You Call Yourself a Clevelander?
Those of you who follow the Burning River Writing Twitter account (@brwriting – check it out) might have seen a tweet from me a few weeks ago about a conversation I overheard at a restaurant here in Coventry. There were two or three people at the next table, and they were in the process of planning some kind of day trip. I heard one of them say something like “Well, my car is at the West Side Market. Or, the West Whatever Market.”
I was appalled. The West “Whatever” Market? Ok, to be fair, I grew up as a West Sider and I was pretty ignorant to East Side landmarks until I moved here. Locations like the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall, and Coventry (where I now live) all occupied the same space in my brain. You know the one. It’s that place in our minds that holds Never Never Land, and the grocery aisle where they keep the canned tomatoes (canned vegetables or Italian foods?? Which one is it??), and that cool restaurant that someone took you to once that’s on a side street of a back neighborhood – places that you might end up by accident, and that could be reached on purpose, theoretically, but only through some means that other people, and not you, are privy to. So it stands to reason that there are people who grew up on the East Side who have that same relationship with the bank I called home until recently. Or maybe she’s new in town. Or maybe it’s in an inside joke with she and her friends, who are equally appalled by anyone who doesn’t know it’s called the West Side Market.
And really, who am I to criticize? There are plenty of quintessential Cleveland-y things that, despite my having lived here all my life, I’ve never done. For example:
- I have never seen a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Cedar Lee Theatre – It’s especially funny, because every year I say to myself “I’m going to actually do something Halloween-y this year on Halloween,” and I never do. (In other news, this has become the entry where I tack a “y” on to the end of nouns to make them adjectives. English degree powers ACTIVATE!)
- I have never been to the Horseshoe Casino – I’m not a gambler. Actually, during an end-of-tax-season party I was at when I temped at an accounting firm, I found out that I could lose a lot of money playing craps. So maybe it’s good that I’m not a gambler. That being said, it’s something I’d like to try at least once. There are plenty of opportunities, as I’m downtown literally every weekday.
- And while we’re on the subject, I have spent very little time hanging out downtown – My roommate and I had a conversation about this last week. She and I live a stone’s throw away (she’s got a good arm) from the downtown stretch of Euclid Avenue, East 4th, Tower City, and when we hang out we go to the Winking Lizard. Sure, the wings are cheap. Sure, the beer selection is good. Sure, we can walk there in three minutes. Good reasons to go there more often than not, but to never go to the House of Blues or the Chocolate Bar? Or Noodlecat? Or Rascal House? Or any of the dozens of other cool, interesting places at our disposal? Shameful.
- I have never been to any of Michael Symon’s restaurants – And there are two of them to choose from in Cleveland! And the price tag is no real excuse. That’s a good excuse for not going every week or every month, but never? Shameful.
- I have never ridden the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad – If I’m being honest, this is more of an Akron-y thing, but there’s a stop in Independence, so I’m counting it. Nobody I’ve ever spoken to about the CVSR has had a bad thing to say about it. Definitely going to have to check it out this summer.
- I have never been to the observation level at Tower City – My girlfriend Rachel, the beautiful and brilliant Scatterbrained Seminarian, who by the way is from Pennsylvania and currently lives in New Jersey, has been there. I have not. Shameful. Enough said.
- I have never been to a Burning River Roller Girls roller derby match (say that ten times fast) – Or any roller derby match, for that matter. This one’s a little more underground, I guess, but it’s something I’ve always been curious about. I think that my coworkers are planning an outing in the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you updated as to my roller derby-related experience.
People disparage Cleveland. Especially Clevelanders. It pisses me off. I know that most of what I’ve listed here are restaurants and entertainment venues. Ok, all of them are, but there’s a lot going on here. We have a really cool, thriving urban revitalization movement. Major corporations are headquartered here. There’s art and music and culture. The UCC has its offices here. Cleveland is increasingly bikeable. Our public transportation is…fine. It’s pretty good. Our river (the one that caught on fire – the namesake of this site) is now a model for water pollution cleanup.
Ok, so this entry has become Cleveland, I Love You Part Two, but I can’t help it. It is so difficult not to start gushing praise every time I think of my home. I absolutely love this town.
Cleveland readers, what are your quintessentially Cleveland-y things? (Whether or not you’ve done them). Those of you from farther out, what are the things quintessential to your hometown? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to compose a master list for a bunch of cities, of things I have to try if I ever visit. Drop me a line.
As always, thank you for reading. More to follow.