We were dining at West Oak in Vancouver one night. The evening was following the Canadian Thanksgiving. Yes, they have one, so the restaurant that night was rather empty. Our waitress, due to lack of other customers, was attentive and conversant. She began asking, where we were from.
“Ohio. Cincinnati,” Mark answered.
“Oh, Cincinnati,” she replied blandly. “How did you get here?”
“Through Salt Lake. Or if you mean, why? We’re taking a side trip before a trip to Eugene, Oregon.”
“What’s in Eugene?”
The University of Oregon. Our son.”
“Oh that’s cool.”
She steered conversation towards the topic of Vancouver. Were we finding it to our liking? Of course. Plus the women were all innocently beautiful. Even I found myself attracted to them, as well as my husband.
“Lots of skiing, kayaking…” Our waitress, in between suggesting the brussel sprouts, with bacon and lemon, was rattling off the list of outdoor pursuits she enjoyed in Vancouver, as well as the arts
“Oh we have skiing too, and kayaking…just not on as pristine waters or big mountains,” Mark responded.
“What else is there to do in Cincinnati?”
She was not belittling, but asking an earnest question. In that moment, I made a snap decision. I was going to quit apologizing for being from Cincinnati, Ohio, the Midwest and start bragging instead.
“Well, you’ve got opera and a symphony?” We do too. World-renowned. Art museums by the boatload, some of our best are free. And a lot of smaller theatres, like your Arts Club Theatre, historic theatres, Shakespeare Company (Ok. Vancouver wins. They perform Bard on the Beach, but hey, we have a Beach, right?). Brand new casino…”
I caught Mark’s eye, and figured I had gone over and above my duty as citizen of Cincinnati, but she was beginning to get the drift.
Of course, he found my musings humorous and true. He and I took a beating four years ago, when many of our friends laughed us out of their homes, as we shared our desire to live in the city, in particular OTR. They are no longer laughing in their homes. They are languishing at the bars and restaurants only steps from my door, and attending Lumenocity, Celtic Fests and Shakespeare Theatre productions.
This thought stuck with me, and realized that the importance of travel is really two-fold. One for new experiences, to consider what might be possible back home. For this, I envision riverplane charters, like the seaplanes that operate up and down the West Coast. Our seaplane pilot told me it was feasible to do so on the Ohio River. In Eugene, they don’t set out trash cans for the public. They more or less have a boy scout, “pack-in, pack out” mentality. And they have street sweepers that are portable and used often on sidewalks.
All along the rainy Northwest, which many in the Midwest would trade for, if they had the right gear, restaurants and cafes utilize their outdoor space through the use of heaters and plastic covers. One restaurant kept a pile of fleece blankets in the corner, for anyone who had caught a chill, but still wanted to dine outside. And let’s not forget the ski slopes, where the outdoor dining originated in the West. Bundle up.
To date, I have found only a few here in Cincinnati that do so. Arnold’s come to mind. But even on cool, fair days, the Anchor will roll in the chairs and tables, as opposed to setting them up and letting the clientele decide. They would be surprised how often people just want to sit outside, even in the dead of winter.
But the other experience from travel is one’s opportunity to brag about where they are from. To realize how we stack up to Vancouver, Seattle with their rush hour at 2 p.m. on the bypass! Portland, despite their investment in mass transportation and urban growth boundaries, is still held hostage to rush hour, and one minor accident can create an hours worth of traffic backups, as it did the night we passed through.
And while the Northwest may have invented coffee, we are busy perfecting it at Coffee Emporium, Cheapside, 1215 Vine, and many others across the Tri-State.
In conversation with a friend of mine who works at Findlay Market, I told her the Granville Public Market, while an island, surrounded by artist studios, was nothing to speak of, almost dirty in first appearances, the artist studios rather esoteric and touristy. Our public market of Findlay feels real.
We have restaurants and markets aplenty that understand the value of local. While they have plenty who, despite the local availability, still drive miles for Costco. Perhaps this is a contradiction we all have to live with.
In essence, the only thing that needs broadening is our attitude and our openness to try new, different. Riverplane to Pittsburgh anyone?
* Photo is of the Big Noodle, which sits behind the Bengals stadium. No one can see this great work of fun and art, unless they go looking for it. We should move it to the border for Kentuckians and anyone else entering Cincinnati!