Oh Cincinnati, you lovable weirdo

Things have been going so well lately that I haven’t had any reason to complain, which means I have nothing to write about, which is why writers so often crave drama and are impossible to love. I can change, though, right? Today, at least, I can set aside the cynicism and write something that’s celebratory, though this compliment comes with a stiff backhand.

Today, I’m going to write about how strange Cincinnati is.

Stay with me. This is a good thing.

I realized the city had an oddball side not long after I moved here, but I’ve gotten so used to it that I barely notice anymore. Except, that is, when Christmas rolls around. When Christmas rolls around in Cincinnati, we get No. 5 on the list of Why Cincinnati is a Weirdo:

5) Rappelling Santa Claus.

Where else is the arrival of Christmas anticipated by Santa leaping off a downtown building and landing atop another building just before it explodes with fireworks? Sure, St. Nick has tried to rappel in Stamford, Conn., and strange countries like Florida, but this is the kind of thing that happens there. Amateurs.

Let’s not stop with Santa. Let’s continue to list a few reasons Cincinnati is just plain odd. Click through to read a few of mine, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

4) Sort-of-meat festivals.

I understand there is an explanation for what goetta actually is, but I’m not buying it. This alien food product tastes like wet dog at worst and weak sausage at best. Still, I love the fact that we have not one but two festivals to celebrate Cincy’s mystery meat — and that one is so annoyed by the other that it calls itself the “Original” Goettafest. If only we could steer that feud toward a goetta-filled kiddie pool and have the sausage-makers duke it out, we could take this tube meat to a new level.

3) Freaking lizards.

Image by Jeff Davis via Ohio DNR

Look to any outdoor stone structure with sun shining on it, and you’ll probably see one of Cincinnati’s famed wall lizards catching some rays. If you think it is odd to see so many lizards in this Midwestern city, you are right. Here’s what the Ohio DNR says:

This exotic species was introduced into Cincinnati in 1951 and has become well established. Sometimes referred to locally as “Lazarus lizards,” the common wall lizards were brought to eastern Cincinnati from northern Italy by a local resident after a vacation near Milan and were released in a backyard. The lizards can now be found in several areas in Hamilton County and have established themselves in neighboring Kentucky and Indiana, with population densities of 1,500 per acre in good habitat.

It should be noted that releasing such beasts into the wild here is very much illegal, but it seems more people find their presence charming rather than troubling.

2) A monstrosity called Jungle Jim’s

I guess this is a grocery store, but it looks more like what the Playboy Mansion would be if Chuck E. Cheese discovered porn before Hugh Hefner did. It has a great beer selection, though, and a whole wall of hot sauce with vulgar names, not to mention fake port-o-potty bathrooms that have made it into some bizarro Hall of Fame.

1.5) A food mascot that purports to be chili.

This is a chili cheese coney, and if you show it to a Cincinnatian, they will pull a gun on you, rip the coney from your hand and inhale it without breathing. Yes, that thing over there, which looks more like an after picture of food than a before.

Also, they’ll chase this dog with a pile of spaghetti, meat and two pounds of cheese that they call a 3-way and get really defensive if you question why meat that tastes like a churro is allowed to be called chili. Guys, I know you love it. But Skyline (or Gold Star, or Price Hill Chili) is just weird.

And finally…

1) This:

It’s a wiener dog race in the center of the city. Yeah, that’s Homer Simpson back there. He led the World’s Largest Chicken Dance during Oktoberfest that weekend. The guy with the airhorn is Norm from “Cheers.”

On this day, my head exploded.

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10 thoughts on “Oh Cincinnati, you lovable weirdo

  1. I’ve been here for 7 years now and still refuse to admit that Goetta and chilli are real food.
    And I’ve never eaten at a White Castle! WFT, that has to change.

  2. Ok, seriously Kurtzman, Was i just a special needs project to you?? Were you trying to be nice and get some karma points?
    What gives?
    Kurtzman, we used to go see rappelling Santa and the Wiener Dog races together. And we had fun.

    Or at least i did.
    Miss you. Love you. Say you are sorry.

  3. Turns out the Detroit area has a lot of weird chili peddlers who have an identical story around Greek immigrants.

    As far as I can tell though, the mounds and mounds of orange cheese are still uniquely ours 🙂

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