Cincinnati would be more exciting if it was just a little bit warmer. It has the proper humidity for being a swanky town, it has the right sort of architecture. Red brick row houses in decrepit condition built on hills that no morning jogger would dare to ascend, one way narrow pot-holed streets that wind a southern drunk’s artistic and traditional path, and a summer humidity that makes Louisiana nervous are not enough without that essential heat. With heat comes riots and creative recreational drug use and down right proper drunkenness. With heat comes bars with porches and latticed awnings. With heat comes the good time. The heat universally oppresses, and universally drives us to revolt. Without it a void is left open, one all too quickly filled by corporations and police. And so we are left with this artificial metallic heat of flickering fluorescent bulbs and that heat of death by polluted suffocation. And yet we stay.
So there are the inevitable smaller divisions. Please forgive any vague and insulting generalizations, for I’m pretty sure that if you were alone in a room you wouldn’t really give a fuck. Downtown closes at nine o’ clock sharp. The east end is the land of Budweiser and classic rock. The west end and Price hill alternate between restaurants built on their scenic views and neighborhoods of people trying to turn their poverty into novelty by calling it Appalachian. Mount Adams, Lookout Heights, the internationally famous and often misunderstood Over the Rhine, Northside always on the verge of chic but never quite making it, Mount Auburn, Eden Park, and the two nut halves that contain the University of Cincinnati, Clifton and Correyville. I spend a fair amount of time going round and round that damn university.
Cincinnati is ten percent away from being a chocolate city. Don’t let the German festivals going on every other day fool you. The white Cincinnatians will try and fool you as well, but don’t blame them, they’re probably too busy running off to another city sponsored Oktoberfest to notice. Have we all heard of the Klu Klux Klan cross on fountain square in the heart of downtown every Christmas? Have we heard of the numerous slayings of unarmed black men during routine police traffic stops? I’m telling you, all we need is a little heat.
I open up a laundry-mat with a full service bar every Saturday and Sunday morning at seven a.m. sharp. Well, dull. I’m often late. I am greeted by the smells of stale beer, laundry detergent and cigarette smoke. The video games and pinball machines shout good morning in their garbled yet elegant language of clicks, chirps and beeps. I put down the stools, I wipe off the tables, and I collect and dispose of the eggs of lint that our dryer-hens have laid the day previous. And then I sit and watch television. This is my part in our society. This is my duty to my country. This is the basis upon which the nature of my acquaintances are decided.
Outside on the street, Short Vine they call it, the spare change punks, street vendors, and real McCoy bums quickly replace the street cleaners and the pigeons. The day has begun. This is the cultural center of the underground. Three tattoo shops, one piercing, seven bars, four musical venues, three used record stores, two sexually oriented novelty shops, an alternative clothing and sticker store, two coffee houses, a pool hall and video arcade, three restaurants, a liquor store, two salons, a post office, an elementary school, and a mini mall, all on one street in a five minute walk. This is the street that separates the fine art students from the graphic design majors. This is the land of drunks with things to say. This is the doormat to the house of high fashion. The nest egg of bohemians, even the litter here has class. Some people may hate this place, but everyone comes here to see their favorite non-stadium class band. I come here just to make sure I’m never the strangest person in the room. There isn’t a single bar on this street with a door on the stall of its men’s restroom. Did you know that Cincinnati at one time elected an admitted lesbian as its mayor?
This town sucks. It’s conservative and behind. Over one hundred years ago, Mark Twain remarked that “…if ever another war breaks out, I’m moving to Cincinnati, because everything hits there twelve years later…”. And actually he did not even say it. This has always been a town run by two or three big companies, from the flying P.I.G.’s to the fortress P. & G.. The only city worse is Phoenix Arizona, but that’s another day.