Cincinnati Is Cool

I can't remember where I saw this link, but I always enjoy reading about others' travels to our Queen City. In this edition, Chicago Carless goes into very specific detail about his weekend visit to Cincinnati, and why Cincinnati is cool. There's the usual praise for Skyline and Graeter's. There is also now what has been noticed for a third time by these visiting bloggers: an inexplicable schizophrenic quality to the fabric of the city and its people and almost palpable feeling of potential.

How to parse a city of aesthetic beauty, civic pride, high cultural amenities, and, at the most unexpected times, low social graces?

Again, Cincinnati and its identity crisis. Are we the North or the South? The East or the Midwest? Are we internet or manufacturing? Are we a small town with big city amenities? Or a big city with small town charms? What message does Cincinnati send?

There was no artifice here. Nothing was prettified. Just basic communication passing among familiar faces. Unexpected, a bit shocking in its primal quality. But not out of place. It did make me wonder whether inside the average Queen Citizen beat the heart of a conformer. We may be down, but we’re down together, and as long as we lie low, things can’t get much worse, so let’s just leave well enough alone.

To put it another way, perhaps: in Cincinnati, it is important to work hard, shut up, and do what you're supposed to do. It's why fancy nightclubs get so much guff. It's why people take comfort in things that have been the same and familiar for so long, and why people get upset when the Fountain gets moved 30 ft. to the north. It's why the most successful businesses here are still in manufacturing, consumer goods, and insurance, despite the best efforts of the biotech and internet sectors. It's why change happens so slowly, and it's why people segregate themselves with people who are alike.

However, in Cincinnati, it's also relatively easy to make a difference. If you want to be an up-and-comer, I don't think you have to compete with as many people like you might in other places.

These traits, positive and negative, make Cincinnati what it is: an easy place to live. Cincinnati gives quite a lot and does not ask for much in return. Friendly, inexpensive, and, despite the bellyaching, without lot of big city issues. You have world-class arts and professional sports. You can decide at 4 pm to take in a major-league baseball game at 7 pm that same day. (That may say more about our baseball team than it does our town.) People who move here tend to get stuck here. People who move away tend to come back. At least, that's been my experience.

Like his friend Dan at Park + Vine:

When he told me in 2006 he was ditching his Windy City communications career to open what I figured would be a glorified hemp shop in a marginal nabe of a secondary rust-belt town, I thought he had already begun smoking his product. As I purchased my recycled bicycle-tire wallet with the writing still on it from the happiest man on Vine Street, I knew Dan had made the right decision.

Here is a full list of recent visits to Cincinnati by bloggers.


liz said...

thanks for the links to all those other takes on cincinnati! i had seen chicago carless's post but not the others. very interesting reading!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for finding worth in my thoughts about your city. I used to be an urban planner (went to grad school for it) and I tend to look at cities perhaps with a more critical eye than most, but also with a deeper appreciation of more than just what's on the surface.

In that vein, I have to say while Urbanophile (my Indianapolis friend Aaron Renn) and most of the other bloggers you listed at the end of your post seemed, like me, to get that Cincy can be two (three? five?) things at once and still be a heck of a city, I found the Twin City Sidewalks post to be almost unbearable to read.

Whoever wrote that latter post either did not visit the same city I did or came weighed down by a chip on their shoulder so big that nothing short of a world city--or perhaps their hometown--could ever hope to dislodge. Their descriptions of downtown and the waterfront, most particularly, were completely misleading and in some instances (the waterfront is completely cut off by highway overpasses even though as it passes through downtown it's a sunken highway?) absolutely false.

It's like I always say, some people should just stay home. Me, I'm looking forward to a return visit. And I sure as heck never thought I'd say that about Cincinnati until I finally visited the place. I think that says a lot right there.

hellogerard said...

@Mike, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Keep fighting the good fight, and I'll do the same.