Saturday, December 30, 2006

Remembering Blues Legend H-Bomb Ferguson

As many of you know, H-Bomb Ferguson passed away recently. A tribute in his honor happens next week. I can’t help remembering H-Bomb and the countless times I saw him perform.

Published reports put H-Bomb at age 77 at the time of his death; I question this since I remember him as being in his 70’s a decade ago. Around this time I was still at Miami University and I trekked weekly to Clifton to see H-Bomb Ferguson play on Sundays at Cory’s on Vine Street.

Things I remember about H-Bomb Ferguson:

  1. H-Bomb Ferguson wore crazy wigs. Every week it would be different; sometimes he’d wear a Twisted Sister-like long blonde wig, sometimes it would be a purple Tina Turner and often it would be both, as he would change the wig at every break between sets.
  2. The ladies loved H-Bomb Ferguson. Not only did he have a (very) young wife, a number of women would ooh and ah at him while he played. The times I spoke with him, he was charming and kind and a wink over the shoulder was often directed my way (the first time he did this, I tripped, sending him into peals of laughter).
  3. There were rumors of H-Bomb Ferguson’s death for the last several years; in addition to the confusion about his actual age, he would disappear occasionally, only to resurface playing the blues in a louder and more raucous fashion than before. The rumors only added to the mystique of this immensely talented musician.
  4. H-Bomb Ferguson played the piano and sang the blues with a lotta heart and a lotta soul. And that, more than anything, will be his legacy.

The H-Bomb Ferguson Tribute will be held next Sunday, January 7th at the Southgate House in Newport and begins at 5 pm. Bands playing include H-Bomb's band, the Medicine Men; Uncle Russell Givens, Bo Chambers, Scoot Jacobs, Sonny Hill, Ricky Nye and many more will be honoring H-Bomb’s memory. In addition, scenes from the recent John Parker documentary on H-Bomb Ferguson will be shown as a montage during the show.

Minimum donation is $5 at the door and proceeds benefit the family of H-Bomb Ferguson. Hope to see you there.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Avenue bar lights up the Madison arts district in Covington

Last night we stopped in to The Avenue bar, the latest contribution to the up and coming Covington arts district. Considering that this used to be the home of The Pad, home to Kentucky’s most beautiful girls, we didn’t have the highest of hopes. The “girlie” bars of northern Kentucky on the whole tend to be seedy, dark and scary enough to send my friends John and Russ running for the door.

Not only has The Pad had a complete overhaul, The Avenue bar in the Covington arts district is far and away the nicest bar we’ve seen open- on either side of the Ohio river- in a long time.

With exposed brick and ductwork, a 40 foot + bar and long, low davenports complemented by leather cubes, it’s downright swanky. But not scary- The Avenue bar has a great neighborhood feel, with a great mix of older blues-loving folks, 20 and 30-something singletons and a number of couples too.

The staff at The Avenue bar is friendly and warm- at one point I came back from the (pristine) bathroom to find our server plunked on a cube talking to my friend. The band was blues-y, with a stand-up bass (nod) and harmonica getting the whole bar enthusiastically involved in the music. Two beers, two mixed drinks and one shot (not mine) added up to $21, and we weren’t charged a cover, either.

The only reminder of the old days at The Avenue bar is The Pad’s billboard-like sign, now gracing one of the walls of the bar. Like the K & K in Bellevue, now the cleaned-up and trendified B-List, The Avenue bar on Madison is an overhaul worthy of the changes happening in the Covington arts district- and northern Kentucky.

The Avenue is located at 411 Madison Avenue.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2006 Crunks- the best media errors and newspaper corrections of 2006

The best newspaper corrections of the year from www.regrettheerror.com

A blunder on top of a newspaper correction from the Delaware News Journal: “An article in Sunday’s Local section on the estate sale of former Gov. Elbert Carvel quoted Olin Vanaman of Wilmington about his excitement in purchasing 35 of the governor’s decanters during the auction, including one used at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Vanaman said he used a slang term when describing Carvel as "a big boozer,” but he did not mean that the former governor was a heavy drinker. Vanaman refers to people who collect decanters as "boozers,” he explained, "the same as guys who collect cars are gear-heads.” No reference to drinking or the consumption of alcohol was intended in the article.”

