“Do You Not Have the Respect for Our Country, Bro?”

The Afghani policeman’s face lost his smile as he explained to me for the fifth time that I had entered the country illegally. My organization’s travel planner back home had made an innocent mistake and booked me a flight into Kabul International Airport, instead of the US military airfield in Bagram. In the latter, a US government employee can arrive without a visa, or even a passport. I was not at that airport however; I was at a civilian airport, with no visa and no idea what I would do.

The first mistake I made was allowing the immigration control officer to take my passport out of my sight. Never do that. Never, never allow that to happen. Never get out of the boat.

I had just spoken to my in-country contact and apprised him of the situation. “Hold tight.” He had to ferry himself down from Bagram to Kabul, and then arrange to meet me at the civilian airport. That took six hours. I expected him to arrive in an unmarked car. When he arrived, however, he was in a multi-vehicle armed convoy. He was kitted up: helmet, weapons, body armor. Even after surrendering his pistol they barely let him on the airfield and, after almost coming to blows with some policemen, he made his way into the terminal.

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Two hours later. He could not free my passport either. We then retreated to the convoy, sans passport, with instructions to engage in a huge administrative nightmare to get an “ISAF visa exemption.” My contact assured me the embassy would take care of the passport issue, and I should not worry as I conducted my business for the next twelve days.

Well…twelve days later, upon return to Kabul airport, wishful thinking had not improved the situation. We encountered the same guards, in the same chairs, in the same dirty rooms, seemingly drinking the same cups of tea, and smoking the stubs of the same cigarettes. We argued, begged, pleaded ignorance, tried to drop names, told lies and tied ourselves in knots with one odorous gray uniform after another… after another. Didn’t we respect their country? Didn’t we respect their ill-fitting gray uniforms? Was not Afghanistan a sovereign country like Belgium or United American States, bro? Hey bro, what if I came to USA bro? Could I come in and stay as long as I want in your country bro? No. No way, bro. You go. You go away, and come back with what we say bro.

Finally, a low ranking, but older, officer suggested: “why don’t we send them to General Haknafez?” The others seemed amused as if they were tossing us out of the frying pan and directly into the deep-fryer. We had no options, however, and tramped across the airport’s empty parking lots (no one can actually use the lots anymore for fear of car bombs) and toward an imposing third world administrative building. It was equal parts marble/brass and cracked vinyl/stale smoke. Faded orange carpets and garish portraits of men with impressive beards and wild eyes greeted us at every turn.

The General’s office seemed surprisingly normal. Just oversized. The building was probably left over from the Soviet occupation, and the only thing in proportion to its vastness was the impressive Saddam Hussein/Groucho Marx mustache of our host. He harangued us for fifteen minutes about our idiocy, and then stared at me. He asked me if I had a family, a wife, a child. I really have none of those things. No kids, and the in midst of a stupid divorce. The only thing I really loved at home was my dog, but I wasn’t about to bring him into this. I couldn’t remember if Muslims hated dogs, or ate them…or worshipped them? Think. Think. Just couldn’t say anything but: “I want to return home.”

He stared and stared and said in broken English. “I am the policeman. I say when you go home. You will not go home.” My face flushed and I seriously wanted to barf on his barf-colored carpet. Then his face broke into a grin “OK, OK, you can go home!”

As I left the office I wanted to capture that authority: lightning in a bottle. I knew every prick in a uniform in the entire airport had already said “no” to me, and now they would have to be shown to have been in the wrong. The General’s word was law, but how could I take that oafish, grinning “yes” with me? I wasn’t about to ask him to put something in writing. Instead, we asked him to call the chief over at immigration control and hoped for the best.

Upon returning to the other side of the airport we encountered the same negatives – each one being cracked open in turn by a phone call; like an icebreaker trudging through the arctic. I had been carrying all of my bags throughout the ordeal and was now sweating and starting to smell. I was worried my body odor would condemn me to stay in this society of body odor. As if I was being assimilated into the setting like a fly in amber.

The older, but wiser, policeman escorted me to a back office. A safe was opened and, like the chest at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” rays of sunshine burst forth. My passport! With buoyed hopes I received my ticket, and made it through two more stages of security.

I was close now. I could see the departure area. My last hurdle was the final exit immigration officer in his cubicle. I recognized him. He had sat in the office previously while I had been arguing. He knew my situation, and I expected a wave of recognition. Instead, he asked for the missing ISAF visa paperwork. “I’m sorry, I don’t have it. But I have spoken to General Haknafez.” He frowned. “OK. Go see the General and tell him to call me.” This was impossible. I would miss my flight. I begged him. My voice was close to cracking. “Please, can you call him?” He stared at me: that Kafka-esque administrator’s deadpan gaze.

He finally pulled a cracked cell phone from his pocket and searched lazily for numbers. It rang: some ridiculous belly-dancing music. After speaking for a few minutes he grunted, hung up, and resumed his search and dialed. I don’t know with whom he spoke or what they said, but he hung up and stared at me once more. He then asked me for a pen (like he wasn’t sitting behind a desk full of them). I thought he was going to write down a number I would have to call, or an office I would have to visit across the war-torn city, and my heart sank. Instead, he wrote “ISAF” in my passport and…picked up the exit stamp. It hovered in the air; I willed it towards the passport. And then it descended…thump.

I nearly ran through a security checkpoint, trying to pull off my tactical boots without even untying them, which made my bid for freedom come perilously close to an “I Love Lucy” physical comedy skit. I then tried to hide in the pathetically small departures area. I removed my sweater and put on a baseball hat. Devout Muslims were unrolling carpets for afternoon prayer. I expected at any moment for a squad of grey uniforms with a clipboard to come drifting through the crowd.

anonymous waiting for his ride
anonymous waiting for his ride

OK, shit. They were checking passports again at the bottom of the stairs outside the plane. I looked at the faces of the other passengers (many of whom were obviously old hands at traveling in Afghanistan) to see if this was normal. I almost asked, but forced myself not to. The gray uniform checking paperwork sat underneath a thick unibrow that had been lecturing me about sovereignty in the office six hours previous. I was so stressed by then I almost pulled myself out of line and announced: “I am the one you are looking for.” Instead, I just smiled and handed over my documents…and was waived on. Place one foot in front of the other. Don’t look back.

