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Chris Anderson Is a Local Science Star

The Jersey cattle grazing in the background watch curiously as Chris Anderson launches into his one-man video shoot. A gust of wind ruffles his curly hair and whooshes across his microphone. “Hey everybody, I’m Chris Anderson,” he says while gesturing energetically. “Today we’re going to talk about herd immunity.” He flashes a huge grin and shoots a quick glance at his bovine audience to make sure YouTube viewers will get the joke.

During this video shoot in early May, public debate rages over the potential of herd immunity to stop the spread of COVID-19, while conspiracy theories emerge from dark corners of the internet to sow confusion and exacerbate cynicism toward science. But on this windy day in a field at Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Anderson avoids stepping on those political landmines—and cow patties.

Kids will still need to understand herd immunity long after the coronavirus crisis has passed, he reasons. So he limits his explanation to simple but scientific concepts. “Herd immunity is when a large enough portion of a population becomes immune to a disease so it keeps that disease from spreading,” he says as the cattle lean in close to the fence as if to hear him better. He emphasizes the importance of getting a flu shot. “You not only keep yourself from getting sick, but you also keep the disease from spreading to others,” he says.

Finally, Anderson begins to wrap up the 80-second clip with some cheesy cow puns intended to grab the attention of the fifth- through eighth-grade students who make up the target audience for his educational video series, Science Around Cincy. “I hope you found this video udderly a-mooozing,” he says. He draws out the sound and flashes another huge grin.

His humor is lost on the crowd at Young’s Dairy. The cow closest to the fence turns and meanders away. Anderson doesn’t notice at first. “Yeah, I’m gonna milk these puns for all they’re worth,” he continues as the volume of peppy music increases in the video. Then he notes the disappearing audience and shrugs. “OK, I’ll stop,” he says to the camera.

Stopping is an unnatural state for Anderson, 34. He relentlessly tries to wipe out stereotypes and misconceptions about science by inoculating a new generation of kids with wide-eyed enthusiasm for things like isotopes and trilobites and new ways to see the world. Sort of like herd immunity in practice, I suggest. Anderson is intrigued by the analogy. “If you get to a point where you have a critical mass and almost everyone has a thorough understanding of the challenges that can be met with the process of science,” he muses, “society is going to be in a much better place.”

Out in a cow pasture in the early months of a pandemic, though, Anderson isn’t con­templating lofty goals about science literacy. He just hopes he’s found a fun way to show kids that their actions as individuals can impact the health of others. “Let’s just get this out there to as many kids as we can,” he tells himself.


The Science Around Cincy series debuted on YouTube and its own website last fall, showing Anderson tagging along with some of the region’s most interesting scientists on adventures in the laboratory and beyond. A production crew of Northern Kentucky University students provides the technological expertise. Anderson brings his never-ending supply of questions and unique sense of humor and style.

The eight-episode first season began with Anderson marveling at frogs that have the ability to freeze during the winter but come back to life when temperatures rise in the spring. Other episodes captured him gaping at snow leopard poop used by Cincinnati Zoo conservationists to test the animals’ hormone levels, hunting for fossils with a Cincinnati Museum Center paleontologist, and learning about therapy horses from a psychologist who works with trauma patients.

The cow puns illustrate his brand of humor. But viewers will also notice his unique sense of fashion, which he establishes in the show’s debut episode. He’s visiting the lab of cryobiologist Clara do Amaral of Mount St. Joseph University to talk about her research on freeze-tolerant frogs, while wearing an aqua blue shirt splashed with orange and red hibiscus blooms and coconut trees. Anderson has worn brightly colored shirts since high school, and even fought with his mom to wear one in his senior class photo. His wardrobe now includes more than a dozen such shirts, including several a friend in Honolulu found for him at a thrift shop there. “We’re always reducing or recycling, even our Hawaiian shirts,” he notes.

Anderson says he chooses the tropical gear for Science Around Cincy shoots with intention. The vibrant patterns and colors appeal to the easily bored kids in his audience, and the open-collared, untucked style sends an important message about the often-mis­understood nature of science. “A scientist is not just some old guy in a lab coat poring over his notes,” he says. “They’re people. They have an outsized sense of curiosity. They have a sense of observation and ask good questions. A lot of these people go into the field in their hiking boots and jeans. They’re not sequestered in a lab. They’re not in this ivory tower.”

Anderson’s admiration for the work of scientists began early. By age 4, he’d declared not one, but four, scientific career aspirations: He’d be a chemist, astronomer, environmentalist, and paleontologist all at the same time. Anderson recalls he chose the environmental role because he liked being outside, and he assumes the paleontology ambition involved wanting to do something with dinosaurs because, you know, all kids like dinosaurs. But while he clearly possessed a scientist’s obligatory outsized sense of curiosity, he lacked their propensity for exactness. He labels himself a “poor scientist,” using an analogy from the kitchen as explanation. “I don’t like to bake things,” he says. “You have to be precise in your measurements. You can’t just throw in a little of this and see where it goes.”

Anderson prefers a more freeform journey, which led him first to high school theater and eventually to pursue a science education degree at Miami University. That’s where he met Ann Haley MacKenzie, an associate professor of science education who taught him both skills and philosophy. MacKenzie, who’s been teaching students how to teach for more than 25 years, describes Anderson as extremely memorable. “He would ask question after question after question,” she recalls. “He was so curious about the best way to prepare students and get the science message across to young people.”

“Science isn’t about a teacher standing in front of the classroom disseminating information,” Ann Haley MacKenzie says. “It’s about doing hands-on activities, investigations.”

MacKenzie had the answers Anderson craved. “Science isn’t about a teacher standing in front of the classroom disseminating information,” she says. “It’s about doing hands-on activities, investigations. I tell my methods students, When you teach science, it shouldn’t smell, look, or taste like school work. If it does, you’re going to lose your students.

