Hear ye hear ye, dear loyal Soapbox readers, the inaugural session of Soapbdish shall now come to order, wherein your most humble author and columnist shall opine from high upon Mt. Soapbox as to the current imost-very-important issues, inclinations and innuendo of the day in this fair metropolitan region (at least, from my highly subjective perspective). Those of you who read my Soapblog entries (all three of you…yes…thanks…you can sit down now), were no doubt left with the indelible impression that I wander around Cincinnati wearing (Pete) rose-colored glasses and drinking the slightly murky kool-aid from the base of the Genius of Water sculpture in Fountain Square. While I unabashedly admit that I am indeed a proponent of the City of Cincinnati and the region in general, that is not to say that I am either blind to the flaws and frustrations that emerge on a daily basis or incapable of some candid criticism of the burg’s imperfections and blemishes (hello red light cameras, I’m talking to you). After all, any city where a decent chunk of the citizenry takes their editorial letter-writing cues from Peter Bronson obviously needs to be called to the carpet from time to time. Accordingly, Soapbox has graciously agreed to devote this particular corner of the ‘box to a twice-monthly column known as Soapdish.
You will find this to be in the true spirit of the “soapbox,” a concept which finds its genesis in an area of Hyde Park, London known as “Speaker’s Corner,” where, since 1872, random orators have congregated en masse in order to deliver their spin on whatever preeminent issue of the day happens to be foremost in their thoughts, minds…and, naturally, mouths. In order to have one’s voice heard above the din, some enterprising (and possibly vertically challenged) firebrand climbed atop a soapbox and…well, eureka, or something to that effect. Just think of this Soapdish as the Speaker’s Corner of Soapbox, like the blog section but without the rotating cast of characters; positive, yet prodding; pointed and mildly opinionated, yet ultimately egalitarian in its raves and rants.
And on that note of introduction, let’s get the ball rolling.
As many have remarked, Cincinnati, at times, often seems to be plagued by an unhealthy dose of self-loathing and entrenched parochial cynicism. To paraphrase Spiro Agnew (as originally penned by William Safire), there has never been a shortage in the nattering nabobs of negativity department. Oftentimes the genesis of such negativism can be boiled down, at its very essence, to “I don’t understand it, but I’m agin it [sic]” Generally speaking, this column has no interest in adding any more logs to that particular fire. In fact, in a mirroring alliterative phrase, think of this space more as a “percolating purveyor of positivism,”….but with a chaser of unvarnished realism. In a 1997 Nation article, Alexander Cockburn, in a glowing tribute to the late, great San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, observed that Caen, in his columns, regularly gave the city “a sense of itself—a sense that might be bitchy, sentimental, facetious, irritated, discursive, knowing, indignant or outraged, depending on his mood, which might often be the city’s mood on that particular day.” While I would never possess the level of hubris sufficient to equate myself to Herb Caen (or Cockburn, for that matter), one can’t help but follow a similar roadmap here in the Soapdish, i.e., to give the city a sense of itself, be it knowing or discursive, sentimental or facetious (we’ll try and stay away from bitchy, irritating outrage…but then again, one never knows). Stay tuned to this space for more fun and games in the near future.