Dr. Know: November 2014


The Taft Museum of Art is beautiful inside, but outside it’s only beautiful if you wear blinders and stare straight at the entrance. Huge buildings on all sides, no matter how nicely painted, make it look like the final scene in Batteries Not Included. When did our glorious museum get so crowded in?
—Blight at the Museum

Dear Blight:
Have you investigated the cheapest units at Park Place? The Taft has rarely enjoyed more civilized surroundings than it does today, after having suffered all manner of foulness since its construction. The nine-acre tract facing Pike Street began as a prized slice of suburbia when Martin Baum built his lavish residence there in 1820, but a nationwide financial panic forced him to promptly subdivide and sell. You may know the home’s oft-told next chapter, wherein Nicholas Longworth bought it and every parcel behind it, creating a wondrous garden up through Mt. Adams. One part of that story is routinely skipped: the Miami-Erie Canal, which sloshed directly behind Nick’s house, bringing factories, sludge, and riffraff for more than a century.

It gets worse. Heirs sold some land, spawning construction of a mammoth clothing mill to the left (now Park Place), and American Book’s clattering printing presses to the right. Hey, ignore that overpowering stench and ear-splitting noise, just look at all this beautiful artwork!
The view from the home’s front porch improved somewhat when Lytle Park was created in 1907, but according to the Enquirer in 1908, “toughs and immoral women” kept the area less than hospitable.

Maybe that’s why the Tafts finally dumped their money pit on the city in 1927. So don’t complain. The museum’s neighborhood has never been better, and hey, just look at all that beautiful artwork.

Whatever happened to John Phillips, the helicopter traffic reporter? At one point it was like he was on every radio station in town at once. Is he doing that somewhere else now? —Big Backup

Dear Big:
In the late 1990s it did seem like John Phillips delivered live traffic reports to every Cincinnati radio station simultaneously, all while piloting a helicopter. But come on, that’s not humanly possible. It was only nine radio stations, plus one on TV. Market research ranked him as the city’s most admired voice, probably because he neither played the same eight songs over and over nor barked political views at callers while hanging up on them.

Alas, highway webcams and travel apps have dumped helicopter traffic reporting into the same dustbin as typewriters, video stores, and dustbins. Mr. Phillips, though, soft-landed. He moved to Chicago in 2008 and became building manager for Michigan Avenue’s legendary Tribune Tower. Piloting that behemoth from the Roaring ’20s was no easy task. The tower has many unusual features, including secret passageways and exits designed for when Al Capone showed up without an appointment.

Administering such a complex facility provided Phillips with good preparation for his next gig, in 2011: a return to Cincinnati as building manager of the Shriners Hospital For Children in Clifton. He says it’s great to be back, and that it’s much more rewarding to work at a facility full of actual children than one filled with media egos who just act that way.

As we approach Halloween and Election Day, here’s something that’s bothered me for years: a City Council candidate who slips his campaign pamphlets into kids’ trick-or-treat bags! This really happened in my neighborhood a few years back. Please tell me this is not a common practice.
—Worst Treat Ever

Dear Worst:
Is this what we want for our children? Is this someone we can trust with our hard-earned tax dollars? Cincinnati’s working families deserve better. This candidate will do anything to win. Wrong for Cincinnati, wrong for Ohio, wrong for America. Probably traceable to Obama.

A quick survey of local campaign operatives confirms that this tactic is not in any other candidate’s bag of tricks. Such trespassing on the joys of childhood violates major clauses of the social contract. It is also counter-productive: Most recipients would avoid voting for this candidate after finding his leaflet among the Halloween loot. Parents, please just toss pamphlets like these into the trash along with the wrappers from treats you eat while the kids are sleeping. It’s for the children.

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