Ahhh Music Mound, Thinkers and a hack… Good times!
Ahhh Music Mound, Thinkers and a hack… Good times!
Seriously, enough of the bay area. It’s beautiful, true. But the people, and their gender studies and sustainable basket weaving are just too much to take sometimes. Cleveland is a city with real intellectual life, where you don’t have the same three conversations over an over again at the bar or in the coffee shop. Cleveland is a place of sturdy people. Of truly funny people. Of kind, helpful people.
Now I know what they meant when “they” said that if I stayed in California too long I’d go soft. Worse, I went selfish.
Now, about those jobs…
”Any negativity will be deleted and blocked.”
But what I love most about Cleveland is the direct juxtaposition of the love and hatred that is at the core of every Clevelander’s relationship with their city. Cleveland would be nothing without that. To deny that level of frustration would be to deny the reality that frames the shared outlook of the people on the Lake Erie Shore.
If there were nothing in Cleveland to hate, no one would stick around to make it better. And if the people of Cleveland were not so emphatic in their vision-questing perhaps we wouldn’t have the bond that we all do.
We don’t want the world to like us, we want to like our world. We take an uncharacteristic pride in a place that at times gives little in return, and this is obviously something that we don’t mind bragging to each other about. It is part of the definition.
With love and hate, both parts of the whole,
Jon Conley (forever)
Speaking as an ordinary person who had a dream, took on a $1.2 million restoration of city owned land, & as just one of the many civic volunteers who jumped in feet first into the unknown, armed with faith and a desire to revitalize (3+ acres) of urban space, I can proudly say that Cleveland offers everyone —not only big developers or corporations —a chance to help make our city livable.
I found great cooperation from City Hall, City Council, and Mayor Jackson to help this citizen’s dream become a reality. Sure I had to find the funding; but their willingness to smooth over the many obstacles I encountered for this urban project was present.
That’s what makes a great city. Everyone working toward a goal whether you are just a civic volunteer with a dream or a developer with millions.
With this can do attitude allowing everyone to participate, our great city is deserving of being known “the best location in the nation.” LOVE you CLEVELAND!
Cut back to the late 1990s. I fell for you quickly, Cleveland, when I visited from my then home-state of Wisconsin. You were a short day trip away, gas was cheap, and Michael Symon and Brandt Evans were on an old Food Network show called “Cooking Live Primetime” and caught my attention with their lack of pretension. I called Lola, then in Tremont, and the hostess gave me a great suggestion on a B&B to stay at in Ohio City, the Clifford House. The rustbelt was suddenly on my radar.
The meals here even way back then were amazing. Lola and Kosta’s in Tremont both were amazing; I can still recall the foie gras grilled cheese with tomato soup that Kosta’s served in a giant martini glass. At Lola, the waiter dished about the then-secret Velvet Tango Room and the hostess provided a list of amazing places to visit including Suite Loraine and many other places still considered hip and edgy. Someone told of the West Side Market and on entering that building, food-angels sang out as the butchers cut into carcasses. Something connected.
In 2006 I moved here with my then-wife and settled in Ohio City. I delved into the community there and met many amazing people. Everyone was so welcoming—to me the biggest, most significant trait of people here in Cleveland is their open arms, their warm hearts. So many people were fascinated by our choice to move to Cleveland from elsewhere, so many people here are from here. Unlike many places though, where newcomers remain so forever, here, people want you to fit in, want you to be from here, want you to know what used to be on the now-empty corner, want you to know the key pain points you must acknowledge to fit in: not the cartoonish burning river—rather the demise of the schools, the white flight, the rise and fall of the Flats, the many failed affairs of the Browns and then the walk-out and then the return that still seems sour, the many trips to the altar for the Indians that always ended with ringless hands. The scars are what make this place.
When Bar Cento opened, we were the first customers there. I wrote in my blog at the time, the Cleveland Epicure, about Chef Sawyer returning to Cleveland from Parea in NYC, where he worked in Chef Symon’s NYC restaurant. I went to Parea before it closed. Chef Symon was there. I asked the hostess to mention I was visiting from Cleveland. She never did. That is NYC. Those things don’t happen in Cleveland.
Cleveland, I love you because you don’t try to be any other city. Some may pine for your past and some may fear for your future, but no one wants you to be anyone or anywhere else.
Much of my life I spent my time trying to be someone else, emulation was always weighing down my shoulders. This trait goes way back to when I was a kid, the many I tried to mimic including George Jefferson, Peter Jennings, Bono and then as an adult, an unrealistic, unhappy view of who I thought I was supposed to be.