It had to be the Oregon, right? The Oregon Health & Science University says they really just study meth, despite the Oregonian article’s headline: "State's latest meth cook: OHSU"

The Denver Post- had an arms-full of Rumsfeld already? “Memo Just Before Resigning- Donald Armsful’s classified note to the White House acknowledged the strategy was not working and suggested several options to avoid the appearance of losing.”

I’ve made that mistake myself from Newsday.com: “A picture on the cover of the Real Estate Section Friday was incorrect. The picture was not gangster Al Capone, but the actor Rod Steiger playing Capone.”

Because you can’t put a price on Rollergirl style, from The Washington Post: The Dec. 1 Style On the Go listings incorrectly described one of the events at the D.C. Rollergirls' Snow Ball tonight. The winner of a date with one of the Rollergirls will be determined by an auction, not a raffle.

From the archives, the 2005 Best Crunk: From the Denver Daily News “The Denver Daily News would like to offer a sincere apology for a typo in Wednesday's Town Talk regarding New Jersey's proposal to ban smoking in automobiles. It was not the author's intention to call New Jersey 'Jew Jersey.'”

And the all-time best ever newspaper correction from our own Kentucky home; the 2004 newspaper correction of the year from the Lexington-Herald-Leader: “It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.”

For many more crunks, check out Craig Silverman’s line-up at www.regrettheerror.com

Share your favorite media error or newspaper correction in our comments section.

Whaddaya gonna do, arrest me for smoking? Yes Sharon, we will arrest you for smoking if you live in Ohio.

The nonstop articles and on-line comments about the Ohio smoking ban, the effects on Ohio bars and restaurants and the supposed mass exodus by smokers to northern Kentucky finally came down to this. Donn Kerr, a 56 year-old Marietta, Ohio man, was arrested for smoking within a week of the new Ohio smoking ban.

Kerr lit up at the Marietta Brewing Company, was asked to extinguish the butt, refused, and the police were called to remove him from the bar. Kerr explains “we’d been smoking in other places and no one seemed to be enforcing this new law.” The presumably long night of smoking and drinking may have had a hand in the first Ohio smoking ban related arrest, as Kerr said he “doesn’t remember” being asked to leave. Oops!

All of the on-line catcalling, the “guest” writers from both sides of the battle and the general glee that the Cincinnati Enquirer seems to be taking in promulgating and drawing out the fight for and against the Ohio smoking ban seems to be out of hand. And moot. Anti-smoking laws have been passed in several states and right or wrong, none of them have been repealed.

Northern Kentucky lawmakers will be closely watching the Ohio smoking ban fallout.

Elsmere tried to pass a smoking ban a couple of years ago, and it failed miserably. Northern Kentucky doesn’t want to be known as the smoker’s haven, yet the boost in business at bars and restaurants can’t be denied-or ignored- for this booming area of the tri-state. Campbell County’s been trying to get some groundswell pumping for a while to enforce a local smoking ban, but it hasn’t had much oomph so far. And unless Boone and Kenton counties get on board, it’s going to be a really hard sell.

Say what you will about the Ohio smoking ban; it’s not going to go away.

Non-smokers, rejoice in a smoke-free atmosphere while you enjoy the Paul Otten band or Bob Cushing on the north side of the river. Smokers, bring a heavy coat and muffler to your favorite Ohio bar. You’ll be taking many trips outside.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pho Paris moves to Greenup. Yes!