As I am writing this, I am still waiting on the plane on the Kabul airfield tarmac. I wanted to write this down while it is fresh, and I thought I had better stop saying “Hail Marys” so the bearded guy next to me stops staring. If you are reading it, I guess I made it out.

-anonymous

Finneytown Shortcut

In the mid-1980s, a Finneytown teenager living on the less developed stretch of Galbraith Road could take a shortcut to high school rather than follow the cars west to Winton and north through a drab series of shopping plaza stoplights.  Granted — almost no one did; to escape the bare-boned divorcé apartment complex of Prince Frederick a kid would endure any job to afford a used car.  Others counted on a parent to drop them off en route to work, and later rode home with friends.

The route required walking through a shrub-flecked lane of brick-faced townhouses that stared at the presumably lost pedestrian, moving toward the last back row of parking slots at the far edge of the complex.  The lot, which included an unwisely placed swimming pool, was perpetually sliding down a steep ravine covered with summer weeds except for when the latest tonnage of earth had been deposited to fortify the property.  Fresh macadam would then be shaped along the sagging guard rail, not to dry out and crumble into the gully until Spring.

The pedestrian, who had explored that swath for some years, headed to the end of the guard rail and stepped along certain broken cement blocks into the ravine.  At bottom was a creek that emerged from an impenetrable nook of blackberry bushes.  Initially subdued, it would gradually widen for more than a mile along Galbraith’s eastern descent, twisting through an unmanaged and woodsy terrain.  A pitchblack, curving tunnel the size of a child with outstretched arms then channeled it underneath Galbraith, soon to pour out near the stilted feet of a yellow octagonal house, join the rock-strewn Congress Run, and finally drain into the Carthage bend of Mill Creek.

Illegally dumped shed boards had been appropriated for crossing the muddy banks and stumbling upward through a messy flank of oak, poison ivy, paw paw, and dogwood until one tripped over a defeated barbwire line into a remnant of pastureland.  Here a flat expanse of wildflowers fanned out to wooded foothills, except for where a lean tractor-wide lane had been mown throughout the property of the unknown, unseen owner.  It traced a circular pond in the middle of the clearing and skirted a plywood bench by the reeds.  At the height of summer’s boredom, a couple kids might tromp down from the complex, over-outfitted for the Pursuit of the Great Catfish, an ageless monster that one of them swore he saw slip off the hook of his older brother’s rod.  They’d be back at the hopefully patched pool by noon.

Rain or snow would make even the mown lane a trudgery to navigate, but one always savored the exposure and solitude of the glen.  He could wend west through an overgrown passage to a much larger pond, enclosed within vine-choked firs and lorded over by a reclusive house with NO TRESPASSING signs at the end of Sanfan Avenue.  But that route ultimately reached Winton too quickly, coming out near the singular Second Hand Rose consignment shop, Argo Field’s baseball diamonds, and just before the busiest stripmall unfurled.  He might be reminded of a former residence on Hearthstone in Dave Argo’s old place, a relaxed plot around which the Argo construction company sowed the subdivision of split-level ranches east of Daly.  An adjacent short lane, bisected by one tiny wood and capped off by another, was named after Dave’s wife Lanny — breaths of untamed space for the modestly neat neighborhood, but also where beer bottles, tires, raked leaves, and IGA carts were more likely to be encountered than wildlife.

pond

Instead, one would enjoy a much less disturbed trek by continuing north through the pasture and up a firm grassy slope, reaching a more cultivated embankment that rambled until a driveway eventually surfaced by a secured modern barn.  There the succession of rugged backyards off Doepke could be seen clinging to the shaded ridge, and one emerged at the bottom of Cavalier Drive.  But one should pause first to gaze back on the valley from this crest, especially pleased in the warmer months by the foliage’s full erasure of the austere brick rows beyond, and the utterly untroubled lay of the land below.

Cavalier, its silent houses set back on austere tree-fringed lawns, led onward to the Reynard intersection, where one usually thought of a childhood sweetheart who lived right by the home of Charley Harper.  The kids knew his Cincinnati Zoo posters, relished his occasional school visits when he would describe his illustrations with a kind enthusiasm that made one feel one need only pick up an ink brush to create the same.  They thus took it in faith that they could sneak into Harper’s secluded dell while he worked somewhere in his home, as long as they sat quietly after all, simply waiting for the arrival of those magical birds.  But the only memorable sighting was the time that Charley actually came out and said hi.

Another block or two, then one next steered into the small parking lot of the padlocked Brent Elementary, which had closed that decade due to the area’s student population decline.  The offspring of Procter & Gamble’s Winton Hill Tech Center employees had grown up; empty nesters were letting go of their exhausted quarters in flight to newer suburban developments, or even to Florida; few yuppies ready to parent found Finneytown attractive.  Soccer practice still pounded the field, but no one took the “civic center” proposal much to heart.  One followed along the strip of uneven pavement that bordered Brent’s chainlink fence, behind which one could eye the little back patios of peers he’d be joining shortly in band practice.  Many had spent their childhood under no other roof.

One now could cross Winton serenely at a most disciplined T-intersection with Fountainbleau.  That street connected to the entrance, but one preferred to take a rear path that hemmed the scrappy old outdoor stadium, hidden from the roads.  Here one could pass under the worn bleachers with their faded red and blue paint, overseen by an outdated cartoon incarnation of a Wildcat scowling merrily above.  One inevitably shivered for the cold game nights, a dented trombone blurting out Sousa on the matted turf, later the costly popcorn bag cruelly spilled between the floorboards.

Approaching the low, flat modernist campus, one probably also recalled that particular Saturday, still none too distant, when he broke into the place — and got caught.  “Most boys want to get out,” one teacher wagged.  Well, he’d only wanted an adventure.  Even the quotidian shortcut to school held a wisp of the unpredictable that marks exploration beyond any charmless establishment.  Later, he would wonder where the kids played once the Ronald Reagan Highway, after years and years and more years of blessed bureaucratic stalling, finally wiped out so many refuges for the Shortcut of the Greater Convenience.

John Milton Hendricks / Nov 2013

Photo Set by Andy Houston

Andy Houston makes photos the old way: no new-fangled digital shenanigans for him.  We went for a “drunko-urban-cyclocross” ride one fall night, out along Mill Creek road, up to Fairmount and across the viaduct.  Then we dropped down to Spring Grove Ave. and hit the Stock Yard Cafe and Beer Garden, one of the remaining bars that used to serve workers at the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants on Spring Grove Ave.   The Stock Yard Cafe has since closed, but the photo set, which has nothing to do with that ride, captures the post-industrial, working class melancholy of the Mill Creek Valley.  If you like these, more of his photos can be seen on his blog, Ando’s Weekly.