After graduation in 2008, Anderson applied the MacKenzie Method during five years as a science teacher at Princeton High School. “You really are teaching kids how to think,” he says. “It’s not about lecturing. It’s getting kids to really unpack and get their hands on a concept.”

He continues to remember that perspective as he crafts the lessons behind Science Around Cincy. There’s more to Anderson than silly puns and a crazy ward­robe. He spends hours reviewing science research and preparing questions that will highlight the lessons most relevant to students. “I got the sense when I met him that he’s exactly the kind of science teacher I really would have liked in high school,” says Peter Lindeman, who edits a teaching column Anderson writes for the National Science Teaching Association. “He’s kind of a goofball, but he knows his stuff.”

While Anderson enjoyed the classroom, he didn’t see it as a long-term career. He left Princeton for an administrative role in the work-study program at DePaul Cristo Rey, the small Catholic high school in Clifton, and briefly considered a future as a school principal. But he soon realized that he wanted to stay involved with science education.

He launched Science Over Everything, a blog for educators, in late 2015. It developed a small following among science teachers and improved his skills as a writer, though it wasn’t a natural fit. “I could write just fine, but it would take me way too long to get something out,” says Anderson.

By 2016, when he moved to his current day job as an instructional coach for Hamilton County Urban Educational Services, he’d begun contemplating ways he could carry on his science education mission in front of the camera, where his flair for the theatrical and curios­ity about science might blend together. I met Anderson in 2018 when I started teaching a new class, Science in the Media, at Northern Kentucky University. He came as a guest speaker and wowed my students by showing up with two sharpened pencils and a water balloon, which he held over the head of one brave volunteer to demonstrate a science concept. Amazingly, nobody got wet. Not surprisingly, everyone paid attention.

During the class, Anderson mentioned his passion for Star Wars, so afterward I walked him down the hall to meet NKU’s No. 1 Stars Wars fan, John Gibson. An electronic media and broadcasting teacher, he showed Anderson his collection of stormtrooper action figures and spacecraft models. That led to the two sharing beers at a bar in Bellevue, where the idea of Science Around Cincy percolated. Less than six months later, Anderson and a production crew of NKU students headed to Mount St. Joseph to document his interview about frozen frogs.


In the early days of their partnership, Gibson says he—like most people who hear about Anderson’s science TV ambitions—thought of Bill Nye, the Science Guy. The comparisons between Anderson and Nye, who inspired a generation of young scientists through his 1990s TV shows on PBS and in syndication, are obvious. They’re both tall and thin, with over-the-top enthusiasm for science. But Gibson rarely uses that description today, saying instead, “He’s the next Chris Anderson. He’s doing his own thing.”

Anderson calls Nye an inspiration, but says he doesn’t aspire to be his generation’s version. “I think it’s too easy for me to say I wanted to be the next Bill Nye,” he says. “There’s already been a Bill Nye. There won’t be another one. He’s an inspiration. But how Bill Nye did things in the ’90s I can’t really do. It would be rehashing. I’ve got to find my own path.”

NKU students Aria Brice (left) and Kerry Stephens assist Chris Anderson with filming.

Photograph by Jason Houston

The 2020 path to science education television runs through YouTube. Typically about 300 people discover an episode of Science Around Cincy the first week after it goes live, a number that must grow dramatically for Anderson to build a sustainable career. But the first season drew praise for his high-energy approach and for highlighting the often-unheralded work of Cincinnati scientists. The potential for expansion looked strong in February, when Anderson secured funding for another season through a second grant from Fuel Cincinnati and new funds from NKU’s College of Informatics to hire student crews. He was lining up video shoots with scientists from well-known institutions like the Newport Aquarium and was talking with Kentucky Educational Television about airing episodes on the statewide public broadcasting channel.

The pandemic brought those plans to a halt, and Anderson was able to continue his day job remotely. A nice surprise came when Cincinnati Public Schools began broadcasting Science Around Cincy episodes on its public access channel to provide online lessons for students.

Anderson tried to figure out ways to restart his on-location shoots, with little luck, so he and his wife, Mary Ellen Finnegan, a biochemistry graduate turned product researcher at Procter & Gamble, began shooting a series of public health announcements from home. They sent the footage to his NKU student colleagues, who edited it. In April, they released How to Wash Your Hands, a step-by-step demonstration of, well, hand-washing, shot in their bathroom.

Anderson plays it straight on his first run through the sudsy process, and then adds a level of humor for younger viewers. “Sometimes I like to sing a song while I’m washing my hands,” he says with one of his monster grins. A 20-second timer appears on the screen as he accompanies his hand-lathering with a slightly off-key romp: “Wash your hands to get rid of the germs. Wash your hands, don’t scrub so hard it burns.” I couldn’t help giggling out loud as I watched the video multiple times, but it attracted just 85 views by mid-August.

The couple’s other improvised public health segments have commanded slightly more attention in the virtual world. Why Soap Works had 183 views in the same period, and Social Distancing, in which Anderson wears a T-shirt featuring pink flamingos, had 356 clicks.

“I think everybody is chomping at the bit to see our friends and see our families and hug them,” he says. “But at the end of the day, what’s important is I have to do my part, as little as that is, to make sure the disease doesn’t spread or spread too quickly or I don’t give it to someone who’s vulnerable…. Do I want to get out of the house and film? Do I feel behind on the second season? Absolutely. But that’s a small price to pay to make sure people aren’t getting sick and dying.”


As summer began and Ohio and Kentucky governors started loosening restrictions on business operations and local travel, Anderson began regrouping the production schedule. He emphasized safety, requiring the crew to wear masks and social distance, and pursued video shoots at outdoor locations as much as possible.

Chris Anderson and his crew interview Donna McCollum and Hays Cummins at their nature preserve in Oxford.

Photograph by Jason Houston

I tag along in mid-June as the team heads to Edge of the Farm, an Oxford conservation area owned by Hays Cummins and Donna McCollum, Anderson’s former professors at Miami. Anderson describes the site as the perfect scene for a lesson in ecological diversity.