Jean-Robert de Cavel in his infinite wisdom is moving on to Greenup Street. Thank goodness, because ever since Scalea’s, the best take-out deli on the planet, left we’ve been graced with 1. a member’s only club 2. a member’s only club-gone public. The only good thing about the Metropolitan was that Pedro Fontova was guest chef one month. Though as Pedro laughingly told me, the Met charged $14 for one of his burritos and you can get two for that price at his Scott street digs.

I avoid JC’s Greenup Café like it’s a crack house. I live three blocks away, work from home and I need a French pastry shop around the corner like I need a hole in the head. I go instead to Sunoco, to get a fountain diet coke and to catch up on the latest gossip with the cashier (they know everything about everybody). My neighbors have told tales of the espresso machine breaking down at the Greenup Café and day old croissants, but with Jean Robert's reputation, we’ll call those opening quarter mini-dramas, and assume they’ve worked them out by now.

We had Donna’s Diner for a too-short while (oh, that bloody Mary bar) but owned by the troubled Queen City Restaurant group, it was a short-lived addition to the area. Jack Quinn’s, after a year of near-empty capacity whenever we stopped in, likewise pulled up stakes and moved. They’re a franchise, so don’t feel too badly about it, but the food was pretty good and the place had nice atmosphere. Coco’s is, well, Coco’s, easy to walk to, and staffed by friendly people, but inexplicably, they reduced their menu down to nothing a few months ago, while simultaneously raising their prices. Some healthy neighborhood competition is clearly in order.

Pho Paris will be a nice addition to the riverside district. In anticipation of the move, and the problems experienced at the Oakley location, the restaurant will be more casual, with lower prices too… Can’t wait to see that take-out menu! Pho Paris opens at 318 Greenup Street in Covington in January 2007.

Monday, December 11, 2006

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The Newport Levee is the new Main Street

It was inevitable. Shortly after Jefferson Hall moved over to Newport on the Levee, they ran a radio ad touting the benefits of "the new Main Street!" Ouch!

The WCPO I-Team Bong Team (hit the bong? drop the bong?) insists that Main Street has changed for the better. Yes, they say, the Cincinnati Main Street district has taken its lumps, losing seven bars over the last year, but it's more neighbor-hood-y now. Meanwhile, my former neighbors in mansion hill battle traffic, buckled cobblestone streets and long lines at the traffic lights. Grumph.

Newport isn't a mall, or a purple bridge, or a yellow bridge, either. It's beautiful historic homes, sweeping city views, and a welcoming community. It's Southgate House, York Street Cafe, Mansion Hill tavern and yes, the Brass Ass, one of the last bastions of old Newport, proudly steadfast on the drive to the river.

I boycott the Newport Levee on principle. Maybe one day I'll go to Hot Topic to get an Express tattoo on my lower back and then hit Johnny Rockets for a red meat transfusion. Sorry, but if I want to go to a franchised restaurant, I'll take Big Boy over the Levee's dining options any day.

Newport on the Levee- their tagline is "a world away from everyday." From everyday what?

Can Latonia be saved?

Money's pouring into developments along the riverside, but what happens to our landlocked neighbors to the south?

Latonia, Kentucky offers a lot to someone who loves architecture (how can you resist a building called the "flats?") and old-time charm. But with a hard-to-get-to location (off 275 in the middle of no man's land or straight south from Covington for about three miles) and some rumored walkouts by the established big businesses in the area, what's next for Latonia?

There are a few tacks Latonia could follow today: 1. Start playing up the history of the place. Organize events that highlight the charming downtown buildings and the other gems the city has to offer. 2. Give incentives to business owners to move to Latonia for start-up or expansion. 3. Give incentives for current business owners in Latonia to work together, understanding that eventually, the word of mouth will benefit them, too. 4. Send out regular press releases that hit upon their town's key highlights: historic buildings, charming downtown, inexpensive rents and friendly people.

Right now, too many people think of Latonia, KY as that pass-through on the way to the "good" Kroger, where's there's always a damn train. Can this town be saved?