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Entries in cincinnati (40)


Eight Reasons You Should Submit To The Cincinnati Anthology

1. Because of the streetcar.
That's right, the streetcar. Everyone has an opinion on it, whether it's right for the city or not, whether it should be completed or not, and it has come to represent the way this city operates in many ways. Cincinnati has been accused of self-sabotaging; I'd like to prove that wrong. Whether or not the streetcar happens*, this anthology will help remind us that we're capable of creating and completing something worthwhile together as a city.

2. Because we need to show the country that art exists outside of New York, Chicago, and LA.
Thanks to a national arts culture dominated by the coasts and Chicago, often other cities get left behind when considered for the cultural treasure troves we really are. You don't have to move to New York to be a writer, nor do you have to move to LA to become an artist; in fact, it's a lot cheaper to do it here. But people tend to forget that, the flyover gets lost in the muddle. This piece at Belt Mag reminds us that in the midwest we are at risk of being perceived as exclusively consumers, not creators. Let's remind everyone that we are CREATORS, and damn good ones at that.

3. Because we shouldn't be compared to New York, Chicago, or LA. 
When I moved here two and a half years ago, I grew used to hearing the phrase "well, we're no Manhattan..." And my first reaction was to say "Of course we're no Manhattan. We're Cincinnati." This is a city all its own, with issues all its own, and there's a discovery process that needs to happen outside of a comparison with other cities. I want to have a conversation about Cincinnati for what it is, not what it is in relation to elsewhere. 

4. Because you love this city.
Have you ever stood atop Carew Tower and had your breath taken away as you watched the sun set over the serpentine Ohio? Have you ever considered what visual riches we have in the architecture and in these hills? Have you ever been halfway through a Banh Mi at Pho Lang Thang or a pulled pork sandwich at Eli's or the cheese bread at Blue Oven Bakery and been beside yourself with how good it all tastes? Were you at Lumenocity? (Why weren't you at Lumenocity?) I can't shout loud enough how much I love this city. I can only write it. Or draw it. Or photograph it. I want to see what it is that others love about this city too.

5. Because you hate this city...
...but you want it to get better. We have our scars; we're complex. It's not all sunsets and trips to Findlay Market. There is still crime, there are still vacant buildings, there is still racism and provincialism, there are still battles over public transportation. Like any other city in the world, we are changing (and sometimes remaining stubborn) and growing (and sometimes shrinking), and without real analysis of what it means to have experiences as residents of this city, we won't have the ammunition to make it a better place. 

6. Because you live here.
Every day you get on your bike or you get in your car and travel down Central Parkway or across the Western Hills Viaduct, avoiding potholes to get to Music Hall or Findlay Market or across the Brent Spence Bridge to watch the fireworks over the river from The Point in Covington. You hate 71. You hate 75 even more. You hate to love Skyline and the Bengals. But the community of it all - the love and the hate alike - matters to you. You have commentary on the way things should be headed, you have hope for it becoming the city of your dreams. It may already be the city of your dreams. In any case, you know this city better than anyone else, and your individual experiences matter when shaped as a collective; they matter to you, to the rest of the city, to the rest of the world.

7. Because you left.
When I lived in New York, there wasn't a day that went by when I wasn't reminded of something from home: memories of the woods and the hills and the river mighty and wide. Every time that plane descended back into northern Kentucky, I felt those ghosts stirring, and I know you do to, and I know you have words for what that feeling means to you. What this city means to the person you've become. Even if you never think about home: think about it now. You must have left for a reason. It might help you and help us to say why.

8. Because WKRP is not real.
And yet it's what every single one of your non-Cincinnati friends brings up every time you tell them you live in Cincinnati. Time to put the Venus Flytrap myth to rest. Submit today! (Tim Reid, we'd even accept a submission from you.)

All the submission information you need can be found here, but if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or send them to rustbeltcincy@gmail.com. The deadline is Friday, December 6th, but email and let me know if you have a good idea and just need a day or two more.

*For the record, I hope it does.


