Every year we do a Best of the City list, and every year we face the same challenge: How do we top last year’s? It’s a big challenge that we take seriously, devoting ourselves to hours, even days, of careful, quasi-scientific study. We go deep. One margarita is not enough—no, countless margaritas must be taste-tested. Plates of fried chicken are measured to find the perfect flaky crust-to-juicy meat ratio. Car owners and dealerships are canvassed to deduce the best place for foreign auto body repairs. Mothers and fathers are buttonholed about where they find their kid’s glasses and shoes. Bingo parlors are visited. Twitter feeds are followed. Popsicles are licked. In the end we come together and deliver a report that isn’t just a list of stuff well done (though it is that); it’s also a document assessing the cultural health of the city and its many far-flung neighborhoods. A window into what makes the heart of this community—its people—tick. And from our view, the state of this city’s heart is good. We invite you to take a look for yourself.
We try to keep an eye on the city’s other vital organs too. This month, Katie Laur taps our collective funny bone (sorry, but I think that’s located near the heart) in her interview with Pester Flatt, the absurdly gifted (and flat-out absurd) bluegrass singer and songwriter whose letters she has been reading for years on her Sunday evening radio show on WNKU. Pester is utterly fictional and at the same time very real—an enormous feat that can only be chalked up to the fertile (though some, including Pester himself, might say febrile) imagination of an avid fan. Being a pro, Katie couldn’t pass up the invitation to meet the great man of occasional sorrow in person. Her conversation with Pester adds new dimensions to their correspondence and to the term “Cod Log.”
Jacob Baynham’s account of the near-deportation of Bernard Pastor is poignant and fascinating. Baynham spent weeks interviewing Pastor (the undocumented son of illegal immigrants) and the dozens of friends and supporters who rushed to his defense a year ago when a little fender bender led to his arrest and incarceration. Going from popular Reading High School soccer star to poster child for the Dream Act in the span of a month is something that, literally, could only happen in America—and as Baynham’s story shows, it was a test that Pastor was uniquely prepared to pass.
We’ve got more (a luggage selling prodigy, a deeply satirical breakdown of where your Bengals ticket dollars go, a nicely curated holiday gift guide in Necessities…) but I’m out of space. Enjoy the issue.