This review is the first leg of The Cleveland Trifecta
Cleveland is a very weird city. The stereotypes surrounding it are…um, everything that goes with the “Cleveland Rocks” intro of The Drew Carey Show and people who look like Drew Carey and like the Browns. That’s not really much upon which to base my good-intentioned prejudicing.
I’ve actually been to Cleveland three times in the era of my life I can remember. The first visit was high school trip, and the only “feel” of the city I got was from the 50 or so feet between where the bus dropoff point and the entrance to an attraction (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Hard Rock Cafe), so that first trip doesn’t count. In the last two years, to attend the East West Eye Conference, I’ve made the trip twice. Unfortunately, I’m sort of an expert on downtown Cleveland. Maybe some Cleveland fans can inform me that where I stayed/visited is depressing and/but there’s another “downtown” not so business-oriented that is unspecifically better.
Anyway, on to business:
The Chicago Loop (a section of “downtown” Chicago) is dead after 5 or so each weekday and all weekend because there’s no more work to be done, and there are lots (and lots) of other bustling areas still “downtown” to do things. To be in the “loop” after hours is a bit unsettling, skyscrapers that go way up, traffic lights doing their thing, but very little traffic and even fewer people. Downtown Cleveland is just like this, but all the time. Except instead of no people, Cleveland some of the most aggressive panhandlers/homeless people that I’ve ever come across. So it also has that goin’ for it, which is nice.
To better paint a picture, one can cross any street downtown during business hours (or any hours, really) without looking in either direction and not get hit by a car. This isn’t because the drivers are friendly and slow down to avoid hitting pedestrians; it’s because there aren’t many drivers. Likewise, I found no McDonald’s in downtown Cleveland. McDonald’s isn’t a sign of class, just a universal symbol of people being busy and needing a fast, cheap place to eat. The only other “quick” food I could find was a run-down Subway and some hole-in-the-wall reuben deli/eating area (I think the reuben is Cleveland’s official sandwich). All of this weirdness is compounded by the fact that the downtown is clean and exhibits lots of new/newish buildings. Unless there’s some other downtown area, it’s like the people go to these buildings at 8 or 9 in the morning then zip out of the general area around 5.
There’s a hip/trendy (read: expensive) part of downtown called “The Warehouse District,” where if you want to spend $30 for yourself on dinner and wait interminably to get it, it’s a great chance. But even here, especially at what should be busy times (weekend nights), it’s oddly quiet. Something doesn’t feel right when you and your “work buddies” are part of the ten people in a bar at midnight-thirty on a Saturday night. These businesses (restaurants, bars, etc.) stay in business, so the rent must be shockingly low for such metropolitan locations. The football stadium is part of the “downtown,” so it (the whole area) must get busier on football Sundays, but that’s only 8 Sundays each year unless the Browns happen to make it into the playoffs (good luck with that).
Cleveland, Ohio receives two stars due to its general “deadness” and obliviousness regarding that “deadness.” (Songs talking about how much it “rocks” paint an ignorantly optimistical picture.) Its positive points are earned from its aesthetic appeal (minus the fact that there’s no challenge when playing “I Spy a smelly bum”) and the 45 minutes of walking around before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets old.