Monday, November 25, 2013

Cincinnati, we'll always love you, but it's time for us to go

I love you, Cincinnati. From the moment I first laid eyes on your downtown, I was hooked. 

I didn't realize how smitten I was at first, but when I began to get more involved with downtown as a community - as a neighborhood - I understood the real strength that is at this town's heart. 

I was once one of the naysayers. I used to regularly joke about how dangerous Over the Rhine was. I nodded in agreement when someone would mention how "those people" made Downtown, Walnut Hills, or West End scary places. 

I'm sorry. How wrong I was. When I said those things - usually laughing and joking with my suburban friends, or the ones from small-town Indiana where I grew up - when I said those things, I said them to get a laugh. 

I wasn't being hateful was being hateful. It wasn't out of spite, though. It was out of ignorance. Once I got to know the people who live in those neighborhoods - you know - the ones who look different - who sound different, I found out how wrong I was. There are no "those people". There are only people - I am one and if you're reading this, so are you.

Some of you who read this may still think that way ("those people" or "that part of town"). If you haven't taken the time to come here (urban Cincinnati, Ohio), look people in the eye and seek to understand, I don't fault you. I respectfully suggest that you're wrong when you joke about how dangerous this place is - or when you make offhanded remarks about how we'd be better off if we just bulldozed the whole place and started over. I can say this because I was once like you. I came here though, and when I did, I found community. I found neighbors with stories and struggles just like you have. Mostly, I found unquestioning acceptance. Nobody cared why I was here, only that I was here. That was enough. 

Enough of that. On to my next point. 

It's time for my next chapter. My wife and I are leaving Cincinnati and taking the girls on our next adventure. Starting in the spring, we will be leaving to "world school" our daughters. It is nearly December as I write this post, and there is much to do between now and when we leave for Malaysia (with one-way tickets) April 1st. Saying goodbye to you, my friends and my readers is bittersweet, but you've shared in our adventure this far, so I thought it only fitting to share the end of this particular chapter in our story. 

This will be the final post for Downtownity. My new business is called Prolificate, and I'll be posting good ideas about how to start, grow, or finish something there, in addition to working on my first book about the same topic. If you're interested, catch up with me there, via LinkedIn, or Twitter.

I will continue to lovingly take care of the Waltz building and its awesome people. I'll just be doing it remotely and checking in from the road. 

As we prepare to leave, there is a smile on our face and gratitude in our heart for all this city has given us. 

Being Thanksgiving season, here is a woefully incomplete list of some of the things we're thankful for:
  • The dedicated city employees who work tirelessly to make this town better
  • Neighborhood councils filled with hard-working volunteers
  • Social-service non profits working to make sure everyone has a chance
  • Arts organizations breaking the mold and embracing the vibrance of this place 
  • City leaders - past, present, and future
  • Findlay Market
  • First Unitarian Church
  • Our Parks
  • Queen City Bike and every inch of bike lane, sharrow, and (potential) cycle track 
  • Brave indie businesses (like Park + Vine, Once Blind StudiosTom & Chee, and dozens hundreds more here)
  • You. Whether we agree or not, thanks for giving a damn about this place. It matters.
I'm almost done.

The results of the recent election here were sobering - a forward-thinking, progressive city administration and council majority were voted out in convincing fashion. Cincinnati voters have spoken. If you voted for the incoming government, I respect your wishes. 

You elected a mayor and a council who (my opinion only) stand for the things that I used to stand for. The old me (the one I alluded to above) would have voted for these folks. While I respect the will of the citizens of Cincinnati, the course you have chosen for yourselves is not the course for me or for my family. 

I wish you well, and the best of luck, but it's time for us to move on. I would dearly love to find out just how wrong I am, and that the trajectory of the city only gets better and better. In fact, I've never hoped to be wrong like I do now.

To those of you who choose to stay here and continue to work for positive change - THANK YOU. You are needed now more than ever to ensure that the progress that we've worked so hard for isn't completely lost. 

