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Monday, November 28, 2005

Cleveland is my woobie

Surely I must sound like a broken record, but this is yet another intense week of writing. For once I’m feeling fresh on a Monday having had a wonderful five-day holiday weekend.

In the past few days, I’ve become the parent of a teenager, got lots of baby love from my little nephew Charlie and niece Natalie and had ample time to clean my house and deck the halls. I’m feeling pretty good going into this holiday season and that’s not been the case for many years.

Spent the afternoon shopping at Crocker Park with Ryan yesterday (he had all manner of gift cards just waiting to be spent). A little window shopping was just what I needed to get the gift-giving juices flowing.

But all that will have to wait for time and money. This week is filled with lots of reading, researching and writing that will keep my posting to a minimum. Did want to mention one thing though:

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on a book project that has taken me across town to Cleveland Heights, a city near and dear to my reporting heart. Though it’s been tough being out of the office so much, I’ve enjoyed commuting across town, knowing full well I don’t have to do it daily.

There are times when living in Cleveland becomes so exasperating professionally that I just want to up and flee. But then I remember the words of a dying man just a few weeks before his untimely death.

Richard Shatten was head of the Regional Economic Institute at Case and I was interviewing him for a story in the COSE Update. There was so much frustration in the business community in 2002 and he echoed a lot of that frustration and a lot of the inane infighting that has kept Cleveland from blossoming.

But when I asked him if Cleveland was hopeless, his voice brightened. “Oh absolutely not! It’s never hopeless.” I didn’t realize at the time we spoke that he was dying from brain cancer. I learned that two weeks later when I read his obituary. If, in the face of imminent death, that man could have hope about our region’s future then there’s no reason the rest of us can’t also.

As I’ve driven back and forth I see pockets of promise scattered in Cleveland’s neighborhoods. If you're always on the highways, I strongly urge you to get off the beaten track and take the long way home. I’ve been driving down E. 55th to Carnegie and Cedar since 1990. The transformation of that neighborhood is slow, but noticeable. And the resurfacing of Carnegie Avenue is a welcome treat (though admittedly it feeds my propensity to exceed the speed limit).

Last Monday I decided to drive through University Circle and take MLK to the Shoreway home. I remember reading once that the sign of a community’s vitality is the number of building cranes in the skyline. The building occuring in Cleveland is at University Circle. It was invigorating and I wished I had the time to walk Wade Oval and marvel at our city’s cultural and educational treasures.

As I drove down the Shoreway I got an overwhelming feeling of home. Downtown rose before me, Lake Erie sparkled to my right. It’s all so familiar, like a worn blanket a little bit tattered and frayed on the edges but just as ready to keep you warm and toasty on a blustery night.

Cleveland is my old blanket and as much as I wish it was shining and new, I take comfort in its familiarity, in the fact that this is really a small town and that I’m just as likely to run into someone I know on the east side as on the west side. My husband and I joke that we can’t seem to go out to dinner without running into a handful of friends and acquaintances. We complain, but really we love the serendipity of running into others. Because that’s the most beautiful thing about this town … its people.


Kelly said...

I enjoyed your perspective on the city that I'm soo slowly getting to know, and trying not to compare to NY where I spent the last dozen years of my life. I wish I lived a little bit closer--the hour drive with a toddler and a teen prevents me from going in as often as I would like. You make me want to try harder.


Wendy Hoke said...

Hi Kelly,
If I've inspired you to try harder, I am truly glad. It can be tough, but there are many wonderful things (and people) to discover in Cleveland. CircleFest is this Sunday at University Circle and it's a great chance to see the offerings (for FREE). Best to you and thanks for stopping by.