(click photos to enlarge)

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A Brief History of Cincinnati Occulture

By Justin Patrick Moore

0. Remembering the Dead

At the time of this writing Hallow’een has come and gone, yet the sign of Scorpio, associated with the death card in tarot, still hangs in the sky and my mind turns to the ghosts who both haunt and illuminate the hidden byways of Cincinnati’s past. This is a traditional time of year to pay homage to the Ancestors, and my heart turns to those loved ones of mine in my bloodline who have gone on before me, as well as those whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, but whose memories are still encoded into the strands of my genes. I also recall and toast our shared cultural Ancestors and heroes who have bequeathed us a vast body of artistic heritage and magical lore; and especially among this latter group, those who danced on this Cincinnati Arch before my own first breath was drawn. The work my own Elders have done in the living tradition of magic is something else I muse upon in this time of death. While the fringe activities which go on in esoteric and occult circles may at first glance seem to have little bearing on present day reality, the circles they cast have often gone on to have wider ripples in the culture at large. May the memory of their deeds be kept alive in hearth fires all across the Queen of the West.

I. Mounds of the Dead

The story of Cincinnati occult culture, or occulture begins long before the industrial revolution in the time of the Adena and Hopewell people who first inhabited this area, followed later by Fort Ancient and the Shawnee. These Moundbuilders as the Adean and Hopewell are collectively called erected throughout Ohio a number of important ceremonial earthworks. [1] Though these are not made of stark gray stone like Stonehenge they are on par with the megalithic structures of the British Isles. Much of what is now downtown Cincinnati was covered in these earthworks. The city’s tallest building and Art Deco masterpiece the Carew Ttower sits on top of the remains of a huge earthwork. The eminent Dr. Daniel Drake wrote in his 1815 book Picture of Cincinnati that “the earthwork is a very broad ellipsis; one diameter extending 800 feet from Race street; and the other about 660 feet south from Fifth-street. On the east side it had an opening nearly 90 feet in width. Its height is scarcely three feet, upon a base of more than thirty.” [2]

There were many other mounds downtown. They are now covered over by cobblestone, concrete, asphalt, and the litter of a populace who, for the most part, remain ignorant of what lies beneath them underground, and of who lies behind them in the past.

From Serpent Mound in Adams county to the Mound City Necropolis of Chillicothe, this entire area was once the home of a vibrant culture throbbing with ritual life. Sometimes in the case of Serpent Mound, public and private rituals have been done at these sites in modern times. Others remain inaccessible to the individual or group who would use these places in a manner similar to the one they were built for. There is an Octagon shaped mound in Newark, Ohio that sits on property owned by the Ohio Historical Society, yet this property is leased to the private Moundbuilders Country Club. One researcher by the name of Ross Hamilton who has looked into this mound claims its eight sided shape suggests that it may have been a spider effigy. [3]Barbara Crandell, a woman of Cherokee ancestry was arrested at age 73 when she went onto this mound near the 10th fairway to pray. She was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing to which she pleaded not guilty. [4] This particular earthwork was built around 1,650 years ago. This country club only allows visitors on its grounds a few days out of each year, otherwise people are supposed to view the site from a wooden stand near the parking lot or from a short trail that borders one side of the course. Ms. Crandell was unimpressed with this sorry compromise and said, “when I go there to pray, I need to touch the earth.”

In 1982 researchers from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana concluded that the complex was a lunar observatory, used to track motions of the moon, including the northernmost point of the 18.6-year cycle of the lunar orbit. The moon then rises within one-half of a degree of the octagon’s exact center. This makes the earthwork twice as precise as the complex at Stonehenge, assuming Stonehenge is an observatory, which of course has been disputed. [5]

To me what is criminal in this case is not that the mound would be used for prayer, or meditation, or simple enjoyment, but that it is being used as a golf course. I am biased in this because I’ve always been in the same camp as Mark Twain when he said that golf ruins a good walk. But whether or not a person considers the mound sacred it is clearly of immense historical value. It should be respected for this and opened up to the general public allowing people who can’t afford a country club membership the chance to visit when and as often as they please. Meanwhile the club has renewed its lease with the Ohio Historical Society until 2078. [6] I’ll be ninety-nine years old then if I’m lucky enough to live that long. Hopefully my descendants will see it restored.

II. Hollowed Ground

As humans we really only do have a lease on the Land anyway. We can choose to be its stewards, holding it in common with the other people and other animals who inhabit this bioregion or we can seek to own it outright and establish our dominion. John Cleves Symmes chose the path of dominion when he signed the sales ticket for the Miami purchase in 1788. The Land that spreads between the Great Miami River and the Little Miami River was once a commons. A creek known as the Maketewa was a major tributary and pathway to the Ohio river and on either side of it were trails used for travelling and hunting. It was the common ground of a number of different Native American tribes who met in this area to trade, barter and swap. [7]

The Maketewa is now better known as the Mill Creek. It is maybe not quite as toxic as it was, say, twenty years ago but it is still in need of a lot of love before it can be restored to its pristine beauty. John Cleves Symmes can be remembered for ushering in a new culture to the Ohio valleys watershed, one that in its time has drastically altered the life of the primal forests and streams here. Yet the citizens of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are lucky in that our wonderful park system has preserved some of that beauty.

Symmes had a nephew who was also named John Cleves Symmes. There is a monument to him up in Hamilton, Ohio at Ludlow Park. This John Cleves Symmes Jr. was a hero of the War of 1812. According to the plaque on the monument he performed “daring feats of Bravery in the battle’s of Lundy’s Lane and sortie from Fort Erie.” The plaque also states that he was a “philosopher and the originator of Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres and Polar Voids; he contended that the Earth is hollow and habitable within.” [8] Symmes believed that the Earth was shaped more or less like a doughnut and that the North and South Pole had holes that were access points to the hollow world.

Symmes traveled and lectured extensively in the United States, and he was also a major pamphleteer. In one of these pamphlets he wrote, “I declare the Earth is hollow, habitable within; containing a number of solid concentric spheres; one within the other, and that it is open at the pole twelve or sixteen degrees. I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.” [9] People with great ideas always seem to be in need of help from philanthropists. He sent his tracts to the major institutions and universities of the United States. All of this was to stir up zeal about the possibilities of Free Trade with the inhabitants of the Hollow Earth. And perhaps make his own pockets a little less hollow.

