I haven’t blogged in awhile now and there’s two reasons for this. One is simple; my grandpa died last week and I was a site too busy to post any inane ramblings on the internet. But also because I started to care how many people were reading my blog everyday and what started as something for me suddenly seemed self-indulgent and I didn’t want to do it anymore. But here I am with a few more things to say, I guess, so I am.
I was watching 90210 last week and one of the characters was considering not celebrating her half birthday. I, of course, initially thought it was a little weird that she was considering celebrating it in the first place and that her friends (who… weren’t her friends last season, if someone has any insight as to what the heckles is going on there please feel free to raise your hand here) were so insistent that she do so. Well, I thought, maybe this is just a California thing. Maybe it’s a Beverly Hills thing. All the teenage girls within the 90210 post code treat there half birthdays as a National holiday, what do I know? But then the story went on to explain that Silver, the character in question, was repeatedly disappointed by her mother when she was little to the point where instead of celebrating her birthday when she had high expectations of what the day might hold, she would celebrate her half birthday… because no one expects anything of them.
Watching this on Thursday afternoon with my birthday looming the next day I couldn’t help but agree that that might not be too bad an idea. I can’t remember the last time I had a good birthday. They have been boring, they have been okay, and they have been downright depressing.
On my twenty-fifth I spent the day at work behind a consession counter crying my eyes out because I have twenty-five and nowhere near where I thought I would be at twenty-five. Menial job, few friends, no idea what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. Sadly, in the subsequent three years not much has changed except that I have an even worse job and live with my mother. I wish that I could say that there weren’t any tears this year but instead I will assure everyone that there were no public tears, which is much worse. And the people at Chick-fil-A were extra nice as I got my fast food to eat alone in the car. Though, really, I will chalk that up to the fact that Chick-fil-A employees are always overly chipper and nice to the point where I wonder if they are all secretly harboring a desire to reach through the speaker and choke us all to death.
When I sat down to write this blog I had the idea to talk about some of the restaurants in Cleveland. K, J, and I have been getting into good restaurants lately. It might have something to do with the fact that my paychecks lately will pay for a little more than a ten dollar hamburger at the Winking Lizard, but I think it has more to do with us examining further into Cleveland’s potential. I have a sister, who will no doubt read this in a couple weeks and feel the need to make some snarky comment, who lives in Chicago. I think that she thinks Chicago is the best place in the world. And I am not knocking Chicago, I like it there, I pretty much only joined the World Affairs Club and thus Model United Nations in high school in order to get the trip to Chicago, which the University of held yearly at the Palmer House Hilton. I mean, really, why would anyone not want to endure a bit of conference to stay somewhere that looks like this:
In a city that looks like this:
Every year me and my friend… I don’t know what to call her, we’ll go with MS (though I suppose it’d be MM now? I’m sticking with MS) would sneak out of the hotel, get in a cab, and go over to Water Tower, which… was pretty much the only part of Chicago we were aware of and we’d get some dinner, go to the movies (there were probably infinitely cooler things that we could have been doing, but cool was never our strong suit), and generally feel like adults. We loved it. And when it came time to apply to college my first choice was there. I cut out a life for myself in my head. Imagined getting gyros from crappy store fronts, taking the train places, walking to different neighborhoods. Well, if you’re reading this you probably know me well enough to know that that didn’t happen. And it’s only a little bit ironic that everything I wanted for myself my sister got a couple years later. And she hasn’t left, and probably never will.
I don’t know what life would have held for me if I had succeeded on that path but that’s not what I am talking about here. Though it may not be quite evident what I am talking about is Cleveland. Said sister came home recently, for the aforementioned funeral, and we started talking about the good old Cleve. Her standpoint was that there isn’t anything in Cleveland that there isn’t anywhere else. Okay. Sure. But, really, is there anything anywhere that isn’t anywhere else?
There are cities. Beautiful, grand, majestic cities that are the best places in the world. The ones that have history and culture and artists and architecture that’s better than anywhere else in the world. Paris comes to mind. Rome, Florence… most places in Italy actually, London to an extent, even New York has some. I am not talking about these places. I realize that there is only one Sistine Chapel. Only one Notre Dame de Paris. The Tower of London is unlikely to transpose itself anywhere else, although London Bridge did a good job of it.
Cleveland might not have things that aren’t anywhere else but what it has is pretty damned good. The Cleveland Museum of Art for example, while not the Art Institute (which I love, hello haystacks), houses more than 43,000 works by the likes of Caravaggio, El Greco, Poussin, Rubens, Goya, Turner, Dali, Matisse, Renoir, Gauguin, Church, Cole, Corot, Eakins, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso, and Bellows. And that’s permanent, I am not including the always stellar special exhibits that are consistently showing. Plus, they have so really great events, such as the ‘Thank Gauguin It’s Friday’ events. K, J, and I went to the absinthe tasting one. It was great along with being reasonably priced.
And if it’s art you’re after it doesn’t end with CMA. There’s also the Cleveland Institute of Art with it’s various galleries and events (not to mention the Cinematheque). There’s also tons of other galleries, Little Italy and Gordon Square spring to mind. The Pop Shop ain’t too bad either (http://www.popshopgallery.com/index.html), same with Waterloo. For some reason Cleveland tends to be a bit of a haven for artist, probably because it’s a city small enough to be accessible and for their communities to shine through.
Then there is the theatre. Us Clevelanders like our theatre, and while the ballet has sadly gone to pass, there is still the Opera and of course the world famous Orchestra. We have Playhouse Square, where the larger productions live, the traveling Broadway types, and also the Play House which stages it’s own productions. There’s the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, the Beck Center, Cleveland Public Theatre, 4th Wall, Convergence-Continuum, and Dobama. Ranging from large to small there is something for everyone.
We also have our fair share of restaurants now. Not that they weren’t always there, but it seems like in the last five years a new crop have opened of tasty delights that are getting some real recognition. Michael Symon is probably the corner stone of all this… Iron Chef and all, and with Lolita, Lola, Bar Symon, and the forthcoming B Spot there’s a variety of prices and choice. And let’s not forget the Greenhouse Tavern, one of my favorites, a sustainable restaurant centering on local and regional choices, it was just named on of Bon Appetit‘s ten best restaurants in the country. L’Albatros I tried for the first time last night, I would have gotten the cassoulet but my mother opted for that and I got the veal short ribs. Both were amazing and I wasn’t surprised they were featured in Esquire. Luxe too, featuring an array of delicious choices from pizzas and pastas to comfort foods like the Kobe corn dog or rosemary cheesy grits with duck sausage. And I have to mention Momocho, ‘mod mex’ food with some of the best guacamole and sauces I have ever had. I order the wild boar and even though I know I should try something new next time I am still salivating over the dish I had. Then of course there’s the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Yes, they are known for their beer, but the tavern is cozy, the food good, and the bread pudding to die for. I could probably come up with a few others to put on the list (Paladar, Beachland brunch) but that could go on forever.
The sister pointed out that Cleveland might have some really good places but Chicago is constantly on the best restaurants list, and another person was telling a story about how the concierge at their hotel said there were 38 new restaurants in the last six months. That’s great, it really is, but I don’t have a problem with having a much more manageable restaurant set.
So, sure, maybe there isn’t much in Cleveland that you can’t find anywhere else, but… who cares? Cleveland’s affordable, fun, and tons to do. It’s easy to miss out on it, I suppose, if you don’t look you don’t find, so I suppose you could say it’s subpar to Chicago in that respect, but I can’t imagine being busier than I already am. Cleveland’s smaller, sure, and Chicago is great. But I don’t mind a little of this: