You’ve Never Been To Cleveland? Here’s What You’re Missing

Erik Daniel Drost
Erik Daniel Drost

You’ve never seen the lights in the distance as you come over the Detroit-Superior Bridge. You’ve never seen the bridge lit up, all purply and hip. You’ve never seen the sun rising over Lake Erie – although scientists say that bright, burning bulb in the sky is supposed to rise in the East – casting its light over the rippling water. In some areas, particularly if you happen to be close to the lake’s edge, the sunrise (and, consequently, the sunset) looks like something out of a postcard.

If you’ve never taken the bus in and seen the lights of downtown, particularly, the warm, yellow lights of street lamps and door lights (on Tower City), you’ve also never seen the bustling cars and the way the light reflects off of the cracked and poorly repaired pavement in a sort of watercolor haze. You’ve never seen the way the trees, even as they lose their leaves, still look more alive in the middle of a rainstorm.

If you’ve never taken the bus in to downtown, you’ve probably never had to deal with the odd person who insists on sitting too close or talking too loud. You’ve never felt as though you were invisible and about 2 sizes smaller than what you were given to think you were just mere minutes before. And, while all that sounds terrible for the morning commute, if you’ve never been on the bus in the morning, you’ve never had the crystal clear mind focusing time not interrupted by driving.

You’ve never, upon taking every pain to stay dry out in the storm, had someone who was perhaps not so careful make your one side wetter than it had been before.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you have missed the diversity of the city’s peoples. From every part of the world, of every shape, size and color, they have come here. Why? I don’t think anyone knows. This city has an odd attraction.

Sometimes akin to the allure of NYC, but most time akin to the magnetism of a train wreck. You just cannot look away. Or, maybe, in a more macabre turn of thought, Cleveland is like Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave. While downtown is kind of snazzy, the rest of the city is – for lack of a better phrase – falling apart. Odds and ends restoration jobs are taking place all over the city – very slowly progress is being made. We will be the Comeback City, they keep saying.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you don’t realize the deep, abiding, and sometimes crazy, stupid love that Clevelanders have for their sports teams. You’ve never seen so many people so enthusiastically cheering on a team that will most likely not win the game of the day, let alone the season or the title. That same crazy, stupid love extends to the love of their city. You’ll never hear a Clevelander deny that Cleveland can really make you depressed if you let it. In the same sentence, however, the same Cleveland native will say that the city is on the rebound, that they have faith in their hometown.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland on a rainy, cold morning in the month of October, you’ve never seen the wind blow so forcefully that it presses together the opposite ends of umbrellas, conspiring to make each and every person a sopping wet mess – with a hot mess of hair to boot. The mutterings of disgruntled umbrella owners who had not, until that moment, pondered the aerodynamics of an umbrella. And, once they had, found that umbrellas are incredibly wanting as a method of protecting oneself from the elements.

If you’ve never walked down Cleveland streets and surveyed the wonder that is old architecture. The old, federalist style buildings that house both the public library, the court house, and, down on another street, the post office. The old, regal style buildings that house the old Arcade, the Galleria, and the Rockefeller Center. One can never have enough glass, red brick, masonry stone, or marble, after all. Oh, the majesty! This, combined with the unmistakable notion that there’s probably a crack in the foundation of each of these old buildings (whilst we pray to God, who ever he is, that this isn’t true), that they cannot possibly stand the test of time.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you have never heard the stories about old tunnels underneath the city – long fallen into disuse – and, probably, disrepair. A collapsing tunnel or two would explain a few city streets which are more uneven than the uneven bars at the last Olympics.

If you’ve never travelled into Cleveland’s many different residential neighborhoods, you’ve never seen the art, architecture, and style that permeates each neighborhood, making it distinct from every other neighborhood. The old-world charm of Ohio City (now, that’s a comeback neighborhood, if ever there were one) patched together with the likes of the artsy, high falutin’ Tremont neighborhood. Little Italy and WestPark. All together. One big town. You’ve never encountered streets that are still paved with red brick. Some might say this means Cleveland is too poor to update it’s infrastructure. Clevelanders would say it means that Cleveland is rich with heritage and history.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you wouldn’t know that our churches and cathedrals are works of art, even as they function as places of worship. The stained glass windows of the Old Stone Church bear, on some panes, the signature of none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany. The ivy that wanders and climbs up the one spire of Trinity Cathedral adding a certain beauty to an already awe inspiring building.

If you’ve never walked into the Art Museum – and seen the splendor as well as appreciated the price of admission – you’ve also probably missed out on University Circle: home to Case Western Reserve University. If you’ve never seen a play or a concert or what-have-you at a theatre in Playhouse Square, you’ve missed out on some small treasures in the nation’s second largest theatre district (behind, one would imagine, the great New York City). You’ve never heard the jazz musicians who play in Public Square on any given sunshiny day – putting notes into the air from some tune you’ve probably never heard . . . That probably never existed before that moment.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you’ve never heard about our lake and how its dying, although you have probably heard about our burning, crooked ol’ river. You’ve never seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – and you would probably not know that Cleveland is sometimes regarded as the birthplace of rock and roll. Clevelanders know – and some people other places will acknowledge – without Cleveland, there would be no rock and roll as we know it today. We are aware that other cities think we are full of bullshit, but we know the truth. Yes, yes we do.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you’ve never seen the sheer determination and grit of this small midwestern town that used to be a large midwestern powerhouse. As Cher has said, you haven’t seen the last of me. You haven’t seen the last of this city either. Whether it be in medicine, or arts, or music, or education (we can educate our students better than we do currently), we will lead the way for the rest of the nation – and, in some cases, the world.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you have never seen the sun, which manages to align itself directly with Euclid Avenue somedays (and Superior other days) – and becomes a hazard for any drivers heading into it’s blinding brightness. Imagine walking out of a building on Euclid, past Playhouse Square, and wondering if the orange light you see is part of a marquis before realizing the sun has turned the sky into it’s canvas.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you’ve never seen our zoo. It’s free on Mondays to people who live here. You wouldn’t necessarily know that pink flamingos smell or that the bears are like moths to the flame when it comes to putting on a show for visitors – they love the attention. We don’t have the ever popular octopus that predicts the winners of games with a great degree of accuracy, but the elephants are up close and personal – and you feel like they are kindred spirits as you look into their big eyes.

You may think this was written as a propaganda piece. And, in many ways, the hope is that it entices you to come and visit Cleveland. But, if you don’t make it – we here in this city, the land of the Cleve’s, will forgive you. We’ve built a casino – maybe that interests you. Maybe, like this author and a lot of others, you wish casinos weren’t a necessary reality. We, as the general public, won’t try to woo you. But! A welcoming atmosphere does await you. You’ve got nothing to lose, right? One day, a long time from now, we hope not to have to inquire in an exasperating manner, who in the world would vacation in Cleveland?!

If you’ve never been to Cleveland . . . You’ve never seen the microcosm of a global society in one small dot on a small map. Perhaps this author is too self assured – perhaps other cities are like Cleveland. But, when you go from being the “mistake on the lake” to the “comeback city” – one feels the need to be conceited and narrow minded. We beg your indulgence and understanding. This rainy, cold morning in October has turned into a rainy, cold afternoon in October and the author is feeling much as though she should be wrapped up in fluffy, warm blankets, by a nice warm fire, with a nice warm cup o’ joe (or is that cocoa) in a great big mug clutched between two small, pale hands. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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