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Sunday 4 June

So I'd checked my main bag (and Susan's little suitcase I remembered to bring back to her), but toted my camera bag of course but also my computer all over Cincinnati and as it turned out Covington.

Cincinnati, what there is of it that isn't modern — huge behemoths of convention centers and so on — is an Art Deco city; I wandered around the little downtown grid of streets, numbered in one direction, short names in the other like Vine and Race; wandered into a hotel, the Cincinnatian, and sat in the hotel bar maybe fifteen minutes with a large grapefruit juice — the thought suddenly occurred to me to talk about the drink called a Cincinnati: to my fascination, the two bartendresses there had never heard of it —

Anyhow, from there slowly and somewhat inevitably towards the river front, with the dim notion that that would be the historic center of the city. Huge not very successful Freedom Center, our national museum of the Underground Railroad, two modern sports arenas, football to my right, baseball to my left, each at some distance. Further inevitability in the shape of the massive and very beautiful bridge right ahead of me, by Roebling who just a few years later would build the Brooklyn Bridge: and inevitability concluded by what's a bridge for if not to be crossed? so off over the Ohio into Covington, KY.

[image ALT: A massive suspension bridge several hundred meters long, with stone piers each capped by a pair of turrets crowned by a gilt orb and cross, and between them a flagpole flying two flags. It is a view of the Roebling Bridge over the Ohio River linking Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky; from the Cincinnati side.]
The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

At the southern foot of the bridge, a series of murals, started in 2002 and still in progress (some blank panels, scaffolding) on the history of Covington, a good orientation, and some rather attractive; I walked past them all, absorbing; to reëmerge at the west end, walk back up the bank, head back to the end of the bridge, where I was steered further E by some lower older buildings: the upshot of this cowlike meandering, without benefit of guidebook, brochure or even preplanning since I hadn't thought to be anywhere else on this short layover than in Cincinnati proper, had me discovering the most historic area of Covington all on my own, an area of often beautiful houses, most dating to the first half of the 19c, nice shady garden setting, and leading down to the river's edge, which as it turns out was the Point, the area where at the confluence of two rivers the first white explorers and settlers had landed, prominent among whom Daniel Boone. The three- or four-block walk along the river is decorated with good bronze statues of an assortment, somewhat self-consciously diverse as things now are, of historical figures, including John James Audubon who apparently started his career here, an Indian chief that gave the white man a run for their money in the late 18c, a woman river boat pilot with the most picaresque career, at least as summarized on the plaque; etc.

[image ALT: A zzz. It is a view of the Roebling Bridge over the Ohio River linking Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky.]

Reading his book at the Point across the Ohio River from Cincinnati:
James Bradley, an early‑19c preacher and abolitionist. A statue of course.

And from there — it was nigh on 7 P.M. already, sun still high in the sky and somewhat hot even — back over the Roebling Bridge and snaking around various buildings in downtown Cincinnati back to the station; I learned from a coupla guys on the street that there's a wonderful interior — to see next time, as they say — of a telephone company building with Art Deco carvings of, well, telephones and so forth; similarly, a building with carved elephants. I settled for the Flatiron Building and the huge Times Star Building with its elaborate Art Deco door, these on the eastern fringes of downtown where it starts to give way to highway and more vacant land, like for example Greyhound bus stations. Right across from the Times Star Building, an isolated drinkery called On Broadway, turned out to be a gay bar; sat by the cash register and had a light gin-and‑tonic in the cool and dark for 20 minutes before heading back to my last bus of the day — not before inquiring about the famous Cincinnati: that bartender as well, having worked as one for five years, and born and raised here, never heard of either name or drink.

[image ALT: A section of geometric grillwork containing a plaque depicting a young man in 18c costume turning the windlass of a manual printing press. He is a printer boy; the vignette is a detail of the main door of the Times Star Building in Cincinnati, Ohio.]
An 18c printer at work: vignette from the door of the Times Star Building.

Reclaimed bags, stood in line twenty minutes — among my fellow passengers a young couple with a baby straight out of the 19c: woman in a floor-length dark grey woollen dress falling in ample folds, white linen bonnet; her man, with a barbe en collier and a straw hat, overalls and suspenders. My seat neighbor was from India via NYC, we talked a bit about Mahabalipuram and Konarak, but mostly I nodded off a bit, eventually arriving at a low bus terminal with Susan at the foot of the steps in scrubs, a welcome sight.

Susan had gone and reserved us the poshest place in sight, the Gratz Park Hotel, in a 19c house: first order of business, and a bit of a problem, was to get there. Susan had an address and a map, but the street numbering system seemed to be fiendish, all the streets one-way, and the hotel itself very discreet, so that we only eventually found it in the dark by bumbling into its restaurant the Jonathan — said to be quite good — and we got to know rather well the corner of Mechanic and Limestone, driving thru it maybe five times.

Well by the time we were ensconced in our hotel, the restaurant was closed; affable young man at desk suggested a coupla places, the most likely for food at what was by now a bit past eleven being Mia's a few blocks away — where we duly went, crowds in the streets, the singles-bar district. I wasn't really very hungry, but Susan was: which, since I weigh twice as much as her, meant we had about the same amount of food each. Crabcakes for her, a side order of calamari for me — very nicely done — and a sort of hot artichoke dip with bread. I had a small neat bourbon, natch; not actually that I wanted any more booze, but on my usual grounds of eating and drinking what's local, whenever possible: Woodford, rather fruity, raisiny maybe is more precise, good stuff anyway.

Anyhow, at 12:30 A.M. I hit the sack and out like a light (despite curious Tempur-Pedic mattress, very odd texture like a very firm bavaroise), not being used to such hours; Susan on the other hand because she's been working evenings and nights at the emergency room, just hitting her swing.


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Page updated: 29 Jun 06