Rust Belt Chic: The Cincinnati Anthology

Rust Belt Chic Press: The Cincinnati Anthology

Cincinnati: you know we have stories to tell. We have experiences the world only hears about when it's newsworthy, experiences that are powerful and important to us nonetheless. We know change. We have strong memories of the way things once were, and strong opinions about the way things are headed. We in Cincinnati are fiercely loyal to the things that make this city great, if at times resigned to some of the things that are broken about it, but we live here because there is something special about it that we can't live without. Because it is home and there is no other home like it. What some call tarnish, we call patina. Even those who have left Cincinnati still feel the pull towards it now and again in a flush of nostalgia, and all of us have stories about this city, from the present and from the past, stories of what makes it ours and what makes it home.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to bind together the stories of this city and launch them into the air for everyone to see, shining brighter than fireworks over the Ohio River? To remind ourselves what Cincinnati is about? To tell the world what Cincinnati is really about?

That's exactly what we're about to do.

You are invited to share your Cincinnati story by submitting it for a new book, The Cincinnati Anthology, to be published in 2014.

This collection is affiliated with Belt Magazine and Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, both featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other media. Rust Belt Chic: The Detroit Anthology will also be published in 2014.

While we'll be receiving publishing support from our sisters and brothers up north at the Rust Belt Chic Press, the remainder of the book will be 100% Cincinnati produced.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Nonfiction essays (both longform and brief)
  • Comics (must be in grayscale)
  • Photography (must be in grayscale)
  • Art (must be in grayscale)

In particular, we're looking for pieces on Cincinnati's growth and change, on journey and place, on nostalgia, on race and community, on music, food, art, and architecture. We'd love to hear your East Side tale and your West Side story, why those of you who no longer live here come back to Cincinnati and what it means to you when you do. We want everyday and extraordinary experiences. We'd love to hear from geologists, journalists, activists, blue collar workers, business owners, brewers, and musicians, both professional writers and the never-before-published. We want the good and the bad of the city, well-written and honest tales of the entire Cincinnati experience.


THE NITTY-GRITTY: Submissions must include the author or artist’s full contact information (name, email, phone, address, 3-4 sentence bio). You may submit multiple pieces. Previously published pieces are acceptable, but the author must include the original publication information with the submission, and have the rights to the piece. Accepted submissions will likely be edited in coordination with the author. About 20-30 submissions will be featured in the finished book.

TO SUBMIT: Email COMPLETE submission to rustbeltcincy@gmail.com  

DEADLINE: Friday, December 6, 2013

EDITORIAL CONTACT: Zan McQuade, Email: thatcupoftea@gmail.com (please do not send submissions to this address, but feel free to write with any and all questions about the project), Twitter: @acupoftea



What I Didn't Say To Mat Latos

Last night I decided to treat myself to seats near the dugout at a Reds game. I'd sat close to the field once before, and was amazed at how being at eye-level with the baseball action changed your experience of the game. Watching the arc and delivery of the pitch, being able to see the mound actually rising up out of the ground, watching the players' expressions between pitches -- it all adds to the narrative I find so attractive in baseball. 

Just before the game started, I found my seat, and watched as kids and grownups lingered at the edge of the Reds dugout, where pitcher Mat Latos stood on a bench, a bag of pumpkin seeds in his mouth, signing balls and hats for the fans. I liked the experience of witnessing this moment, so close and personal. I started taking pictures with my film camera. He then walked over to the side where I was standing and began signing for the fans standing next to me. I snapped a few pictures with the Canon, then for safe measure, one or two with my cell phone.

Then Mat Latos pulled the bag of pumpkin seeds from his mouth and looked up at me.

"Hey. Can I ask you a question?"

I was stunned into momentarily silence. A beat. Then: "Uh, sure?"

"Why would you want a picture of me in your cell phone?"

Thinking he might be emphasizing the difference between my cell phone and the Canon, I nodded towards it, saying, "well, really it's just a backup in case this one doesn't turn out."

"No, I've just always wondered. Like, see all these people here -- her..." he points to a girl with a pink iPhone case, who giggles at the recognition then snaps his picture, "they're all taking my picture. I've never liked having my picture taken. Y'all have more pictures of me than my mom. I even bought her a camera."

"I guess we all just want to be able to show a picture to our kids 50 years from now to say we had this interaction with the great Reds pitcher, Mat Latos." That's what I said. Because I didn't have a better answer on the tip of my tongue at the time.

