drew's theory is that cities that are very successful at attracting people to move and stay there do so through some kind of unique vibe or personality, which people want to experience. drew thinks you can't just take what other cities have and try to copy it here, you have to figure out what is unique to your city and then work on promoting that. he thinks that cincinnati's unique personality is in its amazing historical architecture.
i think drew is on to something here and so do the many commenters on the post. the other day i got off exit 5 off of 75 and drove along mitchell avenue towards o'bryonville. has anyone ever done that drive? it's the border between north avondale and st. bernard and the houses are ridiculous. huge, sprawling mansions. but they are mostly falling apart. i have never seen anything like it. crazy huge brick homes, shady trees, rolling lawns... all in some state of shabby disrepair. i could not stop staring. how could these amazing houses be so poorly cared for?
the reason is the same as what drew is talking about... people just don't appreciate the city, and without new people coming into the area and staying, there is no dynamic energy (and no money) to change and keep things moving.
maya left several comments which brought up a number of issues. some of the things she is thinking about:
- does she love cincinnati more than cincinnati loves her? and if so what does that mean?
- is it a good thing or a bad thing that we have so much capacity to discover and create here in cincinnati?
- why is there such terrible media coverage of all the awesome art, music, and creative projects going on in cincinnati, and how can that be improved?
- why is so much of the effort to promote cincinnati driven by corporate interests, and how does that affect the overall success of the effort?
i think a major part of the reason why it is so hard to feel like the city cares about you is because it is so hard to feel like the people who make up the city care about you. a lot of this, in my opinion, goes back to the whole insular cincinnati attitude, embodied everywhere you look (garrison keillor's cincinnati opening monologue, anonymous's tired refrain of "go back to michigan," the fear people have of going to the west side, etc.). cincinnati's identity is so deeply rooted in its history and traditions, and its citizens' identities are so entrenched in who they know and what they are used to, that it is extremely difficult to really become a part of cincinnati if you have no connections here. and then you are left feeling like the city really does not care about you.
i am constantly challenged by living in cincinnati in ways that i have never experienced in other cities. living in new york was very difficult for me, but the reason there was simple: at the end of the day, i just did not want to be a new yorker and in fact did everything i could to avoid ever being thought of as one. however, i really would like to be a cincinnatian and i devote a lot of time, energy, and effort to getting to know and appreciating the city. i feel like i do everything i can to be a part of it here and still i can't break past these invisible walls of whose parents know who and who went to high school with who.
drew says, in the comments on the post, "I think there are many here who care more about the city than the city cares about them. Why should we have to try so hard? Shouldn't it be easier?" i agree with drew. i do think it should be easier. but i think i know why it isn't. it will never be any easier until somehow people start opening their minds and their hearts to new people. by that i mean no more relying solely on high school and family networks for professional and social connections as an adult. people need to reach beyond that. i don't know how that will happen though. but i am trying to do what i can.
i've spent so much time on the first question that now i don't want to bore you by rambling about the others. so leave your thoughts in the comments. i am very interested to hear what you guys have to say.