For a Midwest Minute

I mentioned in my weekly update that the trip to Cincinnati was… interesting to say the least. Now, I want to be honest. The Husbando and I had scoped out Cincinnati as a potential contender for relocation. We looked into best places to live for the cost and looked at the housing market and were pretty impressed. The next step was to visit and see how the city felt. Because on paper, things looked promising.

Well, I can tell you, after four days spent in the city, promising is not the word for it. Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a bunch, let me caveat this with the following: These are my feelings about Cincinnati. Mine. And mine alone. I know that I visited in early March, when winter still has much of the country in its frigid, deathly grip. This was intentional; I wanted to see the city at its worst, because if I still liked it, then I knew it would only get better with nicer weather. I stacked the odds against Cincinnati on purpose and kept that decision in my mind as we explored the city.

Guys. It didn’t do well.

There’s a lot to like in Cincinnati, don’t mistake me. The Newport Aquarium was a ton of fun and really well maintained. The Zoo was amazeballs (and yes, we got to see Fiona!), and the Cincinnati Museum Center is absolutely gorgeous. At all three locations there were field trips out for a day of learning and exploration and that was really cool to see.SAve Ferris

Cincinnati also has a thriving craft beer scene. We had low expectations for this, since Oregon is sort of the Mecca for the US Craft Beer movement (seriously, throw a rock in Salem and you’ll hit a brewery or taphouse). The beers didn’t need to be better than home, just on par, which they definitely were. Also, oddly enough, sour beers seem to be very popular in Cincinnati, of which I had zero complaints. I love a good Berliner Weisse, and Nine Giants’ Save Ferris was probably the best I’ve ever had.

We also went to a crazy store called Jungle Jim’s, which my husband described as, “an international themed fever dream where you can buy some fresh fish, giant paella pan, scotch, and durian fruit in the same store while passing by a talking Campbell’s soup can that haunts you until you die.” We followed that up with a visit to the biggest fucking antique mall I have ever been blessed to visit. I bought an unconventional souvenir for my office and have zero regrets.

campbells nightmare
Talk about nightmare fuel…

The Findlay Market was cool, though with it being the off season it was just a fraction of how awesome it undoubtedly is in the spring and summer. That being said, we have farmer’s markets here in Salem, and Portland has a huge one. And Pike’s is only four hours away in Seattle.

And ultimately, that’s what it kept coming down to. Yeah, Cincinnati has cool stuff, but not anything that can’t be equalled by the Pacific Northwest.  So, when the cities are neck and neck, what breaks the tie?


Now, PNW folks are notorious for being ridiculously, obnoxiously, frustratingly nice. They will stop six lanes of traffic to let you jaywalk. They will stop an entire interstate to save a lost dog. “Please” and “Thank You” have nearly lost all meaning because we all say them so automatically that half the time I can’t remember if I even said it. Sort of like flushing the toilet or locking the door, but for politeness.

I thought I was sick of it. I thought I was fed up with false kindness and the West Coast notion that customer service must infiltrate every aspect of your life. I thought I was done with it. And then I went to a bar in Cincinnati.

WTF is Burgoo and why was it so good?

Across the city, from restaurants to breweries to fast food chains to grocery stores, gruff and efficient is the rule. They don’t want to chit-chat, which I am fine with, but they also don’t want to smile or tell you to have a nice day or thank you for coming in. They do not want to acknowledge you beyond, “What do you want?” and “Do you want to start a tab?” or “Receipt?”

It shocked me. It disgruntled me. I felt immediately defensive and closed off. For the first time, I wasn’t so sure we’d be able to make friends in Cincinnati and I wasn’t sure that I would even want to. I already have great friends, and almost all of them live in Salem (Bolt, I’m looking at you, so hurry it up already and move back!).

Ultimately, nothing about Cincinnati made me want to dig up the roots we’ve grown here in Oregon and start all over again. Which we agreed on after only two days, which left us with another two days to explore and just enjoy the vacation!

