I ended up in Cleveland, Ohio in 1982. Not by my own devices as I was just a young lad from Canada, but because my father was transferred here. If I had known anything about Cleveland back then and if my opinions had mattered, I might have refused. The sports teams sucked, the climate sucked, the Cuyahoga River burning was still relatively fresh in everyone's mind, the crime rate was high and there was no Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (which kinda sucks anyway) yet. But I don't think my parents were willing to leave behind their favorite 11 year old son to his own devices. I would've ended up dead and frozen in the snow, arrested by the RCMP or wrestling bears for maple syrup. So I had no choice but to join them in a midnight run across the border and assimilate myself within the American culture.
Even after so many years in the area I never thought of Cleveland as a travel destination. At least not on purpose. My formidable years here still involved mostly lousy sports teams, crime, dirty politics and the general assumption that Cleveland was still the 'mistake on the lake'. In the 90's there was somewhat of a rebirth in the area. The Cleveland Indians had a new stadium and an All Star at every position. They even had a great playoff run but never won the World Series. But at the same time, The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. The legendary Flats died and was reborn, then died again. The music scene was almost nonexistent. The Cleveland punk days were gone and Nine Inch Nails were recording weird albums in churches in Hollywood. But there were some good museums of course, but also serial killers and crooked politicians. It was still the 'mistake on the lake'; not because of a burning river but because of those in charge of the city ( Jimmy DiMora and Frank Russo ) and the criminal element. Cleveland has some great areas but it also has the not so great areas as most cities do.
The Cleveland Museum Of Art is amazing as are the Botanical Gardens and the Science Museum. The U.S.S. Cod was a favorite of mine when I was younger. The Indians are making great strides, having made the playoffs back in 2013, and the future looks bright. The Browns still suck and I wouldn't be surprised if they fold in a few years. DiMora and Russo are in prison and streets are being paved and people are moving back downtown. The 'Christmas Story' house gets visitors all year round as does the 'Superman' house. We have Playhouse Square where Tom Hanks got his start, and the Whiskey Island Marina. The Terminal Tower still stands guard over the city. We have the Metroparks and the zoo. A music scene has been festering for many years now as has a new culture of art and poetry and belief in a city that has been given up on many times before and left for dead, only to rise from the ashes like a phoenix.
I spent many years hating Cleveland; embarrassed to admit I lived here and built my roots here. But I can't get away from it, I can't escape. The gates to my Cleveland prison have been left open again and again but I don't run through them. I can't leave. I don't leave. I still hate this place but part of me loves it. That's the curse, and the gift, of being a Clevelander.