By Ülvi Gitaliyev
When most people visit a foreign city, they make sure to book a place to stay. To me, that is an unnecessary step that only those without a stomach for adventure take. That is how I ended up in a Waffle House at five a.m. in Cincinnati, but first, let us go back to the start.
After my adventure to Richmond, I wanted to try out something bigger and more dangerous. Luckily, Ghost, a Swedish rock group known for praising Satan, was performing in Cincinnati in late February. Their main singer, known as Papa Emeritus, performs while dressed as the pope with white and black makeup. Obviously, I was going to see them no matter what. Walking to Cincinnati was out of the question (even I have limits), but the only Greyhound bus that would get me there on time (Saturday at seven p.m.) left Berea at one a.m. No matter, being homeless in a foreign city for one night had been a childhood dream of mine.
If you have never been on a Greyhound bus, then I envy you. Even the nicest person turns into a grumpy bastard when entering one. Add to that a subpar bus with minimal entertainment and you have got yourself a classic Greyhound experience. This time though, I had a mostly quiet and enjoyable bus ride. Instead, the real fun started when I got out of the bus and into Cincinnati.
At four a.m., only one ‘restaurant’ (I use that term very lightly) is open to the public – Waffle House. So, I looked up the nearest one at Google Maps and began walking in its general direction. The empty and cold Cincinnati streets were calming. I would not have to fight for my wallet this night, at least. I would have to cross the Ohio River in order to reach my destination. My deviant nature told me to take a shortcut, just walk on the interstate highway. The police did not take that lightly. In about twenty minutes, two police cars drive towards me. At first, I thought it was for someone else and just kept on walking, but then, they screamed at me to stop. In a few moments, my hands were raised in the air and my pockets were being checked. Yes, I was being detained by the Cincinnati police less than one hour after my arrival. After a short interrogation in a police car, they realized that I was just an international student coming to see a rock concert. So, they drove me to the Purple People Bridge and said, “If we see you again, you are going to jail for one year; welcome to America.”
This incident and its psychological effects on me withered away when I saw a magnificent goose (cover image) guarding the bridge. Even though we had just met each other, we knew to respect each other’s space and I passed the bridge without any injuries. Waffle House was within reach. Historically, Waffle House, especially at five a.m., acts as the collection point for the lowest scum of humanity; they are attracted to this establishment, but beggars cannot be choosers. Simultaneously at my arrival, a car with a broken window showed up. I did not realize it yet, but they were my saviours. Seeing my wretched state, without even knowing my name, they offered to let me stay with them for the night. Spoiler Alert: they were Reformist Christian missionaries.
“If we see you again, you are going to jail for one year, welcome to America.”-Cincinnati Police Officer
Due to my love of risk-taking, I readily admitted my membership to the Communist Party of the United States to these devout followers of Christ. Still, they let into their home, for which I am very grateful. They lived a few steps from Northern Kentucky University in a nice, four-person apartment. As a bonding activity, I picked a movie for us to watch as the sun rose. If you are a hardcore sadist who enjoys the sight of gallons of human and animal blood, then Africa Addio (do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch this movie unless you have lost all hope in humanity) is the movie for you. My newly made friends though seemingly enjoyed this movie, which worried me a great deal. Somehow, I still had a nice nap after seeing the horrors of 1960’s Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, it was time for an impromptu GSTR 310 lesson.
At first, they asked me about my own Communist leanings and what my final goal (a stateless, classless, moneyless society) was. Then, they praised me for how certain and concrete I was in my beliefs which was in reality, a segue into a discussion about Christianity and the Bible. I must say, their Logos, Ethos, and Pathos were top-notch and if I had not been reading Marxist theory for almost a decade, I would have been enticed to baptize myself in their bathtub. Each word was carefully chosen and beautifully spoken. Their arguments for Jesus and kingdom were clear and concise, unlike many of the priests I had listened to earlier in my life. We even found time to discuss difficult moral questions such as “Can one be a Christian soldier?” Alas, the time had come for me to see the concert I had come for in the first place.
Obviously, I did not reveal to my hosts that I was going to a Satanist rock concert. Even I am not that foolish. I always referred to it as just “a concert.” Now though, it was time to embrace my inner Lucifer. Like a good Berea College student, I had gotten the cheapest tickets so I was far away from the stage, but I could still hear their rhythm straight into my heart. Guest band Twin Temple who uses a mix of Mexican Folk music and Satanist chants were also performing. Their lead proudly raised her sword and hailed Satan for all to hear. Ghost, who was not to be outdone, mentioned Satan and all his demons’ names multiple times. After weeks of grueling classes and labour, I really needed to hear Papa Emeritus and his sweet words. The mere mention of Satan’s name brought me energy that I had not felt all year. When I left the stadium, I was ready to topple all systems of oppression and eliminate class differences! The songs Let’s have a Satanic Orgy, Year Zero and Square Hammer were my personal favourites from the concert and I encourage all (who are not of a pious constitution) to listen to them.
I met back with my missionary friends at their workplace, a Hookah Lounge. No, the irony was not obvious to them. Instead of engaging in material pleasures, I set up a chess table and started playing patrons from Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world. One girl from Oman gobsmacked me when she said that she had never heard of the word Communism before. As a devoted Marxist, I did not know whether to weep or just give up on this world. Instead, I taught her the best one could do in a lounge meant for smoking nicotine without even the Communist Manifesto by my side. She was receptive and hopefully, I shall be able to continue my lessons when I return to Cincinnati.
Past midnight, I went back to my benevolent guests’ home and enjoyed some delicious chicken that was more fulfilling than any meal from the last month. After one more night’s sleep, I was ready for the last leg of my adventure: walking from Northern Kentucky University to the bus stop 11km (6.8 miles). In the morning, I bid my accidental friends farewell and began on my merry way. The road was rather mountainous and at a few points, I had to walk alongside the cars. The stunning mountain view was lovely, though. As I approached the town of Newport, I saw abandoned buildings, including gentlemen’s clubs that, if I did not have time constraints, I would certainly have raided. You could see the declining industry of Newport quite clearly, even though it was just one bridge away from a thriving city.
Greyhound finally found its inner self and the bus back to Berea was two hours late. Nevertheless, I came back to Berea after two nights of anarchic fun, but it was certainly worth it. For the rest of the week, I struggled to follow up with my classes, but to be honest, I would fail not one, but two exams just to re-live that weekend.