A little over six months ago, for reasons on some days I still think might have been a tad muddled, I loaded just about everything I own on to a moving truck and rearranged my life, relocating it from just outside Cleveland, where I grew up, to Portsmouth.
(Hard to believe it’s been half a year. Putting it that way makes it seem so much longer.)
Why should you care? I have absolutely no clue, except one of the muddled reasons for my coming here was to take a job at the Portsmouth Daily Times, the still somewhat new editor of which I conned into letting me write the occasional opinion column, as I did in the past for other papers, so here goes probably next to nothing.
My initial thought was to use this space to spout off a bit on the culture shock accompanying transplanting myself from The Mistake on the Lake to Podunk, er, Portsmouth. I wanted to give an outsider’s view of my new home, making some observations and some more than likely lame attempts at humor. (For example, labeling “Portsmouth” as “Podunk.” Har Har.)
Really, ever since starting here at the Times, there seemed to be a lot of fertile ground for what I had in mind. I could write an entire column just about how much worse my allergies are down here than in Cleveburg. No, seriously. I think I could. I’ve written many columns about topics bordering on minutia, though on reflection bad snot jokes seem a bit over some line or another.
In any case, I’ve changed my thinking. One, I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer to make snarky observations about this place without flat out insulting folks with whom I now live, work, and, in at least a few instances, even like and/or respect. More importantly, I’ve somewhat changed my tune about Podunk, er, Portsmouth.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a fool for the city, as the old song says. That’s probably not going to change anytime soon. However, this place may change sometime fairly soon. Especially recently, there have been signs of that change all over the place.
The recent Plant Portsmouth effort was kind of an amazing thing. I assumed it would be difficult if not flat-out impossible to gather enough people to break the world’s record organizers wanted to break. Of course, as you should know, the record was not only broken, the number of volunteers who materialized to clean up downtown Portsmouth was flat-out impressive. I’m pretty positive a similar effort up north would not have met with as much success. There are other happenings recently signaling an uptick in Portsmouth’s fate, for lack of a better word.
I went out of my way to cover the recent speech of visiting economist Ned Hill, now of The Ohio State University. I’ve dealt with Hill previously and it says right here he’s a smart guy. It also says here the biggest take away from Hill’s talk must be the fact Portsmouth has no future without homegrown entrepreneurs willing to put their money into its streets. As Hill said, no outside savior of any shape or form is on the way. Deal with it.
There is, thankfully, plenty of evidence of local entrepreneurs making happen precisely what Hill says needs to happen. The most obvious case in point is Tim Wolfe and his Eflow Development. Wolfe is the guiding hand behind a sort of renaissance around his Patties and Pints restaurant. He’s also one of the driving forces behind the Friends of Portsmouth, who seem to have plenty of plans up their collective sleeves. Plant Portsmouth organizer Jeremy Burnside is another obvious young leader stepping up to the plate. But there are numerous others.
Two separate groups of entrepreneurs – one of whom is likely still (rightfully) ticked off over kind of a major, blonde moment mistake in the initial story I did on their upcoming enterprise – will or have set up two separate so-called escape rooms in downtown Portsmouth. If you say you saw those enterprises coming, it says here you are full of it.
Don’t get me wrong. There undoubtedly are still problems here. Lots and lots of problems. But there are also many other very positive things I didn’t even touch on here. If you’ve read this far, I’m going to assume you’re not overly bored and meekly suggest you watch for future columns. For now, I am out of space. But let me opine even setting aside one clear, unmuddled reason for my moving here was to be with the woman I intend to marry, Podunk, er, Portsmouth, has proven it’s not all that sad a place to live and seems very likely to be even less sad a place down the line.