Now, of course, not every person we interacted with was so closed off and unfriendly. There was a fabulous server at the Moerlein Lager House named Mikey, and another great server at 50 West Brewing (I can’t remember her name, sorry!). And the sweet guy at the counter of the Taste of Belgium stand at Findlay Market that forgot to give Trev his coffee and was amazed at how unworried we were about it. But the majority was… brusque to say the least.

We spent a day in Kentucky, meeting up with my husband’s aunt, which was a blast, and then we went to the Kentucky Derby Museum for a walk down memory lane for me, and a first time visit for Trevor. I was pretty emotional the whole time. The last time I was there was in 1995 when I went on a cross country road trip with my grandparents. My papa has since passed away, and though I don’t have many distinct memories from our visit to Churchill Downs there were just enough to keep my eyes moist at sharing this visit with my husband, whom my papa never got the chance to meet.

And while the people in Kentucky are beyond nice, come Wednesday, Trev and I were so so so ready to be home. So of course, that’s the day the Boeing 737 Max’s were grounded. And of course, that was the plane we were supposed to be on. What was supposed to be an arrival time of 10pm in Portland turned into 11am, with us spending 22 hours either in an airport or on a plane. My advice? Skip Chicago Midway if you can, and DEFINITELY don’t spend the night there. The only silver-lining on that was the hilarious native Chicagoan that sat at the bar drinking a Budweiser while we ate breakfast and shot the shit with us. He was hilarious and a delight. There will be inside jokes involving that guy for the rest of our lives, I’m sure.

And then we were home and I snuggled my dog and vowed not to leave the PNW for as long as I possibly could. Which is roughly a year since Southwest gave us two $100 vouchers for the whole 737 snafu.

So, the trip served its purpose. We went to Cincinnati to see if we’d want to live there. We very quickly decided no, and got a chance to relax and just enjoy ourselves for a few days. Other than the awful travel on the way home, I’d say that was worth it. Plus, I wouldn’t have found Melvin if we hadn’t gone!

There is no Tavern, and Moby Dick was published in 1851, but the inaccuracies only make me love it more. Hence the name, Melvin. 

Knowing that a cross-country move isn’t in our future has reinvigorated our enthusiasm for the house we do have. Old projects are resurfacing, especially as the weather improves, and I hope we’ll actually have our entertainment center built up by the summer and my built-in desk finished by fall.

Home is where you make it, after all. So maybe it’s high time we showed this house some love and focused on turning it into our home. This trip really helped me appreciate where I am and what I have, and the city I share with so many people I care about. It led to a reaffirmation for both of us, and I couldn’t be happier with that.

Because, let’s face it. I’m a West Coast kid, through and through. And that’s how it’s going to stay. At least for the foreseeable future.



4 thoughts on “For a Midwest Minute

  1. As a native Midwesterner, I am not at all bothered by this post. The thought of moving from the Pacific Northwest to southern Ohio… just boggles my mind. (Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m now living in North West England.)

    While I’ve never done more than drive through Cincinnati, about twenty years ago my grandfather lived in Dayton and I visited him quite a bit. At this point my main memories of (late-’90s) Dayton itself include lots of Confederate battle flags flying from beat-up pickups, and also the cheapest gas I ever did see ($0.799/gallon).

    Personally, I find the hot and sticky Midwest summers to be much, much less pleasant than the weather there in March.

    • Cost of living and housing prices are climbing here in the PNW, so we thought we could sell high and relocate to a more affordable location and be debt free at 40. Sounds great on paper, but I am so grateful we took this trip to be sure!

      I think the last time we spoke you hadn’t moved yet! How is England treating you?

      • I’m surprised you remember so much about an internet rando commenting on your blog! I got here less than two weeks ago (after a short delay due to some complications in February), and so far things are shaping up nicely. Liverpool is the first proper city I’ve lived in since I moved out of Boston in 2011, and I’m enjoying being back in an urban environment.

      • You’re not just any internet rando, you’re the internet rando that recommended my new favorite Urban Fantasy series 🙂 . That’s memorable! Glad you finally got to make the move and that you’re enjoying it!

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