Just like the awesome song from 1999 it is my closing time. I am not quite graduated yet, however I am drawing the curtains on an important part of my life. Effective the end of this week I will no longer be a full-time student. After all the summer school and countless quarters of 18 hours I will finally be able to get my 7-8 hours of sleep per night and be able to work a full-time job. I only have 3 classes remaining until I am set free from a world of student loans and ramen noodles. The last three and a half years have seemed to be building with anticipation to this time when everything I have worked for pays off. Even in the economic downswing I was fortunate enough to find a job for June, not in my field of study but related, and enough to hold me over until the recession subsides.

As some may know already, before “Last Call” I was not familiar with blogging at all, to be honest, I had never looked at, read, or thought about writing a blog of my own. All I had been taught since high school journalism is traditional news, print, people like to hold the physical evidence of the news in their hands as they read it, however, times have apparently changed as web sites now gets more viewers than individuals tuning in for the nightly news programs. This technology came about at an astounding rate and luckily my education was tailored to fit this dramatic change in news protocol within the tight deadline of a year or two.

I still have a ways to go before I am completely comfortable with this new, edgy, opinionated style of news. In the end, it was a positive experience to me as I am fascinated by how times are changing and society is fully reliant on technology.

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While UC is a bustling hub for a large student population it is obviously a highly demanded location for marketing opportunities to get the attention of a very specific demographic of individuals. It has been common for people such as vendors and groups trying to promote a cause to get permission from the university to come onto campus and set up displays or put on performances of sorts to try to entice students into trying their product or joining their group.

These functions can range anywhere from early voting/registration booths to make sure everyone is prepared for the upcoming presidential election to pro-life protesters with graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. This type of marketing is typically done in an obnoxious manner to get the attention of the typical college kid, breaking through the music streaming from their iPod to their brain or over the chatter on a cell phone. Sometimes the booths are set up with music or announcers giving away prizes to those who inquire about their product. Others however, such as religious affiliates or those supporting a cause have gone through more dramatic measures to get the attention of the seemingly rebellious college student. Back in 2007, there was a speaker from a religious affiliation who instead of sharing his views peacefully gave a demonstration in front of TUC demanding that any act of impurity meant a one-way-ticket to hell.
“This one time someone came and said I was going to hell if I have ever cussed, watched porn, engaged in physical activities with a female, or if I happened to be gay. It was kind of annoying,” said Bobby, a junior at UC.

Also, back in November of 2008, a representative from a food bank was loudly scolding students for how inconsiderate they were for not donating canned good for the needy during the holiday season. However, nobody can forget the Pure Romance gals, driving up in a hot pink and black hummer and a booth full of “adult toys” every time I pass this booth I am shocked at the number of shameless girls getting their erotic fix. “I always am curious to stop by and see what they have but it is in the center of campus, I can’t imagine how embarrassing it would be to bump into someone while you are inspecting some purple glittery “toys” if you will,” said a sophomore who asked to remain anonymous for the obvious reasons.

Meridith, a freshman explained how even thought it was her first year as a UC student, she believed that the booths were obnoxious and not beneficial for a majority of the student body. “I remember during the election I was asked every day on my way to class if I was registered to vote in Hamilton County for about a week. I would say not in Hamilton because my residence in Cincinnati is temporary and they would then start prying to see where I was registered asking me where I was from. It was very invasive and honestly I didn’t even end up voting because I was so disgusted with the whole process.”

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While it is nothing new to hear that everyone is trying tighten up on their spending lately due to the economic downfall. However, most students are already in financial trouble due to loans and a jam-packed schedule that makes it hard for most to maintain a full-time job. I took quite an interest in if students were more apt to start going to bars within walking distance instead of spending extra money on a cab ride or possibly just not going out to bars in general.

While most of the bars near campus are 18+ due to the high traffic level of students. In areas such as downtown and Mt. Adams there is a strict rule of 21+ to prevent underage drinking. However, even bars such as Lodge Bar downtown has a college night every Wednesday that allows students between the age of 18-20 to pay a $5 cover charge to get into the bar even though they are not allowed to drink.

