You know that friend who gets sweaty and angry and tense whenever someone says something bad about Cincinnati? The friend who will defend it like King Arthur defended Camelot, not only the city itself but the idea of it? I'm that guy.
I will Wiki whatever city you grew up in and show you point by point why Cincinnati is better. "But adult internet star Raven Riley is from Middletown and did you know that the Cincinnati Public Library is arguably the largest public library in the country?" I say, scrambling for anything that might appeal to the Cincinnati-hater.
Last night was the season finale of Taking the Stage, the Cincinnati-based docu-drama about students at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. I've officially watched two episodes of the show (the first and last) and am therefore unqualified to comment on the quality and/or relevance of the content.
*Spoiler Alert: I will mention things that happened in the final episode of this series. If you were too busy doing blow or fashioning badminton shuttlecocks by hand last night to watch the show, quit reading now*
I am, however, entitled to bitch. In both the first and last episodes, there were angsty scenes in which our main characters would solemnly commit themselves to leaving Cincinnati at all costs.
In the finale, one of TTS's main characters, Mia, travels to New York to audition for Jive Records. And another main character, Tyler, auditions for the dance agency BLOC. Both state that these auditions could be their ticket out of Cincinnati, like Cincinnati is Bumfuck Arkansas. Like if they don't make it, they'll have a go into coal mines to support their siblings.
If it weren't for Cincinnati and SCPA, you people wouldn't be courted by big-name labels and agency.
So here is my dirty little secret: I wasn't born in the city, I was born in Deer Park. I wasn't raised in the city, I was raised in West Chester. And ... shhhhh ... I don't actually, technically "live" in the city at this particular time. I live in Hamilton (which I call North-Northside or H-Town depending on the day), but I do work in city. I KNOW! "How can you even talk? You don't know what it's like." But the thing is I do. I've worked on and off in downtown since my first internship in college. If I had the money, I'd be down here now. This city is why I pursued journalism in college, and this city is what makes me wake up in the morning.
Do you know how infuriating it is to hear someone talking about how they're willing to do ANYTHING to leave a place that you've fought so hard to get to? So you're telling me you'd sell your soul and the rights to several of your orifices to leave here? I just spent the last six years busting my ass to get here. It's like being told your favorite shirt makes you look fat or your college mentor is actually a douche. The fact is, the people who live here don't know how good they have it.
Cincinnati has a public transit system and, deplorable as it might be, it exists. You have museums and a ballet and an opera and several theaters. You have a mix of cultures. You have the SCPA! The first time I heard about it, it was as if someone were describing a rainbow to a blind man. "Wait, wait," I'd say. "You mean the young people are taught art and music and dance in a regular school? Tell me again about how they encourage creativity."
Time for my second dirty secret, I haven't really traveled that much. "Who are you to say that New York, L.A., Chicago and Seattle aren't awesome if you haven't been there?" I know, I know, I humbly submit to your point. I went away for college to Bowling Green, Ky. (If you try to argue that Bowling Green is better than Cincinnati, I will lick my palm and slap your face.) My dad lives out west, so I've been there. But, no, I haven't been to any of the big metro areas in the country. But here's how they go in my head:
New York: An entire city that acts as if they are stuck in rush hour traffic on I-75.
Chicago: A really big Cincinnati with a lake instead of river — it's the Midwest, people, give me a break.
L.A: Either a pretentious version of Mount Adams with really nice weather or Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones' personal hell.
Seattle: If Northside and Clifton mated, had a ton of babies, moved to a rainforest and started growing weed.
See, I'm ignorant. I don't know. But my main argument isn't that those places suck — it's that Cincinnati is pretty cool, too. I can honestly say almost everyone I know has been given a fair shake in the 'Nati. I think our talent might be slightly under-appreciated but never ignored.
In the season finale of the show, Mia is told by Jive that she's not ready to be signed but that they'll continue following her. Tyler is given the opportunity to be signed but smartly decides to stay at SCPA for his last year of high school. I wish you the best of luck guys, but in the meantime, look around you.
Mia, come to CityBeat in a couple months and I'll personally buy you a wristband for MPMF. If you didn't go last year, it will show you that there is a support system for local musicians. Tyler, you're in a hotbed of dance education. There are tons of studios you could teach at right out of high school. Just remember your roots, guys — we'll be here when NYC doesn't work out.
I'd like to think that our successful stars, the ones who did make it, keep coming to Cincinnati because they love it and appreciate it. Knowing that Sarah Jessica Parker visits here and downs cheese coneys makes me proud. Knowing that Nick Lachey wanted to base a reality series at SCPA makes me almost like the guy.
But here's the truth of it, the reason why I'll probably die here: This is where the fight is at. The hippies run Seattle, the urbanites have New York, but Cincinnati is and always has been a battleground. We connected the North and South. We have conservatives and liberals. We have P&G and Park Vine. We have Bill Cunningham and Larry Flynt. We have The Enquirer and CityBeat.
Nobody wants to miss a good fight.