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The Pride of Cincinnati

By Mike Breen · July 18th, 2012 · We, As Humans
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As I have gotten older, I have found most of the side effects annoying. The ear hair is the worst.

But there are a couple of perks, my favorite being the opportunity to have a “bigger picture” perspective after watching how things go down for so long. (If you’re curious, the other two perks of aging are weekend afternoon naps and not giving so much of a damn about bullshit anymore.)

A native, I’ve now had (ahem) approximately 40 years of experience watching how things go down in Cincinnati. And I remember at least 30 of them. More importantly, I’ve been able to see the evolution of Cincinnati’s society and culture. And recently it has felt like I’ve had a front row to that part of evolution where the monkey-man stands erect.

I grew up hating Cincinnati. I saw Cincinnati as a hateful, boring, uncultured cesspool of backward thinking and bigotry. I wanted out.

I was a freak and geek who attended equally integrated schools. I pierced both of my ears before I was a teen, so I was called a “fag” more times than gay people call each other that on a Friday bar night. (Note to young people: piercings, like tattoos, used to be “weird.”) My initial observations of racism, around the same age, were shocking and disgusted me.
Then there was the arch conservatism of the city, which persists to this day. But that faction has lost most of its power and influence. How cool is it that we don’t hear people questioning gay pride events’ existence in Cincinnati anymore, just where they should be held? That kind of shift in attitude was huge in changing my own.

For many reasons, I stayed. I used to think that believing I stayed to “fight” for my hometown and to celebrate the local artists who’ve given me so much was a cop out.

But I’ve stopped regretting a long time ago and I know now that I made the right decision.

I love my city.

The insight gleaned from hanging around has given me the wisdom to know that there are older generations that have an even bigger picture view. At one point, it would have been fair to say that many of those 60 or older might not have the best perspective of Cincinnati’s growth, because some saw downtown as merely a potentially dangerous ghost town, and they left. (They weren’t being unreasonable.)

But it’s taken a true group effort to get to this stage in the city’s core development. Sure, there will be many who will still resist the notion that downtown can be cool and fun, not dangerous or boring. But the news coverage of this past weekend’s multitude of events in and around downtown showed people of all ages coming into the city.

Some suggested a slightly lower attendance at the massive, successful Bunbury Music Festival on Friday night could have been because some were going to the ubiquitous World Choir Games or the Reds game (the first of three sold-out victories capped by a gem on ESPN — HD on Sunday prime time, another face to the nation that we are a thriving metropolis). There were also large crowds for concerts on Fountain Square and at the invitingly reinvigorated Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine.

Given such substantial attendance at a substantial number of events in and around downtown, there just wasn’t a ton of crossover. There was some (I confess — I snuck out for two hours of baseball between Bunbury bands Friday), but generally each event had a different demographic.

And that’s not a bad thing. The crossover that did exist added to that sense of synergy, that surge of energy in the air. And it showed that there is not just an audience in Cincinnati that is willing to support our city’s growth in the downtown area. There are several audiences. That shows a new trust and sense of civic pride I haven’t noticed since Big Red Machine times.

I include the suburbs and neighborhoods all across the area in this sense of “we” — we need all of us in on this. We are lucky that so many people have become doers in this town, that longtimers have stuck it out and that young people have stuck around. And we’re even luckier that once-reluctant friends and neighbors have joined the fight just by showing interest.

We’re still not perfect. We need to keep fighting for the poor and homeless. We need to balance our budget. Racial tension still exists. It would be great to see more integration — at these various events and in general. And has there ever been a weekend that has made a better argument for the need for better public transportation? 

We have a long way to go, but with further growth on the riverfront, in Over-the-Rhine and in downtown, we now know we, as humans, in Cincinnati, can do what it takes to support a vivacious, thriving city core.

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen@citybeat.com or @CityBeatMusic



07.20.2012 at 10:04 Reply

Well said, Mr. Breen!