He did eventually get aid from an Ohio millionaire named James McBride to lobby the government. After Symmes death another of his acolytes, a lawyer by the name of Jeremy Reynolds persuaded the Pennsylvania state legislature to petition John Quincy Adams to fund an expedition to the icy wilderness of Antarctica. The petition succeeded and enough money was provided to send the three ships of the 1838 Wilkes Expedition. This lawyer, who had no practical experience as a sailor, made a big mistake in attempting to commandeer the journey. The crews were plagued with starvation and later raised the call to mutiny having made it no further than South America. Jeremy later wrote a sensationalized account of this failed journey titled Mocha Dickin which he describes the legend of a white whale. This was the slim and slender book that became an inspiration to Herman Melville who expanded upon it in his own leviathan of literature, the girth that is Moby Dick.

John Cleves Symmes Jr. had other influences on literature. His theory was an inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym published in 1838. In 1896 Cincinnatian John Uri Lloyd published his book Etidorhpa which is itself a narrative of a journey into the subterranean caverns and underworlds deep in beneath the Earth. (There is more to tell about Lloyd and the magical circles he hung out in later in this essay.) In 1990 mathematician, computer scientist, and science fiction writer Rudy Rucker published an alternate history novel called The Hollow Earth. It’s a fascinating book that stars Edgar Allan Poe as a character and uses Symmes Theory for fictional fodder. Though Rucker has been a Californian for a long time he is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and when he was working on this book he did some research at the Cincinnati Public Library. [10]

III. Gruesome Folklore

Ninety years after Symmes Senior helped establish the Ohio valley for settlers Cincinnati had become a booming Porkopolis. The work of the journalist Patrick Lafcadio Hearn emerged under these skies, once black with coal, and on these streets, still soaked with the blood of swine. He is another ghost who continues to haunt Cincinnati history. Lafcadio wrote for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer for three years between 1872 and 1875, and then for the Cincinnati Commercial for an additional two years. Patrick was his first name but he went by Lafcadio. It has been surmised that he left off his first name Patrick as a way to protect himself from the rampant racist attitudes people held towards the Irish in the 1800s. [11]

This man led an extremely interesting, though difficult life. He was born on the Ionian Island Lefkada in 1850 to a Greek mother and Irish father. At the age of two he was sent to Dublin where he was raised by relatives. During a school yard game in his teens he was injured losing the sight of his left eye. Thereafter he remained self-conscious about his appearance. 12

At the age of 19 Lafcadio lost faith in the Church and quit the Roman Catholic school he was attending and emigrated to America where he eventually settled in Cincinnati for a time. When he got to this town he was broke and impoverished. He spent his days reading in the place where I work, the Cincinnati Public Library Downtown -though sadly, the original building no longer exists. At night he took to sleeping in a box of paper shavings behind a local printers shop. The printer was a man named Henry Watkin who took him in and showed him the ropes of his trade, though eventually he got onto the news desk at the Enquirer where he proceeded to write some truly horrific and lurid stories. 13

No less a man of letters than Tom Wolfe considers Lafcadio to have been a precursor to the New Journalism alongside other notable writers such as Mark Twain, James Boswell, and Charles Dickens -all links in the tradition of creative nonfiction and literary journalism. [12]

I think Lafcadio was also one of the first writers to develop “True Crime” reportage as a genre, though “True Crime” wasn’t yet seen as a distinct form of non-fiction writing. He was most adept at the short form, writing articles, vignettes and short stories, while also trying his hand at translating the decadent and symbolist literature of France.

Perhaps it was something in his Irish heritage, but Hearn had a taste for folklore the way some people have a taste for strong drink. He couldn’t keep himself away from old stories of witches and ghosts, and he feasted on tales told by the cities most disenfranchised citizens, the African Americans of the day, and the poor folk living in squalor down in the district known as Rat Row alongside the river. He developed a knack for teasing out the genius loci or local spirit of a place. These interests crept into and colored his newspaper writing. Later in his life he would devote himself more fully to collecting and re-telling traditional tales, from New Orleans and creole country, from the Carribean, and most notably from his final home in Japan where he married the daughter of a samurai, became a naturalized citizen, and went by the name of Koizumi Yakumo. In Japan he became the preeminent chronicler of pre-industrial Japanese history for the West.

The stories he wrote give a remarkable picture of not only Cincinnati in the 1870s, but also insight into his interests in both the macabre and supernatural that stayed with him for the rest of his life and writing career.

In his article Among the Spirits he reports on a meeting of spiritualists and attempts to communicate with his father through a medium. [13] Another article is titled The Haunted and the Haunters where he investigates rumors that the city’s stables were haunted. One of his most famous stories, that put him on the map both locally and nationally, was a series of reports on The Tanyard Murder that took place in the West End. One of these stories was titled Violent Cremation, in which he investigated the murder and subsequent burning of a man in a tannery furnace. He also interviewed a black man who was in trouble for selling human remains to a doctor, to be used for the study of anatomy.
It seems fitting to take a closer look at a couple of stories he wrote investigating the underground abortion services of a lady known as Madame Sidney Augustine. These stories are telling, not only in regards to the dangers women of the day went to in procuring termination of a pregnancy, but also to the way women who performed such services have historically been persecuted by authorities who used their associations with witchcraft, real or imagined, as a justification.

Madame Sidney Augustine was a fortune teller who lived on Central Avenue near Third Street. A young girl named Hattie Sperling made a visit to the Madame, not to have a tarot card reading, or for an interpretation on what the lines on her hand meant for her destiny, but for her other secret and clandestine services. She was induced to make this visit by her lover, a man named Carson. Hearing what the girl needed to have done the Madame said, “If he’s rich I’ll charge him fifty dollars.” When she learned the father of the unborn child was a blacksmith she was only going to charge twenty-five dollars. In our day they call that a sliding scale. When Hattie went out to get the money, her man, who said he would be waiting for her outside had disappeared. The fearful girl went back inside empty handed. The Madame, being more experienced in these matters, perhaps foresaw such a situation. The Madams neighbors had commented to the journalist on how she seemed to have a new servant girl every few weeks. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that to help the young lady out of her predicament she agreed to let her work out the amount as a servant girl in her house. “But,” Sidney Augustine said, “I won’t touch you until the money is secured.”

