Dr. Know: Snow Shoveling Scofflaws, When The Doors Didn’t Play Music Hall, and Fax Machine History


Can you find a clear and definite answer about Cincinnati’s residential snow-removal requirements? I try hard to clear my walk quickly, but obviously, others don’t. Is there a law? If so, is it ever enforced? Can I do anything about a neighbor who regularly ignores a dangerous winter sidewalk? —SLIP KID

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Slip:
Your question has a whiff of more than just a hypothetical situation. Perhaps you now live next door to the gentleman who used to rake all his leaves back onto the Doctor’s lawn because they’d fallen from the Doctor’s tree. Aside from enjoying late-night violent fantasies, there’s not a whole lot one can do about citizens who fail to be good citizens.

Ohio Revised Code 723.011 authorizes Cincinnati Municipal Code Section 723-57. Translation: You can be fined $25 if your property (owned or rented) does not clear its snow “in a timely manner.” Of course, a fine-print footnote to the Code should read: “Good luck finding a cop who won’t laugh out loud should you bring this up while he’s dealing with a six-car pileup at Queen City and Harrison.”

Consider the possibility that a nearby untended sidewalk might reflect a resident who is unable, rather than unwilling, to clear it. Instead of calling the cops, do the job yourself. You’ll be doing a good deed, or just embarrassing a lazy neighbor. You win either way.

Now that last year’s parade of 50th anniversaries is over, my mom says you should explain Cincinnati’s biggest non-anniversary: The Doors concert at Music Hall, canceled by the mayor. Mom had tickets and still complains about it. Just how repressed was this town back then, anyway? —BLIGHT MY FIRE

Dear Blight:
People are strange. Buttoned-up Cincinnati survived The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, and other maggot-infested hippie groups, but couldn’t handle The Doors? That’s right, and here’s why: A few weeks prior to the band’s scheduled Cincinnati show (March 30, 1969), singer Jim Morrison was infamously cited at a Miami concert for, um, suddenly introducing an “unsigned member.” Police rushed the stage, singing “Hello, I Hate You.” Shock waves from the incident inspired Music Hall to abruptly cancel our local concert; this was quickly seconded by the mayor and City Council. Promoters sued to have the show reinstated, but failed.

It has never been firmly established whether Morrison’s manhood really broke on through to the other side. But in 2004 the Doctor happened to interview Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who insisted that although Jim was drunk and lewd in Miami, his pants did not desert their post. After so many admitted Morrison offenses, Ray said, there’s no reason to deny that one now. Therefore, was Cincinnati justified in canceling the show? You know that it would be untrue.

My friend was helping me declutter, and we were adding my old fax machine to the recycle pile. He mentioned that he’d heard about a Cincinnati company that made fax machines in the 1930s, many decades before they became popular. Can this possibly be true? —ALTERNATIVE FAX

Dear Alternative:
The fax machines that took over the 1980s now rot atop the world’s mountains of abandoned technologies. But your friend is correct: They were around long before Debbie Gibson, and there was a Cincinnati connection.

Machines that could receive text and images via broadcast existed in the mid-1930s. Newspapers tried marketing them as a way for the morning paper to print itself in your home overnight. But at Depression prices of $100 to $260, people were fine with their papers landing in puddles, thank you. Enter Cincinnati’s Powel Crosley Jr., a guy with a feverish ambition, obviously overcompensating for the shame of having no second “l” in his first name. Crosley, already famous in many fields (one even had his name on it), managed to develop a version for just $60–$80. The Crosley Reado connected to your radio, letting you wake to find the morning paper already in your living room, scrolled out like a gigantic CVS receipt.

Still, the product never caught on, and the arrival of World War II put an end to the whole idea. Fax machines have since come and gone again. Let’s not even discuss what’s happened to newspapers.

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