BACK TO CINCINNATI
AT THE LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET & BARBERSHOP
I am afraid that – after Detroit – any other city is going to seem fresh and dainty in comparison. Cincinnati seems to be in a healthy and dynamic state, even with its “junkie neighborhood”! My quest for a breakfast place takes me to a nice greasy spoon where I get to taste the “Goetta”, a local specialty made of pork and oats, mixed and grilled, reflecting local history and the Germanic influences on the local culture.
As I am leaving the old diner, a distorted voice emanates from a speaker. Next door is a church nestled within a store. They are handing out free sandwiches that day, and a few homeless people are listening to a woman preaching to them promising better days. I try to capture the moment… at least the sound.
I continue my exploration with a stop at a black barbershop to get a close shave. They’ve sprayed some Fly-Tox to take care of a cockroach and bed bug infestation. One of the male barbers complains of bug bites. Several TV screens are on, animating the atmosphere. A couple sports commentators are discussing a basketball game, sharpening their rhetorical skills using debilitating clichés or bar-room platitudes.The audience – barbers and customers alike –is captivated, passionately and loudly arguing for or against the two commentators (one is white, the other is black).
With my clean-shaven face, I set out to explore the downtown area and notice a charming farmers’ market where one can sense a deliberate urban planning vision: a mix of old-fashioned neighborhoods, alongside new developments that smells like gentrification.
Located two blocks away from a halfway house, this downtown core reeks of urban rehabilitation efforts, complete with a pedestrian street displaying signs that say “free Wi-Fi”, “no smoking”, but also “concealed weapons forbidden.”
I spot a group of black people relaxing in a backyard overlooking the market, and I ask them if they are getting ready for a nice barbecue. The conversation takes off with Aaron, a guy that seems nice and a bit tired. I notice the pitbull. We make plans to reconnect in the evening, although he warns me that his dinner is often the bag of chips he has in his backpack, and a bowl of something at the soup kitchen. I do not want to pressure him too much. I leave him my cell number so that he gets in touch with him. I will never see him again.
I can’t get used to the visual clash between the urban black populations, the crazy crack junkies screaming in the streets, and neat-looking little ladies with smooth blond hair. A group of seniors wearing identical fluorescent orange vests slide by on their Segways. The stadium is full, the city empty. Then there is potbellied crowd with baseball caps. I’m a little disappointed.
I’m overwhelmed with anxiety when I realize the terrible gap that exists between what I am experiencing and the music – that is the soul of America – escaping from the radio. All the songs carry with them a romantic dimension, an epic one, that is closely related images portrayed by Hollywood. From the 40s’swing to “old -school” rap, each tune is the soundtrack of a mythology… Still, reality doesn’t seem to be measuring up to these epic heights.