Sunday, April 13, 2003

Visitor evaluation


This town looks like nice place

map

This little story has no statistical significance. I have not polled all the recent visitors to Cincinnati to see if their impression squares with the one Ray Boylan took back to California. He was not paid a gazillion dollars to evaluate our city. He simply came here for a visit, and we made him feel welcome.

Plus, he likes our looks.

He thinks our city is a very nice place.

Our city. The one that has been relentlessly trashed by a senseless and pernicious boycott. The city that has two professional sports industries with handsome new factories and curiously flawed products. The city famous for taking Jerry Springer seriously and making fun of Mapplethorpe. The city that no longer has a department store on every corner. The city struggling to improve its public schools, its police and its image.

A communal frown

Those of us who love this place, who want Cincinnati to be the best city on the Planet Earth, tend to wallow in our failures. We know we can do better. We remember when we were better. We have developed a perpetual communal frown.

This puzzles Ray Boylan. An executive with Mattel, he lived his first 40 years in New York City. From there, he went to Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore and now Los Angeles.

"I also have visited many cities throughout the United States," he says. "Cincinnati is the nicest, cleanest and most hospitable place I have ever been."

It started, he says, on the trip from the airport. "Do you know how gorgeous your city looks when you come through that hill and it's all lit up?"

I used to know. But I've stopped looking, I guess. "Your town reminded me of a movie set," he says. "It looks like somebody just cleaned it up."

Ray stayed at the Hyatt Hotel, downtown, during his business convention. "The people there were so helpful. And not in a hotel kind of way. They didn't just print out directions to get me somewhere. I felt like they'd take me there if I asked."

Intrigued by Flying Pig Marathon signs, he went to the downtown Cincy Shop, where "I got a tutorial from a real nice guy who works there." At Fountain Square, "People would say hello, and I didn't have the inclination to put my hand on my wallet. If I saw something I wanted to do - go to dinner or to a ball game, I could. Easily. It was like a user-friendly New York."

I walked around downtown, trying to see the city Ray Boylan saw. A city with an architecturally significant new Contemporary Arts Center within walking distance of an architecturally significant old Music Hall. An exceptional Catholic Church across from an exceptional Jewish synagogue. A city that routinely lives beyond its means culturally - with the difference made up by private citizens and corporations. A city that is reliably charitable. A city full of people who talk to strangers, who educate and care for children who do not technically belong to them.

Surely it would not hurt to wallow in these things occasionally. And to wear a communal smile on the not-really-rare occasions when we are just as good as we look.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.




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