Looking Ahead, Soberly

The holiday tidal wave of booze finally came to a close as I rang in New Year's Eve quietly with my family and a couple of friends over dinner and a lone chocolate martini. I began 2004 alert and en

The holiday tidal wave of booze finally came to a close as I rang in New Year's Eve quietly with my family and a couple of friends over dinner and a lone chocolate martini. I began 2004 alert and energetic, which separates me from the mobs of young Americans who party and drink to excess this time of year. For once, I showed restraint around the cocktail shaker at a party. I woke up feeling un-hip, middle-aged and separated from the "it" people who flaunt their hangovers like badges of honor and ridicule anyone out of bed New Year's Day before noon.

Worse yet, for the past three weeks all I could do was nod my head and smile ignorantly while everyone else yakked about director Mike Nichols' two-part cable TV film adaptation of Tony Kushner's landmark play, Angels in America. If the play was too gay for the straitlaced Cincinnati Arts Association — the programmers-that-be behind key Cincinnati performance venues such as the Aronoff Center and Music Hall that failed to book a touring production several years back — then I better take advantage of every opportunity to watch mature, adult, liberal storytelling about timely issues and diverse characters on TV.

For the first time, I regretted my boycott over exorbitant cable bills and tacky satellite dishes. My heart said, "Call Time Warner Cable." My checkbook answered, "You're joking."

Plan B: I searched the knick-knack tables along Race Street for bootleg copies.

But the men at the tables flashed blank stares when I started talking about Al Pacino playing closeted political heavyweight Roy Cohn. Bootlegging off the television (otherwise known as using your VCR) is practically legal, but these guys had no plans to add Angels in America to their inventory.

In an attempt to please their could-be customer, the Race Street merchant men offered me a good price on a semi-clear bootleg of Bad Santa, which I quickly declined, explaining to them that it has half the laughs of Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Once again, more blank stares.

On an arts-related note, I'd like to point out that everyone at my quiet New Year's Eve dinner collaboratively solved numerous issues involving the local arts community, including what type of public art Queen City Metro will choose for its refurbished Government Square transit hub. More importantly, will city of Cincinnati leaders require public works of art in all projects that receive city funding?

Do they realize that vital, high quality, urbane environments contain many public works of art for all people to enjoy?

My mountain bike came out of the basement in honor of the spring-like temperatures on New Year's Day. I rode to the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park — the area's best use of riverfront property, bar none — to rendezvous with my wife and son, who drove to the park with their bikes strapped to the trunk.

Most of the park's recent public arts project, "Clay, Color and Fire" — a bright mosaic of clay tiles crafted by local artist Jan Brown Checco and a team of international artists — was out of reach behind locked doors at the park's community center.

Nearby, Welsh sculptor David Nash's stark, poetic wooden installation "Seven Vessels Ascending/Descending" — tall, charred English Oak columns arranged in a circle — cast long shadows in the afternoon sun.

The piece attracted criticism from some quarters, but passersby are entranced by the work's earthy, timeless beauty.

Berry Park is better off with Nash's sculpture no matter what the weather. The same holds true for all neighborhoods spots, whether they're covered in grass or concrete.

Will a public work of art be part of the design of the Over-the-Rhine city garage built for Kroger employees and Art Academy students?

I thought positively as I biked up Monastery Street in Mount Adams, ending halfway up the hill out of breath. I'm convinced I can make it up the hill, but that's a goal for later in the year.

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