A Project Named Desire

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm not sure who decided that the Blue household consists of young, upwardly-mobile, wealthy Republicans, but apparently we've gotten on some sort of list. The evidence? Every month we are inundated with magazines like "Housetrends" "Best" and "Cincinnati Gentleman" (now apparently reborn as "Cincinnati Profile"). These slick rags appear as regularly as cicadas in our mailboxes, informing us on such important topics as where to go to purchase a computerized programmable shower system, and the importance of using only synthetic motor oil in one's pricey German vehicles. Since we can't figure out why we get these magazines, or how to stop them, they usually end up in the recycle bin or as craft-fodder for LB. I will occasionally read them with the sense that somehow an intelligence document from the other side has accidentally ended up in my possession. If I am ever in the market for a $5,000 table lamp, now I know where to go! All in all, harmless (if somewhat over-the-top).

But this month's edition of "Cincinnati Profile" published an article that was so terrible that I felt something needed to be said. The headline reads "The Streetcar Debate", which makes one believe that, perhaps, the article will engage in a spirited treatment of the merits of Cincinnati's long-running public transportation debate. Instead, the article is a borderline-racist, overtly conservative/Republican/elitist rant masquerading as journalism. I was looking for Sean Hannity to weigh in. Apparently the "profile" part of the new name for this rag means "we have profiled your zip code and figure that you must be a white Republican".

I will admit that I am woefully uneducated about the streetcar issue. While I tend to turn a skeptical eye toward any project that uses "Cincinnati City Council" and "88 million dollars" in the same sentence, I find it ludicrous that a city of over two million people (yes, that many people live here) has such an underfunded, underutilized, and, well, unsexy public transportation system. The fact that I can't get from the number one center of commerce (downtown) to the number two (uptown) directly and cheaply is ridiculous. And it is past time that we enable those who don't drive to experience all there is to offer in both areas. What many outsiders don't realize is that Cincinnati's urban core is flourishing. My love for downtown and uptown Cincinnati is a post for another time, but suffice it to say, both residential population growth and business presence has only increased in the last few years, offering services and jobs unavailable elsewhere in the city.

Apparently no one at "Cincinnati Profile" got that message. Here are two actual quotes from the piece:

"All that stands between the two neighborhoods is Over-the-Rhine, where the mood is post-Apocalypse, rundown abandoned buildings, high crime and unemployment, a neighborhood where a flat tire can become an adventure that doesn't end well".

"Street corners along 12th Street, Elm and Race were packed with African Americans who did not appear to be members of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber".

The article gives lots of print space to members of various parties opposed to the streetcar while not bothering to interview anyone in favor of the proposal other than City Manager Milton Dohoney, himself a member of the city government and not necessarily a streetcar expert. One of the most-quoted opponents is Dr. Brad Wenstrup, whose credentials are apparently that he is a Republican planning to run for Mayor, and a podiatrist. It took me approximately 0.075 seconds to google "cincinnati streetcar" to find this site, this site, and this site, all of which could have provided some balance to the article. But that assumes that "Cincinnati Profile" intended to practice actual journalism. I believe that gives more credit to this conservative rag disguised as a "lifestyle" magazine. I'm ashamed to believe that simply based on our address, there are those who believe that I support this shoddy, racist, agenda-driven crap.

So listen up, "Cincinnati Profile", you can go ahead and cross this liberal, Democratic, public-transportation using (yes we do!), downtown-shopping family off of your distribution list. And in the process you might save a tree or two. Ha! Gotcha!!

Customers of the Week - Roundup Part One

Monday, June 8, 2009

The end of an era is quickly approaching...I am leaving the bookstore. However, much like the Mafia and the Marine Corps, you're never really gone when you leave. In fact, one of my co-workers told me "you know we'll call you every weekend to see if you can work, right?" Which is okay. But faced with a crushing load of teaching this summer and periods of outright panic as I try to prepare, I just couldn't stretch myself thin enough to cover everything. Even though working here is hardly "work", in that I mainly talk to people about books and drink coffee, it's still 15 hours of my week that, right now, I need to devote to other things. I'm sad to be leaving, but I'm looking forward to having my weekends back to spend with Lil Blue enjoying all the fun places we bought family passes for and never use.

In honor of my last week of work, I'm devoting this post and the next to a round-up of recent Customers of the Week (in no particular order):

Young Opera Lover: this one just happened yesterday so its fresh in my mind. A young African-American kid (maybe 10 years old) came in to pick up his specially-ordered original cast recording of Carmen Jones. We got to talking when he saw an ad for the local opera company. "I'm so excited that Carmen is coming this summer! I can't wait to see it!" he exclaimed. When I asked him about his interest in opera, he talked about how it was so exciting and how seeing and listening to opera was his favorite thing to do. At a time when arts organizations are seeing revenues in free-fall and aging fans and contributors slowly falling off, the idea that a young child would be so thrilled by what is, let's admit it, an art form that appeals mainly to much older and more Caucasian afiocionados is exciting. I hope that the Cincinnati Opera realizes they have the opportunity to reach *all* people, even the young and non-white. Because if they don't appreciate that opportunity and leverage it for the future, we might not have publicly supported opera for long.

Anti-Twilight Girl: This little girl was about ten years old and asked me for recommendations for new summer reading. After I recommended four books* we got to talking about how she had read the Twilight series and didn't like it. I was instantly intrigued, because she was obviously a good reader, and a young girl who doesn't want to jump into Twilight and become Bella is pretty rare. "Well", she said, "I thought Bella was kind of dumb. She didn't really *do* anything and all she did was whine". Hurray!

Mrs. P: This lady is a very good, regular customer who always purchases an enormous stack of (mostly) literature and non-fiction. She started talking to me and a co-worker last week. As it turns out, she had been a professor in Atlanta during the era of the civil rights movement. She taught literature and was constantly running into trouble with the powers that be (were) at her institution as she attempted to modernize the literature curriculum.

My next post (which will be in August at the rate I'm going lately...) will continue the round-up of the suprising, funny, and intriguing people who come through the doors at an independent bookstore.

* Meet the Austins, The Lightening Thief, The Dark is Rising, Found

UPDATE: How cool is this!! No sooner had I published this post, when a lady came in to look for opera CD's. In the course of our conversation she mentioned that she is the president of the Cincinnati Opera. I told her about the kid who was in yesterday. Luckily we had his name and phone number still around because he had ordered a CD. Long story short, she said she'd make sure that he got a signed poster from Carmen, and got to come back and meet the cast!