I LEFT CINCINNATI 4 YEARS AGO WITH A single thought in my head: “Good riddance.” I had come back to Cincinnati from college at the very beginning of the recession and had to live with my parents way out in Loveland while working at a shady office job above Sports Plus. The only way I was able to afford the occasional, much needed drink was to go to various trivia nights and hope that I won gift certificates to comp my drinks.

My hometown just wasn’t the place for me. “There’s just nothing going on in Cincinnati,” I thought. So I moved to London, and later to Washington, D.C. I had my fun and I spent all my money. And Cincinnati, in what has to be the most incredible “fuck you” imaginable, turned blindingly awesome in under half a decade. Starting like, the second I left.

I know that some of the cool stuff was there before. I had been paying $300 a month for a huge apartment in Hyde Park — an apartment which would cost me, I’m not kidding, 5 times that in any place I’ve lived since — and places like Neon’s and Findlay Market were becoming cooler places to hang out. But in the time since I’ve left, Cincinnati has picked Rhinegeist, MOTR, the “never going to happen” Banks, and the Bunbury Music Festival. Going out in Cincinnati is now just as much fun as going out in booze-soaked D.C., and at half the price.

My Jersey-native fiancee now says, “When I think of Cincinnati, I think of good beer.” Cincinnati. The only Cincinnati beer I’d really drank before leaving (aside from the occasional treat yo’self Moerlein) had been the execrable Hudepohl. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good Hudy every now and then, but it was not what I’d call a beer mecca. But then the craft beer revolution hit, and suddenly the city full of Germans and abandoned underground beer cellars realized, “Oh shit, we can totally be the best at this.” We used to head to Newport-on-the-Levee or Mainstrasse if we wanted a night out (you know, a night out that didn’t involve the bro-filled nightmare of Longworth’s). Now, whenever I go back home, it’s straight to OTR or Northside.

These days, my feeds are constantly blowing up with articles on Cincy. In a year when virtually all stories about police race relations are nightmarish and depressing, Cincinnati arose from the rabble as one city that had faced it’s police racism problem head on, and had started to make headway with it. I have no doubt that racism is still a pretty serious thing in Cincinnati (like elsewhere), but it’s unbelievably refreshing to see my hometown at least making steps in the right direction.

Cincinnati Public Schools (which we snobs out in Sycamore used to refer to in the same tones in which we’d refer to 90’s era Over-The-Rhine) have been a rare educational success story in a country where public schooling has turned into a test-driven nightmare. My sister regularly takes her 5-year-old to play in Washington Park, which I remember as being the type of place we would only go to if we were seeing something at Music Hall.

See what I mean? See how it’s hard to not suspect, just a little bit, that maybe Cincinnati is making all of the things I used to complain about awesome? See how it’s not totally unreasonable, given the timing, to imagine that Cincinnati’s revitalization in every conceivable area is actually a really well-thought-out “fuck you” to me, one of it’s lost sons?

I mean, if that was the case, it would make perfect sense. The attitude of Cincinnati has always been one of hard-working underdog with a chip on its shoulder. It’s a scrappy city. It’s a city that doesn’t need me, but that wants me to know it doesn’t need me, and it’s this is what makes it my city, no matter where I move to. You win, Cincinnati. You’re the best, and I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

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