Hattie worked for the Fortune Teller for nine weeks before the operation was performed. Lafcadio writes that “according to all accounts the den of the fortune-teller has been the scene of many a fearful act. The house is a modest two-story brick. Opposite to it are stores, and on only one side could any thing be seen of the back part. And on this side the fence is ten feet high, and, in order to keep out all prying eyes, the cracks have been stuffed with rags, and the knot-holes nailed over with bits of shingle. The neighbors have different tales to tell. The Madame was never known to talk to any of them and when she went out to the theatre occasionally she would be heaped up with finery and jewels. All have remarked at the number of women running in and out of the house. All were mostly young and well dressed. … There are indications that this Madame Augustine was up to her ears in dark doings. Her child of fourteen had often spoken to neighbors children of having a sick cousin in the house and that there were dead babies in it. This girl said further that a man whom she called the undertaker came there every week and carried away a dead baby, when there was one wrapped up in a newspaper under his arms.” 16 Hearn goes on to write about other women coming to the house to have their fortune told.

When Hattie Sperlings weeks of service were up and her money earned the Madame took her into a back room. The instruments used for the procedure were a steel rod with a bulb at one end, and a long slender syringe filled with liquid. In this instance the abortion was botched and Sperling was close to death. But as luck would have it, if anything in this situation can be called lucky, the Madame was herself ill. In his story Lafcadio intimated that if she had been stronger the lady would have killed the girl. Instead she sent for the hospital wagon, because “not for the world would I have you die here.”

When authorities eventually interceded the Madame was arrested and the vault under the ladies outhouse or privy was examined, unearthing the remains of a miscarriage wrapped in a black silk dress. They thought other remains might have been disposed of in the privy as well, but that the evidence had dissolved amidst the human excrement.

I wanted to recount this particular bit of journalism by Lafcadio because it illustrates the kind of dire situations a woman had to go through to obtain an abortion in those times. It can serve as a reminder. Most people today, regardless of their personal philosophy, would not wish to have their daughters or other loved ones have to go through an experience that remains psychologically traumatic, no matter how clinical the setting. Yet it still remains necessary for a free individual to have the right to terminate a pregnancy in conditions that are safe and supportive. If those who oppose legal abortion would have their way, society would see a return to them taking place in a black market economy where conditions cannot be verified and the doctor, or worse, the untrained amateur performing them cannot be held accountable if something were to go wrong.

I also think it is interesting that Madame Augustine was known to be a fortune teller as well as an abortionist. In the middle ages of the Christian era, on through the time of the inquisition and the witch hunts that even touched this country, a women who was seeking an abortion often had to go visit a wise but feared lady living on the outskirts of town. These ladies of “cunning craft” as they are referred to in the folklore of Witchcraft knew the properties of plants, weeds, and herbs, among them natural abortifacients such as belladonna, rue, pennyroyal, mugwort and ergot. It seems to me that part of the reason so many women were wrongly burned at the stake, was not only for purported witchcraft, but simply as another way for the Orthodoxy of the Papal Church to deny the powers and rights of women in general. If our country denies the rights of women over their own bodies we will be taking a huge step backwards that could lead once again to the rise of witch hunts of other kinds. Those of us who value a pluralistic culture where many voices can coexist must remain vigilant of those who would silence dissenters and voices saying different things than their own.

Lafcadio Hearn bucked against the authorities of his day in many ways. These included crossing racial barriers in marriage at such a time when such things were still illegal according to law. When he wed the freed slave and mixed woman Aletha Foley the Enquirer fired him for “deplorable moral habits”. This began a period of intense disdain for Lafcadio in Cincinnati. His friends thought he had made a bad decision. Though he did go to work at the rival paper the Commercial social pressures were such that he eventually divorced and went to New Orleans bringing with him his interest in folklore and other cultures.

It was there in New Orleans, working for other papers, that he penned obituaries for two of the most famous voodou practitioners that city gave birth to, Marie Laveau and Doctor John. Voodou is a living and evolving spiritual tradition. From its origins in Africa it was brought over to the New World alongside the slave trade. Wherever these African traditions found root they syncretized with the dominant religions and folk beliefs of the area. That is why you will often find Catholic Saints merging with the spirits or Loa of Voodoo. For instance Papa Legba, a tricksterish crossroads deity who is said to open the paths between this world and the Otherworld is often found associated with St. Peter who is often depicted with Keys that open the gates to heaven and the afterlife. The ancestors and spirits of the dead play an important role in Voodou religion and November 1st or All Hallows, the day after Halloween is marked by festivals and cemetery processions. The grave site of Marie Laveau is a pilgrimage spot for many people of the voodou faith in New Orleans today.

Lafcadio Hearn was not the last person with Cincinnati ties to move to New Orleans and we’ll be returning to that city later. For now we go back to Ohio.

River Tree

IV. Occult Circles

At the same time that Lafcadio Hearn was writing for the Enquirer a man by the name of J. Augustus Knapp, who studied at the McMicken School of Design, was living in Norwood supporting himself and his wife as a freelance artist. [14]

Augustus Knapp was a member of the Literary Society alongside a man named Dr. Jirah Dewey Buck. Both were also Freemasons. It was in these overlapping circles that the two men first met. Dr. Buck was also a member of H. P. Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, and had been for a time a member of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, a society that taught the secrets of sexual magic. Madame Blavatsky had forced him to choose sides when the two groups got into a conflict. It was under the influence of Dr. Buck that Knapp and his wife joined up with the Theosophical Society. Buck became a mentor to the artist who then wrote a paper for the Theosophical Society on one of Doctor Buck’s favorite esoteric themes -the theory of the involution and evolution of the soul. This is the idea, widespread in Western and Eastern occultism that the soul descends by stages into physical incarnation, and in life ascends through various stages towards Deity or Godhead. The use of the word evolution in this context has nothing to do with the way it was used by Charles Darwin.

John Uri Lloyd, an author of works of fiction and a researcher with his brothers into botanical pharmacology was also a Freemason. Dr. Buck probably knew him also through the Lloyd Pharmacy, because it was close to his downtown office, and was a practitioner of “eclectic” medicine as was Lloyd, in addition to both being Masons. Lloyd also had ties to the Knapp family. They had both built houses close to each other in Norwood and John’s younger brother Curtis was an office worker at the Standard Publishing Company where Knapp had worked as an illustrator.

