Save me from your well-intended followers. I believe they do not mean harm and actually have in mind just the opposite, but the giving away food stuff on the sidewalks around Washington Park has got to stop. Ditto that for the obnoxious make-my-ears-bleed religious music and drawn-out conversion sermons that pierce the walls of my apartment on many given weekend days, as long as you keep the weather warm enough.
You (and maybe those I’m talking about, too) would not want someone setting up 3-foot high speakers to blare music all day, so loud you cannot even think, into your home. Same goes for cluttering the public’s sidewalk with tables of food and volunteers to serve it and a couple hundred people waiting in line. They always leave a mess – just like they did today – of over-flowing garbage cans, food dropped on the sidewalk that is never fully cleaned up. Today even a full garbage bag was left sitting in the grass. That’s even though they promised otherwise.
Maybe you could force the hand of a collective City Council to pass a city ordinance banning such activity. But, no wait. Stop. That would infringe on their First Amendment rights. Lord, you know how much I love the First Amendment. Please don’t do that. Let’s think of something else all together.
Thanks for listening. You’re so good at that.
Some would say I am getting exactly what I opted for when I moved to Race Street along Washington Park from Oakley more than three years ago. I would say phooey. Taking responsibility for your own behavior and building community can happen anywhere – even in Over-the-Rhine. Hey, this is the center of our region. It’s the best place to start, I think.
The good people from Vineyard Community Church in Springdale – who sponsored Saturday’s feast of pulled meat sandwiches with Montgomery Inn Barbecue sauce, cookies and muffins, red-ripe apples and lemonade – thought I was out of line for even bringing up the concern.
I approached Tom, according to his name tag, who is apparently a biker (based on his black leather vest), to tell him my thoughts. I was not happy, but I think I was courteous in making my points. We just don’t need this type of help, I told him. I told him why, too. He listened to me then walked away with out saying a peep.
Then another woman – who walked away before I could get her name after she gave me a tongue-lashing – told me I was doing “biased journalism” (I do live here, after all) and asked me what I did to contribute to the community. She also told me to take a photo of her picking up trash – which I never saw her do. To answer her question, I told her I live here, for starters.
“Well, I’m sorry,” she said. “That was your choice.”
Wow. Man, I was kind of stupefied. Sorry? My choice? Well, yeah, but what’s that supposed to mean? You’re the one with the army of people from the suburbs ready to dirty up my neighborhood with pork scraps, spilled barbecue sauce, plastic forks and overfilled garbage cans. As for what I do for the community, at that moment I was wearing a WAIF-FM hat and a Flying Pig Marathon volunteer t-shirt. You might not want to get into a what-do-you-do-for-your-community square-off with me. Just sayin’.
But I digress, and I think she was missing the point. It’s not so much about the garbage or the feeding people or your religious views. I cannot think of anything more noble than what the Vineyard volunteers were doing, it was just a little misguided (same for the music folks, too). I doubt any of those folks here today would be too happy with me if I did the same thing across the street from their home.
Here’s an idea: Instead, as I started to suggest the walk-away woman, pair up with the Drop Inn Center – just a half-block away from where Vineyard set up today.
Not a good idea, apparently. The unidentified woman told me there was no room at the Drop Inn Center. I think she actually lied to me. This might be a little unfair, but I phoned the Center’s executive director, Pat Clifford, right after she and I spoke. I have never volunteered there (I should), but Clifford said that was not the case. There was room. Plus, the Cincinnati Fire Department had just made a run there minutes before during the lunch hour. A paramedic told me the place was nearly empty.
Lots of room at the Inn – almost no one ate there today. They were serving hot dogs and potato chips for lunch, I was told. Turns out the typical diners at the Drop Inn were out in the park eating pulled meat sandwiches. Clifford said no outside groups sponsored Saturday’s lunch at the Drop Inn Center. But setting up sponsorship, i.e. volunteering, is easy. Contact the volunteer coordinator for future events. It would have been better to serve your food inside at the Drop Inn Center. They could even help you clean up.
Rules at the Drop Inn Center dictate that religious material cannot be handed out by volunteers, but Vineyard was not even doing that on the public sidewalk across from my home.
A short time after you left I also ran into Steve – my friend from ASG who always reminds me that I am the one who taught him what a blog is every time I see him – who said his church (there are about a half-dozen in the blocks that surround Washington Park, including two right along the park on Race Street near where lunch was being served by Vineyard) serves brunches for free every Sunday. Maybe you could use their church as a base instead of the sidewalk.
Park Board regulations now say giving away food in the park is not permitted. So, the many groups that come down here doing this sort of thing skirt the spirit of the rule and rely on the letter of it, opting to set up shop on the sidewalks around the park instead.
When I arrived home around 11:30 a.m. to the sight of the Vineyard volunteers, I could not find a satisfactory place to park. One of church’s vans was taking up part of two spaces, one of which was the only place quasi-available. I squeezed in anyway. A typical Saturday means loads of available parking spaces. Not today – and not against the law, either, but frustrating nonetheless. Plus, the sidewalk was crowded with people, so much so that it made it hard to walk by.
It’s not that I have a problem, per se, with anyone, religious or otherwise, coming down and feeding people. But there are already people doing this in the neighborhood on a regular schedule. Why not pair up with people who know the neighborhood and what is going on? Come down and learn a bit about what’s going on and most importantly be courteous to the people who live here everyday.
By the way, I went down and had a Vineyard lunch. The food was pretty good, actually. But when I got to the Montgomery Inn Sauce person, he was out. So, I ran up to my apartment and brought down two bottles I just happened to have in my pantry. The volunteers were very grateful (as were, I suspect, some of the hungry takers). I’m glad I could help out. After all, they were already here, had some hungry people waiting. Can’t make them leave, even if I wanted them to. Just hope next time they – whether it be handing out food or playing loud music – will be more courteous and think more about those who call this place home before they do their good work.