Friday, December 24, 1999

Memories of a city people love

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Christmas came early for me this year. The first book with my name on the title page went on sale the day before Thanksgiving and looks to be sold out the night before Christmas.

        That's quite a nice present. So, I must jot down this thank-you note.

        Cincinnati Moments, a Celebration of Photographs from The Cincinnati Enquirer, has my name on the cover right next to those of Liz Dufour, the Enquirer's photo director, and News Editor Sue Lancaster.

  There will be a second printing if enough readers are interested. If you still want to buy Cincinnati Moments, email your name, address and phone number to
  Meet the author and editors of Cincinnati Moments for a book signing:
  • Jan. 6: Borders - Eastgate, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
        I never dreamed that 30 shopping days after it first went on sale, Cincinnati Moments would be virtually sold out. Area bookstore managers tell me that, save for a few stray copies, by the time the last cash register cha-chings tonight, their stock of the book will be gone.

        Having a book sell out in my hometown is an incredible honor and delight. People took their time to go into bookstores filled with thousands of choices and spent their money on Cincinnati Moments. That made a lifelong dream come true.

        The view from the vantage point of a sold-out book is exceptionally sweet. Even sweeter are the stories I heard as I sat at tables with my covermates and signed books in shopping malls and office building lobbies. People browsed through the book and told tales of the city. Most of those tales were love stories.

        Mary Phillips bought a copy of Cincinnati Moments for her boss during a book-signing at the Kenwood Barnes & Noble. “He just loves the city and its history. He loves Cincinnati.”

        Her boss is not alone. Many, many times at the bookstores, I heard “love” paired with “Cincinnati.” People love this place. And, they are not afraid to say it out loud.

        Without any prompting they proudly announced what part of town they're from. I couldn't help noticing that West-siders said it with more oomph. No matter which side of town they're from, everyone gladly told me how long they've lived here as well as why they were buying the book.

        “I'm in it,” exclaimed a smiling Christie Plummer at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Standing by the book-signing table, she was a grown woman. In the book, she's a little girl enjoying the 1980 St. Patrick's Day parade with her family.

        She's taller now. But she still has the same girlish face and her hair falls softly to one side just as it did the day she watched the passing parade.

Savor the moments
        In a line at the Western Hills Waldenbooks stood a woman with a stack of six books and a shy smile. I smiled back and congratulated her on her excellent taste in reading material.

        “I'm in the book,” Janet Seiffert McGrath said. “But it's not a happy photo.”

        The photo was taken at a cemetery on a very sad day in 1979. She was Janet Seiffert then, a young widow with three little kids. Her husband, Cincinnati police officer Robert Seiffert, and his partner, Dennis Bennington, were gunned down during a routine traffic stop. In the photo, she stands with her daughters, Laura and Heather, as they receive the flag that draped Officer Seiffert's coffin.

        Janet brought us up to date on her family. She has remarried and has three more children. Laura serves in a campus ministry. Heather aspires to be an actress in Los Angeles. Rob, an infant at the time of his father's death, studies graphic design in college. According to his mother, he is the image of his dad in looks, words and deeds.

        As she told her story, the bookstore fell silent. No one rustled a shopping bag. No sales were made at the registers. Tissues blotted teary eyes as she asked for her books to be inscribed: “You have touched our memories and our hearts.”

Home for Christmas
        An elderly man with a thick German accent hurried to our very first book-signing in the lobby of the Enquirer building. He wanted to send the book to his sister in Germany. They would not be able to spend Christmas together this year. She was taking care of a sick aunt.

        He wanted to send her something from home. So, he bought Cincinnati Moments. And he brought his own inscription. His words could be a subtitle of the book. Or the title of this thank-you note.

        “Sweet memories of the city you love.”

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.