Three NKU crew members set up their opening shot with Anderson meeting the scientists around a cold campfire near the Pickerelweed Pond, named after an aquatic plant found in the area. “This place is amazing,” Anderson says to the camera as he takes a seat in the open camp chair more than six feet away from the scientists. “You’ve got forests, you’ve got prairies, you’ve got wetlands.” Just then one of the couple’s dogs playing in the fields and the pond races up to Anderson’s chair and shoves his face in his lap. He doesn’t miss a beat. “You’ve got puppies,” he quips. It’s a perfect Science Around Cincy moment. “The kids will love it,” Anderson says later.

NKU student Kerry Stephens prepares Hays Cummins to be interviewed.

Photograph by Jason Houston

Cummins and McCollum had not seen Anderson’s show on YouTube before the shoot, but they like the way their former student is approaching his passion project. “I’ve spent my whole career trying to get people to live in the gray zone of uncertainty,” Cummins says. He describes Anderson as an entrepreneur. “He bought into the experience and the potential for living a life of discovery and risk-taking that makes life a little richer.” McCollum hopes Science Around Cincy can help the world understand the important functions of science, particularly during a pandemic. “We are in a real science-denying era right now,” she says. “We need science educators at every stage of the game.”

By early August, neither the pandemic nor public mistrust of science is showing signs of waning. But the Science Around Cincy crew, operating at warp speed for weeks, has completed more than 80 percent of the shoots for the 16-episode second season, while the editing team finalized two segments shot pre-pandemic.

The season will open with Anderson crawling through the caverns of Mammoth Cave in south central Kentucky with a University of Cincinnati researcher who studies the process of erosion and its impact on landscapes and caves. Another episode will share lessons on geology while a GoPro camera follows Anderson walking along the quarter-mile geological timeline embedded in a Sawyer Point walkway downtown. Viewers will also see him admiring the robots that harvest plants on an indoor farm in Hamilton and cooking cheese in a kitchen at Findlay Market. The NKU crew also edited 10-minute YouTube segments from the first season into a 30-minute format for broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television this fall.

Anderson seems more content as we talk by phone for our final interview. He makes a distinction between the success of the show and individual satisfaction. “For me personally, I have a science TV show and it doesn’t matter right now if I have 10 followers or 10 million followers,” he says. “If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing now, having 10 million followers isn’t going to be that much better. From a personal standpoint, I’m achieving the dream of having a science TV show. I’m doing what I set out to do.”

His mind races with strategies for sharing the new episodes in ways that will impact more kids. And he has a new, but familiar, theory on breaking through on social media. “Once you get a critical mass of followers, at that point it’s easier for things to go viral because more people see it,” he says. “It’s getting that first 1,000 or so followers on whatever platform. That’s the big thing.”

Anderson might not be outside in a cow pasture as we talk on the phone. But, yes, he’s talking about a herd of followers.

Six Spots to Peep Spectacular Fall Foliage

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Scott Fitzgerald knew what he was talking about, when he said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” Cincinnati’s best fall color happens around the third or fourth week of October, according to Cincinnati Parks, so get to a park at once, before all those amber, goldenrod, and burnt sienna leaves end up crunched up on the forest floor. The tri-state has plenty of spots to take in the beauty. Here are six of our favorites for leaf peeping.

Burnet Woods

The changing leaves in Burnet Woods are a must-see. To catch the best view in this Clifton park, Cincinnati Parks suggests stopping by the woods’ fishing lake. A friendly heads up for planning your visit: Cincinnati Parks has closed a portion of Burnet Woods Drive Road to vehicles temporarily, in an effort to improve bike and pedestrian safety.
3251 Brookline Ave., Clifton

Caldwell Nature Preserve

The variety of trees at the Caldwell Nature Preserve mean an autumn rainbow of color: walnut, elm, maples, ash, and tulip poplar trees span the spectrum of red, yellow, and orange. The American Hiking Society even lists the preserve as one of Ohio’s 10 best hikes.
430 W. North Bend Rd., Carthage

Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve

Great Parks of Hamilton County overseas 17 parks in the region, and one of the best for leaf peeping is Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve, says Kimberly Whitton, the organizaiton’s public engagement coordinator. The preserve offers both paved and nature trails, including the accessible Pin Oak Trail, which boasts a butterfly and wildflower garden. The trail is just over a half mile long, making it appropriate for families and kids of any age.
3455 Poole Rd., Groesbeck

Mt. Airy Forest

Mt. Airy Forest, Cincinnati’s largest park, might be the city’s best spot for drive-around leaf peeping, especially where the sour gum trees are dressed in crimson and purple. The forest also offers miles of trails for hiking trails, horseback, and mountain biking and is home to the state’s only wheelchair-accessible public treehouse.
5083 Colerain Ave., Mt. Airy

Sharon Woods Trails

Sharon Woods offers a trio of possible trails, but Whitton points to the Gorge Trail for some of the best foliage. The trail extends less than three-fourths of a mile and winds through a limestone glacial gorge, which has been a designated State Nature Preserve since 1977, with views of Sharon Creek and its waterfalls. You can’t beat that colorful canopy.
11450 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville

Shawnee Lookout

This hilltop park spans more than 2,000 acres. Pick a trail to wander, and take in the Great Miami and Ohio River valley views. “It’s totally worth the uphill trek,” Whitton says.
2008 Lawrenceburg Rd., North Bend

Burrow’s Baltimore Beatdown Was a Nightmare

For all you fans who remain scarred by last season’s Monday Night Beatdown in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers had eight sacks and left Andy Dalton imprints all over the Paul Brown Stadium field, this past Sunday’s encounter in Baltimore had a sickening deja vu quality—right down to the same 27-3 final score. The Ravens blitzed Joe Burrow into oblivion, leaving the rookie looking like a rookie for the first time. The rout included seven sacks, a pair of fumbles, an interception, and the first appearance of Haunted Joe, the shell-shocked look of an overwhelmed passer with no hope of getting the ball downfield. The Bengals managed just 3.2 yards per play in an unfortunate 2019 throwback.

