This is one of my favorite pictures from that trip we took to Cincinnati, and if you asked me to explain why I don't think I could. It might have had something to do with the hooker who saved my life. My wife had given me the afternoon to myself to wander wherever I wanted to go (one of my favorite things to do in new cities) and I thought because it was raining I would have a miserable time, but instead I kind of fell in love with the place.

I had just passed a brewery producing those dogfoodish fumes of heated malt, when a woman with an umbrella approached me from the other side of the road. "Where are you going?" she asked.

"I'm just walking."

"Better not go that way. They'll strip you of everything you got. Might kill you too."

"I'll be okay," I said.

"You must have gotten into a fight with your wife," she said, and with that I knew she was a prostitute. I never like to assume that about a woman, but after a few more questions and bristly answers she asked me point blank if I was sure I didn't want a date with her. "I'm sorry," I found myself saying politely. "No thank you." She walked on and eventually disappeared and I was left in the rain by a gated lot filled with cruel-looking dogs. So I turned around and walked back up through Over-the-Rhine, looping back and forth, block after block, awed by the endless Italianate tenement buildings, almost all of them boarded up, and took this photo.

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