Doing Summer Right in Cincinnati

With Memorial Day comes another summer. That last Monday in May opens a floodgate that signals all the great things about living in this town. Everywhere there are signs of what a great place thi

May 28, 2008 at 2:06 pm

With Memorial Day comes another summer. That last Monday in May opens a floodgate that signals all the great things about living in this town.

Everywhere there are signs of what a great place this can be when the weather is right. Boats are docked to restaurants along the Ohio River, families play in the park, swimming pools begin to open, children are everywhere outside. The sun is up early and down late, allowing those winter blues to melt away into a summer of outdoor concerts, parades, crowded bicycle paths, church festivals and ice cream cones dripping down little hands in every neighborhood.

Having lived three years of my life in Northern California, I can safely say they think they have summer done pat. And to some extent I'd agree, but there are plenty of aspects about Greater Cincinnati that leave those other, supposedly more desirable places, in the dust.

A good friend, a native of Orange County in Southern California who now lives just across the bay from San Francisco, loves Cincinnati. He comes about once a year to indulge in cheese coneys, White Castle, architecture and great museums. He loves Over-the-Rhine, Mount Adams, Newport and Covington.

There's nothing in California like our downtown's Mercantile Library that either of us know about, nor are there so many great parks.

He'll be back in August for another week, a respite from the San Francisco traffic and congestion.

That part of the country is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with sunny and mild day right after sunny and mild day stacked on top of each other from June through October. The downfall here, by most people's standards, is our hot, humid jungle-like climate in the summer. I can't argue one bit.

But without rain — specifically, without refreshing thunderstorms like the one we're having as I write this — everything green turns brown pretty quickly here. Flying into this area in the summertime from the West Coast, the brown patches were always the first thing I noticed from the air.

Beyond that, I think the two areas have a lot in common. This undoubtedly will shock most readers, especially those in Ohio and nearby states — maybe even some in California, if these words make it that far.

California and Ohio are in the same country, a difficult concept for residents of the two states to fathom at times. Having lived in both places, I have a somewhat unique vantage point that allows me the ability to broker arguments about which place is better and to alleviate some common misconceptions between the two.

California, with its southern beaches and hub of the movie-making business in Hollywood, sort of gets the nod on the coolness factor. It's also big and has the world's ninth largest economy and diverse climates.

For their part, Ohioans tend to think of California as home to a bunch of hippy weirdos who wear sandals, don't have time for regular bathing and live in their Volkswagen buses, which double as their home when they're not working in the a) bike shop, b) smoothie shop, c) surf board business or d) all of the above.

We do summer right around here. We play outside, cheer on our beloved Reds in person sometimes (though we're more likely to be sitting on the front or back porch listening to the Reds on the radio) and visit each other's homes to grill out brats and metts and drink way too much watered-down American beer while playing a popular game of skill (which allows beer holding at the same time) whose name has serious sexual connotations to anyone who lives more than, say, 500 miles from Cincinnati.

We go to fireworks displays in mass droves — no matter how big or small the show, no matter where it is — just to see the looks on the collective faces of the children in attendance. We go swimming in lakes, canoe down rivers in western Hamilton County and in Dearborn County or float on the Ohio.

Then, come September, we will finish it off with Labor Day and Riverfest. We'll close down the pools, watch the fireworks again (this time much bigger and better than all the others) and pack away the gear until the weather breaks next year.

Contact Joe Wessels: [email protected]