Ohio’s cinematic spots: An Intelligent Travel report

Every time John Ur covers a state via its cinematic hot spots in his series “Cinematic Road Trip” for Intelligent Travel, I look to see which movies I’ve seen and what spots I know. It’s always a pleasure.

This week Ur hit Ohio. Ohio, as he found, is diverse. He did skip over Columbus. I’ll have to think about a movie that may have been filmed there. Columbus is not dull, but can slide under ones radar. Cleveland, however is not easy to miss. Christmas Story, one of Cleveland’s most well known films is one of my favorites and one that Ur covers.

Ur also hits Cincinnati. I am partial to Cincinnati since I grew up going here as a child and I know it well. However, I wasn’t aware that parts of Traffic was filmed here. Or perhaps I noticed this and forgot.

I do know of a couple Ohio locations on the silver screen that Ur missed. One can’t include everything, so this is no slight on Ur. He always does a fine job.

One movie is The Shawshank Redemption. The prison outside of Mansfield, the abandoned Ohio State Reformatory was one of the main locations. A friend of mine’s father was one of the extras.

Another film with Ohio scenes is Rain Man. One of Cincinnati’s most spectacular buildings, at least it’s my favorite, is Union Terminal. Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise spent some time here while looking for alternative transportation to California. The murals you see in the background as they walked through were done as a WPA project. The building is now mostly a museum center.

Another shot in this film is when the pair are in a car going from Cincinnati across the Ohio River on the Roebling Bridge. The bridge, also known as “The Singing Bridge” because of the sound it makes when cars go across, leads to Covington, Kentucky.

Revisiting the Milagro Beanfield War

John Ur has just begun a series at Intelligent Travel to highlight the movies that capture the essence of the 50 states. In today’s post he presents films shot in New Mexico that capture a particular essence of its landscape and people. It’s a great list. Being that I’m a movie hound, I can second his recommendations. I was just talking with a friend tonight about 3:10 to Yuma and I think it’s the best movie this year.

Ur’s recommendation of the movie The Milagro Beanfield War reminded me of the book. Sure, the movie is wonderful, but the book is splendid. When I read the The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols I was living in a Gambian village having my Peace Corps experience. I laughed so hard when I read parts of it, I could hardly stand how much I laughed. Great big guffaws. Tears running. I’m serious.The experience of the VISTA volunteer from somewhere on the east coat trying to adapt to living in a small village in Northern New Mexico was so much like my Peace Corps experience I was thrilled. I did not feel quite so stupid and out of place.

The volunteer tried so hard to not be offensive and fit in to the village culture that people around him were perplexed about certain things he did. They assumed his behavior was normal so they didn’t interfere with his comings or goings or offer suggestions. There were many miscommunications. I vaguely remember a guitar as a central force in one instance. One if his friends borrowed his guitar but didn’t bring it back. The volunteer was afraid to ask for it for fear of being offensive, but would look over at the guitar with longing from the inside of his house. This went on for days, as I recall. The friend didn’t know the volunteer wanted the guitar back since he didn’t ask.

Nicols had such a way of capturing the issues of culture and miscommunication that for weeks afterwards I recommended it to friends. I would put this on your list of novels to read that have an important message, but do so in such a sly and funny way that you’ll have good time while learning about how people can interact when the parameters aren’t clear. The part of New Mexico Nichols describes has not changed much either.

By the way, in the movie the VISTA volunteer was changed to a social worker of some sort because it was felt the audience wouldn’t know about VISTA since the program had ended well before the movie was made. VISTA was the domestic version of Peace Corps. Volunteers were generally sent to urban areas, reservations or rural towns that were impoverished in the U.S. to help create solutions. VISTA on a large scale ended with Reagan, however its been resurrected over the years and is now AmeriCorps. VISTA is part of the official name. The emphasis is similar, but it has a different structure from what I understand.