 

Burrow has now been sacked 22 times, a franchise record through five games. That number doesn’t really begin to account for the endless amount of pressure he’s faced each week, not counting the Jacksonville game. Sunday was the first time I thought he showed the happy feet and rushed field scans that are sure symptoms of a young QB under constant duress, and it scared the bejesus out of me.

I know I’ve probably brought this up far too often already, but the sight of Bill Callahan continues to nauseate me. The revered O-line coach was seemingly set to take over that position on the Cincinnati staff when Zac Taylor was hired, but instead he’s turned the Cleveland line into a machine while the Bengals are stuck with Jim “I believe in Bobby Hart, dammit!” Turner. I understand that Taylor wanted to be comfortable with his assistants in his first head coaching gig, and perhaps Old Man Callahan would have felt like a judgmental presence. But it’s clear in retrospect that the decision to go with Turner, clearly a questionable hire from the jump, was a colossal error, one that may cost Taylor his job if things don’t improve quickly or he sacrifices his buddy. You can’t take a franchise-level quarterback with the top overall pick and have him ruined not even halfway into his first season because he can’t reliably drop back to pass.

I mean, this isn’t something new. The Steelers and Ravens have been tag-team squashing Bengals QBs since at least 2016. It was one thing with Dalton in there, but Burrow was drafted to save the franchise. And they have done nothing to protect him. It’s a catastrophe that everyone saw coming a mile away, and yet nothing was done to stop it. And here we are.

Perhaps lost in the Burrow CringeWatch last Sunday was the horrible sight of D.J. Reader, the expensive free agent signing in the middle of the Bengals defensive line, getting carted off the field with a season-ending quad injury. Reader had been critical in holding the fort inside while Geno Atkins was out with his injury—he returned to play a few snaps on Sunday, still easing his way back into football condition—and his loss will be dearly felt. Indeed, the dream of Atkins at last having a playmaker alongside him at defensive tackle lasted for about a dozen plays. The defensive interior as a unit has been brutalized by injury—aside from the big two, the team is now without Mike Daniels, Renell Wren (both on injured reserve), Josh Tupuo (who opted out), and Ryan Glasgow (so injury beset he was released). At the moment the tackles are a limited Atkins and a grabbag of dudes anonymous even by defensive tackle standards.

So if you’re keeping track, the Bengals have gotten four games and change from their two big free agent splashes of the spring, Reader and corner Trae Waynes, who remains sidelined with a pectoral injury. Other free agents, including Xavier Su’a-Filo and Mackenzie Alexander, have also missed considerable time. It was this kind of non-return on investment that turned the team off to signing expensive free agents in the first place.

It’s terrible luck for sure, albeit the kind of misfortune that always seems to strike in Cincinnati. But the experienced observer of Mike Brown and his family in the ownership box won’t be surprised if the plague of injuries becomes a reason the 2020 splurge isn’t repeated any time soon. Right now, the highest paid Bengals are A.J. Green (shadow of his former self), Atkins, Carlos Dunlap (ineffective and now malcontented), Reader, and Waynes. Cincinnati will be lucky to get 10 effective games combined from that quintet. Should the Browns/Blackburns decide to reel in spending next offseason, a likely potentiality given the almost certain salary cap reduction coming, the rebuild will be greatly hindered, since recent drafts continue to disappoint (this year notwithstanding). Oh, and one of the few productive draft choices in recent seasons, Sam Hubbard, also got hurt Sunday and will be out for who knows how long.

Good times, and I haven’t even gotten to the otherwise invisible Green apparently mouthing “Just trade me” on the sidelines. I’m sure the Bengals would deal Adriel Jeremiah in a second if anyone would offer something for him. But just as no one was trading for him last year while he was on injured reserve, the list of teams eager for an old and infirm wideout is short. It’s hard to put into words how agonizing it is that Green, who we all were counting on to regain at last some of his former form, is likely finito as a weapon. On a franchise with a long list of great receivers, AJG is right there at the top. That he couldn’t even find a way to get open against the Ravens, a team he’s systematically destroyed over the years, is proof enough that his time is sadly past.

But, hey, at the least the defense played passably well! Yes, Lamar Jackson may have been at less than 100 percent, but Cincinnati held him to a mere three yards rushing and kept the Ravens offense out of the end zone in the second half. Seems the gameplan that had Dunlap carping midweek was a good one, mainly as it saw less traditional maneuvering, like using corner Darius Phillips as a highly effective blitzer. Rookie linebackers Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither played well in significant action, and the run gaps were secured far more efficiently than in the previous games. Whether this is a one-off tactical victory over a unique opponent or a true building block remains to be seen, but at least one side of the ball wasn’t a disaster.

The next quarterback up is Jackson’s polar opposite, Philip “The Statue of Limitations” Rivers, and the Indianapolis Colts. More worrying is the top-ranked (by DVOA) Colts defense, though their Adjusted Sack Rate is middle of the pack. The Indy D was undone by Callahan and the Browns last Sunday, so they will no doubt be snarling and looking forward to every pass rush’s “get right” game against the Bengals this weekend.

Let’s hope Burrow won’t have any lingering PRSD (Post Ravens Stress Disorder) effects.

Robert Weintraub heads up Bengals coverage for Cincinnati Magazine and has written for The New York Times, Grantland, Slate, Deadspin, and Football Outsiders and authored four books, including his newest, “The Divine Miss Marble” from Penguin Random House. You can follow him on Twitter at @robwein.

