Complex Questions – Gettin’ My 52 On in Corryville

* This is the sixteenth in my series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to discover what makes each community relevant to me.

Where are you going next? Do you have a list? Do you have a big map somewhere and you’re just checking them all off?

FullSizeRenderNearly one-third of the way through my pursuit, I wanted to enlighten readers on my process. But the honest truth was, there wasn’t one.

Take for instance my Corryville walk. That morning, I had decided to walk Golf Manor, so named of its proximity to many golf courses, Losantiville, Avon Fields, Maketewah. However, one last check before heading out the door revealed Golf Manor was a village, and NOT located in the city of Cincinnati.

Hence, the reason for these walks. To discover the borders of the city and the boundaries of my mind.

On short notice, I decided upon Corryville instead. Corryville involved a walk through Over-the-Rhine, and up Vine Street. With my husband that morning, we began at the Kroger on Short Vine. We would walk seven miles that day, but only half of those encompassed the neighborhood.

FullSizeRenderThe new Kroger in Corryville had what everyone on social media says it had, awkward parking and a broad selection. The store was conceived as a possible prototype urban store, but on several of my visits, all the self-checkouts were closed, and management had been short-staffed.

We continued up Short Vine, past Bogart’s, having last visited to hear my high school classmate and good friend from Cleveland, Marla Brennan in Wish You Were Here. We also walked past Island Frydays, a Jamaican diner in our own city, that we learned about from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. A sad fact, but a great find.

Short Vine was an odd mix of tattoo parlors, The Niehoff Urban Studio, Taste of Belgium, home to many FC pre and post-game festivities, a Cock and Bull soon to come, a library and empty, vacant buildings. Much of the living space above the retail looked unoccupied, though just a block over, new buildings loomed large with apartments. My favorite was UC Bike Kitchen, a great resource for students on bikes.

We crossed Martin Luther King, and strolled down a path by the Marriott Hotel. The setting is a quiet space surrounded by University Hospital, College of Medicine, Vontz Center for Biomolecular studies, which will undergo a 17M renovation only 20 years after opening. While this portion of the campus surrounded by medical facilities is astounding, the University of Cincinnati holds a lot of debt.

As we marched on, Mark pointed out the home where he lived while attending UC Medical School. I’ll reveal here, that Mark is a hometown boy, an anesthesiologist schooled locally, and one of the most compassionate at that. Though not allowed, if I ever had surgery, I would want no one else.

I went on a long rant after reading the quote carved into stone on the new VA building. “To care for him who shall have borne the battle.” The quote was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, from his second inaugural address in 1965. In 1959, The administrator of the VA, Summer Whittier, had two plaques containing the quote installed at the entrance and thus became the VA motto.

From the history of the Veteran’s Administration: “He (Whittier) worked no employee longer or harder than himself to make his personal credo the mission of the agency. What was that credo? Simply the words of Abraham Lincoln, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan. To indicate the mission of his agency’s employees, Mr. Whittier had plaques installed on either side of the main entrance.”

By 1959, plenty of women had served in the military for these United States. In 2011, women made up 14.5 % of the active duty force. Certainly, the VA could have modified the quote or found a different one.

We circled near the zoo (a later Avondale post), around Erkenbrecker, and discovered many homes certainly slated for demolition for the sake of Children’s Hospital or some zoo parking. To be clear, our own children have been treated at Children’s Hospital. But I found irony in that we, as a society, treat many patients harmed via domestic violence, gunshot, homelessness, veterans, and to do so, tear down homes that could have housed or provided a more stable community for them or the neighborhood to prevent more violence and homelessness in the future.

As we looped back around past Shriners Burn Institute for Children, one of only 21 in the country, the former Jewish Hospital (read here for a great history) came into view. Jewish was one of my older sister’s first jobs out of school. Laura was their Public Relations person, and my dad got such a big kick out of Laura rubbing elbows with some of the older Jewish men on the board, the small town Italian Catholic that she was. It was how I first learned what a shofar was.

University Hospital, a premier teaching hospital, is nestled in behind some of the other medical facilities, such as Hoxworth Blood Center. In 1999, I became a stem cell donor via the good nurses at Hoxworth. My first publishing opportunity came in 1999, as an advocate for bone marrow donors. Four years ago, I was called up as a bone marrow match, but I was still taking Advil to recuperate from shoulder surgery, and was declined. At the time, I was devastated. The transplant had not saved Devin, and I could not save another while I was busy saving my shoulder.

Our trek took us past Mecklenburg Gardens, where FC’s fan club, Die Innenstadt hosts their pre-game warm-ups, and on to the Highland Coffee House. Neither of us had patronized Highland in years, and we resolved to come back during the evening hours, when it opened to newspaper readers, coffee drinkers and those who want to get away from the traditional bar scene.

As we headed for home, Mark made a comment that I hadn’t thought about.

“You know how they talk about the military industrial complex, and the building up of jobs around the buildup of the military? The medical field sure looks a lot like that.”

If I didn’t have a complex about the medical industry before, I did now.

The entire neighborhood felt occupied by hospitals. Having recently visited to Cleveland Clinic to see another sister, I saw how a neighborhood became a hospital, and only a hospital, how for the lives inside, though I understand the need for sterility, there was no connection to the outside world. And I wondered, how do we expect patients to transition from their health challenges back into society when they, along with their providers, are in a tower separated from the sidewalks below?

Corryville will certainly grow via the new Martin Luther King exchange, designed to provide easy access to the medical industrial complex and UC, the true purpose of the ramp will result in employees being ushered and out of the neighborhood. North of Martin Luther King will soon be all hospital. I suspect the community will struggle to maintain a sense of neighborhood to the south.

Readers can read more about Corryville through the community council website. They also have several development corporations, designed to access funding for growth. The Short Vine area has many active business owners. They too are caught between the behemoths of the University and the Hospitals, but I hope owners and businesspersons are creative enough to continue to thrive. The Mayerson Academy is also located in Corryville, a think-tank if you will, helping to reshape how Cincinnati’s thinks about learning, working within our schools and community, to help others reach their potential.

The walk through Corryville brought about more questions than I had answers for. They were bigger questions than of the “what is happening in this neighborhood?” variety. They were the questions of society, culture, and where we place our priorities. And how we balance them with the needs of all. They were the same questions pushing the boundaries in my head.


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