So, Cleveland you saw me go through an insane time of personal upheaval, causing heartbreak to others as your sports teams have so many times—crushing people who believed in me and leaving a wake of scars, welts that don’t heal but only remind.
And now, I am myself. It took me 44 years to get here, but now I look in the mirror and am accepting of who I see. I met one of your own, Cleveland, and have fallen in love with her, she who turns metal—so much a part of your history—into something of beauty by scarring and cutting it.
And you accept me, Cleveland, flaws and all, as I do you. We are not perfect, and we have the scars we bear and the scars we’ve caused from brutal cuts, but we are ourselves and we get through each day trying to be a bit better than we were the day before.
So, Cleveland, I fell quick and I fell hard. I have the scars to show it. And yet, I am happier now than I have ever been, and every day I learn more about you and more about myself.
Cleveland is the nearest place to our remote summer vacation spot so we wander over from time to time. We’ve frequented the river (boating to lunch), a cool market, an old navy ship, and the Hard Rock Cafe. All memories are those of vacation time and the warm summer sun! Thank you, Cleveland, for providing us with a great day trip when we’re looking for something fun to do!
Cleveland I never knew you. I was born in Cleveland on Lotus Dr, but was moved to the suburbs at 8 years old. Now that was the life, playing until the street lights came on. Baseball, playgrounds, laughter, the life of a child.
Cleveland I met you. At the age of 39 I married, had a child and so much responsibility. Cleveland I was afraid of you. I thought you were full of muggers and scarey places. At 41 years of age mine and my husbands place of employment closed down and were transferred to Old Brooklyn. Cleveland you were still crazy to me. The the weeks and months my husband would bring home things I never heard of, Jicama, garlic root, what were these things and where was he getting them. JoAnn he said I went to China town to get these yummy things. I said where the heck is china town? Mind you he is from Chicago so where was he finding these things, After all, I was the one born in Cleveland, why didnt I know about these things? He was finding a China town, Middle Eastern food, and shops, the West Side Market, all within a stones throw of home…. I bet half the people in Cleveland don’t know these areas exists. Clevelanders and non Clevelanders, get out and enjoy Cleveland has so much to offer and is so multi cultural, I love you and always will.
You were the first big city I’d ever been to. At the time, I had spent most of my life deep in the woods of a small town in western Pennsylvania. I recall traveling west on I-90 and just seeing your skyline from afar gave me that uncontrollable, trembling anticipation you feel when you’re so overwhelmed with excitement. I remember thinking to myself “So this is a REAL city?!” and what I took in was nothing I could have imagined at that age. It seems silly now having lived with you for years and visiting other cities but at the time, it was tremendous to me. My father spent the day taking my sister and I to the Natural History Museum then on a whirlwind tour of downtown. I knew then that I was going to live some place like this. Though I was raised in the country, I was well aware early on that I was a city boy through and through.
My father had grown up in Ohio. I vividly remember how disappointed he and all the devoted Ohio transplants he’d invited to watch Browns games were after “The Fumble” or “The Drive”. It meant a lot to them and more than I understood then. My dad wasn’t big on baseball but when the Indians were on, my sister and I (also not big on baseball) would try to change the channel. My dad would simply say “Leave it” which was strange because normally he didn’t mind much if we switched the channel from baseball games. The Indians games were off limits though. We grew to appreciate the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers as our teams even though they weren’t the winningest. They’re my favorite teams to this day and always will be even though they still aren’t always the winningest. You’ve had a rough go in more than sports but we’ll never stop rooting for you. In small ways, you’ve been a part of my life before I was here.
Cleveland was the logical choice for me when I graduated from high school and needed to get the hell out of small town Pennsylvania. My mother lived in Shaker Heights and helped me get settled in. I lived in Cleveland Heights for a year or so but missed my friends back home so I made the mistake of not sticking it out. I moved back to Pennsylvania but missed you so all the while. I trudged through a little under a year back there in PA but made a return to my newly avowed hometown. I’ve been here ever since and don’t intend to leave you again. I’ve learned my lesson.
I’ve now been with you for 17 years (I know, trivial to some natives) but you’re more comfortable and familiar to me than anywhere else I’ve been in my life. There’s too many reasons to list but this is the only place I want to be. Increasingly I’m finding myself not to be the only one and you’re a place people from here aren’t ashamed to say they’re from anymore. I’m proud to see people realize this is an important place with important things happening. This is NOT just where a river caught fire or somewhere that was important. It’s some place that IS important and there’s much more to come. I’m as anxious for what the future holds as I was when first setting eyes on you. I deeply love you, Cleveland. There. I said it. I do.
