(Yesterday was my 7th bloggiversary. I figured I couldn't truly claim to have made it the full seven years unless I did at least one more post. This is a recap of my trip to Cincinnati a couple of weekends ago.)
I think I was always meant to go to Cincinnati. I was raised to be a Reds fan. Well, I was raised to be a Bama fan and good southern boy first, but Mom also rooted for the Big Red Machine. (For my sports-challenged readers, the Big Red Machine is not some obscure Communist organization. It was the nickname of the Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970's, who appeared in four World Series in the decade, winning two.) Once the Big Red Machine was dismantled, Mom could not have cared less how the Reds fared. So it has been my cross alone to bear, lo, these many years.
The most interesting thing on the drive up Friday evening was the point in the state of Kentucky where there is an adult video store on the right side of I-65 and a billboard with the words "Hell Is Real" on the left side. I made sure to keep it on the straight and narrow through there.
As I neared Ohio, an interesting geographical question began to formulate within my brain: When exactly does the South turn into the North? That was followed by other questions bubbling up, festering. At what latitude do people begin to speak faster and become difficult to understand? Do they serve sweet tea on this side of the Ohio and not on the other side? And just how many Union sympathizers have infiltrated Kentucky in the last century-and-a-half?
We actually stayed on the Kentucky side, in Covington, just to be safe. From the hotel, it was only a short bus ride or mile-and-a-half walk across the Ohio River to the stadium. The walk was either very pleasant or incredibly soggy, depending on the weather.
We wound up attending both the Saturday and Sunday games. The Reds lost the Saturday game, 5-0. On Sunday, the outlook was as dreary as the drizzly Ohio sky, as the home team fell behind 4-2. But a late-inning comeback produced a thrilling 5-4 victory. My fantasy team closer got the save. My fantasy team catcher had the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 8th inning. And the guy my fantasy team is named after hit a homer. I was glad we had decided to go back.
One of the highlights of most any trip is the food. At the ballpark, we sampled a Skyline chili cheese coney and something called a Walking 3-Way, which is not nearly as difficult as it sounds.
Saturday night, we went to Fountain Square, which is a simply gorgeous area downtown. I found out later -- by Wikipedia'ing, of course -- that the fountain can be seen in the opening credits of WKRP In Cincinnati. After reading that, I think it's fairly obvious that fate had led us there.
We had dinner outside at the Rock Bottom Brewery. There's just something about eating outdoors at little cafes and restaurants that I absolutely love. It reminds me of being in Europe, which is quite odd when you consider that I have never been to Europe.
Our last meal actually came at the suggestion of the desk clerk at the hotel. As we were checking out on Monday, she commented that she liked my shirt. I was wearing my "This Is How I Roll" Bama shirt. Turns out she was a Bama fan, so naturally we struck up a conversation. She knew her stuff, too! Refusing to call Auburn by name, she referred to it instead as "that school on the other side of the state." Talk about feeling at home.
Anyway, she recommended a place across the street called Riverfront Pizza for lunch. I tried their ranch pizza, which was pretty good. But the best part was that they had sweet tea! That's when I knew that the Yanks hadn't completely taken over Kentucky.
After I got home, I was telling Mom about going to the Reds Hall Of Fame following the game on Sunday.
"Did you see Johnny Bench or Pete Rose?"
"No, they weren't there."
"What about Morgan?" (That's apparently what my Mom calls Joe Morgan, which I wasn't aware of until that moment.)
"No. He wasn't there either."
But I was glad that she remembered them.
Overall, I loved Cincinnati. There are certain places that feel like home when I visit. They bring a sense of being completely comfortable and content. The beach is always like that. Nashville is like that sometimes. And walking into Great American Ballpark for the first time, there was a similar feeling. Seeing thousands of fellow Reds fans I thought, "Ah, these are my people."
Three or four different times random people on the street made comments about the Reds to me. Even though it's been thirty years since the Big Red Machine and twenty years since their last World Series title, it's still a baseball town.
"I walked half way from Louisville. Now there she lies at the foot of the hill. Shinin' like a jewel in the valley below, Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati, where the river winds, 'cross the Mason and the Dixon line..."