Elsewhere

Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati

I started this blog almost exactly 7 years ago! Since then, I’ve published roughly 2,000 posts — 1,000 about Cincinnati and 600 specifically on our neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine. A lot has changed since then, and this blog has changed as well. More changes are in store this year.

7 years ago, I was busy exploring the city that was new to me and starting my future in this neighborhood. This blog was a way to meet people, stay up-to-date with neighborhood news that the media wasn’t reporting, and provided an outlet for sharing my local discoveries and day-to-day adventures. Over time, as our business took off, our studio news ended up here and, as we were able to travel more, here is where I recorded and reflected on those experiences.

At this point, Cincinnati is pretty familiar and, after watching the neighborhood change from the sidelines, I no longer feel all that connected to Over-the-Rhine. I have my friends and things that I enjoy doing, but getting away sustains me more than discovering this place does. In many ways, OTR is changing without us, while we watch.

I spend a lot of time online elsewhere — sharing daily adventures on Instagram, inspiration on Pinterest and VL news on Facebook. I want to spend more time offline as well, just being in the moment without distracting myself with how that experience is shared with others elsewhere.

When I started the blog, it emboldened my curiosity and forced me to be more observant. 7 years later, I worry that I’ve developed a kind of ADD — everything I do is potential social media content, and I’m depriving myself of both privacy and authentic experience. This blog isn’t my job and should never feel like an obligation. It started out fun but became regimented with a self-imposed schedule and balance of various types of posts. After a while, I worried about audience expectations and edited my thoughts and self-presentation to project the “right” image to the world. When I step back, it all seems a bit silly.

The older I get, the more I want to focus my energy on fewer things, even as [or maybe because] technology constantly offers more avenues for my attention. This blog needs to return to its origin as a fun outlet. Maybe I don’t always want to be a cheerleader for Cincinnati’s hidden treasures. Maybe I don’t always care that much about ghost signs. Maybe one day I’ll be so busy having fun that I’ll forget to take photos altogether.

I’m not sure what this will look like. I won’t worry about daily posts, and some weeks may be more quiet than others. I’ll share links when I have links to share. Sometimes they won’t have anything to do with Over-the-Rhine or Cincinnati, because sometimes my mind is elsewhere. I’m rambling, but that’s sort of the point — this blog needs to be a bit more free and unstructured so that maintaining it doesn’t feel like a chore.

There are about 9,500 subscribers and a ton of content archived here. Posts go viral for reasons I don’t always understand, and sometimes lengthy discussions break out. I’m always happy to revisit old posts, and I’ll continue to add new ones as my time and energy allow. Thank you for following along as I continue to explore the various nooks and crannies of wherever I happen to find myself, and please come back on Monday to see the most popular posts of 2014!

7 thoughts on “Elsewhere

  1. I have just this morning stumbled on your blog. I am a recent transplant from Houston and am so excited and energized by Cincinnati and I have started blogging for some of the same reasons you did. I blogged while I was in Houston and so appreciate your observations about getting trapped by your social media personae and am trying myself to avoid this in my new blog.
    So thanks for what you have put out in the world. I am very much looking forward to browsing through your archive.
    Thank you and Happy New Year
    Best
    Melanie Millar
    cincinnatiaesthete.wordpress.com

  2. Melanie, welcome to Cincinnati and wow, what a gorgeous blog you have!

    Maybe my experience is unique to this city or to downtown/OTR, where I live. I guess I’ve noticed that critique is frequently conflated with criticism, and any perceived criticism deserves to be shut down out of hand. I’ve often been told that, if I really cared about Over-the-Rhine, I’d buy a home here and, without that, I have no right to a voice. Or, if I have a complaint about the neighborhood, I should just move to the suburbs, where I belong.

    Not being free to engage honestly with this place has made it harder to care about it and, the less I care about it, the less I need or want to be here — we’re not from this area and live in Cincinnati purely by choice, which sometimes starts to seem like mere inertia and possibly even laziness.

    In light of the weird censorship and the critical hyperbole I’ve sometimes noticed in the local social media bubble, I started self-censoring and limiting myself to documenting various sorts of eye candy [of which there is plenty, in Cincinnati and elsewhere]. If you want to know what I think, I guess you could look at what I don’t blog about.

    More and more, I’ve been keeping my opinions and observations about OTR and Cincinnati in general to myself or sharing them offline with friends. So, this blog has become more of a repository for visual inspiration, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a slight tweak of focus and, moving forward, I want it to occupy a bit less of my free time so that I can enjoy it a bit more.

    I’m looking forward to checking out your blog again in the near future!

  3. I for one would love to hear your thoughts about OTR and Cincinnati that you’ve been self-censoring, but also understand personal bandwidth issues and not always having the energy to engage publicly on things that might rankle others.

    I think a lot of critiques of development in areas of Cincinnati get pushed to the side in the name of boosterism — I’ve been very uncomfortable with the idea that the redevelopment (‘success story’) of OTR is now a model/template for other areas of the city. Yikes.

    If you know of any good sources where people are engaging in smart critiques of some redevelopment plans, while also coming from a place of deep love for the city, I’d love to hear it. Because right now I’m only having these conversations privately as well. Maybe it’s a legacy of Cincinnati’s political conservativism?

  4. Eira, I think you’re absolutely right that boosterism plays a large role in all this, and it’s the logical counter to the prevalent city hate in this area, so I can’t fault local urbanites for getting defensive or massaging the narrative into something that only tolerates positivity. At the same time, critique is a form of civic engagement and, without that, I definitely feel less engaged.

    I sometimes have offline interactions with friends about these topics but, after finally figuring out that we’re ever-so-slowly being squeezed out of a neighborhood whose reinvention is for people other than us, I have fewer interactions about this place at all. There are plenty of things to talk about other than one’s neighborhood.

    In terms of a good source for public commentary on OTR and Cincinnati in general, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Urbanophile, who is a well-informed outsider, and maybe that’s why his efforts seem so effective, nuanced and civilized. Here are a few locally relevant posts:

    Cincinnati: A Midwest Conundrum
    Cincinnati vs. Cincinnati
    Cincinnati’s Culture of Self-Sabotage
    Building a More Dynamic Cincinnati

  5. Thanks! Urbanophile is already on my reading list but I’ll revisit those particular articles.

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