Until recently I had never been to Cleveland, though I had watched a lovely “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video.” Ohio, the 17th state, can boast cold winter weather, an abundance of abandoned buildings, and alarmingly sketchy liquor stores — along with expansive skies and close knit communities.
This weekend, I went to Cleveland for the first time with my boyfriend and his dad to attend my boyfriend’s cousin’s Bat Mitzvah, and I was alternately surprised and delighted at every turn. Here are just a few of the memories I’d like to share:
1) The [Crack] House
Upon arrival, we rushed to our rental car and shot straight to the hotel to get settled before the welcome dinner. On the way, I kept my eyes pealed for the things mentioned in the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video. Just two minutes from the hotel, I noticed a tall house with such a sad edifice that I assumed it was abandoned. Its chipped and faded paint, tilted windows, and wilted lawn screamed, “Crack house, inside.” But the next day, as we drove past again, I was shocked to see a nice-enough SUV pulling into the driveway. I assume people live there. I assume it’s their home. I felt a pang of guilt and sadness. Clearly they don’t have the money for upkeep. And we were in the relatively affluent suburbs of Cleveland. Imagine the worse parts.
2) Mookie’s State Liquor Store
The night we landed, my boyfriend and I decided to get bubbly from a local state liquor store – simply to celebrate life, family and love. We drove with his dad at the helm, my boyfriend in the front passenger seat, and me in the rear to the right. We pulled into the parking lot at Mookie’s, that fantasmical wonderland of libation. Then the fun begins… My boyfriend steps out first as I fiddle with my coat zipper in the back seat. A man who looks to be in his early 30s leans out of his low-riding car and says, “Heyyyy man! You cool man? You like the DVDs, man?? You know, I got all the pornos man. All the ladies? All the big –” I step out of the car and close the door, unable to hear the last word of that sentence. The fellow turns to me and says, “All the big d*cks?”
My boyfriend and I meet eyes, grinning and laughing, as we walk toward the Mookie’s storefront. Inside, we see a police officer standing with his hand on his holstered gun, so tired and disgruntled that when I accidentally make eye contact with him on the way out I am afraid he might pull his weapon from boredom and exasperation. We are pleasantly surprised to see my boyfriend’s dad has brought the car to the front, ready to whisk us away. We step into the car laughing half nervously and saying, “oh my god” and, “wow, can you believe it?”
The whole experience was funny and sad at once.
3) Clevelanders We Met
Yes, Cleveland is economically depressed. Yes, there is not much to do there, other than visit the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame and the newly enhanced art museum. But, the people we met exuded a sincere care for fellow human beings, and a glowing positive attitude. For example, at the airport we met a kiosk worker whose friendliness was our very pleasant introduction to the city. Everyone was exceptionally wonderful, from the lovely helpers at the hotel (front desk, cleaning ladies, bar tender) to the cashier at the Office Max to the taxi driver who took us to the airport.
A note we found on a desk near an elevator at the Marriott is really emblematic of the warmth we encountered.
I cannot say enough great things about the family I met. They are generous of spirit, down-to-earth, welcoming, fun, positive, lovely people. The Bat Mitzvah was so touching and seemed to go off without a hitch. I hope that this visit will the the first of many.
I keep forgetting to add the song. Here is today’s:
Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros