On Cleveland

I get frustrated when I read about Cleveland. It was my home for six years, three of which I spent living inside the city. It’s not just the jokes about a city that really is on the rise that bug me, though. It’s the way the Clevelanders defend it.

I loved Cleveland for a lot of reasons, and had I not had the opportunity to move to Austin, Texas, a cinephile paradise, I would probably still live there today. But these are not reasons I would have stayed:

If anyone else wants to make up a list about Cleveland, feel free to mention our world-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art, world-class Cleveland Orchestra and world-famous Cleveland Clinic. If you toss in University Hospitals Case Medical Center and MetroHealth, you’re in medical Mecca.

That was Regina Brett’s defense in her article “Cleveland is a city on fire.” She wrote that article with good reason. Once again, Cleveland jokes became headlines when the RNC announced it was chose for the 2016 Republican National Convention and Lebron James said he was going home. But world-class this and old culture that don’t make Cleveland, Cleveland.

Another reason I wouldn’t want to live in Cleveland? Affordable housing, colleges, diversity, young professionals or pretty much anything listed in this Thought Catalog post. The defenders of the city are as much a problem as are the people making fun of the city. Why? Because the moment you talk about the housing market there, you put a big kick-me sign on Key Bank Tower. Outsiders pounce.

The real reason people love Cleveland is quite simple: It’s family there. Most of the people I met in Cleveland lived in the area their entire lives or only went away for college. For others, it was a short life in another city before making their way back to Ohio.  In Austin, the first question people ask is “Where are you from?” Nobody is from Austin.

The city’s defenders don’t necessarily see that because it’s the family they’ve known. What makes Cleveland special is that this particular family embraces new members. I never felt like an outsider in Cleveland, even though I’ve always been one. It was a hard to resist the draw.

The unconditional love that Clevelanders have for their city often skews their perspective. Now that I’m gone, I miss that the most. Austinites love Austin, too. But it’s a new kind of love, the butterflies and optimism kind. Cleveland’s love is deeper than that, like a family that endured a tragedy only to come out on the other side the better for it. When you have that perspective, you don’t need big things to fall in love with. You just need to be there.

So what do I miss about Cleveland? I miss walking to my neighborhood coffee shop every weekend for a muffin and a coffee. I miss the patio at Prosperity Social Club. I miss seeing movies at the Capitol Theatre, the Cedar Lee and the Cinematheque. I miss putting peanut butter on hot dogs at the Happy Dog. I miss taking walks around Edgewater park. I miss the way that Sweet Moses smells and I miss the sounds of ships coming into the Port of Cleveland. But mostly, I miss my Cleveland family.

While I know that visitors from Washington, D.C., won’t be able to experience that they way I did living in Cleveland for so many years, trust me it’s there. It makes me know that Lebron meant it said “I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland.” I wouldn’t leave Austin for anywhere except Cleveland. It’s a city I never knew I would love. It’s a city most people can’t believe they would love, either. But I do and you will. Because it’s family.

photo credit: BIG Slow via photopin cc