A Spring Walk: the end of an era

The other night I took a long walk through my Cleveland Heights neighborhood.

My impending move to New York city has no doubt elicited in me a strange sort of perspective and nostalgia , giving me pause. Granted, these feelings are normal and to be expected with a big move and a life change. But Sunday evening, after a long afternoon rain, the sun was setting at dusk and shining brightly for the first time that day and I was struck by the uniqueness of Cleveland and its unmistakeable and overlooked beauty.
And I, who am fairly well travelled and have travelled far to see beauty, came to the conculsion that Cleveland Heights has a firm place among a list of beautiful places in the world. And perhaps we are very mistaken to presume beauty and worthwhile are mostly found in the exotic and require a plane ticket to visit. Anyhow, surely my little neighborhood would be exotic to many people in the world and upon this conclusion I saw my neighborhood with fresh eyes; I thought I should share.

I passed the estates and gardens and compounds of a neighborhood of epic or perhaps fairytalesque proportions, once the living grounds of some of the most elite and wealthy people in America. The homes have now been purchased and are maintained in general by people of considerably less wealth with a soft spot and a respect for old architecture and a desire to maintain these relics of the past. These patient souls grasp and grapple, out of appreciation (or is it admiration?) with the headaches and maintenance of these old, cumbersome beasts. I'd imagine that they labor with the understanding that they are maintainting an architectural artistry that is no longer. Surely these types of homes will never be built again- the materials and manpower that went into building them are now lost arts and out of reach economically.

At a certain point I was weighed down with a sort of sorrow. The sorrow was not only for what I am personally leaving behind but also a sorrow for the city of Cleveland and its suburbs. Kind of like the sorrow one might have had for Elvis in his bloated, dark drugged out, Vegas days. In other words- the city is a "Has Been" and I am the first to admit it. Today when one says the word "Cleveland" mostly ghastly images come to mind: lakes on fire, obese people people with ankle fat wearing Cleveland Indians t-shirts, and run down steel mills billowing smoke. People forget (or never knew) that this city was also once a great cosmopolitan American epicenter of commerce. It was home to some of the worlds most powerful and influential figures as such turn of the century Robber Barons, JD Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In fact Rockefeller is buried in the Lakeview Cementary in Cleveland Heights.
Cleveland was once a thriving center of wealth and opulence and Cleveland Heights architecture is sometimes a rather sad reminder for me of better times. There is a beauty that proudly and stubbornly shines through despite the city's economic decline and despite that fact that it is over a century past its heyday. Come to think of it, perhaps Cleveland has gone out a little more gracefully than the bloated and bedraggled Elvis.
I love the window of this house- the curtains entice me to decorate the room behind them with my imagination.

For at least 6 moths of the year Cleveland's lake effect precipitation creates a relentless environment of precipitation and grey skies. But all this water also leads to one of the most spectacularly verdant and breathtaking springs I have ever seen anywhere. The foliage extends everywhere and flowers blossoms literally burst out of gardens. Everything is crisp, refreshing, and smells of fresh dirt and leaves.

During spring and summer days Cleveland is truly and undeniably a magical place. These moments keep Clevelanders in their place until they hole up for the next winter and, with the first blizzard swear as they do year after year that they'll move to Florida. But for now you will see them gliding along the sometimes slippery limestone sidewalks, heads to the sky and eyes sometimes closed.


I opened today's paper to see the following:

"Iraqi government figures show April was the deadliest month for civilians since August last year." "Double Suicide Blast Kills 30 in Iraq", By REUTERS, Published: May 1, 2008

What are we to do? Is it just me or is this war turning into a carnal nightmare?

I am currently reading a book about Vietnam, "Lizzie's War" by Tim Farrington. The novel desribes Vietnam in straightforward and horrendous prose and begs me to wonder about our own current war: "Where are our protests now in this first decade of the 21st century; Where is our sense of injustice; What is this apathy to real lives being lost, mostly innocent civilians and American boys; Why do we, as Americans, not really seemed concerned?" At least our concern seems to pale in comparison to the group outrage expressed against Vietnam only a generation ago. And I wonder what is wrong with us. What is wrong with our political/social/economic climate that we have left it up to the current election's nominees as the first really public figures to stand, this late in the game, on their soap boxes and loudly spout what has been so glaringly obvious all along: that we are at war, that people are dying for no good reason, that this was a mistake?