Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Cleveland Means To Joe Posnanski

Here's an excerpt from one of sportswriter and blogger Joe Posnanski's always literate and exploratory - when's the last time you saw "sportswriter" and "literate" in the same sentence? I'll tell you when: not since Mitch Albom - blog posts. A link to the full post is just below. I'll follow up soon with what Detroit / metro Detroit means to me. City-conscious juices are flowing ...

See to me, Cleveland — and Cincinnati and Charlotte and Kansas City and every other place I have lived — has always been at its best when it was unapologetic and immune to what other people thought. Dance like no one is watching. One of my heroes, Calvin Trillin, writes all the time about coming to a place and trying to find the best restaurant in town. People will always insist on taking him to some ridiculous restaurant with four stars and continental cuisine, a place he began to call "La Maison de la Casa House." This is NEVER the best restaurant in town. Calvin Trillin would see about 20 better restaurants along the way. But people so rarely appreciate what make their own places wonderful. Often, they are EMBARRASSED by what makes their own places wonderful.

This goes way beyond food. People in every city I go to will talk one minute how much they despise New York and in the next, when you ask where you should go out that night, they will inevitably try to send you to some little part of town that is supposed to trigger images of Greenwich Village or the Upper East Side in a minor key. Cleveland, for a long time, tried to sell itself as a little New York, which it very much is not. Cleveland is Cleveland. Cleveland is ethnic and sarcastic and covered in snow. Cleveland is optimistically-pessimistic (or pessimistically optimistic) and bigger than you think and smaller than it used to be. Cleveland has a great symphony, a great art museum, a great playhouse and the vast majority of people in town (including me) would rather watch the Browns. Cleveland has potholes and abandoned buildings and has not won a championship since 1964. Cleveland has brick houses and close-knit neighborhoods and a lot of ice cream shops. The sky is often gray.
What I love about Cleveland has never been easy for me to put into words because it is something that comes from growing up there. Cleveland feels distinct to me, different from every other city in the world. Cleveland to me is my Uncle Lonka playing the accordion at weddings. Cleveland to me is the smell of bread while driving on Mayfield past Corbos Bakery. Cleveland to me is the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video on YouTube and the wildly different reactions it inspires in Clevelanders. Cleveland to me is the people playing chess at the Arabica Coffee House. Cleveland to me is a baseball game on a cold April afternoon under gray skies.

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