Ron Decker in his article From Hermopolis to Porkopolis suggests that Lloyd and Knapp were members of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. He writes that “according to local lore, Knapp and John Uri Lloyd, together with their wives, engaged in séances. Furthermore, because the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor promoted sex magic, recruitment was aimed at married couples. The Lloyds and the Knapp’s, while close friends with Buck, may not have wanted him to know of their involvement in a tradition that he had repudiated. The emphasis on ritual love-making could explain the title of Lloyd’s 1896 novel, Etidorhpa, which is a reversed spelling of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love.”

The book Etidorhpa is the story of a man who is initiated into a secret society. [15] When he breaks his vow of silence he is kidnapped by the fraternal organization. Eventually he is released to a guide who takes him to a cave in Kentucky, and from there further and deeper into subterranean realms. The whole experience becomes for the main character a kind of underworld initiation, an inner journey of spirit that ends in psychological transformation. Lloyd himself had grown up in Kentucky and was familiar with the regions famous caves. It makes me wonder if he was also familiar with the idea of a Hollow Earth promoted by John Cleves Symmes Jr. Whatever the case may be, Etidorpha is an intriguing scientific fiction with a mystical bent, and has remained an influential occult classic.

This book was illustrated with drawings and monochrome paintings by J. Augustus Knapp, one of which prominently shows a grouping of large mushrooms. The late Terrence McKenna who was an advocate of the responsible use of the hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms claims that Etidorhpa may be one of the first accounts of mushroom intoxication in the modern West. He wrote in his book The Archaic Revival that, “There is ample evidence, both circumstantial and prima facie, that Lloyd had experienced intoxication by psilocybin. Lloyd was a fin de siecle character, both a competent pharmaceutical chemist and a man with a passion for occult literature and speculation….Lloyd and his brothers published a quarterly journal, ‘Drugs and Medicines of North America’…John Uri’s brother, Curtis Gates Lloyd, is described by one source as one of the leading fungi botanists of his time. C.G. Lloyd made extensive collections of fungi in the Gulf States and the Deep South; there can be little doubt that if a mushroom species such as Stropharia Cubensis was present then in those places with even a fraction of the frequency that it is encountered today, then Curtis Gates Lloyd would have collected and been familiar with it.” [16]

John Uri Lloyd and his brothers later founded the Lloyd Library which is now home to over 200,000 volumes on the subjects of botany, natural history, pharmacy, medicine, scientific history, and the visual arts. In 1919 a trust was set up to continue the work of the Library into the future. Thirty years later in 1949 the Library of Congress compiled a list of 10,000 of the most important private libraries. The Lloyd Library was placed at number six on that list. It remains a destination spot for visiting scientists and researchers from all over the world. It’s open to the public and you can visit it at 917 Plum Street downtown. [17]

In 1910 Augustus Knapp’s wife had passed away. Somewhere in his extended occult and Freemasonic circles he met a woman Dr. Laura Brickly. The two were married in the early 1920’s and moved to California. In 1928 in Los Angeles, his wife Dr. Brickly-Knapp gave a lecture on the subject of “Occult Anatomy” this being about the subtle energy aspects of the human body, symbolism of the various organs and bones among other things. Manly P. Hall, founder of the Philosophical Research Society, happened to be in the audience. He had read Etidorhpa and was familiar with Knapp’s drawings. He asked if Knapp would be interested in working on drawings and plates for his new project. Knapp took on this assignment and produced 46 watercolor paintings and a number of line drawings. These all went into Manly P. Hall’s monumental work and the achievement he is most remembered for,The Encylopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy. Now this work goes generally by the name of The Secret Teachings of All Ages. The next year Manly P. Hall and Augustus Knapp embarked on another project together in the creation of a Tarot deck. He continued to draw and do illustrations for many more books, mostly by Manly P. Hall and John Uri Lloyd until he passed away in 1938.

I have a friend who holds a Ph.D in philosophy but who makes ends meet by working the third shift as a security guard at the Cincinnati Art Museum. We share similar interests in obscure local history among other things. He told me that the Museum holds a copy of the “King Solomon Edition” of The Secret Teachings of All Ages. The King Solomon Edition was a larger special edition released in a limited run. For bibliophiles, this was copy 94 of 550 and was signed by Manly P. Hall and J. Augustus Knapp. The copy had previously belonged to John Uri Lloyd and was donated to the museum in memory of his wife Emma Rouse Lloyd who died in 1933. Attached to the title page of the book is a letter from Charles P. Taft to John Uri Lloyd dated Dec. 7 th 1928. He wrote, “My Dear Professor Lloyd, The volume on symbolism which you sent to me proves on cursory inspection to be a marvelous work. Its conception, its writing, the art work and printing, paper and binding make it an epoch making volume. It is a contribution to symbolic lore on the first order.” [18]

With this note from the son of President Taft the trail of Cincinnati occultism goes a bit cold, at least for this researcher, on through the rest of the 1930s and the 1960s. The golden thread picks back up in 1970’s at the dawn of a tradition that is still alive today with notable involvement throughout the world.

V. The Children of Horus and Maat

In 1972 a woman by the name of Maggie Ingles, whose magical name is Nema, -which actually means nameless- was given a copy ofLiber Aleph: The Book of Wisdom and Folly by Aleister Crowley.[19] The book was Maggie was already on a path of engagement with Mystery but this book directed her towards ceremonial Magick in a strange way -she was spurred on by some of Crowley’s negative attitudes towards women. In the book he had written such statements as “tell not the Truth to any Woman” and “women have no souls” and that they are “incapable of doing Magick”. Maggie said that she had to refute this attitude with action and dove head first into Magick as a way to prove Aleister Crowley wrong. In doing so she set herself up to become a conduit for the magical energies that act as a Balance to those awakened by Aleister Crowley.

Around the same time at 949 Pavillion Street in Mt. Adams there was an occult bookstore, The Dawn of Light owned by Patrick McMahon who was also known as Frater Ariel, and nearby the Sign of the Fool owned by Louis Martinie. At this time the community around these occult bookshops in Mt. Adams was growing, Maggie Ingles among them. A number of seekers banded together to form what became the Cincinnati Chapter of the Crowned and Conquering Child. They met for rituals at Oz Farm, the land and house of Ginger and Gary Matthews in Brown County near Mt. Orab.

