Before I moved to the Cleveland area, everything I knew about the city came from The Drew Carey Show. I also knew about Jacobs Field from my baseball addiction but – living in California – even that was not strong enough incentive to visit.
Now here we are. I heard Cleveland jokes before in passing but now it feels like the city is the punchline to every joke. Last year, I went to a play in Columbus that made a joke about Cleveland. Even the archetypal, boring, Midwestern city of Columbus makes fun of its neighbor.
What’s most disheartening, though, is the chip on the shoulder of those who’ve lived here for a long time.
I’ve been to two big events now – one for communicators in the business world and one for writers – and at both, speakers talked about what Cleveland had to offer in terms of business leaders and the creative arts. But the tone of the speakers was not bragging. It was more like justifying and whining.
The idea that Cleveland is a “loser city” seems to be as ingrained in Clevelanders as it is in those who couldn’t find Ohio on a map.
Cleveland is the eternal Jan Brady.
But there is no reason for this. Yes, Cleveland often ranks number 1 on the so-called “misery index” of places to live. But I’ve lived in many cities in many states and, let me tell you, there is plenty of misery to go around.
Coming from the outside, I knew what out-of-staters thought about Cleveland. I didn’t know that the residents believed it as well.
I went to a great event the other night, The Lantern Awards, held by The Lit, Cleveland’s Literary Center. This inaugural event celebrated the best writing in northeast Ohio. It was wonderful to see so many writers celebrating their own work and that of their writing community. I am anxious to become part of it.
But I was somewhat letdown. In their acceptance speeches, winners would often say something to the effect, “See, we have good writing here! We’re a real city, too, with real art!”
Sometimes the lady doth protest too much. Better to show the world, and ourselves, what Cleveland has to offer rather than try to convince them.
In essence: Show, Don’t tell.
P.S. Check out these Cleveland area writers, all winners of a Lantern Award. At the event, I was happy to be able to tell Thrity Umrigar how much I enjoyed her novel, The Weight of Heaven. A lifetime achievement award for Harvey Pekar, who passed away in July, was accepted by his wife, Joyce Brabner. Interesting to see her in person after watching American Splendor so many times.