April 26, 2012

kim taylor

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                             kim taylor

Can you see how far we've come
Such a miracle
Everything is clear
You are such a wonder 
I will be the one to build you up
I will be the one to never doubt

photo by steve metz                                                                                       kim taylor
I have never cried while watching a film or television.  I have never cried while looking at a photograph.  I have cried only once from a was the final pages of Paul Auster's novella Timbuktu.  I have never cried at a funeral.  I have never cried from the sight of a beautiful piece of art or from seeing the brutality of mankind or nature with my eyes.

     I am not ashamed to tell you, however, that I have been moved to tears more times than I could probably count, by the sound of a voice and a melody.  This is me being straight with you.  That intersection of human breath and instrumentation is the place where my soul abides.  I am wide open there and the tears come when they come.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                              kim taylor

     You are listening to a song called Build You Up, by Kim Taylor.  Those are her words and that is her voice.  You have a free connection to this person's interior mind, through this gift she has made of her own heart. Listen now, for a moment and while you listen, introduce yourself by looking at a picture.  Imagine the woman who pulled up these words from her own mind.  Imagine the woman who imagined the melody.  Imagine she, who breathed a sad strength into both.  As you are listening with your ears and seeing with your eyes you will come to know her.  The images that Kim let me make this past weekend and the sound of her, have left an indelible print somewhere on me.  I feel that I have known this Kim, or maybe a Kim for my whole life.  Maybe she is me.  Or my sister.  Or my grandmother.  Maybe she is your wife.  Or your son.  Or the man who turns your checks into cash at the bank.  So now, close your eyes and listen for someone you know.  Listen for yourself.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                      kim taylor
     And now tell me what you heard.  What was that smoky sound planting in the dirt of you?  What seed is there to grow?  Did it tell you to be strong for someone whom you love?  Did it tell you to let someone whom you love be strong for you?  Is there a difference between these ideas when the two are bonded as one, where there is love?  I'll never doubt.

     I feel like a poet, hiding behind music is what she told me.  I wondered to myself if there is a distinction between the poet who pens and the poet who sings. Ultimately, Kim is both, to me, and the two crafts are like a perfectly woven vine and branch around her, distinct but inseparable, each bolstering the other, each whispering to the other, stay.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                              kim taylor

     Kim has been excavating her own inner landscape in this way for many years, and, so far, the only thing she's giving up on is having expectations.  Her family is her compass, her rehab, her blanket, and they have watched as she has matriculated from a place of quiet desperation to a place of travel for the sake of the journey.  I am open to anything now.  I don't know where I'm going.  I don't know where this leads, she tells me.

     Do you ever fee like quitting, I ask?  
     Why don't you?
     My partner....they bring me back when I wander.  They keep me moving.   

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                              kim taylor

     And so, thankfully, for us, the recipients of Kim's gifts, she awakens daily, ready to dig in the dirt.  Ready to be swept away in the tide of beautiful sorrow that accompanies living with eyes open.  She's out there right now in the garden.  There's a seed in her hand.  It's a word, a chord, an arpeggio, maybe just a whisper.  She drops it into a small hole and covers it with dirt...a home, a bed, a hiding place, a brief grave.  She lifts the watering can and a droplet plunges into the dark soil to nourish it.  Soon, it will rise up and you'll hear it faintly in the distance.   You might mistake it for your own heartbeat.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                             kim taylor

Kim Taylor will be in New York recording a new record.  You'll be able to get it around the time the leaves start dropping.  You can buy Build You Up or anything else by Kim, just about anywhere.  


April 19, 2012

cincinnatians of note whom we've lost this year

Pinky Scissors

photo courtesy mtv archives                                                                                            pinky

DOB/Place of birth: August, 1959 / Newport Ky.
Cause of death: choked on someone else's vomit
Occupation: stage manager (Plasmatics, Musical Youth, Men at Work)
Favorite food: ice chips
Favorite dance: finger pistols (shown)
Noteworthiness: Pinky lost her left eye in 1981 during the filming of a Plastmatics performance for NBC's SCTV, when singer Wendy O. Williams attacked her with an exposed nipple.  Pinky is said to have shed one final tear from the eye as she was carted away from the studio by paramedics.  According to family members, the two never spoke again.


