If you know anything about me, you know my love for my hometown (Cincinnati) and you know my love for a job that I've had on and off for about ten years now (Skyline Chili). Growing up in the South Fairmount/Price Hill area...we didn't have much to really claim as our own aside from St.Lawrence Bakery, Pete Rose as a West-Sider, and the original Skyline Chili store. I remember being so bummed when they had to tear it down. So much happiness as a child came in the form of those delicious, gooey, cheese-coneys in a styrofoam box, cheese melted in a single strip over the top, with a slightly-soggy bun that the chili would seep into on the drive home down Quebec Avenue. (I actually have some in a box right now, getting to that perfect status).There were four kids in my family, we didn't get to eat at restaurants too often, but my parents made sure to treat the kids to some carry-out often enough. I remember those car-rides home with my father, and he'd talk about the history of Skyline a lot, him being a South Fairmount kid himself, born in the late 50's, he frequented that Skyline most of his life. I was so happy just knowing that this gift from the Greek Gods, that Cincinnati ambrosia was just ours.
As I grew older, I traveled to other chili-parlors in the city, even other Skylines, but nothing was like that original Skyline at the top of the hill. The Skyline that I would talk to my customers about when I worked at the Skyline on U.S.19 in Florida. That's right, I even worked at a Skyline in Clearwater, Florida. (Sidenote, if you ever go to that store, or the new one in Clearwater, tell John Breezy said hi) After I left the Skyline that I had worked at for five years for my adventure to Florida, I drove an hour and a half each way to go to work there in Clearwater, but I didn't care. I felt like a peacock donning my Bengals earrings at the store with the palm-trees out front. It was a dead give-away to my customers that there was a Cincinnatian in their midst. But not just any Cincinnatian, a Cincinnatian that grew up going to the original Skyline, where the first magic happened, a store that all these retired folks loved to talk about and felt so much pride about their hometown chili.
After I moved back to Cincy, I immediately applied at Dent Skyline. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the crew. (All us Skyline kids are family to each other) Then I heard that it was owned by one of the Lambrinides' sons, so I had to serve there, this wasn't an option. I loved that store so much from day one. The owners were so appreciative of hard-work and vocalized it, frequently. I was at Dent for a glorious 4 years before I decided to move to Minneapolis for yet another one of my adventures, but unfortunately, there was no Skyline to trek to, just visits back home or cans and spice-packs (which are not the same as at the restaurant and you know it). After my adventures in the Arctic North came to a close, I again contacted one of my bosses and asked if he might have room for me and he thoughtfully obliged my request.
Being back home these past few months has been invigorating. My family and friends are a 20-minute car-ride away, I work at one of the best Skylines in the city, I was able to be here for the best Bengals season in franchise-history, I live in a booming neighborhood in the city that I have always loved (Northside), I have an awesome second job,working for two wonderful women at Happy Chicks Bakery in Northside (Baking is another passion) and now it's Reds Season. (It's officially Opening Day seeing as it's past midnight) Again, hometown pride emerges, and everyone wants to talk about Pete Rose during Reds Season. A Lot. Especially prideful West-siders. Pete is always somebody's relative, or someone met him and blah, blah, blah.
My disdain for Pete Rose happened when I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Reds game with one of my generous friends. Not just any seats though, DIAMOND SEATS! Complete with dinner at the Diamond Club (so friggin fancy) Well, as dinner continued we noticed that Charlie Hustle was sitting next to us. The entire rest of the dinner was spent with me sucking up the courage to ask this West-side legend to sign my Cincinnati Reds shirt. But it wasn't just any Reds shirt, it was the special Skyline Chili Reds shirt that only the employees could purchase that was to serve as our uniform until the season was over. I had argued enough with myself in my head and thought, "Now or never, so I might get yelled at by him, whatever". I remeber shaking and stammering as I spoke to him, "Um, Mr. Rose,I'm so sorry to bother you, but it would be really cool if you could sign my shirt". I remember him saying "Ya gonna sell it?", in a very curmudgeonish-tone. I remember stuttering "No. I work at Skyline and this is my work shirt. I'm going to have to get a new shirt!!" Seeing as I obviously couldn't wear this one now that he had signed it. (He had no idea of my Skyline-pride and I'm sure he didn't care to hear about it either.) I had brought a Sharpie, just in case, I handed it to him and bent down, still shaking. I felt him press the Sharpie into my shoulder, it felt like I was being knighted by a King of the Queen City. I bent back up, turned around to thank him and before I could finish my graveling, he said to me, "Just so you know, I prefer Goldstar".
To those of you reading this who may be from somewhere else, Goldstar is the Burger King to McDonalds. Goldstar is what tried to be Skyline, but can't, and never will. So for my hometown hero to utter these words to me, the shaking Skyline girl, was a total dick-move. People would see me wearing his autograph, not believing that I would wash that shirt, so I'd tell them what he said, and everyone understood. As I lay here still trying to wind-down from my 5-close shift tonight, gazing at my new Skyline Chili Reds shirts that I get to adorn for the first time tomorrow while working the Godzilla of shifts, Free coney day, I can't help but think of Mr. Rose and how I will never forget that encounter. If you happen to be going to Skyline tomorrow to enjoy your coney, come visit us at Dent, or Glenway, or Colerain by 275 ( sorry, shameless promotion going on in this...but I really do love where I work)...or your favorite Skyline, I'm not your boss. :) I really should be sleeping and resting for my double-shift tomorrow but this has been inspiring me for awhile now and this seemed to be the perfect time. I would also like to apologize for grammatical errors, that's not really my thing.
Thank you reading,
The Girl with the Skyline Tattoo
P.s. LET'S GO REDLEGS!!!!
The top pic is me and the man himself...and his woman...maybe? Don't know. The bottom pic is what the autograph after years of washing looks like, also, I am now open to selling that shirt. ;)