WHEN people find out that I’m from the United States, they usually follow up by asking exactly where in the country. When I tell them that I am from the city of Cincinnati, they usually say “Oh … ” Not as in “Oh wow!” but more of “Oh … I don’t know where that is, and it doesn’t sound very exciting.”
Cincinnati is located in the state of Ohio, about four to five hours drive to the southeast from Chicago and about 10 hours drive to the east of New York City. Every four years though, my home state of Ohio makes international headlines as it has been one of the deciding swing states in electing the President of the Unites States.
The city of Cincinnati is situated on the Ohio River and was founded in 1788. Today, the metropolitan area has just over 2.2 million residents. The city experienced its boom in the early 1800s as everything was shipped up and down the river before railroads and highways were developed. It was during that time that Cincinnati developed the nickname “The Queen City,” which was something I thought was quite a coincidence when I moved to Cebu City, the “Queen City of the South.”
Cincinnati is also located in the very southwestern tip of Ohio. Just on the other side of the Ohio River a couple of hundred meters away sits the state of Kentucky and just a few miles down the river is the state of Indiana.
One weird fact, the Cincinnati, Ohio international airport isn’t even located in the state of Ohio. It’s actually across the river in Kentucky, about 15 minutes outside the downtown area. When we first arrive at the airport and travel to my parents’ house in Ohio, we have to go through three states just to get there even though the drive is only 30 to 45 minutes.
I grew up in the suburb of Fairfield on the city’s north side. It was a great place to grow up: great schools, safe and quiet neighborhoods, and access to sports, arts and museums. I have to admit, Cincinnati is not quite as exciting as Los Angeles or New York, but I wouldn’t trade my hometown.
When Anna and I moved to Cebu we promised ourselves we would visit Ohio at least once a year and so far we have kept our promise. It has been fun showing Anna all of the places that were important to me during my childhood, from my first school to venues of past sporting events and concerts. But every time we visit, there is one thing Anna refuses to try and that is driving.
I admit it sounds crazy since she first learned to drive in the chaotic streets of Manila, but there is one factor in the US that prevents her from trying and that is speed. The minimum speed on the highways is usually 90kph, and most cars travel around 120kph. While the laws are strict and closely enforced, the rate of speed does make it dangerous for those not used to it.
The reason my family moved to Cincinnati from Illinois was that my father was hired as an engineer by General Electric, whose aircraft division’s headquarters are located there. He worked on everything from military projects and the B-2 bomber to commercial aviation and the A330. While he never forced us to follow in his footsteps as an engineer, he did share with us his passion for airplanes. One of the places he would bring us is the US Air Force Museum located at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, located only an hour drive away.
During Anna’s first visit to Cincinnati I brought her to the museum and she was able to see everything from items from the Wright brothers workshop (also located nearby in Dayton, Ohio) to over 360 aircraft and missiles. Included in the collection are US Presidential aircraft to a B-2 bomber to the Bockscar, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagaski in World War II. While I can’t say Anna matches my dad’s enthusiasm for airplanes, I think it did give her an insight into what he has done for a career.
Because our visits to Ohio usually happen during the US summertime, I get to share one of my passions with her and that is baseball. Before I ever got
into music, baseball was my main passion. Cincinnati had the very first professional baseball team in 1869, the Red Stockings, and even last year hosted the annual MLB All-Star game. While Anna had fun watching and learning about the game, I think she equally enjoyed the baseball food that was served in our section. Baseball has always been a family event in my family and I appreciated the chance to share that experience.
Food is also a defining factor of a city. Just as Anna introduced me to adobo, pancit, and halo-halo, I got to show her some regional foods from Cincinnati. One is Skyline Chili, a Greek-style chili that is usually either served over a hot dog on a bun or topped with cheese, or what is called a three-way, which consists of spaghetti noodles topped with the chili and cheese. The chili has a unique flavor with slight amounts of cinnamon and chocolate in the recipe.
Another one of Anna’s favorites is Graeter’s ice cream. A long time local favorite was put in the national spotlight several years ago when Oprah named it one of her favorite ice creams in the country. Ever since then they have been shipping it (yes, shipped in a container filled with dry ice) all over.
The third local food was Montgomery Inn barbecue. This restaurant has served US Presidents and professional athletes in town. The sauce is a favorite of ours and we always take some back with us to Cebu.
More important than food or any baseball game or airplane museum is the opportunity to relax and to spend time with family. During most visits we looking forward to relaxing and living at a slower pace. My parents’ house sits back in the woods and it is common to look out the back window to see deer or squirrels coming out around the trees. We don’t set an alarm in the morning and wake up on our own, make our coffee, and relax looking out at nature. It’s a far cry from the congested city streets.
Due to different circumstances of opening our music school, Brown Academy of Music, and a few growing opportunities here in Cebu, our annual visit to Cincinnati will be postponed until next year. My parents will be visiting in July for the first time since our wedding in 2012; this time my sister, Heidi, won’t be able to make it as she is expecting her first child in November this year. Hopefully next year we will return to our regular schedule of Ohio visits. One of the best things of a hometown is no matter how long you might stay away, you immediately feel right and home once you are back.
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