Fragrance Dunleavy

photo courtesy match game '76                                                                                                                                    fragrance

DOB/place of birth: 'Whatever makes me 26, lovey!' / Oakley
Cause of death: catastrophic injuries sustained operating a motor vehicle, impaired
Occupation: game show celebrity guest
Favorite artist: Burt Bacharach
Favorite game show answer: 'Fannie Flagg's nylons after a long hot barn party.'
Favorite food: rabbit, duck, gin
Noteworthiness: Although the origins of her fame are generally unknown, Fragrance is credited as being the originator of the 1970's trend of adding the word "city" to many commonly used words and phrases, as in, Jesus...this place is trash-city Let's get out of here.  

photo courtesy match game '76                                                                                                                                    fragrance


Bjorn Heinrich Dichs

interpol surveillance photo, circa 1994                                                                                                                                  dichs

DOB/place of birth: unknown / fishing vessel, Baltic Sea, Swedish Coast
Cause of death: lung cancer
Occupation: talent agent (partial client list: Rick Astley, Gerard Depardieu, Scary Spice)
Favorite food: snails, eclairs
Favorite childhood memory: making sausages 'wit Moder'
Favorite slogan: Pall Mall: Wherever Particular People Congregate
Noteworthiness: Not a native of Cincinnnati, Dichs sought refuge here after having served a five year prison term, subsequent to pornography charges.  Dichs had been implicated in an international sting operation designed to topple some of the United States' and Europe's leading offenders.  He was arrested and detained by Interpol in Lyon, France.  A sensational trial followed and would lead to his conviction and eventual prison term.  Upon release, he fled to the US, hoping to return to anonymity.  He spent his final years, in isolation, in a one-bedroom apartment in Mt. Auburn.

interpol surveillance photo, circa 1994                                                                                                                                   dichs


Patty Dinkel 

photo courtesy jr. league of cincinnati                                                                         patty

DOB/Place of birth: March, 1954 / Mt. Washington
Cause of death: heart attack, mall walking
Occupation: Office administrator
Favorite food: fish sticks!!!
Favorite pastime: worship, television
Dream job: 'Already workin' it!'
Noteworthiness: In 1992, while attempting to concoct a cure for her own prolonged case of hiccups, Patty accidentally invented what would become Febreze air freshener.  P&G would eventually purchase the idea from Patty, for an undisclosed sum.  Patty continued working in a local law office in an administrative position which she would eventually hold for 22 years.  She would devote most of the riches from Febreze to local charities, family members, and her church.

photo courtesy jr. league of cincinnati                                                                                                                                     patty

pssst...thanks allison.

April 12, 2012

park + vine

     A teacher told me, when I was young, that, when Europeans first arrived in North America, it would have been theoretically possible for a squirrel to cross from the eastern seaboard to the Mississippi River Banks, without ever having touched the ground.  So thick were the trees, as to provide a contiguous sky-way.  Perhaps he was exaggerating...I've never really known and my young mind believed it.  Either way, you get the point.  The concept holds.  Look out any window.  Look for anything that looks different from the last thick woods you walked through, and man has cleared that space for something: a road, a church, a school, homes, malls, name it and we've built it.  Ohio is now known as an agricultural state, but it's also a woodland habitat in its natural form.  Where do you think those millions of acres of farmlands came from?  Where are most of the woods?  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                  goldfish tank/park + vine

     Do we need roads, places to live, places to work and places to grow food?  Of course we do.  But I guess the question is, when will we begin to actually contain ourselves?  When and how will we reach and maintain a stasis?  When will enough people believe that nothing is endless?  I guess it will boil down to one of two things: a reactive crisis of survival or, preferably, a proactive series of small decisions, implemented by everyone.  Do I need a new mobile phone every two years or do I simply want a new mobile phone every two years?  Do I need to drive my car three blocks to the restaurant or can I walk? Should I dispose of my dog's poop with a traditional plastic bag which will stay in the landfill forever or should I invest a small amount of money on some biodegradable bags?  Is there something I can do with this pair of shoes I no longer want, besides putting them out to the curb?

photo by steve metz                                            dan k./owner operator, park + vine

