I have good news for Cincinnati movers-and-shakers scrambling to provide damage control over the fatal shooting on Fountain Square last weekend. People still want to come to Cincinnati.
In fact, I'm taking credit for the six-person boost in tourism this weekend and hoping that the folks over at the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau recognize my efforts with some type of plastic sheriff's badge. I'm a deputy town booster, and I'll play travel agent again if the opportunity ever arises.
Here's what happened. It was Saturday morning outside the AMC Theaters at Newport on the Levee and I was apologizing to my son Theo for dragging him to the laughless Eddie Murphy comedy Daddy Daycare. Heading down the steps toward Monmouth and Third streets, three elderly couples approached us.
"Do you live around here?" one man asked. "We want to go somewhere with galleries and boutiques. We want old-time Cincinnati, not a mall."
While Theo sulked, remembering all the cartoons he missed that morning, I played AAA agent and gave them directions back across the river and listed specific stops in downtown, Over-the-Rhine, O'Bryonville and Hyde Park Square. Every one of the places was independently owned and unique to Cincinnati. If I were more of an artist, I would have drawn them a map.
We all left Newport on the Levee together, and it made me think back to the time when the corner of Monmouth and Third was the location of the Posey Flats apartments and a grassy levee adjacent to the Ohio River.
Back then, Newport was primarily about its historic buildings. In its place, Newport on the Levee offers standard bricks, concrete and neon that could exist just about anywhere.
I returned to Monmouth later in the afternoon, past Ninth Street, to The Artery arts center. I wanted to see Tim McMichael's maze-like installation Vox 22 before it closed. For the piece, McMichael stretches white butcher paper between The Artery's first floor and ceiling, creating a series of crevices and passageways. Local artists, writers and musicians were interviewed about their work, and their answers are played on small speakers that hang between the passageways. Vox 22 is primarily a sound sculpture, and if McMichael loses points for originality he gains them back for technique.
Artery Director Laura Hollis and her volunteer staff have made the gallery a worthwhile destination, and I continue to be amazed by the little attention it receives from Newport leaders. The stores at Newport on the Levee could be anywhere. There's only one Artery, and I'll keep returning to Newport as long as it's there.
I completed the day in a part of the city many people ignore, the corner of East McMicken and Main streets in Over-the-Rhine. In the shadows of Rothenberg Elementary School, behind a stripped-down schoolyard, brother laborers Doug and Michael Bootes have converted an old factory building into a first-floor woodshop and motorcycle garage. The second floor is a slick loft apartment that Michael, a longtime friend, calls home.
While city leaders promote would-be plans for artist living spaces in Over-the-Rhine, I visited a live one Saturday night -- and the experience was inspirational. Michael, my wife Pat and I opened the loft's large front windows and listened to the sounds of Over-the-Rhine fill the room.
We drank wine and talked about supporting the Cincinnati Public Schools levy, visiting the new Contemporary Arts Center and the impact of the Fountain Square shooting. Deep inside what many suburbanites would call "the forbidden zone," we renewed our commitment to our lazy, crazy city with laughter and lively conversation.
On this, my third corner of the day, I reunited with good, creative people who care about Cincinnati and want to do something to make it a better place. You won't find them at surburban shopping malls. There are more important places to be, and East McMicken is one of them.