Cincinnatians of a certain age grew up associating baseball with the center of the city. For those of us who tore up Post-Suburbia and Post-Multiuse Stadium, it was a live baseball game from downtown. They had to drive on the freeway. You had to take care of the parking. There were one-way streets and people in business suits.
Even now, taking part in a ball game is a whole lot. As a bare minimum, you tell a stranger on your cell phone to drop you off at the gate. Rare is the Cincinnatian who can look up from dinner and randomly decide to wander to the ballpark.
Crosley Field was a neighborhood park that sealed its doom; The central location of this new riverfront stadium eliminated the narrow-minded nature of the way Cincinnati played its baseball. It definitely linked the East Side and the West; Although the stadium was west of the dividing line (Vine Street, also the whole thing, also in the city center), we presented a closed front here.
The fact that the Great American Ball Park was placed in virtually the same location, albeit at an artistic angle, cements the unspoken correspondence that we play baseball in this center town. None of that keeps the stadium way out of the area code because that’s where the tax credits are.
GPSs understand that. You can see how the rest of the world views us geographically if you zoom out far enough. If you select the city as if you were simply sighting it from, say, North Dakota, the pin will fall in the general downtown area. The stadium.
Bare latitudes and longitudes obscure neighborhoods, and so too, where everyone measures who measures: Cincinnati is 482 feet above sea level. Yes, but which part? Because if you measure on the river bank where the Anderson Ferry docks, it is different than on the upper reaches of Clifton. And that’s the kind of city where you say a lot about yourself.
Because of this, of the large number of moves I’ve done, by far the scariest has been the youngest. Understanding strangers, I took my coffee cup and set it back two inches to the right. It’s 8.7 miles. It shouldn’t matter, especially with the zip code meander I’ve already done. In my life I have performed the following movements:
- Ohio to Florida, alone, I didn’t know anyone on the other end except the guy who interviewed me and the other guy who showed me where the staff lounge was
- DC area to Oklahoma, with my husband, in a house shared with two complete strangers, no basement, and those disgusting sheets are waiting on the bed that I balled up and put in a closet
- Alabama to Myrtle Beach, with my husband again, going from a three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment, just knowing each other again, even though the rental agency guy seemed to be partying
But this time I went from Delhi to Mt. Adams. In other words, the moving van drove past the stadium.
When I passed this message on to my sister and her husband, they received it with all the equanimity of two people who, for the past six years alone, had watched us haul our things to four different addresses.
“It’s the East Side,” I said when we were standing in her fixed West Side kitchen.
“Not really,” said my brother-in-law. “Mt. Adams is the demilitarized zone. “
I’m not sure. The day we got our place in Mt. Adams, we saw a woman driving an Audi and a guy carrying a small dog in a front-facing backpack, both activities that might not be shot on the West Side but definitely downgraded from working on the beer stall at the community festival.
I’ve lived everywhere except the East Side; a whole thing. Consider:
DAY WE PURCHASED THE HOUSE WE LEAVING: appeared in a dress to look nice for the six figure debt; Broker gave us a wooden sign with our names on it; festive lunch in a chain restaurant at moderate prices
DAY WE SOLD THE HOUSE WE LEAVING: sobbed in the Kenwood McDonald’s drive-thru line at 10:18 pm, fingernails torn from all the packing and box lifting, and my husband decided that McNuggets in my pie hole was the best way to stop the crying
But I’m going to tell you a story Jimmy Buffett told me (and 20,499 other people and Marty Brennaman and everyone else who watched the Riverbend concert livestream last week): His inspiration for the first line of the iconic “Fins” came partly from scenes at the Mt. Adams Bar Cluster, partly from a stay in Daytona Beach. Land sharks on the river. Land sharks by the sea. No matter where you go, certain elements follow. He went and took the poetry with him. When she came down from Cincinnati, she came from Mt. Adams.
Now I’ve also lived in Daytona Beach, which is much more shark than anywhere in this city. But as for the song, as far as the rest of the world knows, starts in this town. The whole city, the center of the pin in the center pin where you can see the ballpark.