My love/hate relationship with Cincinnati continues in its 23rd year. I'm not sure either side will ever win.
The pendulum swung to the negative side last month after I visited Chicago to see my sister. I always seem to come back from a happening city with a bad attitude about Cincinnati. It's like clockwork.
I return home with a bad case of the "Why can'ts" -- you know, why can't Cincinnati have decent public transit, why can't Cincinnati have more thriving neighborhood business districts, why can't Cincinnati have a downtown that's active 24/7, why can't Cincinnati support more live music venues and alternative arts organizations? Repeat ad infinitum.
Mix in a heap of everyday living crap, a splash of car insurance squabbles, a cup of boredom and a pinch of self-loathing, and you've built the perfect Get Me the Hell Out of Here cake. Serves eight, suffocates one.
Then Memorial Day weekend comes along, and Cincinnati takes on a much different look and feel. My son and I got our hair cut at the local barber shop, and we saw all kinds of people out walking around the business strip.
The neighborhood pool opened, and more people we knew were out and about.
We swung through Taste of Cincinnati downtown and tried a few dishes I'd never eaten before. I worked the CityBeat booth and chatted with some readers.
We toured the brand new school building for Fairview-Clifton German Language School, where my daughter will be a fifth grader in the fall. It's hard to describe how exciting a new public school is, especially for teachers and students moving from a place built in 1888.
Clifton had its annual Memorial Day parade, and tons of kids rode their bikes and scooters and walked to Mt. Storm Park, where we had a community cookout and spread out on the lawn. And my wife and I saw a show at National City Pavilion at Riverbend, a very cool new concert facility. (See my Hot Issue report here.)
Constants throughout the weekend were family, friends, neighbors and business acquaintances. And don't discount the beautiful weather -- a gorgeous Saturday can make the ordinary feel spectacular.
Everywhere this weekend I saw smiling faces: fellow parents at the new school, kids at the pool, dancing audience members at the concert and Taste visitors winning free movie passes at the CityBeat booth. I can sense Joe Wessels smiling as I read his column here.
Sometimes smiles are contagious. They were this weekend.
Then again you just want to smack around some "smiling Bob" when you're in a negative way. Can't help it.
Think of the Hot Issue in this week's CityBeat as a 44-page smile. It's a guide to the best of Cincinnati over the next three months, starting with the Fringe Festival, and it's filled with fun stories about hot local people, events and businesses.
Is the Cincinnati glass half full or half empty? Screw it, just pour something in the glass and have fun!
Contact John Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org