123 Cincinnati, OH: The End of the World

The Bar I Visited

I ended my day by going to a bar recommended by a museum employee as hip. "Hip" in Cincinnati meant a converted first floor of a house or apartment building, just like every other bar in town, only the patrons here smirked with "irony" as they showcased the goatees, piercings, and retro clothes you could find worn in Cincinnati's other bars with a sneer and no irony.

I interviewed Sean, the sizable bouncer at the front door, which I had trouble opening because it opened inward. "The only reason we get away with it is that it is the original door," he explained. "New fire codes dictate that doors open outward, but nothing changes quickly in Cincinnati," he shrugged. Sean had a bald head but a handlebar mustache and sideburns above which flashed an earring.

"You know what Mark Twain said about us, don't you?" he asked, grinning. "'When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times.'

"Cincinnati is isolated," he continued, "partly because everybody's in these small communities. They don't reach out and they don't cross over. I know this woman. She went to New York and she's only been there a year. But she's moving back. She misses the circle of friends she has here. Everybody in New York moves on. She said she meets somebody, and three weeks later they're gone 'cause they can't make it in that town. She wants to come back here for a little more stability. That's why it's so hard to move from Cincinnati: you never find any other town so tight-knit. Makes it hard to move to Cincinnati, too.

"Cincinnati is very stable but very conservative. This town made Larry Flynt a millionaire. A pornographer moved her shop from the north side to downtown just to get the publicity she knew would follow. Today, I was at an album shoot where twelve naked people were holding a glass of milk in different poses on a rooftop just to make a provocative record cover so that my friend could try to get some free press from Cincinnati's conservative backlash towards it."

I found out just how tight-knit the town was after I left the bar and went to a café nearby. I overheard the counter help joking about being, "butt naked on a roof earlier today."

"For the record album cover?" I asked, and they looked at me like, "Who the hell are you to know that?" I quickly paid and left.

Their response was consistent with the answers to my questions in Cincinnati. Everybody agreed that the people here were isolated and not very interested in reaching out to others. But many viewed that as a positive thing because they had close circles of friends. Me? I'm glad to be going.

But, then, I know I'll always come back. Even if just for end of the world.

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