What I didn't say to Mat Latos: You're a celebrity pitcher for a major league baseball team, you're on baseball cards, you're up on our television screens. Kids have your stats memorized and girls coo over your tattoos to their beleagured boyfriends. How can you wonder why anyone would want a picture of you in their cell phone?

What I didn't say to Mat Latos: How is a photograph any different than the autographs you're signing now? It's all proof of an encounter, proof of existence: see, I really DID meet Mat Latos. The suffix -graph, from the Ancient Greek γράφω, means "to scratch, to scrape, to graze." A moment scratched into memory through the recording of it. Picture or it didn't happen. Autograph or you weren't really there.

What I didn't say to Mat Latos: I'm a documentarian. I collect moments in life in photograph form so that I don't lose them. This is not just a picture of Mat Latos, but of that day in my life, a hot day in early September, when the cornstalks had begun to go brown and the cicadas had started to die, when I drove myself down to the ballpark singing along to Whitney Houston and sat near the dugout and watched Mat Latos sign hats and balls for his fans before a game. I might not even remember the game (I hope I don't: a terrible 9-1 loss to the Cubs, of all teams), but I'll have a record of that moment. That day in my life. My little form of immortality; the only way I can feel life's permanence. The only way any of us can feel like we'll live forever.

He stopped signing for a moment, pen in hand, and gestured back and forth between himself and the crowd. "How is a picture any better than this moment we're having here?"

I don't know why he was asking me these questions. It honestly sounded like he'd never asked anyone before. Perhaps because I was a woman, older than the young girls waiting to have things signed, but not too old to be direct to without sounding impolite. Perhaps because I was dressed totally ridiculously that night, a bizarre approximation of a character out of A League of Their Own in a denim romper, vintage cap, and a red and white polka dot scarf wrapped around my waist, and he saw this ridiculousness and it broke the wall. Perhaps just because my cell phone camera was the only one that was making any noise. 

But the fact that this question came to me, and I was reminded of The Moment (something I've written about here) and how we now experience things only through documentation (something I've written about here), the fact that I was part of such a profoundly philosophical exchange with a baseball player -- what I didn't say to Mat Latos: you couldn't have asked a bigger or more important question to me than the one you asked just now. 

"Anyway, I've always wondered that."

He smiled and continued his rounds, chewing pumpkin seeds and signing hats and balls for fans in the hot Ohio night. 

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.


Just Patti

It is the Artist's desire to permeate existence 
He does so by the power of his presence 
And by will alone he breathes a work into art. 
As pumping air into a balloon, that when let go, 
permeates the sky.  - Patti Smith

How does one dress for an art opening? I threw on blousey rayon pants, a men's linen vest over a tank top, and -- an afterthought -- my Land Camera, and started to head out the door. I looked in the mirror, and put my hair into a ponytail. "So I don't look like a Patti Smith impersonator," I said to J.

The Coral Sea exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center was sparse, but appropriate. More than twenty years ago, this same museum was taken to court over indecency charges for its Mapplethorpe exhibit. In The Coral Sea, there was nothing hinting at what some might call lewd, more at what they'd recognize as saintly: religious artifacts of Patti's remembrances of Robert Mapplethorpe's life. It was a strong message: THIS is how I remember him. We all can remember everyone in different ways: here was my saint. Two hospital beds with drab blankets; a photograph of an angel statue with a note from Patti to Robert inscribed on it. He was her angel. A display case of Mapplethorpe artifacts, including the Jean Genet book of poetry she read to him before bed: Le Condamné à mort, A Man Sentenced To Death. 

On one wall, framed pages of drafts of her poem for Robert. I walked along and read each one, jotting down, for some reason, the words crossed out on each page: "and considered lying down for awhile," "upon a raft," "he was drawn," "who had he," "spirit," "remembering," "swinging arms," "motioning organ," "perfectly," "suddenly," "and blood pumping madly." I liked the idea of picking up Patti Smith's discarded words somehow. Old scraps that might make up a quilt. The thoughts she dropped along the way.