You’ve been our home for more than 31 years. Being 13 employees strong, ages ranging from 25 to 56… we come to you with a variety of memories, experiences, disappointments and celebrations – touching each of us at different points in life, during different times in this great city’s history. Some of us have gone to war, traveled around, and boomeranged right back to you. Let us tell you why.
We’re a family here – our office being an old house in Lakewood and our employees, young and old, east-siders, west-siders, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers…we’re all Clevelanders and while putting our love letter together for you – the thing that the most obvious thing that you represent – to us, is family.
An employee remembers:
I have, in the past, taken you for granted. I grew up here, in your sometimes chilly embrace, and it is true that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. I did not realize this simple truth until I left you as a young man to enter the military. When you are twenty years old and away from family and friends for the first time, laying awake in the barracks late at night with a bunch of guys who are as lonely and frightened as you are, talking about your home is what helps you get by. And to my surprise, I often found myself talking about you.
Some of us remember taking the Rapid down to Public Square to see the Christmas lights, then going to visit Mr. Jingaling on Halle’s seventh floor, sitting on the curb in front of Roman Gardens in Little Italy during the Feast, eating Cavetelli and Meatballs… While others embrace Cleveland’s current food scene- our restaurants, like us, are young and old – we bring in Slyman’s corned beef and Corbo’s Casatta cake for staff birthday lunches, make impromptu trips to Ohio City Burrito and chillax at after-work happy hours at Deagen’s.
While some of us reminisce about early mornings on the Edgewater break wall, Lake Erie like a sheet of grey glass, waiting for a fishing pole to bounce – others look forward to lazy morning brunches at Lucky’s, our eyes always bigger than our stomachs, and taking bike rides through the villages of Chagrin Falls, Coventry, Tremont, Ohio City and Lakewood.
While some remember the deep satisfaction of a Polish Boy purchased from a dog cart on our walk over to a Browns game at the old stadium - others look forward to taking a bite out of the Horseshoe Casino for the first time and attempting to taste everything on that crazy-big buffet.
We make a point to experience everything you have to offer- from Amusement parks to Theatre Districts to the Metroparks to the Museums. We are cultured, well-fed, thick-skinned, interesting and excitable. The energy you offer makes us not only ready for the future, but happy to be here now and proud to be part of the movement.
We rooted yourselves here. Got married here. Bought houses here. Had babies here.
So many of our favorite childhood memories happened on your often potholed streets, and it’s calming to know that our children will experienced some of those same, simple things. These are all the reasons why, Cleveland, you’re part of the family.
Thanks again for being our home for 31 years. We’re looking forward to calling you our home for another 31 more.
90 - W2E (An Original Poem)
To the north; the gray water lake, the condo’d and apartmentalized banks of the Cuyahoga, and the city struggling to rise from Lake Erie’s prehistoric shore.
Her buildings are a miss-matched conglomeration of steel and glass created from the minds of 70’s fancy and 80’s greed trying to swallow up the old towers and short high rises, made from the stone, brick, sweat and blood of people that knew what an honest day’s work consisted of.
The stadiums of one time gladiators and boyhood hero’s, now looked upon as just places to go if you feel like pissing away a hundred bucks on bad food, bad entertainment, and teammates that play for individual glory; a lakeside stepping stone to something bigger on a distant shore.
There is still some pride on the north side of the interstate, but it is a mask, a smiling visage over a troubled soul, haunted by the failures of the past, weighed down by the problems of the present, and apathetically looking forward to its future.
To the south; the steel mill, the villages, and the poverty stricken streets sinking into depression and recession faster than a market butcher at the end of the day talking you into buying his last few steaks, so he can go home early.
The homes are a tribute to the steel and automotive industry that made this city great.
Two, three, and four family homes that offered security and pride to those brave men looking to start a life for their families in a new country, and a budding city.
Their children remember better times when they had less and were happier more.
Their grandchildren remember the stories of hard work and hard luck, not understanding why their elders tell these stories with smiles on their work weathered faces and animate them with scared, calloused hands.
The steel mills that once built this city are being replaced with homes once pictured in science fiction and shopping centers carelessly killing the 50th anniversary mom and pop deli’s and the single cash register grocers.
What’s left of the steel mill is still a source of great pride.
The last flaming stack from the molten steel plant is like a candle flickering dimly in the bedroom window of a dying man. His almost inaudible voice speaks from delirium …
“I am still here and although my eyes are dim, I see some light in the future.
My gasps are shallow, but I still breathe an air of pride.
And it is faint, but my heart still beats with the rhythm of the hopeful.
I am not dead yet…”