Find Peace At This East Walnut Hills Labyrinth

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Behind New Thought Unity Center in East Walnut Hills lies an unfamiliar sight. Painted onto a circular patch of grey concrete, a winding path twists and turns from the circle’s edge all the way to its center. It’s the Unity Center’s labyrinth, and it exists to help visitors find peace. Designed by local landscape architect Wayne Dorsey, it was installed as part of a larger remodel of the center’s outdoor space. Larry Watson, the center’s head prayer chaplain, regularly uses the labyrinth for meditative and spiritual practice. “Before we go in, we want to create an intention,” Watson says. “And that intention is usually around releasing something, whether it’s a concern, belief, sadness, emotion, pain, anger, shame—we want to reach the middle and release it into that space.” Watson says the labyrinth’s intricate path prepares the walker for this release. “Working into the center, through the labyrinth, gives us time to be comfortable with letting it go.”

Dr. Know: Kennedy’s Plate, Norwood’s CDK Global Building, and Prominent Streets

Our family has a John F. Kennedy commemorative plate, showing his picture with a date: October 6, 1960. All I know is that my father got it at a Cincinnati dinner he attended during JFK’s presidential run. For the plate’s 60th anniversary, can you uncover its details and maybe its value? —CLEAR MY PLATE

DEAR CLEAR:
You have confused the Doctor with Cincinnati’s own Wes Cowan, an appraiser on the PBS program Antiques Roadshow. Having met Mr. Cowan, the Doctor shall attempt a rough impersonation. Your father paid $100—good luck getting that for the plate now—to attend JFK’s fund-raiser event at the Netherland Hilton Hotel. Of course, he could have watched it for free on WCPO-TV and switched over to Sea Hunt when Mr. Kennedy’s speech about Communist Cuba became tiresome. When JFK first arrived in town, he was surprised to learn that our city was not pronounced Cincinnotty. Oh, those upper-crust Bostonians.

A footnote: Your ceramic plate accurately displays the date of Mr. Kennedy’s 1960 fund-raiser, but a brass plaque on Government Square wrongly displays the date of his outdoor speech there in 1962. That event was on October 5; the plaque says October 8. The Doctor exposed this shocking scandal in his August 2014 column, and yet the offending plaque stubbornly remains. Perhaps its unique value could be estimated by someone on Antiques Roadshow. We know a guy.


I drive past the giant CDK Global office building in Norwood every day. I’m embarrassed to ask, but what does this global company do? I checked their website, but I still can’t understand their business. Something automotive. Does CDK Global rule the globe from Norwood? —A WORLD OF QUESTIONS

DEAR WORLD:
Perhaps the website is confusing because you are unfamiliar with 21st-century business terminology. Today’s top corporations synergistically actualize their next-generation deliverables into a scalable touchpoint for incentivizing the retargeted platformization of their core-competency bandwidth. You just haven’t moved the needle.

You correctly observe that CDK Global’s website is a bit inside-baseball for the automotive industry; they haven’t bothered to simplify for little people like us. So, to determine how much of the globe CDK dominates, the Doctor infiltrated its headquarters. Carrying a briefcase so as to appear non-threatening, he bravely entered the lobby at Central Parke—the five-story tombstone atop Norwood’s former GM assembly plant. The security guard was friendly enough, but offered scant detail about the company.

Wikipedia says that CDK Global provides “integrated technology services and solutions to over 27,000 automotive dealerships internationally, as well as vehicle manufacturers.” That may be as clear a picture as we peons will ever grasp. The Doctor did confirm that CDK Global is based in Illinois, has offices everywhere, and only seems to rule the world from Norwood. It does not. That’s UDF.


Barney Kroger is one of the most renowned figures in Cincinnati history. Why, then, is such a humble street named for him? Kroger Avenue in Mt. Lookout is nice, but I’m sure Mr. Kroger lived in a classier part of town. Why didn’t the city put his name on a more prominent street? —OFF BRAND

DEAR OFF:
Ah, yes, another mismatch of a Cincinnati street with its namesake (see our June column re: Ruth Lyons Alley). In this case, however, you are the one that has missed the match. Had you ventured up the length of Kroger Avenue, you would have found your hoped-for “classier part of town.” In the early 20th century the summit atop Mt. Lookout was even more spacious, and its status further enhanced by the Delta/Grandin viaduct, a direct connection to oh-so-exclusive Hyde Park.

So it was no surprise in 1922 when our hero, Bernard H. Kroger, chose this area for his family’s new mansion. Around the same time, your “nice” street leading up from Delta had its name changed from Beechmont Avenue to Kroger Avenue. This was more than a gesture to help a city father find his way home; it was the very honor you assume he was denied.

The Delta/Grandin viaduct was torn down in 1975, so Barney’s namesake now provides even more of a vital access to his old neighborhood. Take a ride up there sometime and look around. No, the Doctor can’t afford a house there either.

Battered FC Cincinnati Limps Down the Home Stretch

The condensed post-MLS Is Back regular season schedule combined with a crumbling roster appears to have finally broken FC Cincinnati. Following a 3-0 defeat in Philadelphia last week, FCC were denied a late penalty and lost 1-0 at home to Toronto Sunday night. With six regular-season contests remaining, the Orange and Blue sit 13th in the Eastern Conference with 13 points (3 wins, 4 draws, 10 losses) from 17 games. Only two points separate FC Cincinnati from basement-dwelling D.C. United, and the possibility of finishing last in the East for the second consecutive season is inching closer to reality.

 

Injuries have begun to decimate FC Cincinnati’s already misshapen roster. After left back Greg Garza and striker Jurgen Locadia left the Philadelphia match with injuries, center back Kendall Waston picked up a knock in practice prior to Sunday’s match. All three were unavailable against Toronto, MLS’s top squad (37 points). During that match, right back Mathieu Deplagne went off in the first half and goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tytoń departed late in the second half with an apparent knee injury. Oh, and FCC’s top backup center back, Tom Pettersson, was unavailable due to illness.