On the other end of the gallery was a curtained space; inside, two screens showing black and white film images of a restless sea, over which Patti read the text of her poem. There were too many people chatting to hear it properly; I sat for only a moment before deciding it would be better to come back another day to hear it properly.

I had told two friends who were volunteering (hi Kate!) that I'd meet them inside when they were done strapping wristbands to people's wrists, and so headed back downstairs to meet them. I could tell by the buzz in the room that Patti had returned from dinner (as Kate had promised when I arrived). I came down the staircase, but didn't want to go too close; she was being swarmed. I hate swarms. Then suddenly the room shifted, and she was headed in my direction.

She stood next to me surrounded by a posse of people; everyone else stared at her with goofy smiles. I was suddenly dry-mouthed and nervous; I turned my head and ordered a glass of red wine from the bartender. She got into the elevator with her posse, along with a few bold stragglers, and ascended.

I was content with that: just to be in the same room as Patti Smith. 

* * *

Why does this weird thing happen with people who do great things? Why do we get all nervous and dumb around them, or why do we feel the need to have the experience of their physical presence? What did being in the same room as Patti Smith give me? I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "celebrity" lately. How ridiculous it is to get worked up over someone because their picture is in magazines, their image moving across a television set. Even just those who deign themselves too important to reply to someone who starts a conversation on Twitter (yes, I've been burned by this once or twice before, which I realize is ridiculous, but still weird). I've decided that I want to use the word "celeb" for those I want to celebrate: not just artists, but people doing good things, people being people.

* * *

My friends appeared and we sat near the entrance, people watching. I noted how much I enjoy the art of fashion, how some people really have a feel for expressing themselves through their clothes. I noted how here, people dance at art museums, even when no one else was on the floor. I don't know that I ever saw that in New York. I told them everything I'd wanted to say to Patti if I had the chance to speak to her, my millions of gratitudes I carried inside. "But I guess this is not the time or the place." Millions were there with their millions of gratitudes. What made mine any more needed to be heard?

My friends were headed to Northside; I decided to stay behind for a bit and sober up before driving, and chose to go back up to the exhibit for one last look. When I reached the floor, I saw Patti standing there, her daughter and another posse member at her side, just looking around, not talking. 

I straightened my vest and took a deep breath and walked straight up to her and said HI.

And then I spilled my millions of gratitudes.

I started by saying she was the reason I'm here in Cincinnati, her whole thing about getting out of New York and finding a different place for creative output. I told her that her show at Castle Clinton in the Battery was the perfect goodbye to New York. I asked if she was still there, and she said yeah, and talked about how there are some great things still there, but that it's lost its grit. She said it's like a big shopping mall now. I said yes: like a walled city for the rich. She nodded and asked my name, I said "Zan" and she said "that's a cool name." I realized at this point that we were having a conversation, that we'd moved beyond the part where I explode my thoughts at her and run away. I had expected to say my piece and be on my way, but here we were talking. She asked how it was working out here in Cincinnati, and I told her it was the best decision I ever made. That I was so happy. She said this place has a lot of great things going for it, and that she's sure I'll do great things here. I was suddenly self-conscious of the camera slung over my shoulder, and noted her glancing at it as we talked, so pushed it further behind my back lest she think I was a sad imitator. Though I don't even think she would judge me for that. I thanked her for bringing the exhibit to our city, told her it was beautiful, and thanked her for helping bring ME to the city. "I'm sure you would have ended up here anyway." "You're probably right."

And then I walked away with legs like jelly, kneecaps like canastas. I took to my phone, suddenly grateful for the giggly circle of gal friends and guy friends on Twitter who were cheering me on.

It was a brief encounter, but it was enough to learn that Patti Smith is my ideal celeb. She is an artist I admire and respect, and yet she is still people being people. Later on when I was relating the story to a friend, she told me she'd met her once at some schmancy event and that she was the most down-to-earth person in the room: Just Patti. She lives on earth, while her art lives in the sky, permeates all around. She felt the same way about Robert: “I don’t need another artist of my life. I have Robert. The belief that we had in each other is a belief that goes on after death. I’ve always felt it, and I feel it every day.”

I want to celebrate that.

