Seeing Lucille again was going to be fun. She was a friend of my twin brother's, and we became friends after his death 12 years ago. Like my brother did, she lives in Seattle.
Through the years, we've stayed in contact through phone calls and e-mails. Last Sunday, she flew into Cincinnati to attend a business meeting scheduled for the following day. We decided to spend some of that Sunday together downtown.
We had fun walking down the sidewalks of Cincinnati doing some window shopping. Lucille couldn't help but notice something.
"Is Cincinnati on holiday?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"The sidewalks are empty of people," she said. "There's no traffic, and a lot of the stores we're passing aren't open."
"This isn't Seattle," I said. "Downtown kind of slows down here on the weekends."
Lucille shook her head and laughed.
She had heard of our famous chili and wanted to try some. I suggested we head over to Fourth and Race streets and Tower Place Mall, where there's a Gold Star Chili.
As we started to enter those revolving doors to Carew Tower, Lucille wanted to know why we were going into an office building.
"The mall is right next door," I said. "They have a food court on the lower level."
She looked at the building, moved her head left and right and laughed again.
"You would never know that a mall or food court was in here," she said. "Why doesn't the city put a sign out front stating that it's here?"
I had no answer, but I was beginning to find my friend annoying.
When we got to the food court and Gold Star Chili, Lucille ordered two cheese coneys with onions. She ate about half of one and threw the other away.
"How can you eat this shit?" she wanted to know.
I looked at her and laughed. As I sipped on my Diet Coke, I could feel my blood pressure rising.
After the so-called lunch, Lucille wanted to do a little shopping in the mall and go into Ann Taylor, one of her favorite stores in Seattle. It took her just a few minutes to find out the store would be closing at the end of the month because of poor business.
"You know, if you would put signs out in the front of the building telling the world you're in here, maybe you wouldn't be closing," my know-it-all friend said to the sales woman. I pretended not to hear her.
After Tower Place, Lucille suggested we take in a movie, which led me to say we don't have movie theaters downtown, which led her to say she was tired from the trip and wanted to get rested up for her meeting tomorrow. I said that was fine and would take her to the airport Tuesday morning. She said it wasn't necessary since the hotel provided a shuttle bus to the airport.
We hugged, said our goodbyes and promised to stay in touch.
As I stood at the bus stop on Main Street to take me back home to Clifton, I tried to figure out why I was feeling so irritated with my Seattle friend and why I had no problem saying goodbye to her. Yes, without a doubt, when you come to downtown Cincinnati on the weekends — unless there's a football or baseball game happening — it's going to be pretty dead. That's just a given here. She didn't have to notice it.
I have no idea why Tower Place Mall doesn't have a sign out promoting itself. Not only is Ann Taylor closing, but so are Talbot's and Rogers Jewelers. Add this to the list of the other shops that have closed in the mall — The Limited, Casual Corner, New York & Co., Bath & Body Works, The Gap — and it does look pretty embarrassing, but there's no need for Lucille to point that out.
I've already written in this column about my displeasure with having no movie theaters downtown, and if my Seattle friend doesn't like our chili, that's her fucking problem.
Finally, I came to the conclusion while waiting for the bus that I didn't like an out-of-towner telling me things I already know, stating what's wrong with Cincinnati. I didn't like her stating the obvious, didn't want her laughing at a city where I've lived so much of my life.
Damn it, that's my job.
Lucille has e-mailed me once or twice since her return to Seattle. She's a good friend, but the next time we get together I think it'll be in her city. I'll see if I can find something wrong with it.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]. LIVING OUT LOUD runs every week at citybeat.com and the second and fourth issues of each month in the paper.