Fortunately for head coach Jaap Stam, right back Saad Abdul-Salaam was available for the first time since July 22; midfielder Siem de Jong returned following a five-game absence; and left back/winger Andrew Gutman was fit enough to play following a two-match injury absence. Nick Hagglund also started, making a quick recovery after announcing on September 26 that he had contracted COVID-19. All four players took the field vs. Toronto. For Waston, it’s not surprising that his workload finally caught up to him. Prior to missing Sunday’s match, the 32-year-old had started every one of FCC’s 2020 matches and still ranks among the league’s minutes leaders despite his absence vs. Toronto.

That injuries are occurring in rapid succession—in particular, what appears to be a spate of muscle injuries—shouldn’t come as a shock. FC Cincinnati’s first post-MLS Is Back regular-season game took place August 21, and its final regular-season match is scheduled for November 8. Over that span, the club will have played 18 league games in 80 days, roughly one match every 4.5 days. In 2019, FCC played 34 league games over 219 days, or one match about every 6.5 days. Two days’ difference may not sound like a lot on the surface, but the extra days of rest add up quickly over the course of a regular season that typically requires around seven months to finish.

The haphazard nature of the 2020 campaign—a fact out of anyone’s control, obviously—hasn’t helped. FC Cincinnati completed two league matches in early March before COVID-19 shut down the league. When MLS reconvened in Orlando in July for MLS Is Back, FCC had four games in 17 days after not playing a competitive match for four months. Then three and a half weeks passed before FC Cincinnati commenced its regular-season restart.

On Sunday, FC Cincinnati began a stretch of five successive (presumably fan-less) forays at Nippert Stadium. Barring a miracle run of results, these matches represent the final contests for the club at the University of Cincinnati’s football stadium, FC Cincinnati’s home since its inaugural season in 2016. FCC’s last scheduled home match is October 28 vs. Sporting KC. Construction on the West End Stadium has continued through the pandemic, so the club’s new home remains tipped to open the 2021 MLS season.

It’s a damn shame Orange and Blue supporters won’t be able to provide Nippert with a proper send-off; instead, they’ll have to savor their own personal memories from home. I hadn’t paid much mind to FC Cincinnati before a family friend invited me to their first home game in 2016, and I was blown away by the size of the crowd. I was there for the club’s lone playoff victory (via penalty kicks) in 2018. But it’s the home matches vs. Columbus, Chicago (one of the best sporting events I’ve attended, period) and New York Red Bulls during FC Cincinnati’s U.S. Open Cup run in 2017 that will always be burned into my memory, three hellaciously loud and entertaining (midweek!) Nippert environments.

Prior to tonight’s fourth Hell Is Real Derby of the season against Columbus, FC Cincinnati announced another player acquisition, though he won’t be able to join the shorthanded roster immediately. Franko Kovačević, a 21-year-old Croatian striker for Bundesliga side TSG Hoffenheim, has been brought over on loan by FCC through June 30, 2021. He has yet to make his first-team debut, but he’s scored six goals in 11 appearances for Hoffenheim’s second team.

FC Cincinnati and Hoffenheim announced a partnership in late September, and this is the first player move in that deal. We’ll see if Kovačević can clear the necessary government and health protocols to debut prior to the end of the season, but it’s evident General Manager Gerard Nijkamap had his eye on 2021 with this move. “Franko is a player that will provide competition for our forward position group,” Nijkamp said. “We look forward to getting him integrated within our team so that he is familiar with the organization, club philosophy and city prior to the start of the 2021 season.”

Injuries and another goal-less streak (the current one is at five-plus matches) have ushered FC Cincinnati into a tailspin. Now the East’s third-place team awaits, and Columbus has outscored FC Cincinnati 7-0 in three matches this season. Can the walking wounded summon some magic—Álvaro Barreal’s platinum blonde hair didn’t do the trick last week—as their stay at Nippert comes to a close? The scoring sorcery may not arrive tonight, but who knows what will happen when last-place D.C. United shows up on Sunday. (Let’s be real, probably a 0-0 draw.)

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

Six Local Pumpkin Patches to Check Out Now

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Oct. 14, 2020.

Autumn has arrived in Cincinnati, and with it comes plenty of activities for you to enjoy. From pumpkin picking to hay rides, the Queen City is full of fall fun. Carve out some time this season and head over to these six pumpkin patches and fall festivals to have a “gourd” time with family and friends!

1- Blooms & Berries Fall on the Farm Market has it all: a 7-acre corn maze, hayrides, farm animals, cider, and pumpkin patches big and small. Admission is $10 Monday–Friday and $12 Saturday–Sunday; children under 2 always get in free. Tickets must be purchased online here.
Through November 1, 2020, open daily 9:30 a.m.–7 p.m., 9669 S. St. Rt. 48, Loveland, (513) 697-9173, bloomsandberries.com

2- Head out on an authentic pumpkin’ pickin’ experience at Country Pumpkins Fall Festival. Take a hayride to their U-Pick patch and check out their extensive selection of gourds for purchase, or enjoy their petting zoo, kid’s corn maze, and hay pyramid for free. Tickets for pumpkins, carving activities, a corn launcher, wagon rides, and a 4-acre corn maze are also available.
Through October 31, 2020. Various dates and times, 1835 Sherman Mt. Zion Rd., Dry Ridge, KY, (859) 905-9656, countrypumpkinsky.com

3- Neltner’s Farm offers all the staples of a good harvest festival—pumpkin patch, corn maze, petting zoo, homemade treats—but unique additions like a folk art market, horse-drawn hayride, and wine tastings make this the whimsical choice for fall fun.
Through October 31, 2020, Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., 6922 Four Mile Rd., Melbourne, KY, (859) 496-7535, neltnersfarm.com

4- Shaw Farms has a popular patch for good reason. Their 15-acre corn maze is one of the biggest around, and their reliably large pumpkin selection—500 tons, in fact—ensures that everyone in your group will find a gourd they love.
9 a.m.–6 p.m., 1737 OHIO 131, Milford, (513) 575-2022, shawfarmmarket.com

