Back in 1989, I met a girl who convinced me to abandon the rustic surroundings my family had chosen for themselves in exchange for living in the bright lights of the Queen City, Cincinnati. Since, by the time we were engaged, I was driving 50 miles one-way from Holmes County, Ohio to suburban Cleveland everyday, it was kind of a no-brainer. Better jobs? Cable TV? An actual night life? These things existed in Cleveland as well, but somehow, I could never get myself closer to the city, only farther. Add to that a fiancee in the mix, and bam! I loaded up the aging Postal Jeep and headed south.
I, er, sorta looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with all my possessions packed into and strapped onto an old mail Jeep. But I made it.
Fast forward to 2007. Our marriage was, um, headed for a successful conclusion not involving death. As I contemplated life as a single man, I also contemplated life somewhere else. Cleveland was no longer an option as Ford dropped an atomic bomb on the city by closing the Brook Park engine plant. Columbus? Maybe. BigHugeCo is one of several insurance companies in Cincinnati, and there is no shortage of those in Columbus. Chicago, despite frigid winters, looked inviting. I even contemplated how to make a move to San Francisco work.
And then I met Nita shortly after Diane and I told the world we had, um, concluded the marital portion of our relationship. It started out as nothing more than getting together for drinks. Nita wasn’t looking. I wasn’t looking. And yet…
Guess what. Not leaving Cincinnati after all.
In fact, I’ve been here almost two decades. When I came here, Boomer and Anthony Munoz and David Fulcher still played for the Bengals, ESPN meant New Orleans when they said “Xavier,” no one had heard of Bill Clinton, Jerry Springer was still “that anchorman who used to be mayor,” and the Reds’ last World Series win was months before.
I came here on the heels of Mapplethorpe, endured the WKRP jokes, walked into my first (and to date, only) gay bar just off Fountain Square, watched the Bengals threaten the Detroit Lions for worst sports franchise crowd, watched baseball games in two stadiums on the Ohio River, took comedy lessons from one of the hosts of Family Feud, hunkered down for the riots of 2001, and even lived through a hurricane.
Yeah. A hurricane.
I eat Skyline chili and have eaten goetta. I am proud to say I never drank Burger Beer, though I once had a Hudy Delight. (Burger is like Stroh’s, only nasty. Hudy was like… water.) I’ve been to a taping of Jerry Springer before it became the freak show that it is now. I’ve even dated a former Q102 DJ. (Guess which one. No, it’s not Brian Douglas.)
In other words, I’ve become a Cincinnatian.
Yes, it’s still culture shock after 17 years here. The town is a bit more conservative than I like, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes. Besides, I’d never have met Nita had I not even ventured south of Columbus. What other city has done that for me?
So here every Monday, I’ll be talking about what’s slowly become my hometown over the past two decades. I grew up a proud Clevelander.
I became a proud Cincinnatian.
Who never had to drink Burger. (Blech!)