A Mistake On The Lake No More
THINGS CHANGE OVER FORTY YEARS. Me? I know that I’ve changed. I’m more handsome – Dashing even. Of course, my eyesight has deteriorated a bit over the years as well. I must rely on the opinions and observations of others…mainly family, friends, and people who are paid to say flattering things; barbers, tailors, and car dealers.
Cities also change. I moved out of Cleveland in 1978 and my recent visit proved to be like going to a city I’ve never seen before. I recognized street names, but in the intervening decades those streets have been rerouted, shortened, lengthened, and built up beyond my ability to remember anything at all.
The hotel where we were staying was near the airport on W. 150th Street. Forty years ago that street had some small single family homes, a few businesses selling cars, mattresses, and furniture. Now there are huge hotels, restaurants and it looks like any other street near any other airport in any other big city.
I went with trepidation on a search for my old neighborhood and the house I sold when I moved to California in 1978. I asked a Clevelander about the area where I used to live. He listened as I told him what I remembered. He listened and then shook his head as if I had asked him about the streets of Post-War Hiroshima.
“I don’t think you can get there anymore. There’s a new Freeway.”
I gave it a try figuring that the worst that could happen would be that I might make a wrong turn and end up in Detroit. After several false starts and wrong turns I actually did get us into my old neighborhood and I did locate my old house. It looks better now than when I moved out. The people living there now have taken good care of it.
Ho-hum, Big Deal for anyone else but me.
Being able to find my way around this new and improved Cleveland was important because there were things I wanted to see: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (New since I moved away), The Cleveland Museum of Art (Built 40 years before I was born), and the campus of my old Alma Mater (About 15 minutes from our hotel).
Some Old, Some New, Some I had to borrow to get through.
About the only thing I could be sure of in navigating my way around Cleveland was that if I found myself and the car in water I will have gone too far North and I’m on my way to Canada. Things have changed so much that I might easily get stopped by some Mounties and deported to Mexico in error.
We went on a wonderful cruise the other night. Three hours on Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River with dinner and dancing. Forty years ago you couldn’t have gotten me to go up that river at gunpoint. The water was so polluted by the steel mills that the cruise ship would have dissolved. Now a cruise there is a sheer delight. The water is clean. New homes, businesses, and nightclubs line the shores and on the water teams of racing sculls practice for upcoming races. I was seriously impressed.
I am thrilled to see how this city, my birthplace, has transformed and revitalized itself. When I left in 1978 this town was in big trouble. The heavy industry base of Steel was dying – outdated and undersold, left behind in the 19th Century. In 1970 there were 750,000 Clevelanders. Today that number is 385,000. People left, including me, going everywhere and anywhere as long as it wasn’t Cleveland. My guess is that the worst is over and this city will start experiencing growth once again.