5- Burger Farm’s Fall Pumpkin Festival is one of the largest in the region and has activities for everyone: mini zip lines, hay rides, live music, farm animals, giant pillow jumping, mazes—and, of course—lots and lots of pumpkins. The Festival takes place on weekends only, but there is also an option for a hayride and pumpkin patch on Tuesday–Friday from 1:30 p.m.—5 p.m. Tickets for the weekend event must be purchased online in advance here.
Through October 31, 2020, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., 7849 Main St., Newtown, (513) 561-8634, burgerfarms.com

6- Hidden Valley Orchard celebrates October with delicious food and fun fall activities. Visit the market to purchase some seasonal goodies, including homemade apple cider, or if it’s a warmer day, stop by The Coop Ice Cream Barn for an apple cider doughnut sundae. They also have a pumpkin patch, and there are photo opportunities down the wheelchair- and stroller-friendly path at the HVO Covered Bridge and Waterfall.
Through October 31, 2020. Various times, 5474 N. St. Rt. 48, Lebanon, OH, (513) 932-1869, hiddenvalleyorchards.com.

The Cincinnati Zoo Has a New Social Media Star: Andie Panda

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When the pandemic shut down the Cincinnati Zoo in March, Andie Haugen—known as Andie Panda on TikTok—wanted to keep sharing her infectious joy for animals and for her job with the world. And the world responded: Her account has 260,000 followers and more than 4.5 million likes from people interested in her interactions with the Zoo’s residents. Plus, her videos have been shared by media stars like John Oliver.

How did your TikTok stardom start?

I didn’t understand TikTok, so I was not expecting that kind of reaction. I have other zookeeper friends who were getting on TikTok to reach a younger generation of kids and people through social media, especially during the pandemic when the zoo was closed and people couldn’t come. It was a great way to share what we were doing with our animals and all the conservation and other fun stuff we’re doing.

You’re part of the Cat Ambassador Program at the Cincinnati Zoo. Tell us about your background.

I’ve been at the zoo for three years now, and before this I was working at the Ft. Worth Zoo in Texas. I was an animal trainer down there. There were no cheetah runs. It was a different position, but I loved it. Before that, I was working at a small zoo near the University of Michigan. In college there, I did a bunch of studies abroad and volunteering abroad. I worked at different wildlife sanctuaries, including the world’s largest giant panda breeding organization in China. I spent a month working there, which was really awesome, because I’m obsessed with pandas.

John Oliver used one of your TikToks in a Last Week Tonight clip.

It was really cool that he used the video I took of our red river hog saying Hi! to our meerkats. I think it’s another way to get out all the cool stuff we’re doing. Even though it’s a pandemic, we’re still giving our animals the best care we can. The guy who played Zazu in the [2019] Lion King movie is showing the video of our pig with the meerkats. It’s pretty crazy.

Your videos have tens of thousands of views, and some even have millions. Why do you think they’re so popular?

I think it’s just being able to offer some positivity in really dark times. It’s a hard world to live in right now, and we’re all looking for something we can be happy about and stand together with. I think seeing all the great work we’re doing here at the zoo and seeing our animals are happy and healthy, it’s just fun. People love seeing our cheetahs running, they love seeing Fiona, and they love seeing our domestic dogs being best friends with cheetahs. That’s not something you see every day.

Tell us about the huge cheetah tattoo across your back.

I got it done a few months ago, modeled after one of the cheetahs here at the zoo, Donni. It’s kind of a way I can commemorate all the hard work it took for me to get to where I am today and to look forward to the future for animal conservation and what my future holds as well.

My 21-Day Steakout

You would normally find me in the front row of any pitchfork-wielding mob marching to tar and feather the inventors of AutoCorrect. Is there a more cruel example of sadism than this schoolmarm digitally rapping our knuckles? AutoCorrect’s “intuitive” bludgeon jumps the gun—usually incorrectly—on everything I type. But I’ve now decided to abandon the mob, fall on my knees, and give thanks to AutoCorrect, because I’m about to type Kluszewski many, many times.

As a kid watching TV in Philadelphia, I saw Big Klu play against my beloved Phillies late in his career. I even booed him at Connie Mack Stadium during my first visits there. He had vanished from my memory by the time I moved to Cincinnati in the mid-1970s, so I barely noticed Ted Kluszewski’s Steak House the first time I drove down Walnut Street. Oh, look, another retired ballplayer with a restaurant. Little did I know how mighty a curve ball Big Klu’s beef palace was about to throw at me.


In the decades I’ve lived here, my contribution to Jeff Ruby’s bottom line probably totals under four figures. It isn’t his fault; my reluctance to regularly visit steak restaurants—any at all—comes from a transformative experience that predates Mr. Ruby’s rise to prominence. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the occasional slab of artfully aged and grilled cow flesh served in a fancy atmosphere? It’s just that I exceeded my lifetime quota of steak dinners long before Jeff Ruby came to dominate the local category.

When I first arrived in Cincinnati, steak did not mean Jeff; it meant Ted. Kluszewski was so beloved in this town that when he first partnered with a Walnut Hills steak restaurant in 1958, nobody cared that he’d recently forsaken the Reds for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Customers came anyway. By the time Ted finished his baseball career back at Riverfront Stadium, coaching the emerging Big Red Machine, he hosted five locations on both sides of the river, burning through 1,000 pounds of beef per week.

Big Klu’s restaurants and the Reds were both going strong into the 1970s, but it made little difference to my wife and me. We were busy setting up our new lives in Cincinnati. I’d just started my job at WEBN radio, she was searching around for her own employment, and there wasn’t much money for sports stadiums or cloth-napkin restaurants. For the record, we weren’t going to Pete Rose’s or Johnny Bench’s places either. Just plastic plates and paper bags for us; pull forward to the next window, please.