I used two groups to get information on how the economy is effecting attendance at bars. As far as the bars around Clifton, I got 6 responses from students under the age of 21 years old. 5 of the 6 students said that they usually attend house parties with their friends since they don’t want to waste money to get into a bar that they would be heavily monitored and unable to drink if they wanted to. One simply didn’t drink or go to parties for that matter.

As far as 21+ students went, 4 students all said they have been going to local “walking distance” bars more recently because the bars downtown not only require a taxi or designated driver to get to, a lot of them are cracking down on cover charges since they are in need of money as well. While visiting The Pavilion in Mt. Adams, I was a little suprised to overhear a group of guys express their views at the front door when they were told that even though they had reserved a VIP table for $180.00 they still needed to pay the $5 cover charge at the door.

I visited some bars to see if what people were telling me seemed accurate and I found that the bars I visited such as Uncle Woody’s and MAC’S were equally as annoying to try to navigate around or get to a bartender to order a drink as I remembered they used to be. However, downtown was a slightly different story. When I walked into Lodge Bar I noticed one of my friends, Phil, who used to work there back in 2007 sitting down enjoying a beer while his roomate, Jeffrey, stood behind the counter. “It’s crazy how dead this place is, I mean back when I worked here you could not even walk…now you could easily pitch a tent in here there is so much empty space,” said Phil.

Behind the bar, Jeffrey dries off some glasses,”I used to come here to drink and I figured that it would be good money with how busy we were, I had a second job when I started and I’m glad I kept it since I am not making close to enough here.”

Whether it means staying in to drink at home, walking to a local bar and then stumbling home, or still paying the cab fare or risking a DUI to drive downtown and back, the most interesting thing I saw in this trend is that while students may be drinking smarter and a little cheaper, they are still spending the little money they have to keep that alcohol flowing

Alcohol

It’s a Thursday night around 1 a.m. The soundtrack on the pavement outside includes the clicking of high heels and the giggling of girls. Inside the house, the music booms and while dozens attempt to dance along in their inebriated state.   

            A girl named Kat stumbles out from the crowd, an empty red cup in her hand as she makes her way to the keg for another round. “Empty already!?” her friend gasps. “Not like I have school tomorrow,” Kat laughs as she takes a gulp from the frothy cup. The small burp that follows tops off the classy performance she has displayed the whole evening.

            At one point Kat was a student as the University of Cincinnati. She made it through her freshman year, being a sophomore, however, yielded not quite as successful. “I had a job that paid enough but it required me to work on the weekends, I was worn out from school and I just started sacrificing going to class so I would be able to go out with friends during the week.” Kat is among the countless college students who take part in binge drinking, and she is neither the first nor the last to allow it to take a negative effect on education.

            She walks into the next room, wrapping her arms around her boyfriend Ken who is still struggling to get down the remains of the Natural Light he just bonged.  Ken is a current student in his freshman year, and he already off to a shaky start. Ken has been on Academic Probation since the start of winter quarter. “I failed 3 of my 5 classes last quarter and currently a C- is my highest grade,” Ken slurs. “ I guess the pressure of going out has caught up with me, I just can’t find the motivation to get up for class at 9 a.m. after 5 hours of sleep and a hangover from the night before.”

            While binge drinking is not a new trend and numerous studies and tests have been done to spread awareness about the dangers it presents to students, binge drinking is still as ritualistic to students as trick-or-treating is to little kids on Halloween.

            One study performed at the University of Cincinnati back in 2002 by Lawrence Anthony, the director of the Addictions Studies Program found evidence that excessive drinking was most prevalent in younger aged students. “The youngest students were showing the highest probability of engaging in binge drinking. Part of that might be due to being away from home for the first time and experiencing their own autonomy.”

Back at the party, the second story of the house is vacant except for John, a junior business student who is trying his hardest to drown out the bass vibrations from the music below, as he stares at his macroeconomics book. John, the epitome of Professor Anthony’s conclusion of binge drinking, had a near death experience just one year prior.  A wobbly walk home from the bar and a light downfall of freezing rain in late February resulted in a 3-week hospital stay. John cracked his head open after slipping on the ice and it was 2 weeks of physical therapy before he was able to speak another word, and another 3 months before he drove again. “I remember I could think the word I wanted to say in my head but it just wouldn’t come out, I could have died had my roommates not called an ambulance. I probably would have still slipped that night, but I know the impact would not have been so severe had I not been too drunk to break my fall.” Catching up after the 6 month absence from school due to his accident, John still occasionally has a beer or two, he just makes it doesn’t turn into an event.

