Back from Cincinnati and it was a good trip all things considered. I could comment a great deal about work, but what fun is that? So, while most of the time was spent attending sessions of a conference, I did get a pretty good impression of the city.
Skyline Chili. This is a love or hate choice. I fall on the love side of things and whenever I’m near a Skyline I must get a five way and a coney. The best description I heard over the weekend was “meat paste over spaghetti.” Yep, that’s about right.
The Riverfront. Absolutely fantastic. It didn’t hurt that everything was in bloom and the average temp during my stay was 65 degrees. It is a great use of the space on both sides of the river, though the Kentucky side was a little smaller than the Cincy side. I was able, and could have easily gone further, to run four miles each day around the river. Throw in seeing two new sports venues, crossing a bridge called “the Purple People Bridge” and another constructed by Washington Roebling (or maybe his son?) in 1865 is just breathtaking.
Campenellos. A little hole in the wall Italian restaurant pretty close to Paul Brown Stadium. It is a classic example of the food being secondary to the experience. It is a family owned and operated place and it shows. All of the customers were on a first name basis with the waitress and the rest of the staff. The food was decidedly average, but the wood paneling which probably has been there since 1970, the cook coming out to say hi and the wall décor that hasn’t changed since the Reds last won the World Series is just something you won’t get at Appleby’s. Also, I had something called “Kentucky Pie.” The best way to describe it is a chocolate chip cookie potpie. If that doesn’t appeal to you I don’t know what will.
Fountain Square. This is the square seen at the opening of WKRP and it looks great. There are a few too many chain restaurants around the square but the absolute best thing in the square was the broadcast of the Reds game on a huge screen above the square. It was wonderful to sit, watch the kids play in the fountain and take in the better part of a baseball game on a lovely spring evening.
Sports bars. Hey Cincy Sports bars, here’s a tip: If you’re going to bill yourself as a sports bar make it a point to show sports on your televisions, and no, ESPN Sportscenter does not count. I was always under the impression that Cincinnati was a big Reds town, similar to St. Louis’ relationship with the Cardinals. In short that it is a pretty good baseball town. If you want to attract sports fans, spend the money and get the MLB package and show the games. The explanation that you get the NFL package when I’m asking about baseball really doesn’t impress me.
Slightly racial undertones. The first instance of this was when we were deciding between getting a cab and private car at the airport. The first comment was “well if you get a cab, you better be able to speak a lot of foreign languages.” Really? Your best sales pitch is to try and play on some kind of xenophobic fear of immigrant cab drivers? Really? It didn’t end there, as we moved over to the cabstand the other person working at the private counter said, “be careful, they will try and rip you off by driving all around.” Not as bad as the language comment, though probably fueled by the same ignorance, it came off as completely classless. Again, the best strategy you have is to call your competitors crooks? Wow. Also the way a storeowner addressed me as compared to a black teenager was pretty interesting. It didn’t paint the “I love Cincinnati Store” in the best light.
Auto-dependence. Look, I live in Chicago. I walk everywhere and I do not fear public transit nor do I feel like I have somehow failed if I take public transit somewhere. A one-mile walk is nothing and with the weather the way it was, I’m glad to walk just about anywhere if I have the time. Not being able to direct me to your business without referencing the highway, and you’re only 2 MILES from where I am is just pitiful. Also a little neighborhood “redlining” occurred. It was interesting to ask the white hotel worker about a place and how to get there and an African-American the same question. I’m always amused and kind of saddened by the comment of “that’s a bad neighborhood, you don’t (and in this case you CAN’T) want to go there.” It is very different in Chicago and New York. Instead of being told don’t go, people usually say “be careful, keep your eyes open,” but rarely a strict forbidding.
So overall, a pretty good experience. I’m not going to condemn a place based on a couple of pinheaded remarks or on a practice of describing neighborhoods that is much more common around the US than I’d care to know. I enjoyed my time by the river the most and I want to return to get a good look at the Reds new park. Running around the outside only made me want to go in more. Stay classy Cincinnati.