Despite the rain and gray skies, March 31 was a wonderful day. Opening Day is special for Cincinnati and those who take the time off of work or school to wear red, come downtown and watch the Findlay Market parade. The Reds lost, which isn't terrific, but it's hardly noticeable. They'll win next time, I'm certain.
I'm not much of a sports fan never have been but that's the feeling I get on Opening Day.
Joe Nuxhall died last fall, and reminders were everywhere March 31, as they should have been. The fountain was flowing again on Fountain Square, the sun came out for a second and the air even seemed a little warmer for a few hours.
Living along Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, as I have now for four Opening Days, I get the extra bonus of having the parade pass my house. Friends and family come down and sit in the windowsills and on the fire escape and watch the nearly two-hour parade flow past. Inside, I serve up roasted peanuts, Cracker Jack, hot dogs, Skyline chili and Christian Moerlein beer.
It might be the best part of living in my neighborhood. Downstairs, at street level, my neighbors set up folding chairs and line the parade route. It's my favorite day of the year.
Signs typically go up Saturday afternoon to signify that those parked along the parade route past 5 a.m. Monday will be subject to towing. By the time I wake up, the street is cleared of cars. Soon several city street sweepers make their way down the route, sucking up the trash that lines the streets. Meanwhile, city workers manning long sticks with sharp ends pick up seemingly every single piece of trash in sight.
The place looks good. It's like the old 'hood is getting ready for Easter brunch though it won't get this kind of attention again until next year's Opening Day Parade.
I've often said that Over-the-Rhine has a vibe, a psychic rhythm that beats with the tension, or lack thereof, flowing through its beaten veins. On Opening Day morning, it seems everyone is on the same page. It's a good day to be a Cincinnatian. It's our own private holiday.
This year even Cincinnati Public Schools had the day off not because the Reds started their regular season, of course. (We know that's really why school officials scheduled a "records day" March 31, but they can't say it publicly.) Hey, they want to celebrate some baseball, too.
The Reds were the first professional baseball team when they formed in 1869, though the city no longer gets the distinction of hosting the season's first game (as was the case for decades). Major League Baseball officially opened its season in Japan last week when the Boston Red Sox played the Oakland Athletics.
Still, the Reds are the only major league team that always gets to open their season at home.
The Opening Day Parade is a nice oasis in the midst of what's become a month to dread in Over-the-Rhine. Back in 2006 it seemed that shooting on top of homicide on top of more shooting was all I heard in Over-the-Rhine. Several people were gunned down, including at least two from suburban Cincinnati who cruised the neighborhood to buy drugs.
That activity sparked the Cincinnati Police Department's major crackdown, which became known as the Vortex Unit. Things got better there, and quick. We never knew how bad it was until it got better.
Despite this year's parade and the holiday feeling, one of my neighbors had a gun pulled on her the night before Opening Day. She drove away; they stole her groceries on the sidewalk.
Two hours after the parade March 31, someone fired about six rounds in Washington Park. That night police responded to a shooting a half-block from my home and found cars with bullet holes in them, casings on the ground.
Between 2004 and now, Over-the-Rhine has changed dramatically. It seems to be getting better all the time, but I wonder what it's going to take to stop the April showering of bullets that accompanies the season's rain.
The inhabitants of Over-the-Rhine my neighbors who go to work every day and try to live life the right way deserve a safe neighborhood. March 31 was great, but the Opening Day Parade shouldn't be the only time to feel absolutely safe here.
Contact Joe Wessels: [email protected]