I was driving through the outskirts of Cincinnati, on my way to Costco, when I saw the massive Taco Bell sign lowered and resting against its pole. It had been stripped of its brand identity, but the purple color and the characteristic arched shape gave it away. I pulled in to the empty parking lot to take some shots.This is in the village of Lincoln Heights, across I-75 from the big G.E. plant. Construction has been going on on this stretch of highway for some years now, and it may have been a lengthy overpass closure near the restaurant that caused the Taco Bell to close.
Lincoln Heights is a historically African-American community, as were many of the neighborhoods that were sacrificed to the United States interstate highway system. Nikki Giovanni and the Isley Brothers are from here. Its legal status as a separate entity from Cincinnati has been used to deny it resources (G.E. tax dollars, for example, go elsewhere, [not accidentally] and it has struggled in recent years.
I checked back up on this location when I learned that these photographs would be published, and I have good news. It is back in business as a locally-owned fast food restaurant named Tip Top Wings. I stopped in, and the owners were happy to chat. The shell of the Taco Bell sign still leans against the signpole outside.
Kai Ming McKenzie’s stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Western Humanities Review, 3AM Magazine, and elsewhere. You can reach him on Twitter at @kaimingmck.