Monday, August 28, 2006

Nick Gifts Nina with Orchids

If you asked my friend Robin who she secretly hoped to catch a glance of on one of his infrequent visits back home, she would undoubtedly say "George Clooney". This kind of became our ongoing joke a few years ago when we first started haunting The Blue Wisp, our town's most long-lived jazz club. Marjean, the club's owner, often told the story about how George used to sneak in to listen to music and down some drinks while disguised with a Cincinnati Reds cap. His parents, Nick, a well-known journalist, and Nina, a former Miss Kentucky, an attractive couple who still drop by The Wisp occasionally to hear the Blue Wisp Big Band, were last seen bopping to the big beat in the company of Dante DiPaolo, the widower of Nick's sister and George's aunt Rosemary.

I enjoyed reading Nick Clooney's column Orchids offers fine food, warm memories today in which he recounts his youthful anniversary gift blunders to Nina. But this year, she took the bull by the horns and suggested they have dinner at Orchids, a fine dining restaurant in beautiful French Art Deco-style room adjacent to the Netherland Plaza Hotel's lobby. Nick reminisces:
When we were very young, an aunt took Rosemary, Betty and me to lunch there at a restaurant that had a tiny ice rink in the center. I ate a club sandwich while two skaters did a routine for all of us, complete with spins and stops that sprayed ice on those closest to the rink. Fantastic.

But times have changed and as Nina observed upon their arrival for dinner:
...Nina looked up at the soaring ceiling for a long moment. Then she said, "You know, when a unique place like this is built, it's necessary to keep it as it was, not change it. It tells such a great story of optimism and expectations. You can learn all you need to know about Cincinnati and some of its great days just by sitting here."

And how true her observation is. There's nothing like slipping into the elegant bar at the Palm Court and sipping a flute of bubbly to make me feel transported to another place. Like, maybe, Paris?

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