Lyon St. HousingWhile the typical college campus housing usually doesn’t bring a luxurious image to mind, some places are definitely more appealing than others. However, not every campus was constructed in quite the same environment as the University of Cincinnati. Like I have stated in previous posts it was a shock when I moved to an urban area. I had heard it was bad, but I guess I just didn’t anticipate the amount of crime that happened so close to the school. Any student can tell you how frequently the lovely e-mails pile into their inbox from Greg Hand, telling about another stabbing, shooting, robbery, rape, etc.

When I first moved to Cincinnati I decided that Stratford Heights was the safest place to live being that they had 24-hour security guards on duty and what seemed to be the safest and most convenient option. Three years later I am still here, and quite possibly the only senior who is still a resident, since all the residents I share a suite with seem to be first year students here at UC. My room is comparable to a small dorm room; no kitchen, no living room, no space for guests, and no personal bathroom. While this style of living sounds similar to a jail cell, I surprisingly found that most students preferred this due to peace of mind it offered. But is it really worth the trade-off?

I decided to ask students who have lived in different types of housing here in the Clifton area to get a better understanding which was preferred and furthermore; why? First off, in my own personal experience, I still live in Stratford Heights strickly for safety and convenience to campus. I can leave my apartment at 55 after of a given hour and make it to class in those five minutes. No looking for a parking spot, no long walk home at night; and since my parents are paying my rent, it was their decision that I stayed there since they felt it was the safest.

Some of the other residents in my building are second year engineering students who said that they are much happier in Stratford then they were last year in the on-campus dorms. This year, the dorms have been getting a lot of negative attention for crimes being committed in the loby or in the community restrooms. The three students, Michael Gruber, Jason Fishburn, and Matthew Lee, who are all currently living in Stratford Heights all agreed that they felt much safer and content living in the privately owned apartments near campus. “[at] Calhoun all you have to do to get in is stand by the door and someone will let you in causing a higher chance of random people coming into the dorms,” said Lee.

Even one student who attended Xavier but lived in Clifton agreed that living in housing near campus was unsafe. Caitlin McGowan is a third-year student who lived in a house on Stratford St. a few blocks from UC. “I never liked being there alone, if the other roommates were out for the evening I would usually stay with a friend because I was so terrified of being there alone,” said McGowan.

I asked a fellow senior who is about to graduate next month, and they agreed. Their first year they lived in University Park Apartments, a similar set-up to Stratford Heights and they believed that when they lived there, it was the the safest they have felt in Clifton. His name is Philip Andrew and beside University Park, he has lived in houses on Lyon St. Rohs St. and currently on Klotter Ave. He described how being more independent by living in a house was nice, he didn’t really feel that in this city it was worth sacrificing safety. “I feel like University Park, even though it is small, and it doesn’t give a lot of freedom, does have a lot of positive aspects,” Andrew said. “I hate having to drive to class now, parking is outrageous! Also, in my current house, everyone who lives here is a little on edge since just a few months ago the house directly next to use was robbed after having a shotgun shoved in their face while watching an Ohio State football game.”

In the responses I got, the unanimous preference seemed to be that living in places such as Stratford Heights, University Park, or McMillian Manor are the smartest choice. Like I discussed earlier, giving up some liberties such as a convenient kitchen or room to entertain guests will be necessary, however, as far as my living situation goes, it would take 3 different keys to break into my room, and that thought definitely helps me sleep better at night.

It’s nearing noon in Cincinnati, a brisk breeze whips around the corners of the buildings surrounding Tangeman University Center. Campus is peaceful, quiet, more quiet than usual. Today the normal swarm of students are not lingering, engaged in conversation. There is a noticeable void, and dead giveaway that something of a superior importance is about to transpire. Behind the heavy metal doors of TUC hundreds of students await history to unveil before their eyes.

