Dorothy said it first in The Wizard of Oz while clicking her ruby red slippers: "There's no place like home." I for one love to look at other people's homes, and last Sunday was the perfect opportunity to do so with the Downtown Tour of Living. Ruby red slippers probably would have been more comfortable than the shoes I was wearing, as they were absolute torture after hours of walking and climbing stairs. Where are the shuttle buses when you need them?
I guess I wasn't the only one who wanted to see how urban living has progressed in Cincinnati, as the buses were full when we did catch a glimpse of them. The tour was bigger than ever, with all ages participating. This was the fourth year for me on the tour, and each year the crowds are more diverse and always great for people watching.
That's one of the reasons my friend Chris joins me annually — it's a pretty boy parade. Where else can one go on a beautiful sunny Sunday and window shop both for a living space and a potential roommate? Well, maybe we fantasized about the potential roommate part, but definitely it's fun to look.
Face it, the gay crowd dresses well and looks good no matter where they go. The straight guys at this event looked like they could be heading to the Bengals game at 4 o'clock with their jerseys and sneakers that might be O.K. for a bunch of jocks but no eye candy for me. Chris just smiled and enjoyed his scenery.
We bought our tickets at the Emery Building and started our tour there. This is one of my favorite buildings, as the natural light is fantastic, the halls are wide and the ceilings are high. Last year the "best of show" was a large unit in this building, and this year we were immediately taken with an apartment that was full of Asian artifacts and gorgeous things. Chris and I love the idea that someone else has the propensity to collect items for their sheer beauty. Of course, we just pity the person who has to dust them. Still this place was a showstopper, but we had more to see and off we went full of vim and vigor.
Further up Main Street were examples of gritty urban living, which we say is what urban living is all about. Narrow staircases and beautiful woods made it unique and special along with the street effect. Moving in and out would certainly be a bitch if you had a lot of beautiful things, but it'd make for a terrific workout. Hell, it was a good workout just looking at these places. We agreed that some of the older tour guests were going to need oxygen, and we were looking for an oxygen bar ourselves after the first few.
As we made our way past the courthouse and toward downtown, the venues changed. We felt like we had entered a Marriott or Hyatt Hotel as we viewed the Renaissance Apartments at the Power Building. Here the spaces were varied and available, quite large with rent to match, but could be done tastefully and urban without the homeless to contend with and all. The amenities of fitness center and lounge were a nice touch and fun for mingling, especially if you're a transplant from out of town, but there was a sterile feel that reminded me of countless business trips from my past. Still for some, this could qualify as convenient living.
The Sycamore Place at St. Xavier Park is nearby, and the Blue Wisp Band was playing out front. Now that the Blue Wisp officially resides on the first floor, it would be easy to be a lounge lizard and slither back upstairs home after the last set.
A passerby was overheard telling someone not to miss 911 Race Street, so we made a mental note to get there tired feet and all. It was packed full of people and the quality of the craftsmanship was apparent. I remembered seeing this building the prior year, though I think it was a different unit distinct for it's indoor greenhouse is perfect for orchid growing. This year's unit was gorgeous with the Chihuly-like light fixtures and art glass theme along with a bath that invites more than one guest. The balcony was tiny but perfect for a glass of wine. This building also had the one of the best indoor garages, where a vintage Porsche sat waiting. I wondered if the owner was vintage as well.
The same designer of 911 Race did a place on Fifth Street, so we made our way in that direction. Now the streets were bustling with the Bengals crowd filing in to park and walk to the stadium. It made downtown seem alive and vibrant, which is fun on a Sunday afternoon but not for everyday I suppose. One downtowner expressed that sometimes downtown afterhours is downright dead and you feel like no one else lives in your building. It's probably for a lifestyle that involves tons of hours at work and lots of travel is my guess. Maybe that will all change with new financial incentives to buy downtown just introduced.
Chris and I went to 4th & Plum, and I was reminded of a time when I knew a group of business guys who shared a place in this building for afternoon liaisons, if you get my drift. I can't say I was ever a guest, but a close friend of mine visited weekly for afternoon delights. This memory will always be 4th & Plum to me, but Chris liked the pool deck and some of the spaces are quite well done.
We ended our tour on Fifth Street with a building that had four condo units. Two are sold, one is unfinished and the fourth floor is a re-sale. This was icing on the cake for Chris and me as it epitomized what urban living would look like if we were designing. The view was palatable, the parking off Perry Street gated and the condo shone under natural light.
It's a place I could park my slippers under the master bed and not long for the suburbs any time soon. This could be home base.
Where Are the Normal Girls?
My friend Kathleen told me last Friday night at The Comet that a friend of hers, Miranda, was having a show in the Southgate House parlor Sunday night and that I should go. I assumed it was an art show of some sort, so I agreed.
On my way up the stairs to the parlor, I ran into a girl I last saw at a Halloween party. I was dressed as Elvis, in a tight white jump suit with the big collar. Every time I walked by this girl, she either grabbed, pinched, smacked or squeezed my butt. I thought it was funny, but I don't think her boyfriend was amused.
I went upstairs to say hello to Kathleen, and I saw another cute girl sitting by herself at the back bar. I started talking to her, and I realized that I seen her somewhere before but couldn't remember where. After a few minutes of polite conversation with her, I went back to Kathleen to ask her about the show. Before she could tell me about the show, I remembered where I'd seen the girl at the back bar — a housewarming party for my friend Eileen. I guess you could call the girl at the back of the bar the party's unofficial greeter. She was laying on her back on the grass as you walked in. She was wearing a knee length skirt, without panties, showing everyone how far she could spread her legs apart. I'm pretty impressed that I could actually remember what her face looked like.
The show, it turns out, wasn't an art show. Miranda owns her own small, independent music label and was showcasing two of her bands — Death Ray from Cincinnati and The Rar Rar from Chicago. Both bands called themselves "experimental." It sounded like someone was scratching their fingers across a blackboard while a train brake was squealing in the background, with a lot of screaming thrown on top. They were so loud the feedback lights in the speakers were almost constantly on.
In the past, when there was a crappy band at the Southgate House, you could sit out on the front deck and look at the Cincinnati skyline. Now all there is to look at is the Newport Aquarium and Newport on the Levee — which left me with nothing to do but go home wondering when I'll ever meet a normal girl at a party in Cincinnati.
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