Bash my city no longer

January 29th, 2015


Want to make my blood boil and see the veins pop out of my head? Throw a Cleveland joke at me.  Go on. I dare you.


If you’re so bold as to enter this dangerous territory, prepare yourself for some serious Higl Squiggle sass.


As a born and bred Clevelander, I’ve heard all the jokes in the book. My personal favorite is comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s: “In U.S. you make fun of Cleveland. In Russia, we make fun of Cleveland.”


However, the “mistake on the lake” is no longer. At last, our time has come. (Cue Superman theme song.)


Why? Because all these media outlets say so. Yes sir, if the LA Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, BuzzFeed, Forbes and Fodor say Cleveland is tops, then gosh darn it, it must be true.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled by all of the positive press. And yes, I understand that Cleveland is booming. However, I’d personally like to think we’ve always been a standout city.


Yes, I’m biased. I’m a Clevelander through and through. My parents raised me to embrace the city, experiencing the culture, the food, the arts and the character. And, yes – to even embrace our sports scene. (Hey, you’ve got to admit that Cleveland sports fans have spunk.)


I understand that LeBron James is back. I understand there’s an increase in urban development. What I don’t understand is how the same people who were making Cleveland the butt of every joke just months ago are now singing its praises.


Get this: Cleveland has been home to the second largest theater district for some time. The West Side Market has been a well-loved foodie destination for years.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland – not LA or New York. The Cleveland Orchestra has been ranked as the number one orchestra worldwide. The Cleveland Museum of Art features exhibits and galleries other museums would kill for. (Best part? General admission is free. Compare this to hefty admission prices in other cities.)


Shall I continue?


When I came to JCU as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman, I thought Cleveland was the bee’s knees. So, when my peers would laugh whenever I said I wanted to live in Cleveland, you could say I was a bit perplexed.


Now, guess what? These same peers have had a revelation. They think Cleveland’s pretty swell. In fact, upon graduation, they want to stay here.


Heck, I’ll admit that’s great and all, but where was this positivity one, two, three or four years ago?


I can hazard a guess. Sometimes, people have to be told by others that we’re in a great situation.


We can knock something because we’ve never actually experienced it.  However, some of Cleveland’s hot spots were always here, waiting to be discovered.


It’s like back in grade school. You know, when you’d have a crush on the “loser boy.” I’m sure you can picture the type: overweight, braces, pizza face, glasses. But really, he was intelligent, funny and sweet. Then, once he grew out of puberty and had straight teeth, the popular girl would declare that he was the fairest in all the land. And, before you could say “preteen,” every girl wanted to go to the movies with former “loser boy.”


The same can be said about what Cleveland’s going through. So, excuse me if I come across as pretentious when I say that I’ve always believed in Cleveland – even when it was a “loser boy.” I’ve always sung its praises. (Please refer back to one of my first columns circa 2013.)


But, for those of you who recently discovered that Cleveland’s not as bad as they say, know this: Cleveland has always rocked. Yes, like most cities, we’ve been through some rough patches. Yet, we’ve always had hidden gems nestled in Ohio City, Tremont and the PlayhouseSquare District.


So repeat after me: Cleveland rocks. Always have. And always will.