Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cincinnati Needs the Anna Louise Inn to Stay Exactly Where It Is

I don't know why I thought the fight was over. I thought the issue had been resolved and that the Anna Louise Inn had already won the right to stay. That a judge had stopped Western Southern Life from taking them over and tearing them down.

But of course I was wrong. When rich people or powerful corporations want what they want, they never ask for anything they don't have the power to take.

Western Southern Life simply decided that the Anna Louise Inn "is not in the best interest of the city." I just don't understand why a lawsuit like this has merit. Why is that rich, white conservatives always get to decide what's "best" for everyone else? It's the most maddening, angering, completely pisses me off phenomena I've never come to understand in all my years of living. Can Western Southern Life really explain why the Anna Louise is less necessary than the Taft Museum or Residence Inn or their garish spinning sign that I have never liked. Why can't we get rid of that nuisance?

When I was 20, I lived at the Anna Louise Inn. I worked as a bread girl at the revolving restaurant across the bridge in Covington. My job was to warm bread, put it in a basket and take it from table to table, offering bread and butter to the people who dined there.

A bread girl doesn't make much. Even with my dad paying half my rent, it was the only place I could afford to live. and so I lived at the Anna Louise Inn.

At this point in my life, I was a college drop out. None of the young men I had dated up to that point were anywhere near husband material and even if they were, I didn't want to get married. I had no purpose, no direction and, to what must have been my parent's great frustration, no plan for what I was going to do with my life.

For lack of anything else better to do, I decided to go into the Army. Until my leave date, I worked as a bread girl and lived at the Anna Louise Inn.

It was exactly where I needed to be. I had my own room, I made a few friends, I was able to eat and live. My parents knew where I was and were grateful that I was doing something constructive, even if it was nowhere near what they had planned for me. But they had no idea what to do with me and this was safe and affordable.

Until I lived at the Anna Louise, I'd never been to Sawyer Point, Serpentine Wall or Lytle Park before. On sunny weekends and my days off, I explored and walked them often. At first I ventured out tentatively, feeling my way, enjoying the feeling of "getting lost" and finding my way back, even though Anna Louise was never completely out of view from those vantage points, that old fashioned roof was a distincive beacon back.

But it was a new thing for me to just walk and be alone. No parents, no boyfriend, no college roommates. Just me.

Walking, thinking, growing.

I'd pass the statue of Abraham Lincoln, always a welcome site after a night of being on my feet, and a long walk back across the bridge and across Downtown up Fourth Street, when I couldn't get a ride and the buses had long stopped running.

Still, even in the chill fall days, the late night walk was not unpleasant. Mr. Lincoln would offer a silent and solemn welcome home. And I'd wonder if someone like me was who he thought of when he signed that piece of paper. If he'd known that I'd have the freedom to just be. Whatever I'd become. I wondered if he'd even cared. He looked tired. Like his feet hurt sometimes. Just like me. Maybe he'd have signed anything just to end the damned war. I would have.

I'd never thought about such things before.

I'd walk the steps of Serpentine Wall. Watch the barges on the River. Just walk. And then have a place to return to at a time when I was too old and too rebellious to live at home. The Anna Louise Inn gave me a home and kept from being a homeless runaway. With the help of my parents, I was able to be a working citizen.

But these things are not in the best interest of the city. Frightened, cofused, naive or simply young and poor women deserve whatever they get in this large world. Western Southern Life - ironic that they have the word "Life" in their name when what they really deal in is death, which really explains a lot - has no notion of what the Anna Louse Inn means to those who need it.

People like me.

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