     Yes, we have a lot of freedoms and conveniences today, but we also have a lot of decisions to make.  Fortunately, burgeoning awareness of our relationship to and reliance upon our planet's finite, natural resources has given rise to a new breed of industry, which is intent on helping us in our stewardship.  Green industries and technologies have created a nice little symbiosis: we get cool stuff, which helps us keep the planet alive, along with the satisfaction of knowing that we're taking small steps, and they get to employ people, make a few bucks, and the satisfaction of knowing that they've helped us take small steps.  A marquee example of this paradigm, is Cincinnati's own Park + Vine.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                      foodstuffs!/park + vine

     What was that thing that Twain said about wanting to die in Cincinnati?  Sure, it's probably true that eco-friendly stores similar to Park + Vine set up shop in towns like Eugene and Asheville, prior to the Park + Vine opening in Cincinnati, 5 years ago.  To me, that just makes this place more special.  It's a bastion of uniqueness, floating upon a sea of Targetesque and Walmartian sameness.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                  sarah/park + vine

     This eco-epicenter of the region is the brainchild of Dan K., a Cincinnati expatriate who returned home to open the shop, now located in the charming space which once housed Kaldi's coffee shop.  The store has quickly become the cornerstone of green, environmentally conscious living: selling eco-friendly house and garden wares, hosting educational forums, and, most recently, offering locally grown and/or organic foods, cafe style.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                               a house after my own heart

     When first you step through the front door of Park + Vine, you will quickly realize that you are in for an atypical Cincinnati shopping experience.  The space is unbelievably inviting.  I felt like meandering for hours on the day of my visit.  The vibrant colors of the products, exposed brick walls, and decorative murals, combined with accents such as a beautiful plant/goldfish eco-display, and a sunroom-style children's mini-store, will make you feel like you've entered the winning entry of an eclectic design competition.  It's really charming.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                               sandy/park + vine

     When you finally stop admiring the space, you'll then be drawn into its unique world of merchandise.  Each item seems to tell the story of how it came to be, of how its presence is the response to a problem, which you may not have even known about prior to having held its solution in your hands.  You know that new doormat you purchased at the Depot last weekend....the one made from newly manufactured rubber?  Yeah, that one.  Well Park + Vine has one made from the recycled parts of colorful, discarded flip flops.  Someone had that cool idea and they actually followed through on it, and now you can buy one.  The list of products and their warm tales of existence is long, but sufficed to say that if you are like me: the type of person who is concerned about, for example, the chemicals we are breathing and often dumping into the water supply when we paint our homes, then Park + Vine has many products you'll be glad to find and purchase.  You no longer need to clean your house with poison, people.      

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                 local!/park + vine

     There are times when I imagine our entire world to be a small cluster of cells which are part of a larger organism, and, that on that cluster of cells, we, the human race, are a rapidly spreading virus.  It's a grim analogy, but if you look at world growth statistics, you'll know what I mean.  The world's population, in 1927, just thirteen years before my parents were born, was 2 billion.  Only two generations later, and we have topped 7 billion.  Thousands of years to reach 2 billion, and less than one hundred years to more than triple that number.  Are fresh air, water, and clean soil magically and mysteriously propagating to match the collective bulge of people we've grown?  Nope.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                              mushroom garden/flip flop doormats

     So, it's time to do something big, by doing lots of small things.  It's the easy way out of this mess.  Let's use our muscles to open doors, rather than having machines which open them automatically.  Let's ride a bike with a tiny solar cell on our backpack, which we'll use to charge our phone later.  Let's grow a little of our own food, and, when we don't use all of it, let's compost.  Let's buy reclaimed flooring for our homes, and if it's absolutely necessary to purchase something new, let's make it bamboo (there's a rhyme in that last bit, if you say it just right).  Most importantly, let's support places like Park + Vine.  Sure, they're trying to make a living, just like everyone, but their mission is noble and they are connecting us to the tiny materials and objects which will  lead us to a greater good.  Someone's gonna have the next great idea because they've been inspired by this place.