Carolyn found an administrative job at another radio station, one that posed no conflict with mine. WEBN played really loud songs for young rockers, but WWEZ played really soft songs for old rockers—that is, old rocking chairs. Elevator music, it was called: lush instrumental versions of songs from the 1940s, a kind of Classic Rock for the Greatest Generation. WWEZ’s nap-friendly music came from an automated system playing giant reels of tape, so the number of employees there was small.

All of these details converge in my story, because radio stations and restaurants often converge themselves, doing “trade-outs” of advertising. A restaurant, instead of paying a station to air commercials, often will provide the equivalent dollar amount in meals. Radio salespeople can then schmooze clients at lunch or dinner, and everyone wins. A typical agreement would last one year, with a tally kept of meals consumed vs. commer­cials broadcast, making sure the dollars are roughly equal when the deal expires.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. But then somebody, as they say in baseball, dropped the ball—and it probably wasn’t the restaurant named for a Reds Hall of Famer. One day someone at WWEZ noticed that the station had broadcast about $10,000 more in Kluszewski commercials than it had eaten in Kluszewski food, and the trade-out was set to expire in three weeks.


Let’s do some math. Almost everything on the Kluszewski menu—steaks, chops, shrimp, chicken, seafood—was priced at $5.95 or less. The 16-ounce New York Strip Sirloin (“man-size,” boasted the menu) went for $8. Chateaubriand for two was $12.90, the priciest entrée listed. WWEZ’s manager assembled the tiny staff and told everyone to go as often as they wished, eat as much as they desired, and drag as many friends and family as could stand the repetition. The only rules were to buy alcohol separately and to cover the tax and tip for the full check. Otherwise, Ted’s 1,000 pounds of beef per week was ours for the taking.

And take we did. As new Cincinnatians still recovering from moving expenses, se­curity deposits, and multiple trips to Pier 1, Carolyn and I were primed for all that free prime. To put it in terms Big Klu himself would appreciate: We tore off our sleeves and sat down to the plate.

Every single night, Carolyn and I showed up at Ted Kluszewski’s Steakhouse ready to rumble. We spent several lunch hours there, too. Having no local family and few acquaintances outside of our new jobs, “bring your family and friends” meant that we hosted and fed just about everyone from WEBN for three weeks. As it says on the back cover of Sgt. Pepper, a splendid time was guaranteed for all. One Saturday night, just about the entire WEBN airstaff pushed together some tables and feasted: a phalanx of hippie rockers dining on the dime of elevator music.

Most nights and days, though, it was just Carolyn and me, occasionally dragging along anyone else we could think of. Before the first week was out we’d memorized the menu and knew in advance what we’d be ordering. We and the servers got to know each other’s names. It all became quite folksy; there were almost always familiar faces from WWEZ a few tables over.

We spent three weeks trying to chow down ten grand. The repetition didn’t become as boring as you might assume, as the menu had several choices beyond beef. No, the hardest part of this experience was having to withstand so many consecutive days of wearing decent clothing. Downtown restaurant fashion rules were still in effect in the 1970s, but as someone running on fumes from the 1960s I had “transcended” such rules.

WWEZ’s staff and its circle of supporters, inspired by a deep commitment to teamwork and an unlimited sense of gluttony, successfully wore down the balance sheet with Ted Kluszewski’s Steak House. It was pretty close to zero when time ran out. Three weeks, it seems, was just right. Two weeks would never have been enough, and had there been a fourth week with the win so plainly in sight Carolyn and I would have started to skip days. Nobody else on the WWEZ staff was as diligent—or in need of so many free meals—as we were. Our unbroken streak of 21 daily visits (more like 30 if you count the occasional lunches) will stand forever. Big Klu’s career average may have been an impressive .298, but we batted a thousand.

The era of sports-star restaurants ain’t over ’til it’s over, but its prime years are past. Pete, Johnny, and other Reds vets took their turn, but only Ted Kluszewski packed ’em in at so many addresses for so long, closing his final location in 1978.

When he died a decade later and I saw the outpouring of professional and personal ad­miration for him, I finally understood. I also remembered the time I ordered the double-portion Chateaubriand just for myself, just doing my part to bring down that $10,000 imbalance. Thanks, Klu, for coaching me into becoming a real team player.

Enjoy Fall Color With the Kids at California Woods Nature Preserve

Right now, there is so much uncertainty in the world, and frankly, it’s terrifying. As we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic, Mother Nature keeps doing her thing. For evidence of this, just look outside: Fall is here and Cincinnati is alive with vibrant yellow, orange, and red hues. It’s a much-needed reminder that this season we’re in—of darkness and uncertainty—shall pass. So go out and get that reminder up close and in person. And we know just the place: California Woods Nature Preserve.

Did you know there’s a California, Ohio? California is one of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods; it’s a small river community located at the confluence of the Little Miami and Ohio Rivers, between Lunken Airport and Coney Island. Its eponymous nature preserve is nestled in the center of the neighborhood.

California Woods is one of Cincinnati Parks’s east side parks. It will sneak up on you; one minute, you’re cruising down Kellogg Avenue admiring planes and boats, and the next, you’re turning onto a one-lane, dirt road and into the woods.

California Woods has 133 acres of sprawling, sun-drenched woods, reminiscent of Hocking Hills. It’s hilly and lush and full of life. There are six hiking trails, ranging from the .16-mile Twin Oaks Trail to the mile-long Junction Trail, so there are options for families of all ages. My kids and I enjoy the Trillium Trail, a half-mile loop that takes you deep into the forest.

The Trillium Trail starts off with a series of steps that my kids eagerly attack, Rocky Balboa–style. While the climb is a bit challenging for little (and big!) legs, it’s well worth the effort. When you finally make it to the top of Trillium Trail, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking, 360-degree panorama of California Woods. It’s so quiet and peaceful, you’ll forget that you’re just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

California Woods is a true Cincinnati treasure. It’s the kind of place that fills you with awe and wonder, where you may or may not have a full-on transcendental moment.

California Woods Nature Preserve, 5400 Kellogg Ave., California, (513) 357-2604