Stranger in Paradise

When I moved to Cincinnati from Chicago in 1973,1 found I could gauge the personality of my new city by listing the things I missed about the home I'd left. I missed the bulging Chicago newspapers. I missed being in a place where cynicism competes with humor as the prevailing public attitude and humor often wins. I missed the Cubs. I missed the presence of an irrepressibly vocal populace. (Spend ten minutes with a Chicago South Sider and you'll learn everything from his views on the state of the world to his mother's maiden name, and he'll throw in a recommendation on where to get a brake job on your car.) I missed politics as a contact sport and Mike Royko's big mouth. I missed Democrats.

I went along like that for about a year and a half, keeping my little list and indulging my grief, until it finally occurred to me that there's more than one version of paradise. I realized that political boredom can grow on you, especially when it's accompanied by civic order. I realized that one of the reasons my morning paper seemed skimpy was that it didn't contain endless stories of horrific crimes from the day before. I discovered that it's acceptable, even enjoyable, to root for a baseball team that can actually win, and rather soothing to reside in a town where the day's biggest news might be "Reds Sweep Road Trip." I found it could be relaxing not to always hear everybody's...

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