on the north side of Fifth Street between Broadway and Sycamore. Inspired by John Wesley's Chapel in London. It was the largest meeting space west of Alleghenies with 1,200 available seats. William Henry Harrison, who became the 9th president of the United States in 1841, stood in the rain and gave the longest inauguration speech of any president in history on a cold day in March and developed a fatal case of pneumonia as a result; he passed away only a month into his presidency and his funeral was held within Wesley’s walls. In 1843, a 77 year old John Quincy Adams was ready to give the last speech of his life at the top of Mt. Ida (later renamed Mt. Adams in his honor) to dedicate the newly built Mitchell Astronomical Observatory. The outdoor ceremony was washed out by heavy rains, and the dedication speech was subsequently moved to Wesley instead. Political rallies and abolitionists frequently met inside of it to discuss their agendas and issues in the years leading up to the Civil War. Over 140 years of history were embedded into its walls; it witnessed so many sermons, so many meetings, and sheltered so many people during their events over its lifetime. People experienced life between those walls and under its roof for multiple generations. But it wasn’t meant to exist forever. One fateful night in 1972, after a lengthy struggle between P&G and local preservationists came to an end and the congregation elected to have a new church built on McMicken in Over-the-Rhine, the enduring Wesley Chapel, was torn down to make room for P&G's front lawn. The oldest standing church and arguably most usable indoor meeting space of 19th century Cincinnati was gone.
Its memory still rests here in the foliage of the Gardens. It has been over 40 years since it was torn down, and many people don’t realize the flowers and grass and plants lining the pillared tunnel between Broadway and Sycamore was once the area where it stood for so long. When you walk through the garden on your lunch hour and you enter the tunnel, mentally pause for a moment under the shade of the greenery overhead and remember the Wesley Chapel, built 1831 and demolished 1972, so all the history that was embedded into the bricks, now forever missing, can be honored in the only way we still can.
There's a specific painting in the Cincinnati Art Museum that has always stuck with me because of how emotional the simple composition is. Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) painted Portrait of Henry Teel* in 1945. Henry Teel, according to the information placard in the museum, was a friend of Wyeth who was the only resident of Teel's Island, Maine.
Henry Teel sits bathed in sunlight to the right side of his understated kitchen at an open window, looking out onto a scene we cannot see. Only one empty chair remains at an empty table, the door is slightly ajar, and a cupboard sits in the corner. He has pulled a chair up to the window and rests his arm on the windowsill for comfort. The scene can be interpreted in a couple ways, but it's initially understood to be unbearably lonely and exudes a strong sense of isolationism, yet it's oddly warm due to the color palette used. It's unclear if it's morning or evening. It's unclear if Henry is happy.
I'm not sure if Wyeth meant for this painting to say more than "this is my friend in his New England home", and I don't know if he meant to fill it with symbolism, but I like this painting so much because I think it says so many subtle things with so few objects. The fact is he's the only person on an island in the uppermost corner of an entire country. To say he's alone in the world is a gross understatement. Henry Teel may be one of the most lonely people on Earth in 1945. We know he has at least one friend in the world, Andrew Wyeth, so the need to fill a table with more than two chairs is unnecessary. The door, which is barely open, suggests Henry is most likely an approachable fellow who would welcome anyone into his home (if anyone ever came by to see him). He has also meticulously placed his decorative plates at an upright angle to properly display them; I think this is symbolic of Henry's hope that he won't be alone for long. He hasn't completely ruled out the idea of a visitor coming by, so he's still keeping up appearances. He has his back to the other window and the door, two routes of entry for another person to enter his space. He's only facing one exit; perhaps this is symbolic of his blindness to other routes he could take in life. Or maybe the blackness behind the door and curtained window are symbolic of both the wrong path to take (the door) and the impossible path (the curtained window) so he's correctly facing the brightly lit, open path before him. Perhaps the fact that Henry's body is angled a different way than the direction he's facing is symbolic of doubt, confusion, and inner turmoil; he could be conflicted about what he wants to do or where he wants to go. His heart points toward the viewer, but his eyes stare longingly toward another.
