Repost: Cleveland – Land of the Creatives

I have to be honest. When all the buzz surrounding Lebron James’ possible return to Cleveland started, I ignored it.  To say that the whole situation reminded me of his departure to Miami four years ago is an understatement.  For me, Lebron or no Lebron meant nothing. He departed my heart many years ago.

When I heard of his actual decision, I was shocked. Truth be told, my ignorance of the team debate partially stemmed from a strong belief that he would never return to Cleveland again. When I started to see friends’ posts on Facebook with the link to his Sports Illustrated article, I ignored those as well. Why would I want to read the words of a guy most recently known as a traitor?

Eventually, I succumbed to the peer pressure, otherwise known as news feed takeover, and read his article. Shoot. I found many detailed arguments that resonate with me – the desire to spread his wings and leave the Ohio borders for a period of time, the constant lure back to his home state, the determination to give something back to the city by the lake that raised him.

The underlying message throughout the article emerges prominently in one of the very last lines:

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. -Lebron James

This is a common thread within each Clevelander: we know what it’s like to be at the bottom and fight for what you want or rather, more often that not, fight for what you need. We know what it’s like to be an underdog more frequently than the number of times we’ve tasted Stadium Mustard. Lebron’s words are not foreign to me; in fact they are something I’ve written about on this blog before.  And although at the time of the original post I was a little perturbed with the King, many of these words still ring true today.

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Originally posted: January 18, 2013 (slightly edited)

Whenever I tell someone that I’m originally from Cleveland, I usually get the standard response “Oh, I’m so sorry about that.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard it all before.  I used to try and come up with an intriguing response like “You just need to know where to go or.. visit in the summer; the lake is beautiful!”  Well, from now on, I’ve come up with something more appropriate:

F%*! YOU

And here’s why:

I’ve formally lived in only three cities so far in my lifetime: Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

In D.C., I met the most physically fit and intelligent people of my life.  It’s hard to keep up with them most days.

In Pittsburgh, I ran into the most caring and simple individuals.  A parking lot and a case of Iron Cities are enough to keep them entertained for hours.

But, in Cleveland… good ole Cleveland; that’s the land of the Creatives.

Covering 82.4 square miles (thank you Wikipedia) just south of Lake Erie, Cleveland ranks as the 7th most dangerous city in the nation. The city hasn’t won an NFL Championship since 1964, the World Series since 1948 or the NBA title.. ever.  Lebron, excuse me, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still an a**hole. But please media keep calling us the Mistake on the Lake or poking fun at why Nick Saban would EVER want to go to Cleveland.  Salt to the wound feels good.

In December 1978, Cleveland became the first major American city to enter a financial default on federal loans since the Great Depression.  The per capita income for the city is $14,291. 26.3% of the population and 22.9% of families are below the poverty line.

In Cleveland, there is no “blue blood trust fund that we can dip in to.”  I learned that to get anything in life, it must be achieved through hard work ethic and fearless determination.  Complaining is the quickest shortcut to a dead-end, which is hard to accept because trust me, we have a lot to complain about.

My family is fortunate, but I witnessed our fair share of struggles.  I watched my father get on an airplane to Chicago more times than I could count.  I watched my mom leave her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son at odd hours of the night to work night shifts at the local hospital.

I know far too many people who work more than one two jobs just to get by and support their families.  What is even more special, though, is the amount of talent that flows through my newsfeed each day.  Singers – like him and them.  Musicians, photographers, skateboarders with a dream and DJs, too.

It’s well-known that Cleveland has its limitations – but to make art out of the limitations – that is where the true magic lies.  Clevelanders are the creatives quite simply because we can create anything out of nothing, even nothings that are laced with poverty, social injustice and lack of media coverage.

I realize that I don’t live in the city any more, but I carry it with me wherever I go.  I see it in others who have grown up in the area and moved on as well.  Cleveland  and its weaknesses quite simply motivate all who covet it to rise above what holds them down.

And, to go out on a limb, I think that is worth far more in the long run than any championship ring.

Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Hey y’all! I finished Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris last week.  It’s easily one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.  Although I caused my friends some confusion, the book actually has nothing to do with diabetes and only one chapter is devoted to owls – primarily deceased ones, too.  No big deal.

In actuality, this book is a collection of humorous essays that left me literally laughing out loud.  I know this is an overused phrase, but I received quite some looks at the pool as I was chuckling at my tablet.  Most of the essays chronicle David’s explorations throughout various countries.  In fact, this global element is what placed the book on the 26 Books that will Change the Way You See the World list.  The stories are light-hearted and culturally fascinating as Sedaris humorously points out the different idiosyncrasies from country to country.

There are two aspects of this book that I greatly value.  The first is obviously Sedaris’ ability to write hilarious and entertaining stories out of nearly thin air – no grocery store trip, airport line or standard family dinner is left untapped.  The second is Sedaris’ writing style.  His mix of quirkiness and humor with a dash of emotionally charged storytelling leaves me with writer’s envy.  I’m hoping his writing can inspire a little bit of mine.

There are a lot of knee-slap worthy, and also downright I-can’t-believe-he-said-that-but-I’m-laughing-anyways quotes from David throughout the book.  My favorites include:

  • “Listen,” I’d always like to say, “I’m not a parent myself, but I think the best solution at this point is to slap that child across the face.  It won’t stop its crying, but at least now it’ll be doing it for a good reason.”
  • When my mother announced dinner, he took off his jacket, stepped out of his trousers, and took his seat alongside the rest of us. From the tabletop up, he was business casual – the ironed shirt, the loosened tie – but from there on down it was just briefs and bare legs.
  • Of the many expressions we Americans tend to overuse, I think the most irritating is ‘Blind people are human too.’
  • People didn’t say “artist,” they said “starving artist,” so even if you weren’t doing anything of consequence, as long as you were hungry you were on the right track, weren’t you?
  • Since I’d come back to Raleigh, my most daring achievement was to move into my own apartment, this at my father’s insistence and done practically at knifepoint.
  • He can talk about litter, but when the topic shifts to the price of heating oil or the correct way to lay a paving stone, he can shift with it.  For me, though, there is no other topic.
  • As a child, I assumed that when I reached adulthood, I would have grown-up thoughts.  By this I meant that I would stop living in a fantasy world; that, while standing in line for a hamburger or my shot at the ATM, I would not daydream about befriending a gorilla or inventing a pill that would make hair waterproof.  In this regard too, my diaries have proven me wrong.

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I feel like a book is only as good as what it teaches you.  For me, Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a reminder to enjoy the simple and, of course, funny things in life.  There are too many things in the world to take seriously, but this book ain’t one of them, folks.  If you’re looking for an entertaining read (ideally by pool-side), I highly recommend LEDWO.  Get some.

**If you’d like to join us for reading Omnivore’s Dilemma (tentatively aiming for completion at the end of July), learn more and sign up over here!  Or, just follow my blog – dang, it.  ;)