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Cincinnati by twilight

2005.04.07 — Culture | Postcards | Travel | by Derek Jensen

Fountain Square

Fountain Square, from Macy's window.
(hi res)

At last the first warm, sunny day of spring arrived this week, and I took the opportunity to walk around Cincinnati.


I caught the golden hour, when the sun is in the process of setting, casting a red-gold light all across the landscape and filling the streets with... thousands of opening day baseball fans.


Ah, but the next night.... That was magical.


Fountain Square

Fountain Square, up close. (hi res)

I walked by Fountain Square first, where the fountain was finally turned back on after winter. It's a great looking fountain but kind of hemmed in by the buildings. There aren't many good vantage points to look at it from a distance.


But I found the perfect one. It's a corner window in Macy's, above Tiffany's, on 5th Street and Vine, where the security guards are very apologetic about chasing you away.


I'm not really sure why Macy's would be concerned about having cameras in their department stores. Are there really any good trade secrets they're protecting? Do they have a secret new methods of folding T-shirts or something?


Cincinnati at dusk

Dusk traffic on Vine Street, from the skywalk. (hi res)

Here's the only real department store trade secret: put crap in the walkways so that people have to walk around it. That ensures that they'll look at it and maybe buy it. Also, the fact that they have come into your freaking department store in the first place is a good sign that they'll buy something.


I sometimes imagine a fire in a department store that results in a dozen of deaths, the smoking corpses piled up around a huge clearance bin blocking the exit, each blackened husk clutching a 50%-off pack of cotton sheets.


Cincinnati ballpark

The Great American Ballpark at dusk.
(hi res)

I don't imagine it often. Just sometimes.


Macy's is a good store, tho. I bought some shoes there recently. They're penny loafers, which I've enhanced by putting New York City subway tokens (the kind with the hole in the middle) in them where the pennies should go. No one puts pennies in penny loafers anymore. That's totally squaresville.


I got a nice pic down Vine Street, looking toward the river, from the skywalk. Cincinnati has a great skywalk system that is guaranteed to get you lost. It mostly goes from hotel to shopping mall to hotel, so visitors to the city are doomed to wander aimlessly, eventually buying armloads of Reds and Bengals merchandise, then giving up on the skywalk, exiting to the street, and taking a cab to wherever they wanted to go. This theory is supported by the large number of cabs available downtown in spite of the skywalk.

Cincinnati Reds merchandise store

Reds merchandise store at dusk. (hi res)


There are a lot more cabs in Cincinnati then there ever were in Newark. Cincinnati is nicer than Newark in general, with plenty of places to eat (Cincinnatins apparently prefer sub sandwiches to all other kinds of food, while Newarkians prefer pizza by the slice), and a fair number of homeless people. Newark isn't even nice enough to have homeless people. They all migrate to Manhattan.


I sometimes wonder why all homeless people don't gradually migrate toward warm southern climes, say Charleston, South Carolina. I've never been there myself, but as I understand it, nothin' could be finer.


Cincinnati Scripps Building

Scripps Building at sunset. (hi res)

The Scripps Building is near the ballpark, but still downtown, so there's a great, unobstructed view of it from the ballpark parking lot. I don't know what goes on in the Scripps Building, but my guess is that it has something to do with orchestrating financial takeovers of people who don't work in kick-ass cool-looking buildings.


I went down to the river next, just because I have kept telling myself that I wanted to get better pics of the Cincinnati skyline than I had before. This meant I would have to walk across the river eventually, and it's a long walk over there and, somehow, a longer walk back. And the other side is not a particularly nice neighborhood (Kentucky).


Cincinnati suspension bridge by twilight

Roebling Suspension Bridge by twilight.
(hi res)

I took some more pics of the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It's a beautiful piece of engineering. Cincinnatians do not know the name of it. They just call it "the suspension bridge" (as opposed to the various truss bridges on either side of it).


They do know that it was designed by the guy who later designed the Brooklyn Bridge, "or something like that" and was built around the time of the Civil War, "I think."


When I approached the bridge, it was still light, and a guy was setting up a professional-looking camera on a professional-looking tripod in the same spot where I had taken pictures a few weeks ago. The poor guy stood there for at least forty minutes waiting for the sun to set and the lights on the bridge to come on. I thought I might stop and talk to him for a minute, but I don't like people much (as demonstrated by the photos I take). Plus, he had nicer gear than I did.


Cincinnati skyline by twilight

Cincinnati by twilight. (hi res)

I imagine the conversation would have gone like this:


Me: How's it goin'? Nice night for pictures, eh?

Him: Yeah.

Me: That's a nice setup. What have you got there?

Him: A Zeimheimel-Schlottermeyer 35mm SLR with a 28mm lens and polarizing filter. How about you?

Me: Snapshot digital. Five megapixel. You know....

Him: Yeah.... Those are convenient.

Cincinnati by twilight, with Corvette

Cincinnati by twilight, with Corvette.
(hi res | full res)

Me: I travel all the time. It's nice to be able to have it wherever I go.

Him: Yeah.

Me: I mean, what's the use of having a camera if you never actually get it out and take pictures?

Him: Sure.

Me: Well.... I think I'm going to cross the bridge before it gets dark. There ought to be some nice skyline pics from over there.

Him: Good luck.


Cincinnati by twilight, with Corvette

Cincinnati by twilight, with Corvette.
(hi res | full res)

The stranger's imaginary luck was with me, too, because not only did the area across the river have a great view, but on the way back I stumbled upon a sweet little red 1957 Corvette in the parking lot of the restaurant at the riverside.


I took about 20 pictures at various angles, with and without flash, trying to frame the car against the city and the bridge in just the right ways. I got a few really good ones and a bunch of monkey poop.


Hey, that's the nature of photography. Sometimes I wonder if Da Vinci had a dozen other versions of the Mona Lisa tucked away in his attic, never to be seen by the public because they weren't quite right.


Great American Ballpark

The Great American Ballpark, by night.
(hi res)

On the walk back, I got some pics of the baseball stadium from the bridge. This was surprisingly tricky, since I'd forgotten my remote control. The only reliable way to get a sharp night shot is to use a tripod and remote or the timer, so I was stuck trying to time my exposures in between traffic. Any traffic passing by, especially city busses, makes the whole bridge shake and weave like a nervous drunk.


By the time I got back to the Ohio side, the phantom photographer was gone. Apparently he got his one shot that night. I would have liked to have shown him the pics I got and told him where to find the 'Vette.


If you think my pics of it are good, imagine what he could have gotten with his Zeimheimel-Schlottermeyer 35mm SLR with a 28mm lens and polarizing filter.


More postcards from Cincinnati....


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