But the message behind the painting I cannot figure out, and the one that is most important to me, is that of Henry's happiness. We can make a case for him being lonely and longing for more in life based on the symbolism previously listed, but we could also see it as a man content with his world. The color palette, as I said earlier, is surprisingly warm. His kitchen looks like it smells of salty sea air and weathered wood and appears unusually peaceful. I imagine hearing birds through the open window and feeling a slight breeze waft through the room. Henry may be sitting at the windowsill the way he is because he's comfortable. Perhaps he's looking out of the window to admire the tranquility of his own personal island away from the din of the modern American cities further down the coast. Maybe it's morning and he's greeting the rising sun by being present for its return over the horizon, hopeful he'll have another successful day in life. Or maybe it's actually evening and he's reflecting on how good his day was.
This is why this painting is so important to me. You cannot firmly pin it down. Henry Teel could be both the loneliest, saddest man in an isolated corner of the world or the happiest, most contented man that same isolated corner. He could both be longing for the company of another and reveling in the quiet he has been granted. Henry Teel is an enigma who we will never be able to fully understand because the circumstances of his existence are so amorphous.
If you ever find yourself in the Cincinnati Art Museum, you should stop and really look at this painting. It's an absolutely incredible piece.
*Credit: Andrew Wyeth (American, b.1917, d.2009), Henry Teel, 1945, tempera on panel, Cincinnati Art Museum, Bequest of Paul E. Geier, 1983.62
My good friend Tiffany sent the image below to me today. She's fantastic and consoles me when I vent about feeling like garbage about my difficult, introverted personality. Last night she texted me until 1 AM while I had an acute bout of anxiety about my lack of integration into the world I wish to be within. I am not very outgoing when it comes to many people because I'm extremely awkward and don't feel comfortable in a lot of "normal" social interactions; I've become very neurotic at the end of my twenties, and she knows this about me (one of the reasons she's such a good friend; she's extremely patient and lets me be me without judging). When I read the 12 ways to care for introverts below, I can't believe how spot on every one of them are. It's like if an archer with a quiver of 12 arrows keeps bulls eyeing the target, splitting every preceding arrow with the next one while creating a beautiful flower of splintered wood by the end. There's always at least something I don't fully agree with on images or lists like these, but not a single point below doesn't nail it spot on. It's like Guide to Introverts for Dummies and I love it.
If you fall into this personality type, I hope you find this as relatable as I do. And if this doesn't fit your personality but you have a friend who does identify as introverted, take note of these 12 points. You'll be a better friend if you follow this guide and it'll make them happy.
EDIT: After tweeting the link to this blog post, I stumbled upon a Twitter feed called @IntrovertDear and it featured two pictures that I really enjoyed. They can both be found on their feed.
I love crows. They are remarkable birds.
Today I realized I am needlessly adding stress to my life. Calling all of these people, setting up these appointments, witnessing these empty rooms full of potential, seeing the prices that keep me from living my life within them, feeling the tightness in my chest that wrestles me to bed when I return home, aching from the burning ember at the end of a stick of cancer to calm my nerves, and realizing all of this is peeling away hours of my life and stealing my time from being spent on better things. This horrible cycle of hunting and failing has lead me to the realization that I don't need hardwood floors and exposed brick right now. I don't need to live above the bar scene. I don't need to pack up all my things just to never leave the apartment again because I've made myself house poor due to some other's opinion. I need to be me in my own little corner of this skyscraper I call home.
For eight months, someone tried to convince me I shouldn't be living in this building because it didn't align with their notion of what's popular and desired. While I agree that the historic buildings that flaunt their past (aesthetically) are amazing, I don't think it's necessary to break myself in order to live within them when I have a perfectly wonderful space as is. Of course I wish my building bore the same furnishings it once had, but that doesn't make its current status historically invalid. Did Music Hall always have dry wall and carpet? Did Union Terminal always lack a main concourse? You can love a historic thing for still existing even if it has been updated from its original look.
