First observations on Cleveland

August 19, 2011

On August 1st, I moved into an apartment in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and, since then, I have been slowly adjusting to the new circumstances. Most of my belongings arrived safely, although one or two things were slightly broken and, in particular, a box that I sent by the U.S. Postal Service was mauled in transit and some of its contents were lost. For a time I was worried that I had lost all my neckties and refrigerator magnets; this past Tuesday, however, I found them in a plastic box in the hall closet. I have a next door neighbor named John, a native of the area, who smokes, has three dogs, and likes to sit outside and engage me in conversation when I walk by. The neighbors directly upstairs from me have very heavy feet, and have a custom of pacing back and forth agitatedly across the floor every night from about 10:30 p.m. to about 1:30 or 2:00 a.m.; this has occasioned some adjustments to my sleeping habits. I have yet to see Lake Erie. I have not yet visited the town just north of here, East Cleveland; it has — what shall I say? — a bad reputation. Nearby my apartment there is a neighborhood called Coventry (most of the streets in Cleveland Heights, for some reason, are named after towns in England); during the early 1970’s this neighborhood apparently acquired a reputation as a center for hippie culture and drug experimentation, and, to commemorate this, the street signs to this day are printed with psychedelic colors. There are some good restaurants there, a few bookstores, and some boutiques that sell busts of the Buddha, incense sticks, bottles of wine, and other paraphernalia suitable for gracing the homes of aging hippies. On the basis the evidence of the books in the Coventry branch of the Cleveland Heights library, I would judge there to be a substantial Russian-speaking population in the area; so far, however, I have not encountered many Russian speakers here, aside from the librarian. There is, however, a large and very visible Orthodox Jewish population, not so much in my immediate neighborhood as a few blocks down, on South Taylor and Cedar; I can recommend the Jerusalem Grill on Cedar Road for their excellent falafel sandwiches.

I hear police sirens here a lot more than I used to in my small town in New Jersey.

The Greek church on Mayfield Road is having its Greek festival this weekend. I was asked to put in some hours working there, but gave a noncommittal answer, and, in fact, will not go; I am very preoccupied preparing for six classes at the Lyceum School, which are to start in a little over a week.

The people at the Lyceum School have been very welcoming and kind. I will see how things go once the actual teaching starts.

I have not visited the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Nor have I, as yet, seen the Cleveland Indians play, although they are doing well this season, and the idea has occurred to me that it might be a pleasant diversion to go watch a game. I have been to the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and purchased an annual membership.

I noticed, when listening to the radio the other day, that the locals pronounce the word “vary” and the word “very” indifferently; that is to say, the short “a” sound is pronounced with a sort of sharp nasal twang.

The maple trees here are suffering some sort of blight, a brownish blotch in the middle of the leaves. Yesterday evening, when walking back to my apartment before a thunderstorm, I saw bats flying in the darkening sky; it was kind of creepy.

One day soon I will learn about Moses Cleaveland, after whom the city was named. As yet I know very little about him, except that he came from the east somewhere, early in the nineteenth century, with a commission to settle the “Western Reserve,” about which I know nothing. I doubtless offend loyal Ohioans by thus professing my ignorance concerning the glorious history of the Buckeye State, and by failing to notice all the glories and beauties of the city that should be captivating my eye, and by failing to say complimentary things about the Cleveland Orchestra; but I have been living here only for a little over two weeks now, and must be allowed some indulgence.

5 Responses to “First observations on Cleveland”

  1. Cristian C. Says:

    Very glad you are well, and thanks for the fresh remarks about the local particularities and attractions. Have a merry time there.

  2. Vito Says:

    Peter, Welcome to Ohio! Vito

  3. Carol Says:

    Hello, Peter. I’m glad to read about your adjustment to Cleveland. I just read about Moses on Wikipedia and see that a beer company has named “Holy Moses White Ale” after him. I had a visitor from Michigan recently and I noticed the flat ‘a’ of Midwestern speech particularly in that infrequently-used word “aaaaand.”
    We miss you!

  4. bekkos Says:

    Thanks for the good wishes. (Readers of this blog should note that Carol, who wrote the foregoing comment, is choir director at the parish in New Jersey which I attended for many years and which I shall continue to attend when I am home. We have long experience of working together; at times, particularly at some Saturday-night vespers, we have constituted the whole choir.)

    Vito, I am looking forward to meeting you in Youngstown one of these days.

    As a footnote to this post, I should note that, in the end, I did put in my time at the Greek festival, mostly helping to clean up after it had ended.

    One other observation. Postcards of Cleveland are very difficult to come by; they don’t seem to sell them here in any drug store. Today I took the unusual step of ordering some on-line.

  5. Ed Siecienski Says:

    Sorry to hear you moved away from New Jersey, as this will probably make getting together more difficult. However, I would like to talk about a project if you want to e-mail me. I think it might be something interesting. Anyway, all the best at the new job – the school sounds great.


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