I’ve always loved the idea of a salon in the historical sense of a regular social gathering of eminent people at the house of a woman prominent in high society. Although I can’t claim to be the host, or even the organizer, of our local Steampunk salons I like to think that I can count myself among the eminent people who gather together once a month at Arnold’s, Cincinnati’s oldest bar, to show off our Steampunk finest and talk about such cultured topics as literature, politics and BDSM.
The setting itself is fairly eminent. Opened in 1861, Arnold’s has been operated continuously as a bar ever since, including through prohibition. There is a bathtub in the second floor dining area that according to local legend was used to make bathtub gin during that noble experiment. Arnold’s has a charm and personality that have been ground into the floorboards and soaked in spilled beer for over 150 years. You can’t recreate that in a newly built building no matter how many antiques and kitschy posters you cram on the walls.
The salon began the way so many good things in life do, with the ordering of drinks. Guinness, bourbon and sodas, and strong black coffee were ordered as well as some very tasty food. There is rarely anything that passes for organization and since we typically get 20 or more people at each salon we have long since abandoned attempting to get that many people in a bar to play the same game or discuss the same topic. Instead groups formed at different tables, with rovers floating from group to group making sure that they didn’t miss out on anything or anyone. Aloysius Fox is one of the main organizers of the group so he set up court at a long table and solicited ideas and volunteers for The Steampunk Empire Symposium, the big weekend convention he is organizing for April 27th – 29th in Cincinnati. Recently described as “mad, bad and dangerous to be with” Aloysius lorded over his table with the characteristic wit, charm and hair that has made him something of a local celebrity.
As is typical in these events I hung back and flirted with the single guys while watching the room and admiring all the women who were dressed more fashionable than me (that would be just about all of them.) Our resident doctor and resurrectionist, Dr. Zedekosh was kind enough to share a house-made eggnog with me while grousing about all the young Turks who have started showing up to salons recently. He’s been doing this since long before Justin Bieber made a Steampunk themed music video, thank you very much. But I can’t fault these newbies because one such new comer was kind enough to buy me a few drinks and his enthusiasm for this newly discovered world is positively infectious.
On top of all the conversation and craziness the wonderful atmosphere of Arnold’s settled over us and made the night even better. The band that night was a Cajun group called “Lagniappe.” They were performing in the courtyard in the next room but on a few occasions formed a procession to walk through the bar. It gave the whole evening a very festive, almost magical atmosphere. Added to this was the reaction of the regulars at Arnold’s to being invaded by a group of people in pseudo-Victorian clothing and carrying modified nerf guns. It was nothing short of welcoming and encouraging as always. Rarely does the night end before someone compliments us on our clothes and asks for more information about Steampunk and when the next salon is being held, and this night was no exception.
So if you are ever in Cincinnati area on the first Friday of every month do stop by Arnold’s and ask for the Steampunk Salon tables. The good doctor’s jokes aside, we love newcomers and look forward bringing you into our world for a night.