Six months ago was the last time I saw this much of the ubiquitous greyish beige known as greige. I’ve worked in many different environments, with varying amounts of greige, but my most recent stint in the suburbs of Cincinnati really made me feel as though I was spending my days in a bubble.
That’s not entirely true — I laughed at the geese that held up traffic in my company’s driveway, I laughed at myself while negotiating sidewalk-less roads in heels. I made a friend on the bus and became intimately familiar with the streetscape of my route.
But, let’s backtrack to Jun 07, when I wrote the following letter to CityBeat:
In response to Patrick Garland’s letter “Downtown Streetcar Will Be a Waste” (issue of June 13), I moved to Cincinnati a year ago from Boston after having lived in San Francisco and New York City as well. As a die-hard urbanite who doesn’t drive, I didn’t even consider any neighborhood other than Over-the-Rhine.
After a year, I know I’ve made the best choice. Yes, it has a troubled past and is certainly not without its problems, but so are most of the urban areas I’ve found interesting elsewhere.
Between OTR and Downtown, I walk to almost everything I need or want. For anything that’s too far, I have a bicycle and a bus pass. I don’t ever go to Hyde Park or Oakley, as Garland suggested I do; why would I need to? I have the best of Cincinnati practically at my doorstep.
For whatever it’s worth, OTR is changing: There’s increased retail and available rehabbed housing stock. I’m not going to argue about whether or not that’s a good thing, but there’s clearly a growing demand for easy public transit in and around Downtown.
Downtown is not dying, as Garland pronounced, and OTR has not crumbled. I have managed to carve out a rich life for myself in the very areas he so definitively dismissed.
— Maya Drozdz, Over-the-Rhine
I don’t know why I felt compelled to write this; this sort of self-indulgent pontification rubs me the wrong way. The only kind of activism I can really understand involves the intentional putting of one foot in front of the other, not wasting time telling other people how to live.
I never intended to become a locavore or worried about my carbon footprint, but I can see now that certain aspects of my life embody these values, and that these values are actually important to me. The willful provincialism of my neighborhood-centered life is what I prefer, though I’m not sure that it’s accurate to call this “the good life,” as CityBeat did. That implies a value greater than simply my finding my own way to put one foot in front of the other.
On the other hand, while some people dream of a white picket fence, I’ve always yearned for a fire escape, so I suppose I have found my version of “the good life” here. I’m not trying to prove a point, and I’m certainly not making any sacrifices, but it’s rewarding to see that a million tiny everyday choices add up to a life I enjoy.
But, nothing is that simple. Even the statement about greige that started this post isn’t entirely true — my life is filled with the springtime greige of basin life, floating in through the open windows and coating every surface.