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Poor Jenny, Poor Cincinnati

By Danny Cross · September 18th, 2013 · We, As Humans
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A woman named Jenny lives in Cincinnati, but not for long because her husband got a job in another city. She’s kind of glad, though, according to a collection of anecdotes described by The Enquirer in a one-source profile of one of our town’s many lonely transplants. 

Poor Jenny. Two years, one month and six days carved into the wall of her East Side bedroom, children down the hall watching Dora the Explorer completely unaware that all the other kids on the block are jumping around in a neighbor’s backyard bouncy castle. Jenny can probably see its red and yellow pointy roof from her bedroom window bobbing side to side. Side to side. 

The only reason I know about this surface-level account of one pseudo-anonymous woman’s social life plight is because The Enquirer published some old guy’s weird response to it at the top of its homepage a few days later. 

That headline read: “My view: Inbred smugness permeates city,” a purposely controversial summary the average reader at first likely assumed was made by an actual reporter or editorial writer. (This is pretty much “New Media 101: Procuring Web Clicks From Disinterested Readers,” but that’s another story for another day; way to get 120 comments, though.)

The story of Jenny was written by The Enquirer’s human-interest columnist who is so in touch with the community and humanity that her pieces include her first name in the headline. “KRISTA: Story About Other Humans.” According to the unnecessary tagline the Enquirer adds to its reporters’ email addresses, she “gives voice to the people whose stories matter but are seldom told.” 

This lonely East Side lady’s tale might have made me cry if I hadn’t just seen a video of a gay dude and his friends and family performing a surprise flash mob/proposal in a Salt Lake City Home Depot — something that actually demonstrated the beauty of humanity despite the inequality rampant in this country. 

The guy who called us smug is mad that after 40 years he can’t get anyone to be nice to him at church. Sad face.

The truth of the matter is that Cincinnati doesn’t have that many people living here who are from out of town, which is why most people here don’t really need to make new friends.

We all hang out with people we’ve known for years, relationships that are uniquely close and something that in many ways we should be proud of and appreciate more. We have loving families and long histories. 

This isn’t to say we should be opposed to meeting new people — which was the point behind the story of Jenny — but to conclude that we are unwelcoming or have some sort of collective disinterest in others is as cursory as a bad Yelp review. We’re talking about the effect and not the cause.

It’s easy to understand why Cincinnati sometimes feels like such a small town. In a bigger city you’re just as likely to meet someone who moved there as an adult as someone who grew up and stayed there. You’ll find people more open to new experiences and different types of people and learn things like the many ways to prepare kale without making everyone at a party pissed off that no one was courteous enough to grill a few hamburgers to keep everyone from getting drunk off four beers. Then you realize that no one else is drinking as much as you because you’re from Cincinnati. So you tone it down and make a new friend. 

Bigger cities are more expensive and have more young, successful people than Cincinnati. They have efficient public transportation systems and more diversity. Their industries are more interesting than insurance and household products. They haven’t had race riots in the past 15 years or a county sheriff on an internationally embarrassing anti-porn crusade in the last 25. They’ve experienced decades of recent growth and accommodated the interests of new people. 

We are who we are right now, and there’s no reason to apologize for it. Today’s Cincinnati is a different place than it was even just five years ago. New leaders with new visions are making Cincinnati a place young people — whose talent Fortune 500 companies rely upon and whose disposable income the Chamber of Commerce is always working to attract — will want to live, and they’re doing it despite the anti-urban faction that has controlled this place for so long. We’re going to have some funny stories about our past to tell these transplants once there are enough apartments downtown to house us all. 

When it comes down to why Cincinnati has only recently earned credibility from outsiders — thanks largely to a series of investments in urban infrastructure and more inclusive social policies — The Enquirer would do well to look in the mirror. 

Young people don’t take newspapers seriously when they endorse Sarah Palin. During the past two elections, when the eyes of the world were on Southwest Ohio, The Enquirer did the same old shit it has always done — catered to conservatives and business interests over a new direction for our city and country. 

These are the people choosing not to knock on Jenny’s door with a fruit basket — not those of us who would prefer to go to Findlay Market by bike or bus, if one would ever show up on time on a Sunday. 

The Enquirer’s friendly neighborhood columnist concludes, “It’s not enough to get people to want to visit Cincinnati. We have to get them to want to stay.”

Irony abounds in such a hope, coming from the publicly traded media company that has let us down for so long. 

Then again, the only reason we’re talking about this is because someone there decided to publish some weirdo generalizing us because he hasn’t made a friend in 40 years. 

That seems kind of dramatic, even for Cincinnati. 

CONTACT DANNY CROSS: dcross@citybeat.com



09.18.2013 at 02:14 Reply

Great article.  Anyone who is looking for friendship and can't find some common ground from amongst two million or so people, probably has some problems unrelated to geography, and, the Enquirer's stance that this negatively reflects upon the general populous is nauseatingly narrow-minded, which, ironically is what they are accusing the city of being.  Their use of an antectdote as proof positive of anything is akin to claiming your car keys to be lost forever, having looked only in one pocket for them.


