I'll be taking part in a mentoring program for school-age kids soon. I enjoy this type of volunteerism and happily bounded two blocks from my office for an orientation this week. The trainer ordered pizza for the mentors and I was delighted to see she had ordered from Dave's on Main Street. Their pizza is as close to New York City/Long Island that I've seen in Jamestown. A lot of folks turn their nose up to the stuff, but I prefer the thin to the thick. I think my late step-grandfather's biases against Sicilians might have had some merit...
Anyway, as I was transported back to Islip, New York in the seventies, I overheard the trainer talking about having lived in Cincinnati. My ears perked up. I had lived across the river in the Bluegrass State from 1979 to 1990 - my formative years. I asked her which part of Cincinnati she was from. "Claremont", she replied, "but I grew up in Northern Kentucky". A fellow country-woman.
When someone asks you where you're from and Kentucky is the place, one usually doesn't reply, "Kentucky". The state is split up into several very diverse regions. The Lake Cumberland area is someone resortish and has dry counties within. The Lexington and Louisville areas are known for their Universities and being different arms of the thoroughbred racing world. The Southwestern part of the state is home to Paducah, which is kind of a funky little place. And Eastern Kentucky, well, this is the birthplace of Loretta Lynn and some very bad jokes. "What's the definition of a virgin in Kentucky? A girl who can outrun her brother...
Northern Kentucky is distinct for several reasons:
- Like the Kansas Cities and St. Louises which bridge two states, Northern Kentucky is sometimes considered an extension of Cincinnati. And, contrary to some Hollywood movies filmed here, there is no part of the area referred to as South Cincinnati. You're either in downtown or drowning in the river.
- It is home to Cincinnati's airport ( Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport). Many travellers are confused by this.
- Covington has a high concentration of German-Catholics and also features a restaurant called "The Anchor" which has never been closed and makes Goetta.
- There are 8 Catholic High Schools in this region. 4 coed, 2 boys schools and 2 girls schools. The trainer went to Newport Central Catholic School and I went to a rival school, St. Henry.
- Good pizza was hard to find for several years around here. A chain called "LaRosa's" was and is still popular. Imagine a giant version of Lunchables pizza heated up and that is what you get.
- Cincinnati-style chili is also rampant in Northern Kentucky. Skyline is the most well-known and you may find it canned at your local grocery.
- Rural areas (a.k.a. B.F.E. and the Boonies) are mere minutes away from the urban areas, making for a nice pastiche of cultures.
- The annual Riverfest fireworks display is kicked off by a yelling contest between Ohio and Kentucky.