A key event in the history and ongoing evolution of Thelemic Magick, the spiritual philosophy, religion and associated magicks taught by Aleister Crowley, was the product of a group ritual that took place at Oz Farm in 1974.

There were about thirty people present including Nema and Frater Ariel as well as the man who had given Nema her copy of The Book of Wisdom and Folly. The ritual was an experiment in time travel. A number of people in the group felt they had links to each other in a previous incarnation during the 1700s in the Alsace-Lorraine region. The purpose of the ritual was to travel back in time further -on the astral plane, aided through ritual and shamanic drumming- to a time when this same group was preparing for the destruction of an island nation (Atlantis). Nema or Maggie was one of the three astral voyagers who called back her descriptions of places and events as they traveled on the inner planes with the help a steady drum beat.

Towards the end of this shamanic journey Nema became aware of an astral presence in the Oz Farm Temple. She writes that it “radiated power, but threatened no action”. Frater S. M. C. H. who was also participating had felt this presence as well. They speculated the being who appeared was a Magus in grade -a Magus being a true Adept, someone who has excelled in the Magical Arts well beyond the Neophyte stage. She writes that “we speculated that we created a vacuum when we’d ventured pastward, and that the mystery Magus had taken advantage of this vacuum to visit us from our future.” [20]

Two weeks later at the Dawn of Light store Patrick McMahon gave her two black feathers, saying “I don’t know why, but I’m supposed to give you these.” Nema took them home and placed them on her altar. Two weeks after that while she was meditating in her temple she heard an internal voice say “Call your weapons”. Nema writes “I called to me the astral bodies of my wand, sword, cup and pantacle. Holding my weapons I gazed into the white flame burning about two inches above the center of the astral altar. A minute speck of black appeared in the heart of the flame, and rapidly expanded until the whole flame burned black, absorbing light. After a moments pause, the black flame expanded, engulfing the temple and its furnishings. I hung alone in space, galaxies and stars whirling in the vast ringing silence, and the vision began.”

Nema wrote the content of this vision down immediately as a sacred text or holy book called Liber Pennae Praenumbra while a voice helped her with the words. Later the vision was replayed for her again as she painted it in the form of its major symbols. She made a typescript in the following weeks and eventually sent a copy to the internationally-renowned occult author Kenneth Grant who was himself a student of Aleister Crowley and the head of a major magical order based in the U.K., the Typhonian branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis. The type of magick Nema helped give birth to through her vision is called Maat Magick and relates to the Egyptian Goddess Maat, Goddess of Truth, Justice and Balance whose symbol is the feather. Aleister Crowley’s system of Magick has more of a connection to the Egyptian God Horus. There are many magicians today who work with Aleister Crowley’s and Nema’s system of Magick. They refer to this as the Double-Current meaning the Current of Maat and the Current of Horus.

Kenneth Grant went on to write about Maat Magick in a number of his own books especially in Outside the Circles of Time[21] 
Eventually there was a schism in the group who performed the ritual at Oz Farm. The Cincinnati Chapter of the Crowned and Conquering Child went its own way as the Bate Cabal was being formed. From the Bate Cabal arose Black Moon Publishing and The Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick[22] This journal was the first place where Nema’s Liber Pennae Praenumbra was published in 1976.

Louis Martinie is one of the main insitigators of Black Moon Publishing and the Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick. Louis has since moved to New Orleans where he has become a voodou priest though he most often assists in voodou services as a drummer. He has also written a number of books on Voodou published through his Black Moon imprint, and helped create with Sallie Anne Glassman, the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, writing the book which accompanies the deck.

While he was here in Cincinnati in the 1970’s Louis was a leading member of the notorious performance art and musical group Bitter Blood Street Theatre. The phrase Bitter Blood is a Victorian euphemism for menstrual blood. For those who practice sexual magick the time of menstruation is seen as a time of great magical power. Patrick McMahon who is an excellent player of wind instruments was also a member of this group as was Owen Knight. Owen considers himself a pagan with a special leaning towards the Druid Revival and modern Heathenism, Heathenism being the preferred term for those who worship the Scandinavian pantheon, Odin, Thor, Freya and the like. Later Bitter Blood Street Theatre morphed into the studio group Blacklight Braille. Nema’s paintings were used on a number of album covers for both of these groups.

One of my favorite stories about Bitter Blood Street Theatre was how Owen and Lou acquired another member for the band -Ralph. Ralph was a taxidermied dog head mounted on a stick. I was told that they had found a beheaded dog, killed in some kind of terrible accident in Mt. Adams. Lou and Owen decided to put the dog head on a stick and parade around with it in Eden park as a way of honoring its spirit. They hadn’t been aware that the animal rights group PETA was having a rally at the park when they came through with the freshly mounted dog head. The activists were very upset and as I heard it, the pair were kicked out of the park for life. They were able to keep the dog head though, and they put all kinds of magical names of power and spells inside it as it was being stuffed and taxidermied. Ralph was a frequent part of their ecstatic performances.

Lou has continued his work as a publisher, producing a number of works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry by Owen Knight, as well as publishing some books by Nema and others. In an interview I conducted with Lou and Owen on the radio Lou talked about his research into the original Dr. John that he is doing in conjunction with the Smithsonian and the New Orleans Historic Voodou Museum. [23] Currently in the occult world of the West there has been a huge upsurge of interest in the various traditions of Voodou. Practitioners of Ceremonial Magick are syncretizing their practices with various practices from this African Traditional Religion. Because Lou Martinie has a strong background in Thelema and Magick he has been one of the forerunners in merging these traditions together.

The scope of this article is too limited to give more than a taste of the magical people and practices which Cincinnati has been a home to, and is an area of research in need of further exploration and investigation outwardly and on the inner planes. Now practitioners of the Art no longer need to live in fear of being tried for heresy, tortured and burned at the stake and these histories which were once elusive and secret may now be shared with openness. They carried the lamp of illumination forward in dark times, and now it is up to those who have come after to continue and hold aloft the light.

-Justin Patrick Moore
Hallow’een 2012 & 2013

Back to contents.

Go home. 