09.18.2013 at 02:46 Reply

This article kinda reminds me of that guy who says he is not racist b/c he has one black friend but when it comes down to it we all know the truth. The same concept can be applid to Cincinnati and its struggle to welcome new people. We all want to believe that Cincinnati is not that one guy but when it comes down to it we all know the truth. I agree that there are more fortune 500 companies moving into the city but it has nothing to do with the quality of people who live in Cincinnati. The cost of operation in Cincinnati is lower than most major cities. Cincinnati is like the Walmart of the United States for business. I respect that you want to defendd this city but you can't dump on someone for telling the truth.


09.18.2013 at 06:06

Steve, I don't think you read carefully. The article did not say companies are moving here for the quality of people, and it did not imply that Cincinnati was overly welcoming. It was quite self-effacing actually. What the article did say is that recently new leaders have tried to break from the surburban/rural past by improving connectivity via public transport and re-urbanization, and by taking measures to inspire new social climates that are more diverse and interesting to young people. As a result, companies will have young and creative human resources to tap into- this is in addition to already low operating costs. The article then criticized the Enquirer for long supporting the very same policies that seek to prevent connectivity and diversity that keep and attract those valuable human resources, and that create an environment that is more welcoming to Non-native Cincinnatians. My out-of-town friend told me that if you were from Cincinnati, you would have understood that.




09.18.2013 at 06:39

I think what your trying to say is that local leaders are taking measures to make Cincinnati inner city ghetto's, like OTR, more seacure for rich white people to live in. Taking measures to remove the drop in center, food bank store and other services that support low income famalies out of area forcing those famalies to leave. I believe what you are reffering to is "gentrification". I understand the city is trying to make a change but the same people who you say are not unwelcoming to new people are the same people who are unwelcoming to change. Being a transplant you chould understand this:) 


09.18.2013 at 06:50

TBh, the comment and replay section of this website is horrible. you can't keep track of anything and nothing is posted on the actually website. Whats the point in having a comment sections if your going to moderate it to fit the needs of the newspaper. Bias maybe???


09.18.2013 at 10:21

I'm aware of 3CDC attempt to created a mixed income area and I applauded their efferts. One can only hope this will work but in the end I fear money will be the determining factor. I'm also aware of the ealry street cars that connected Cincinnati to many other cities in Ohio and could even be taken as far as New York City. I'm also aware of the four miles of subway that was built during World War II that is now used for various other things. This city seems to have a habbit of starting things but never truly finishing them. Lets hope this is not the case with other projects within the city. In the end I believe we got way off topic and gave the author of this article way to much credit for how indepth he was actually trying to be. My wife tells me at this point that I'm wasting my time having a discussion with a stranger and I'm starting to believe she is correct. It was fun chatting and I appreciate your use of the thesaurus for this debate:)


09.18.2013 at 05:34 Reply

The cause: "The truth of the matter is that Cincinnati doesn’t have that many people living here who are from out of town, which is why most people here don’t really need to make new friends. We all hang out with people we’ve known for years, relationships that are uniquely close and something that in many ways we should be proud of and appreciate more. We have loving families and long histories."

The effect: a sense of unfriendliness and closed social/family circles.

All voices have a place in this, but for a Cincinnatian to just defend the city and call an outsider "some weirdo generalizing us because he hasn’t made a friend in 40 years" strengthens the initial claim that the city isn't friendly.

Like a Yelp review, many opinions will be based on singular experiences and can't represent all people, all the time. That said, I very much identify with the outsider and think that Cincinnati would be well served to convince people there's something to be gained in staying for the long haul, not just make it tolerable for a short run.


09.18.2013 at 09:23

Steve, my comment was about what the author implied in the article- the hypocracy of and hyperbole of the Enquirer article. I have lived in other places, so I don't see this city through a single lens. And I agree that there have been some signs of gentrification in OTR- the ongoing talks of relocating the drop-in center (the freestore is still there, though) and rehabbed apts with higher rents- however 3CDC is also taking steps to build mixed income apts, and rehab vacant buildings, and the Foodbank has recently worked with the casino to raise funding and awareness for its services. Bad and good.

I took Mr. Cross, who sounds like he has had experiences with other cities, as one who is giving criticism to a frustratingly anti-urban media rival, as well as a humorous jab to our current culture.

As far as re-urbanization is concerned, the city used to be linked by street car and incline. With the rise of the car-culture, the city gradually expanded into a semi-rural metroslub with Shopping-Mall Starbucks and Chili as entertainment. Public transport and better connected neighborhoods benefit everyone. Even transplants.



09.19.2013 at 02:14

Glad you learned some new words.