Park + Vine

April 5, 2012

the mercantile library

     It started with the sun shining through the living room window and onto the back of my head and my shoulders, too...a beautiful, golden light for reading.  Hours later, it would be the too-dim-light of a brass lamp which would illuminate the pages, but, still, I would finish it.  Phantom of the Opera was the first novel I read cover to cover in one sitting...and I mean one sitting.  It got uncomfortable.  I remember rising and meandering into the dining room, having turned the final page.  I had this feeling I couldn't explain just yet...of being happy and sad, all at once.  So lost had I been in that world, that, in returning to the real one, I was like a resistant time traveler being shoved forward.  I was eleven.  Only moments ago, I had been in the brooding cellars and opera houses of Paris, and now, it was time for dinner in Ohio.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                         albert pyle/executive director

        Books transport us to any time or any place to consort with anyone.  I can dwell in the late nineteenth century jungles of India with a heroic mongoose named Rikki Tikki Tavi, by opening a book.  I can dive for pearls and navigate seas of greed, evil, and sorrow, with a Mexican diver named Kino, by opening a book.  I can even take walks with fireman Guy Montag, in a future, book-less society...ironically, by opening a book.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                  kazant through krassnoff

     But they are vanishing.  Not the words themselves, but the form.  We have kindleized them.  We have  iPadified them.  We have books-on-tape-etized and screen adapted them.  I'm not sure why.  It isn't progress.  Listening to a book or even dragging your index finger across a screen to "turn" a page, to me, is like swallowing a pill which will make you believe that you are tasting fresh, ripe strawberries, rather than simply eating fresh, ripe strawberries. Where is that crisp, shuffling sound?  Why is there no smooth feeling in my fingertips?  Where is the note scrawled in the margin by some other previous, anonymous reader?

photo by steve metz                                                  case/mercantile library of cincinnati

     Personally, I have also fallen into time-sucking traps...traps of convenient mindlessness.  I have found myself too often poised over the "like" button instead of over pages, where I could have been an explorer of worlds of time and matter.  What difference does it make, I ask myself.  It's just my free time.  How is whether or not I read a book important?  The thing is.  The more I read, the more I understand triumphs and tragedies outside my own personal experience.  Looking down into a book, in a way, makes us look up from ourselves.  Books are a looking glass into the common soul of mankind.  We get to live other lives through reading.  We gain empathy for imagined people so that we can have more compassion for real people.  Yet, even with this carrot of self-actualization and enlightenment dangling before my nose, I falter and I opt for easy, and that makes me a problem for the healthy life of books.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                           first edition dickens

     Mercifully, the Mercantile Library is a timeless sanctuary for books and the culture of reading and writing.  It is a place where "progress" can not interfere with something vital or coerce it into obsolescence, and where this treasure of reading other people's words, which humanity has given itself over millennia, is well preserved in a sort of suspended animation.  It is quiet and still and lovely and, prior to a few weeks ago, I had no knowledge of its existence.

photo by steve metz                                                                        bust in sunlight/shadow

     Founded on April 18th, 1835 (happy birthday library!), by forty-five Cincinnati area merchants and clerks, which included future U.S President, William Henry Harrison, the membership library's collection, originally comprised of approximately 700 donated volumes, is now over 200,000 volumes strong.  A proportionately significant number of the works are pertinent to Cincinnati and Ohio.  Most of the books circulate.  

    The library's heritage also includes rich cultural programs, dating back to its inception.  If you have read even a modicum of required, high school literature, you have read works by Mercantile Library lecturers.  They include, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and, more recently, John Updike and Tom Wolfe.  Their stories, their ideas, their examples...they are all etched into the mural of our national consciousness and they are being preserved in their purest form by the Mercantile Library.

photo by steve metz                                          coat rack/mercantile library of cincinnati

     I make this blog because I want to discover, for myself, the people of Cincinnati who are quietly doing beautiful, contemplative things, whose voices may have been lost in the din of loudmouthed, self-aggrandizing people like Simon Leis Jr., Jean Schmidt, Larry Flynt, Jerry Springer, Bill Cunningham, and Marge Schott who, over the years that I have called this city home, have represented the most audible voices of our community's culture...overbearing voices speaking only to be heard.  Part of this journey of discovery, for me, is to embrace small changes in my life after I have these quiet, intimate experiences.  After having visited this magical, ghostly place, this place which felt like a church that I could attend and understand, this library, I am going to try two things.  The first will be to visit the basement of my own home, where most of the books are sleeping.  I will pick one up, dust it off, and begin to read it.  It will wake up in my very hands, and, I, with it.  I may even eat a strawberry.  The second will be to pony up the small fee required to become a member of the Mercantile Library.  After all, when the next Melville is standing and speaking in that grand room on Walnut Street, I will want to hear what he or she has to softly say.

Mercantile Library