After my encounter, I wandered up to the sixth floor of the museum, to an area called the Unmuseum. The room contains interactive pieces: a wavy carpeted floor that forces you to walk stumblingly across it, aware of your body's pitch, a camping trailer you can sit in and rock back and forth. There were small groups of stragglers up there, rocking trailers, scaling the carpeted waves, exhibit visitors who had had wine and danced and needed a break from the party below. In the back corner of the space, I found solace in a little house with dark rooms, a table and a chair, an empty, tiny doll house for adult-sized people. I wandered inside, into the quiet, then around the back, where there was a half-storey window that overlooked the city. There was a ballgame on the giant screen looming over Fountain Square. A few houses scaling the hillside of Mt. Adams were lit up in the damp night, over the river spreading out south and west, the Carew Tower solid in the middle, permeating the sky. The puddles of the earlier rains gathered in dips of the museum roof, reflecting the lights and the towers and the ballgame on the television screen. It took my breath away. And I was happy to celebrate that

I'm sure I would have ended up here anyway.

* * *

This is the not the first time I've pushed myself to be bold enough to go up to one of my musical heroes and say hello. The first time? When I saw Kevin Shields in the Virgin Megastore in London. He also turned out to be a great guy, and he also collaborated with Patti on the music for The Coral Sea Room.

The Coral Sea is on display at the Contemporary Arts Center until November 2013.

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.


Be Sloppy: Origins

Dead Snakes
Saturday morning, pastries spread on a table, nametags inscribed and stuck to breasts. Thea, Jane, Chris. Nice to meet you. We hold cups of chain coffee and discuss the things we know we have in common: architecture, modern houses, art.

Our host counts heads. He tells us we're heading through his yard, past makeshift fountains made from water pumps and barrels holding overflow from last night's rainstorm, into the neighboring driveway to Charley's house out back. Everyone here knows Charley by just one name: Madonna, Cher, Charley. To our host, he was a good friend; he wishes they'd had more time together, before. Before? Well. Our feet squish in the grass. I skirt a dead garter snake on the driveway and warn the woman behind me (her nametag reads "Meg") of its presence: "Dead snake..." She hops over it nimbly. We're all so excited. Nimble. Dead snakes are nothing. There are no bad omens in dead snakes. ("Watch where you walk.")

We're heading to Charley's house.

Charley and Edie
"Charley Harper (1922 – 2007) was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist. He was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations. While at the [Art Academy of Cincinnati], Charley met fellow artist Edie Mckee (1922 - 2010), whom he would marry shortly after graduation in 1947." (Wikipedia)

"With Charley’s scholarship and Edie’s car, the newly-married couple spent six months on an extended honeymoon. They painted, sketched and photographed throughout the West and South. They even met Edward Weston and his cats in California. The trip inspired both of them throughout their careers." ("Charlie and Edie," Codex 99)

"'We took four months, camping often to make the money last, absorbing the feel of the vast landscapes of the plains, the Rockies, the desert. I had begun to lose interest in realism after several years of preoccupation with it. I felt fettered by the laws of perspective and shading and decided that the constant attempt to create the illusion of three dimensions on the two-dimensional plane was limiting.'" (Charley's Story)

"In 1958 the Harpers built a mid-century modern home in the middle of the woods in Finneytown. Cutting edge by the day’s standards, lean and spare like his artwork, the home was a laboratory in nature, the perfect setting for Charley’s observations and research." (Nina Kieffer, House Trends)

"'I'm the world's worst bird watcher. That's my dirty little secret.'" (Charley Harper interview with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

"The house tells the story of their relationship and the decades that followed: honeymoon mementos; Edie’s studio downstairs; a giant image of one of Charley’s famous ladybugs. One of the house’s most striking features is the giant glass window set that offers an uninhibited view of the wilderness beyond." (Zachary Petit, A-line Magazine)

Two year ago, almost to the day, I picked up a book of Charley Harper's illustrations at The Strand in New York. Charley Harper had long been a presence in my life; the cardinals in the background, hung on people's walls, adorning their bookshelves and their coffee mugs. I'd been eyeing the book for months if not years, but hadn't been able to afford it until that moment. That very moment.

