Cleveland Rocks!

jim george doloraPeople often asked us, “Where is the first place you stop on the world tour?” The answer elicits an arched brow, as in, why there? But the truth of the matter is, there is no finer place to begin a world tour than Cleveland, Ohio. Poor, industrially decaying Cleveland, maligned in many jokes, a punch line to punctuate the pathetic, the perennial bridesmaid to NYC, Boston, even Detroit.  The city that may never live down that its river, the Cuyahoga, actually caught fire from the amount of pollution skimming its surface. The city that lost LeBron James to Miami and continues to support a quasi-racist, red-faced Indian mascot flying from flags on hundreds of porches showing rabid allegiance to its baseball team. This is the Cleveland mythos that people from other places perpetuate, as if they have projected their own demons onto this swath of the “East Coast,” saddling their sins onto this goat in order to feel somehow superior.

 

These are threadbare interpretations. They say nothing of porches and stoops and easy conversations on the porch swing until the fireflies alight. Nothing about friends that you’ve had since you were five, growing up just down the block from each other, moms having to call you home for supper in the fading light. Nothing of the security and safety you feel letting your child walk down the street to play all day with friends he only sees maybe once a year. Of children who are respectful and know they are the children, who call you by Mr. and Mrs. Toner and would never think to utter your first name. Nothing of this Midwest hospitality where you are always included to tag along.

 

Cleveland has culture too. Rockefeller Park is an homage to nearly every country on earth, with sculptures and gardens honoring the unique qualities of each. The Cleveland Symphony is world class, as is the art museum, which is always free. Because the arts are so prominent here, it trickles down to school arts programs and hundreds of opportunities for children to learn an instrument or create their own works of art. Of course there is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which after 15 years I have still not entered.  And there are beautiful public parks, chiefly the Cleveland Metro Parks, affectionately known as “The Valley.” Hundreds of acres of bike, hiking, running, and horse trails rimming the city.

 

But the most wonderful thing of all about Cleveland is it is where my husband was born and raised. It is where my other family resides, where my sweet nephews Danny and Jimmy play cello and get straight As, where my brother-in-law Joe teaches high school English and sister-in-law Lainie is a PT getting people back on their feet. It’s the last place I saw my father-in-law Judge Toner before he died. We were leaving his apartment, continuing Jim’s book tour, heading west again, to Minneapolis, and he said, “Say, do you kids want a pop for the road?” Cleveland, at least the one that I know, is a city where my 10-year old can be gone all day and night with his summer friends and a sinister thought or disaster scenario never enters my mind.

 

The thunder is booming and the sweet, summer rain pours from the skies. We all gather on the porch to talk about anything, watching the mailman deliver his post from door to door. An old friend stops by. Then another. People are walking their dogs, kids pedaling by on bikes. These days are unhurried. In this moment, I understand why children capture fireflies in jars. I, too, want to suspend this summer light, holding it still in my hand, never to fly away.

 

1 Comment

  1. Barbara

    I am sooo enjoying your beautifully written wanderings. Thank you for taking the time to do so . . . for being so inclusive. I find that when I read what you’ve written, I notice a smile on my face.

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