The fact is, Cincinnati is a great place, and will continue to be. I choose to believe that the new leaders you elected want what's best for Cincinnati - we only differ on what that is. One thing I've learned -- the greatest strength of this town -- is that here YOU can make a difference. YOU can have your voice heard. If you have an idea for the new mayor, YOU can probably get an audience with him to sell him on it. Do that. If you choose to live here, please contribute your ideas, your passion, and your energy to this community - it deserves it. 

I've learned that I could make a difference here. Hopefully, I've shown you that if I can - you DEFINITELY can. All you have to do is show up. Don't complain about how you don't have time. We all have the same 168 hours each week. If you're satisfied with how you're spending those 168 hours, fantastic. If you just wish you had time to get involved, YOU DO. Plenty of people put me to shame with how they spend their 168 hours. You can too. Get involved. Go to your neighborhood council meetings. Pick a church to attend. Talk up your city. It's a great one. 

If you're like I used to be and hear yourself talking about how backward your city is, how incompetent the leaders are, or how much the (fill in the blank) here really sucks, STOP IT. Be here because you choose to be here. If you don't like it, then work to make it better, or find somewhere you CAN make better. Belittling and tearing down your city only hurts you in the end. If you choose not to contribute in a civil way, then at least choose not to tear down what someone else has worked to build.

Lastly, Cincinnati, I cannot thank you enough. It has truly been the ride of a lifetime. Even though I'm leaving, you'll never be far from my heart.  I'll be talking about how great you are and cheering you on from wherever my travels take me. 

Be well,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cincinnati is a tinderbox set alight

The last tendrils of morning mist are recent memories as the city wakes up from a night of revelry and hum.

I’m sitting on a pergola-shaded park bench with the morning sun smiling on my back. Water is unavoidable here. A fountain in front of me reflects the mirror-blue sky and the silhouettes of grandmother and toddler as they take in one of the last warm days before autumn asserts itself.

A river wanders by, not caring about anything but finding the sea, hundreds of miles from here. Joggers and groups of tourists wind their way through the park setting, each with worries of their own, but each taken by surprise by the serene beauty for just a moment. An astonished pause as they realize where they are -- worries still there, but suspended for a moment.

This represents the best of what a public space can do. Amid the vibrant pulse of the city and the nonstop of peoples’ lives, room for thought, room for a smile, room to just be.

Cincinnati has found a way to lift itself out of mediocrity and do things that really matter. Somehow, this place has become a tinderbox. Stocked with years of great ideas, energy, and clear focus, that tinderbox has been set alight and its glow is visible around the world.  Perhaps because it is a city where you can come and make a difference, people are drawn to it. Creative thinkers, hard workers, arts, business, and government that has learned the importance of collaboration -- all have come together here to create something lasting.

This gem of a park I’m sitting in as I write is just one example of why this town is on the ascendant. Though I reminisce about the time I used to have this place seemingly to myself, I’m happy to share. After all, it’s a sense of shared purpose that set the tinderbox alight in the first place.

Cincinnati: If you haven’t been here, you should come. If you haven’t been back in awhile, come see what’s changed since you left. Chances are, it’s alot.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

21 Delights Blog - You have to check this out...

I came across an up-and-coming talent in the blogging world I'd like to share with you.

Joelle Birano lives in Hawaii and is (among other things) a gifted writer. After experiencing financial hardship and uncertainty, she gained perspective on what really matters. Joelle started this project by writing down 21 things that she loves: Her 21 Delights. The cool thing is, they're universal delights -- not just hers.

With her unique writing style, you get bite-sized reads of 3-5 minutes each that transport you to places you may or may not be prepared for. Joelle brings you along on life's ride. She shares with disarming honesty her journey toward a simpler, more meaningful life. 

You've been warned. 

You might spend some time thinking about what your delights are. Then go do something about them. 
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