Zero surprise that I prefer the Todd Rundgren version.
In May, we are publishing our next book, The Cincinnati Anthology, with essays and art by Katie Laur, Curtis Sittenfeld, David Falk, Sam LeCure, Michael Wilson, John Curley, Scott Devendorf and others. This excerpt is the book’s introduction.
Nestled deep within one of the wings of the Cincinnati Museum Center in Union Terminal, just off of the glowing sunrise of the lobby’s deco dome, is a miniature model of Cincinnati, a moving diorama of the city through various points in its history. The first time I visited, I fell hopelessly in love with the scaled model, its moving parts, the winding pathways and plexiglass windows through which you could spy on the lives of the miniature city below: Crosley Field, the Zoo, Music Hall. I watched as the lights suspended over the city took it from day—with delivery trucks dashing through city streets past warehouses and shops with striped awnings—to night—with windows of the Italianate houses high on the hills glowing golden above the slow lumbering shift of the long-gone trolleys up the Mount Adams incline. I knew that I could stay on the other side of that plexiglass forever, imagining the stories behind each lit window, wondering how those streets may have changed since the model was built, how the people who lived there have changed, what parts of Cincinnati’s history were preserved by the model, what stories could be imagined in its future.
I’m incredibly proud of this book, if for no other reason than it has taught me how to be bold in asking people for help, that there’s no loss in the asking. At the same time I’ve come to realize that people generally love helping with fun ideas; almost everyone said yes, and those who said no did so reluctantly because they felt they didn’t have anything to offer. In fact, most said yes, and then suggested another great person to contact who would make the book even better.
The making of this book was a true collective experience, and that experience has allowed me to see this city in a different light, discover corners of opportunity I hadn’t yet come across while living here, and even get called “good people” by my favorite relief pitcher. I made this book as a gift to my new city, and although I’m a notoriously terrible gift-giver, I think I really got this one right.
Spot the Difference
Yesterday I took three separate pictures of three separate Johnny Cueto pitches through my binoculars. All three photos happened to be taken at the same moment in his follow-through, and all three pictures look nearly identical. I wish I’d written down the statistics for these three pitches: miles per hour, ball or strike, where they landed in the batter’s zone.
It’s not just Cueto: Frazier too crouches at third, waiting in a position he knows will let him spring up in anticipation of the catch or the play, does he cover third, does he reach for the line drive. Even the umpire: hand on thigh, head toward home plate.
One thing I find so interesting about baseball, the reason I go again and again, is the apparent consistency, the sameness that drives the sport, when nothing is exactly the same. In this moment, we have no idea if Frazier will head right or left. No matter how identical Cueto’s pitches appear, there are shifts in the wind that affect the ball’s path, a fraction of a second’s change in when his fingers release the ball that could result in a ball versus a strike. But this follow-through: the choreography that is performed over and over so many times that he knows it like the way you move one foot in front of another, like the way writers write with our fingers on the keyboard like pianists, knowing the strokes, but not always finding the same words.
The fans, too: there’s an apparent sameness until you look closer; the differences are more subtle and therefore more rewarding once you see them. Yesterday in a sea of red behind Moerlein, all of us sea creatures wore different combinations of fan gear, different interpretations and sometimes different shades of red. The girl in the black blazer and red spandex. The guy with the t-shirt that made him look like a bobblehead. Two girls chattering in Cincinnati satin starter jackets. The dude with the sleeveless red denim vest, patches, red high tops, and a kerchief out his back pocket. This guy. Some more subtle than others, but no two exactly the same. Later that night, we watched Cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson explained how, apart from twins, no two creatures on earth share the same DNA. So it is with people, and pitches, and writers.
Our subtle interpretations of life and love, the shifts in the wind and the words that make it worth going again and again and trying to spot the differences each time.