In that book, between colorful shapes and lines and circles representing the entire animal kingdom, I spotted a picture of Charley standing next to a wooden fence in paint smeared pants, green hostas and buckeyes and maples at his back. His hand is to his eyes, he's looking up, as if the photographer instructed the self-described world's worst birdwatcher to pretend he'd spotted a bird.

He's smiling.

I saw that picture and said to J: I want to live in Charley Harper's house. 

That Saturday we found a house for sale down the hill from the Harpers' house in Cincinnati, a house with windows overlooking the wildnerness behind it (the email I sent to my mom with a link to the house is titled "THE HOUSE OF OUR DREAMS"); by the following Wednesday we'd put an offer on it. That August we moved into our new home. I looked at the cardinals frolicking in the wilderness outside our giant windows and remarked that they might be relatives of the cardinals Charley once drew. 

The house of our dreams.

And Then We Met the Architect
Rudy Hermes was dressed in khakis, perched on a chair in Charley's studio, waiting for our questions. On the table before him was a placard showing the house he'd designed for an architecture competition that won him a trip around the world, as well as a case displaying the Ford Times illustrations he worked on with Charley.

"'Keep it simple,'" Charley had instructed Rudy when he'd asked him to design their house on a lot in these steep forested hills. Rudy tapped one of the illustrations in the case: "That's the one I originally did for Charley, but we never did a budget to see if it would work."

"Did anyone ever ask you to do one of these after this came out?" 


"Well I'll take one." I asked him if he was still working, but he tapped his knee and explained that since its replacement he hadn't really been able to work the way he wanted to. 

And so I thanked him for the work he had done. Told him that if he hadn't built this house for Charley, and if we hadn't seen a picture of it in that book, we wouldn't be where we are now. "And we're so happy," I concluded, "so thank you for making that possible." 

He smiled.

A List of Things I Meant Note in Charley and Edie Harper's House (But Didn't)

  1. What radio station the little boombox was tuned to in Charley's studio. 
  2. What books had bookmarks in them and where. And why.
  3. What they kept on their bedside tables.
  4. What the ceilings were made of. How they cleaned the tops of their windows.
  5. Where Edie preferred to sit: outside or in; upstairs or down.

A List of Things I Did Note

  1. The bits of shell and rock and wood collected in a planter near the doorway.
  2. The rubber waders and fishing net, empty and unused, leaned up against the rear of the house.
  3. The plants and tools resting on a wooden shelf out back, tools for poking in the dirt, excavating.
  4. The look on Edie's face in her portrait hung next to Charley's in the downstairs gallery: knowing, confident, appreciating, discerning.
  5. The glass ornaments strung from every window: ladybugs, birds.
  6. The lids to ice cream pots used by Charley for paint palettes.
  7. The sketches of cardinals on tracing paper pinned to the underside of his shelves.
  8. The cushioned bench next to the window within arm's reach of the desk in the studio; how easy the window looked to open and let the breeze in.
  9. The low branches visible just outside, good for watching how birds flew, and perched, and landed.
  10. The framed reminder above the stairs to his studio basement: "Be Sloppy." (It was J who pointed out the one below it, the one we presumed was Edie's reminder: "You Are.")

Is Cleanliness Next to Charleyness?
I came home and started to clean my house, suddenly aware of how it might look to other people if I were to suddenly die.

"I wonder if he left his studio that night saying 'you know, I should really clean up this desk tomorrow.' And then never got the chance."

Then I remembered the framed reminder: "Be Sloppy." And considered for a moment putting everything back the way it was. 

I know he wasn't talking about housekeeping, but rather about being loose and free with your art. I know he wasn't talking about chores, but process. But there's something in the mantra of "Be Sloppy" that can be extended to other moments of life: the moments when you judge yourself too harshly, when you're stuck, when you're afraid that you'll make mistakes or not do something properly, so you don't do it at all. When you've found yourself suddenly too rigid, too "fettered by the laws of perspective," too bound by expectations that you never venture to veer off the path, outside of the lines. When you're too busy subsisting, toeing the line, obeying laws of shading to realize you'd rather be elsewhere. Doing other things. When you are so busy looking at the road ahead that you nearly step on the dead snake right there under foot. Be Sloppy. 

You Are.

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.