I moved to my ninth story, southern-facing apartment near the top of the old Broadway Hotel (1926, Fourth and Broadway version) two years ago for a reason. This is my tower. Yes, renovations over the years have modernized it to the point where very little of its original character still remains inside, but I don't need to see it every day to know it's there. I've been to the basement of this building and I've seen the old wooden meat cooler that held the ingredients for luxurious meals for staying guests. I've seen the coal pit and massive pitch black boiler room that once roared with steam and heat to keep everyone above warm. I've seen the dimly-lit winding corridors snaking underneath the northwest corner of fourth street as well as the dusty rooftop freight elevator controls from the roaring twenties. This building was built the year before the the E.F. Albee Theatre. Almost ninety years of history rests within these walls even though it's not obvious to the naked eye. And two years of my history exist here now. I am inherently part of its story. And, quite frankly, I don't think many residents who've come in and out of these doors know how old it is or even care. But I care about it because this place is home and someone needs to love the old Broadway Hotel. It's the underdog of East Fourth and I am its biggest fan.
So here I sit blogging about why I'm staying in my apartment in this glorious, understated little building that everyone overlooks. It's quiet and I'm cozy in my room at my desk. In two weeks I'll be laying in bed watching the fireworks from the river as people in cars nine stories below get frustrated in traffic. I'll take a short walk down to the Taft Museum on a Sunday with my coffee to admire the Dutch Baroque. I'll walk to work every day and come home for lunch like I have done the last two years. I'll walk a block to a Red Bike station and come home the same way. I'll have my little safe corner in the middle of the city where I can retreat when I'm finished exploring. I'll have my old Broadway Hotel, now called Lytle Tower, to love because it has been so good to me these last couple of years.
I'm really glad all of this became so clear to me earlier today. I don't have to work myself up about moving anymore and I get to stay in a nice place. I'm happy here on the 9th floor. Cheers to another year, Broadway.
Last Friday I had the chance to do a behind the scenes walk through of everyone's relatively new favorite brewery, Rhinegeist, located toward the northern tip of Elm street. Housed within the remains of the old Moerlein bottling plant, a 120 year old building built in 1895, the brewery is a tantalizing figure poised and ready to be photographed. My friend Nathan, whom I met through my friend/his girlfriend Courtney, works for Rhinegeist and offered to take me around to see the areas which are off limits to the general public. While the owners of Rhinegeist have done much to refurbish the old building, bringing it up to date while providing a modern space for business and brewing, it still retains a lot of it's original 19th century character. This is exactly what I was looking for on this private tour.
He took me through the entire place, but I wanted to highlight the areas which were still relatively untouched because I found those to be the most interesting. He lead me to the upper floors where work was being done on a large room with low ceilings and walls spotted with old arched windows that looked out onto Elm street and Eton Place. It was dimly lit by one pair of fluorescent lights hanging near the south wall next to a blood red pillar, making for a decent photo opportunity. Did I mention the scent of this room? Old and dusty and brimming with that electric smell of atmosphere. It was perfect.
After I was finished salivating and touching every wall in that room (I wanted the tactile sensation as well because just look at it), he took us to part of the roof where he and his comrades take breaks during their shifts. Several factory windows bent outward from old brick, newly-installed lights lit up the corners and arches of the building around them, and steam rose from stainless steel pipes, making little ghostly shadows appear on the illuminated surfaces behind it. Obviously work had been done to modernize it, but it still retained much of its original charm.
After we left the roof, we ventured the opposite way we had been going up to that point: deeper into the bowels of the building to see the lower levels. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. When we got down there, I was in 7th heaven. Not only were the walls unfinished and grungy, they were covered in curling flakes of (what I assume to be) lead paint highlighted by fluorescent lights with the noticeable smell of damp in the air. This was a proper basement.
Below is a gallery of what I saw. From what looked like iron rails leading through a (newer) wall to rusty furnaces to eerie crawl spaces to bricked up passages, this basement had a plethora of wonderful stuff to take in. Also of note: the last picture is of what looked to be a shower at one point. It gave me chills for reasons I cannot explain. Enjoy the crusty goodness!