While countless tables are occupied with students who seem more concerned over a Wendy’s chicken sandwich or text messaging a friend than the swearing in of the 44th president, the lower level of the bustling student center reveals a different sensation.

Down in the Catskellar, a campus bar that is usually a modern day ghost town at noon on a Tuesday has been transformed into a miniature version of Washington D.C. itself. Students stand wherever space allows, all to watch one of the normally inaudible, various-sized flat screen televisions positioned in corners of the room. Everyone stands in silence, even the bartender takes a break from work, eyes glued to the screen.

A shaky introduction leaves the onlookers slightly nervous, glancing to their neighbors. However, after the nerves are calmed the speech begins to flow flawlessly and a sigh of relief is heard around the room.

In D.C. the massive crowds of supporters foreshadow the changes that are being made in America, a symbol of the endearing patriotism for hope even in such a dark economic time. However, the thick bullet-proof glass encompassing the President’s podium make the heart sink and the sad realization sets in of what flaws the country still possesses and the improvements that are hopefully to come.

During pauses in the speech, the Catskellar crowd applauses in perfect synchronicity. No views are discussed, no comments are spewed. The moment is respectfully appreciated, regardless of color or political preferences.

History has been made, but on the walk home, this would appear as any other day. A student walks by on a cell phone, cursing the weather, another looks down, walking swiftly as Thriving Ivory’s Angels on the Moon escapes from his iPod headphones enough for a faint preview as he passes. The moment has passed, while this event will be marked in history books, its existence is already undocumented on fellow student’s faces.

As the wind whips around the corners of the buildings in the heart of downtown a light snow falls in a peaceful ballet of icy flakes. If there was any noise it would be drowned out by the sirens of passing ambulances and cop cars. As I turn the corner I see collage of patriotic lights and the yellow crime tape that makes the heart sink. A crowd of locals stand around and chat amongst each other while shaking their heads in disbelief. Another death, pointless. Most likely leading to the same fate as the others, unsolved, tossed aside.
The small puddle of blood is beginning to freeze to the pavement and the reality sets in. It’s 2:04 p.m. a man is killed in broad daylight and there is no panic, no fear, just remorse. As I make my way through the crowd I can vaguely hear the policeman say there is no suspect and no witnesses, the body is still laying on the frozen pavement, a white sheet covering to his ankles. The crowd begins to disperse as there is nothing more to see. The officer makes the ironic jab, “It’s the second one this hour, rare for a Sunday.”
The police continue their investigation, but it’s engraved in their faces, this is just another day.

On the local news that evening, they report the crime, show the footage of the scene, but there is no conclusion, no end. The victim is described as an African American, late 20’s. He isn’t identified yet and there most likely will not be an update on the story unless linked to a bigger crime. He simply disappears an all that is left two weeks later is a particle board cross that is erected in his honor, for the loss of life. His 20-some years, summed up into 45 seconds on the nightly news.

DowntownThere is a common phrase; all good things must come to an end. As a senior in college, I’m not sure I would consider my approaching graduation an end of a good thing, however, it is an end to an experience I will never forget. I have only 8 more classes to complete until I go out into the world to put my knowledge I have learned over the past 16 years into effect. To me it is closing a part of my life as a student, and as a Cincinnati resident. I came to this city for an education and I will leave as soon as that is complete.

While sitting around thinking up a term that would best sum up my feeling about my narrowing time left I was continuously drawn to the common bartender term “Last Call.” While bars typically are not the best place for inspiration to set in, the term perfectly encompassed the fact that this is my last chance to document and investigate the city I have called home for the past three years before this part of my life comes to a close.

There is a lot that needs to be tackled in such a short time, however my goal is to take the bad with the good, focusing on the positive and negative aspects of the city. Before I made the move down from Toledo I can vividly remember my nerves building up after all the less than pleasant things I had heard about Cincinnati. Riots, gangs, shootings, the list goes on. Coming from a suburban neighborhood I was, for lack of a better term, sheltered to this type of lifestyle. However, when I got settled, I realized that maybe there is more to the Queen City than meets to eye, and ear. There is a lot of good that helps neutralize the bad.