Jennifer Reed, friend of mine and author of the blog Guerrilla Wordfare, had an idea in need of a home, and I'm thrilled to post her guestblog here. If you have any comments, please leave them here or drop Jennifer a line [guerillawordfare at gmail]!
Like many in the tri-state area, I live in a suburb and commute to Downtown Cincinnati to work. Like others who choose this lifestyle, I often feel blame from people so rabid about renewal and revival they associate anyone who lives beyond the city limits with economic failure and business closures.
I live in the Eastgate area, and I have my reasons. Sure, my house looks like the stereotypical suburbanite abode, with its white fences and a wreath on the door. But I'm also near family, own a home I could never afford if it were only one county over and enjoy an admittedly quieter everyday life than I would if I lived in the city.
That being said, I love being Downtown and work on Main Street. I spend my money on independent dining establishments and in local shops. I frequent Findlay Market and our fine museums and am often present to cheer on our Bengals and Reds. I've paid my fair share of parking fees, given to the homeless and tweet about the latest and greatest events on Fountain Square.
Why, then, do I read so many blog posts, news stories and message board comments that angrily assume that my zip code determines my love for or loathing of Cincinnati? If I'm to believe everything I read online, I'm a scared suburbanite and a silly sheep. I cross the streets to avoid other races. I am blind to the small business owner's plight and the beauty of Porkopolis. Oh, please.
Why do so many people feel the need to bash where I live? Most responses to my answer when asked are to the effect of "Why the hell do you live all the way out there?" Or worse, people are surprised by my love of museums and festivals and by my knowledge of local history when they discover I'm not a city dweller.
My answer to these jeers is this: I live all the way out here because I like it. I frequent Downtown because I like it too. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Are Downtown residents somehow more justified in their shopping habits or more culturally advanced than someone who lives mere minutes away? I'd venture to say that many frequent Cincinnati establishments for the same reason I patronize family businesses in the suburbs: primarily because they're convenient. Secondarily, because it feels good to support a local business. Am I the only one to admit that love of convenience in the city is often given the veil of doing good?
That's not to say there aren't a great deal of folks out there who are fighting a good fight to revitalize Cincinnati neighborhoods. I know you're out there. For every person who shops at a chain store, there's another who passes five to get to a local joint. There are people opening businesses, renovating old buildings and putting folks to work.
And it's also not to say that the suburbs don't, in part, deserve the bad rap. After all, any exit ramp in the 'burbs will lead you straight to strip malls and big box stores. But I also enjoy a nearby Ohio State Park, several nature preserves, drives in the country and excursions to Amish bakeries and barn sales.
What's my point? Don't judge a local by their distance from the city center. And I love you, Cincinnati. It's just that sometimes, I'm not feeling the love back.
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