The other day I was reading a blog entry, entitled “Appreciating Home,” written by my friend Meg. She and I went to high school together, and shortly after she graduated from college, she moved to Arizona. Reading her blog got me thinking about Cleveland and being a Clevelander.
This post is a little late, admittedly. Not in the sense that most of my posts are late (see, I haven’t always been good about updating regularly). I’ve been living here my entire life. When I was born my family was living in Cleveland. We moved to Strongsville, then to Lakewood, then Parma, then back to Cleveland, then back to Parma. When I struck out on my own I lived in Cleveland proper. After that, I moved to Berea and then back to Parma. Now I’m in Cleveland Heights.
My point is that I’ve always lived in the Cleveland area, and mostly in the suburbs. In fact, the only two times I’ve lived in Cleveland proper, the places I lived felt pretty suburban (crack house next door notwithstanding). Residential neighborhoods. No nearby light rail stops, no interesting shops or restaurants, no cool, old architecture, no Cleveland landmarks. Maybe a McDonald’s down the street. Maybe. Bus routes? Don’t even get me started about busing on the west side.
Alright, to be fair, Cleveland Heights is also a suburb. But it’s so much less suburban than anywhere I’ve lived before. Buses every half hour. A Phoenix Coffeeshop right down the street. Street performers. (Yes, really). Five minutes’ walk from the Grog Shop (where, ironically, I’ve only been once). I can be downtown in half an hour — without a car. This place feels like the city so much more than anywhere else I’ve lived.
And I love it.
Love of Cleveland is by no means an uncommon thing, despite what common sense and people from Pittsburgh might say. This place is beautiful, it’s just that we don’t always see it. My friend Meg, whom I mentioned earlier, has lived in Arizona (home of warmth, year-round sun, and relatively even weather) for the past eight and a half years. Here’s what she has to say about Cleveland:
But having grown up in Cleveland, all I saw around me was a grey sky; all I felt was a bitter cold wind. When I left, I had an unfairly negative view.
But after 8-1/2 years away, I pine for a Cleveland full of fall color, for white snow dusting bare tree branches. I dream of the street where my parents live, the old trees forming a high canopy of green over the road in the summer.
The green … it’s so green. A rich, luscious, lovely green.
I never saw that green during the 22 years I lived there. It was there, I just didn’t see it. I see it, I appreciate it now.
That’s right – an Arizonan who longs for the weather of Cleveland. Anyway, it’s not just me and media professionals living in Arizona. There is the now famous love letter to Cleveland by chef Michael Symon. It’s even the unofficial subject of a film from this past year, starring actress Robbie Barnes, with whom I went to college (shameless name drop – check). I would like, someday, to write my own love letter to Cleveland. For now, listing a few of my favorite places will have to do:
- The West Side Market – As the recorded voice on the Rapid Transit (that’s Cleveland’s light rail system, for you out-of-towners) will tell you, the West Side Market was Cleveland’s first privately owned market. This past October it just celebrated its 100th birthday. A great place for interesting, local foods, fresh produce, and people watching. This may be weird, but one of my favorite things to do is sit on the upper level and watch them make crepes at Crepes De Luxe. The Market was just devastated by a fire, which necessitated throwing out all the food, from all the stands. It is slowly getting back on its feet, and you can help out at http://www.westsidemarket.org/donate.html.
- It may be a cop-out to go from the West Side Market to Ohio City at large, but I’m doing it anyway – It is the home of both my favorite restaurant, the Great Lakes Brewing Company, and my favorite coffee shop, the Koffie Kafe. I remember late nights, getting off the Rapid after leaving Baldwin-Wallace, and stopping in at Great Lakes with Rachel for shelter from the cold and a pint of Conway’s while we waited for the bus. Penzey’s Spices, the Ohio Knitting Mill Pop-Up Shop, Nano Brew Cleveland, there are plenty of reasons to love the neighborhood.
- Parma – I was told by another Clevelander Wednesday night that Parma doesn’t count. That stung a bit. I admit that I do not have much to say about the culture or restaurant scene of Parma, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the forgotten suburb. I went to Valley Forge, which at the time I went there was home to the worst football team of any of the five high schools in the city. My earliest gigs as a musical theatre percussionist were at Cassidy Theatre. After high school I went to Cuyahoga Community College, which remains one of the best decisions I have ever made. I realize this reads more like a laundry list, but that’s because there are too many stories to recount: Bocce and miniature golf at Greenbriar Commons, marching band rehearsals and football games at Byer’s Field, living with my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. I grew up in Parma, and I will always love it.
- Baldwin Wallace University – Although it used to be called “Baldwin-Wallace College.” It’s where I figured out that I wanted to be a writer, and also where I stopped being a crappy writer. More importantly, it’s where I met the love of my life, Rachel, the Scatterbrained Seminarian. BW is in Berea, which is my other favorite suburb of Cleveland. Walking around Coe Lake, grabbing dinner or a beer with friends from Mike’s or Cornerstone after class (I guess I have a lot of beer-centric memories. I’m cool with it). If I grew up in Parma, I became a grown-up at BW.
We don’t have Chicago’s public transit system. We don’t have all the museums of New York City. We don’t have many of the things that people would point to from what they would call the “greatest” cities. I don’t know what makes a city great. One thing I know is this: every time the Red Line comes out of the Ohio City station and crosses the Cuyahoga (the very namesake of this site!), the sight of the Cleveland skyline and the city lights reflecting off the water takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes. We have beautiful architecture and great restaurants and interesting history (and even a few excellent museums). Many of us have a lifetime of memories here. We love it here. I love it here.
Thanks for indulging me while I get sappy. It’s a thing I do sometimes.
Thank you to Meg, a media professional and the founder of Magna Writing and Editing. You can also read her ideas about life, marriage, and motherhood, and being a smartass at her blog, phasethreeoflife.com. Chef Michael Symon is, well, he’s freaking Chef Michael Symon. Iron Chef, Food Network host, founder of many restaurants, including the popular Cleveland spots Lola and Lolita. So there’s that. Actress Robbie Barnes starred in the aforementioned film Made In Cleveland, the alternate title of which inspired the title of this blog entry.
As always, thank you for reading. More to follow.