Monday, 6 January 2014

Who Knows, You Might Even Meet THIS Guy


Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video, Part 1

The 2013 holiday season is over, 2014 has begun, and it's back to work.

I was speaking on Christmas Day with my mother, who was visiting in Cleveland, Ohio.  A couple of siblings had come into town (one from California, the other from Georgia) to celebrate.  We talked about a number of things, including the past, present, and presumed future.

Among the topics was the city of Cleveland and northeast Ohio more broadly.  

My family moved to the Cleveland suburbs at the very end of 1980 (late December, if memory is correct), so whilst it's not really true that I "come" from Cleveland, I spent a number of my formative years in the city, and though I've been gone for more than 20 years and have spent virtually all of my adult life (and a good chunk of years as a kid) elsewhere, I remember the area mostly fondly.

My sister, who lives just outside the San Francisco Bay Area, and my brother, who resides in Atlanta, from time to time express a desire to return to Cleveland.  Both are three years younger than I am, spent more time in the area than I did, and have a stronger "home" tie to Cleveland.  I like to tease my brother about the city, and have had more than one go-round about the video above, a satirical "travel guide" which was put to YouTube by a professional comedian. 

Turns out, the guy (Mike Polk) himself is from nearby (Warren, Ohio), and has written a book entitled Damn Right I'm from Cleveland. 

Some of the jokes in the video seem good-natured ("the Flats look like a Scooby-Doo ghost town").  But some I think might be a bit too close to the truth.

One of the spots focuses on a barren patch of land with the comment that "here's a place where there used to be industry;" another, showing a train heading to some unmentioned destination with the tag, "this train is carrying jobs out of Cleveland."

The struggles of the city are well-known, including the implosion of the steel and auto industries, the default of the city, the immolation of the Cuyahoga River, the disappointments of the Indians/Browns/Cavaliers.  Cleveland had a population of just under a million residents in 1950.  At that time, it was (I believe) the 9th largest city in America.

Cleveland and its leadership have tried to right the ship.  The old rail terminal under the Terminal Tower (the signature building in the city) was converted to a nice retail mall (that was mostly empty the last time I visited).  The Rock Hall of Fame opened just after I moved away.  The Indians opened a new stadium.  Slogans have been tried.

What result?

Today, the population stands at less than half of its peak, and Cleveland has fallen to 47th on the list of cities.

In our family, I live in Paris, France.  Another brother lives in New England.  My mother has returned to Canada.  My oldest friend lives in Texas.  

As stated, my youngest siblings have indicated that they would like to return, and in fact, I believe my sister is actively looking to return.  My friend left Cleveland not necessarily by choice, but out of necessity to provide for his family.

If I wanted to return to Ohio, what would I be able to do?  

So the question I had was, how is it that a city gets to the point that its educated, productive citizens who would like to remain, simply are not able to because the outlook is frankly too bleak?  Does the city reach a point of no return - a death vortex - which, with increasing speed, spins out those who would/could make it a thriving, vital location that people want to live?  Has Cleveland reached such a point, where, for all the talk about growth, and the future, and perpetual comebacks has become a fantasy?

Detroit comes to mind.  The video ends with a quip that "at least we're not Detroit."  I am not so sure.

I laugh about the video, but it is in fact quite sad.  
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