[1] Mysteries of the Hopewell: Astronomers, Geometers and Magicians of the Eastern Woodlands, William F. Romain, Akron OH

[2] Natural and statistical view; or picture of Cincinnati and the Miami country, Dr. Daniel Drake, Cincinnati OH

[3] Star Mounds: Legacy of a Native American Mystery, Ross Hamilton, Berkeley CA

[5] Christopher Maag, NY Times, November 5, 2005: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/28/national/28mounds.html?_r=0

[7] The Mill Creek: An Unnatural History of an Urban Stream, Stanley Hedeen, Cincinnati OH

[9] Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth, Robert Anton Wilson, Phoenix AZ

[10] Rudy told me of his research in the Cincinnati Room (rare books) at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and his own visit to monument erected for Symmes in Hamilton in personal correspondence.

[11] A Fantastic Journey: The Life and Literature of Lafcadio Hearn, Paul Murray, Ann Arbor MI

[12] Literary Cincinnati: The Missing Chapter, Dale Patrick Brown, Athens OH

[13] Period of the Gruesome, John Chrisotpher Hughes ed., Lanham MD

[14] Around 2005 local author and art historian Ron Decker wrote an article for the Lloyd Library From Hermopolis to Porkopolisfrom which some of my information on John Uri Lloyd, J. Augustus Knapp and Buck is derived. I published this articled in issue seven my privately circulated magazine The Dyslexicon which was devoted to the occult history of Cincinnati.

[15] Etidorhpa, or, the end of the earth: the strange history of a mysterious being and the account of a remarkable journey, John Uri Lloyd, Cincinnati OH

[16] The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History, Terrence McKenna, New York NY

[18] K. R. Zog copied this information for me. It was printed originally in The Dyslexicon, Issue 7.

[19] I conducted email interviews with Nema and Louis Martinie in 2004. These were also published in issue 7 of the Dyslexicon.

[20] Maat Magick: A Guide to Self-Initiation, Nema, York Beach ME

[21] Outside the Circles of Time, Kenneth Grant, London, UK

[22] The Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick was published between 1976 and 1989.

MPMF 2014, Day One

Midpoint Music Festival – Cincinnati, Ohio, Day 1.  Two things became apparent on the first day of the Midpoint Music Festival, 2014.  One: that clothing technology has advanced to the point where skinny jeans can be devised to fit any body type, no matter how tall, skinny, not-so-skinny, or squat.  Two: that not only is peace in the Middle East a very real possibility in our lifetime, but in the Canadian/Jewish/Palestinian collabo that is Chromeo, it produces some serious, serious jams.  If DARPA is anywhere near on top of this ISIS situation, they’ve already approached Chromeo to beam their funky, throbbing disco at those poor, humorless bastards scurrying around former Mesopotamia trying to keep their AK’s functionally sand-free.

“Throbbing” only begins to describe what was going on on the grassy roof of the parking garage at the former site of the elementary school on the North end of Washington Park, near where residents of “The Drop”used to get hassled for enjoying Mad Dog 20/20 and now affluent white folk and trustfundafarians drink overpriced Moerleins as gigadecibles ricochet from their former college bro’s newly reno-ed condos.  Craziest of all—and I’d like to state unequivocally and for the record I was under the influence of no drugs more potent than a couple of warm, flat Moerleins, that the grassy field that was formerly a neighborhood swimming pool and an elementary school, but is now the roof of the Washington Park parking garage was actually bouncing up and down with said throbbing action.

Possibly, DARPA should talk Chromeo into also employing their lightshow in urban/desert warfare.  My retinas were useless after the first strobes backlit the Canuck Professor of French Literature who brings guitar licks like Prince.  When my vision finally returned, it was to a sea of hands silhouetted above the crowd, swaying to “You’re a sexy socialite” and “Bonafide Lover.”

When the last blast of beats, vocoder, synth and electric guitar subsided, having worked the crowd into orgiastic frenzy, the rebar beneath the manicured lawn ceased its ebb.  Security switched on the overhead floods, the crowd filtered back toward the Midpoint “Midway”.  A woman surrounded by bags who had been reading a thick paperback when I rode through the park to lock my bike at Memorial Hall, our ultimate destination for the 11:30 appearance of Mark Kozelek, a.k.a. Sun Kil Moon, was still reading from a stack of thick paperbacks in the wan halogens filtering through the oaks.

Possibly we’re seeing the evolutionary cul-de-sac of trousers altogether.  J’s favorite outfit of the evening was a girl wearing a billowing men’s shirt . . . as a dress.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find among the sundry wonders of MPMF 2020, for example, prototype baths of polymer into which hipsters will simply dip their nether-regions, achieving the Platonic Ideal of the skinny look, along with all of the other machine-augmented manifestation of neo-hipster cultural appropriation that the bright and shining future will undoubtedly bring.

In the Know Theatre basement we caught a few bars of Fathers before heading back out into the Indian Summer Thursday night, through the thinning throngs, past 12th Street’s stoop squatting denizens of the aforementioned Drop.  Beyond Washington Park’s band shell strung with breeze-rocked lights, like some massive, alien jellyfish stood venerable Memorial Hall, its massive windows swung wide to the cool night air, emitting the final string-backed strains of Dylan LeBlanc’s set.  When the crowd exited we scored second row seats and settled in for Sun Kil Moon.

Someone later described Mark Kolezek as “Stoic”, and hovering above the footlamps, his austere, tortured face was exactly that, matching the witheringly lovely and tragic songs he spins.  He was also very funny, fairly functionally drunk, and dramatically balanced on the fulcrum of sudden anger (apparently he’s been known to yell at fans, giving his shows a thrilling element of fear).  “Sorry I’m late,” he said when he came on.  “But that Dylan LeBlanc kid has some seriously good blow.”  He revisited this joke, if it was a joke, later in the set.  While he did not play “Carry Me Ohio”, he and his band did play about ten other songs about Ohio, which is where he is originally from, although he’s called San Francisco home for most of his life.  Which was also appropriate, us being that very moment in Ohio, a state that is usually pretty boring, but in Kolezek’s dark songs takes on a fantastic, epic/tragic cast, a sad, funereal romance.  There’s no point in me trying to describe how great they were.  Instead, I would recommend buying a very nice record player and several of his records, a bottle of good Rye Whiskey, and drinking and listening yourself into a maudlin state.  You’ll have a rough approximation of about a tenth how great he and his band were live that night in Memorial Hall.  And as we made our sleepy way out of the city at an hour we old-timers are never awake anymore, and made it safely home to be greeted by our worried dog, each of us carried a little of Kolezek’s alcoholic, acetic, cynical and tortured poetry with us.

-Cedrock

Lit in Cincinnati