Dr. Know: November 2013

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I’ve always been puzzled by the marker on Columbia Parkway that says “Turkey Bottoms.” I assume it was an old neighborhood, but what became of it? —Curious Driver

Dear Driver:

It is still there. It’s just covered by an airport. Turkey Bottoms, the fertile, foggy flood plain at the confluence of the Little Miami and Ohio rivers, wasn’t what the Doctor would call a neighborhood. Prior to the paving and grading for Cincinnati’s municipal aerodrome and later Lunken playfield and Reeves Golf Course, the sparsely inhabited alluvial acres were so dangerously damp that if one were to cross the grounds at anything less than a brisk trot, one would begin to take root or to mildew, depending on the time of year. In his dark and sad golfing days, the Doctor, contemplating a vexsome par five, rested his three wood on the fairway 30 seconds longer than advisable only to discover that the cursed club had acquired an astonishingly thick headcover of moss.

People do not use the name Turkey Bottoms anymore because they find it faintly embarrassing, since real estate developers have trained us to prefer Crossings and Pointes to Bottoms. The Doctor, perhaps the last person in Greater Cincinnatiland to treat media as the plural it are, would like to point out that the moniker Turkey Bottoms refers not to multiple poultry cloacae but to the singular grounds where once clustered America’s nearly national bird.

Whatever happened to those big colored Ellsworth Kelly panels in the lobby of the old Central Trust building? —Mystified

Dear Mystified:

Once upon a time, long, long ago, when there were more than six banks—which is to say long, long before coked-up Wharton graduates dared each other to bundle trailer mortgages with suburban Las Vegas fake-stucco McMansion mortgages, thereby creating new rivers of “wealth”—banks were sleepy institutions where it was safe to park well-meaning but not particularly agile second sons to mind the trust funds and safe-deposit boxes of America’s coupon-clipping class. There was, in those distant times, enough profit in safe-deposit-minding that banks were able to indulge artistically ambitious wives of bank presidents with the purchase of something nice to hang on the walls of the main banking floor. Remember, people actually went to banks to transact business back then, so it was nice to have something to look at while standing in very long lines behind pensioners paying their utility bills, then a free (!!) service.

Having built a new HQ on what was once the Greyhound Bus grounds, Central Trust, perhaps the stodgiest of the large Cincinnati financial institutions, decided to go all out and commissioned artist Ellsworth Kelly to create 18 Colors—one of his highly regarded, however cryptic, installations—to brighten up the teller cages. It was a daring step in a city where the bulk of citizens believed that art was something best kept on a Gibson Greeting Card. So art scholars could not be surprised at the lack of outcry when PNC took over Central Trust, and in 1988, gave the big color chips to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Already straining to deal with the size of the Miró and Steinberg that had been removed from the Terrace Plaza to make room for the vinyl wallpaper preferred by hotel chains everywhere, the Art Museum swapped 18 Colors with Kelly himself for a couple of more wieldy pieces. The canny artist re-sold his Cincinnati masterwork.

It’s interesting to note that the George Rickey revolving panels outside the bank at Fifth and Main survived PNC’s art purge. They’ve even lasted longer than video artist Nam June Paik’s Metrobot, which used to liven up Government Square, bringing joy into the hearts of art-starved Metro bus drivers. The Doctor used to think Central Trust and PNC were missing a beat by not using those George Rickey panels to show today’s CD rate. But that was back in the days when CDs had rates.

My fiancé (Cincinnati guy) and I (Not From Here gal) are planning our wedding. His first question: Who will cater the coneys? He says it’s a local tradition to serve a snack of cheese coneys before guests leave the reception. Really? —Not a Fan of Bibs  

Dear Not:

No. Not really. Not in respectable neighborhoods. The Doctor’s advice? Get out now. Go back to Not Here while the getting’s good.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue

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