Up and Down the Dial
I love my hometown, Cincinnati. There are a million reasons why I should be glad I don't live there anymore, but instead, I seriously ponder moving back someday not too far off. It's conservative and stubborn with strong homophobic and racist tendencies, all despicable characteristics for a city. On the other hand, it has beautiful topography, architecture, and culture--and has a much more progressive history than most people, Cincinnatians included, really understand. Plus, I have a soft spot for the city which I don't fully understand. I think it's taken being away from it for almost 7 years now to fully appreciate what Cincinnati has to offer.
The approach to the city always excites me. Now, if I was coming from the south, this would be similar to my view from I-75:
However, I almost always approach the city from west, since I'm usually coming from St. Louis. This approach isn't quite as scenic, but it still has its moments. For example, there is a LaRosa's sign on I-74 that always tells me I'm home and, when I'm in a certain mood, makes me a tad weepy. LaRosa's is a Cincinnati pizza and Italian-food chain, for whom I worked for many years in high school and college. Their food is pretty good, but most of my affection is simply a hometown sort of thing, and their sign taps into this in just the right way:
Ok, so it's pretty hard to actually see the sign here, but I couldn't stop for a better shot, as I would have been run over. But it has the LaRosa's logo on it and says, "Welcome Home!" and the sign is situated right at the Ohio state line (which, in southwest Ohio is also where Greater Cincinnati begins).
I'm pretty sure LaRosa's put this sign there just for me, as it's only been there since I moved to St. Louis and always enter Cincinnati from the west, and I don't think there are any other similar signs at other entrances to the city. So clearly, this is my own personal welcome home! And it makes me happy every time I see it.
Anyway, I finally arrived in Cincinnati around 8 pm and went directly to Kathy's house, where I usually stay while in town.
As always, we immediately went to Skyline---the World's. Greatest. Chili. Period. It's another Cincinnati chain, and is a totally unique taste that non-Cincinnatians often don't like at first. But keep trying, because eventually something clicks and you get it. You eventually get what all the fuss is about, and when that happens you will never be content again, unless you are eating Skyline. It's that addictive. I was in Cincinnati this trip for three days and ate Skyline three times.
There are a gazillion--to be exact--locations in Cincinnati, but I have my favorite. It's at the corner of Ludlow and Clifton, near the University of Cincinnati.
It's one of the oldest locations in the city, and there is something old-world about it that I love.
Anyway, on my first night back in Cincy, after eating a ton of food at Skyline, Kathy and I went to a bar in Northside, which is an urban neighborhood just north of Clifton and the UC area. Back when I was a kid, Northside was getting pretty run down and didn't have much going for it. Mostly really ancient people who'd lived there for decades and didn't care that the area was going to ruin. But in recent years, there's been a real push to revitalize a lot of Cincinnati's oldest neighborhoods, which I think is great. We have some truly unique and charming areas with lots of history, but for so long the city didn't seem to have a problem just letting them all decay. However, Northside, among others, is a totally rejuvenated neighborhood, with new businesses and residents, and now has so much to offer. It's super liberal, culturally integrated, gay-friendly, and beautiful.
Oh yeah, and they have a ton of really great bars. This first night back in Cincy, however, we went to the Tavern, which was great.
We drank beer:
We eventually went home. Feeling grungy and tired from this very very long day, I made my way to bed but spent hours trying to fall asleep. All I could think about was how happy I was to be in Cincinnati and how much that surprised me. I visit all the time, but something felt different now. Perhaps it was the fact that, while I wouldn't be staying in Cincinnati then, I also wasn't going back to St. Louis. I don't know, but something about my perspective this time was more receptive to a life I could have in Cincinnati, should I choose to return. Somewhere in the middle of trying to figure this out, I finally fell asleep.
It was a good night. I was happy to be home.