Monday, March 23, 2009

other places

I was looking at some slideshow of photos that some journalist took of Cleveland on Time Magazine's website.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that this is what the rest of the world sees when they hear about my city. A place where entire streets are abandoned. But maybe it's just become what I'm used to. Slavic Village was starting to look this way ten years ago, when I was barely in my teens and me and my friend would sit on her porch and watch her neighbors deal crack.

It seems like there's hardly a street anywhere that doesn't have some place that is vacant and covered with plywood, and the black and white makes the starkness more evident.

The town where my grandma grew up in southern Ohio is getting to be that way. No one has lived in some of those places for years either. The kids aren't going to come back when they get older, and no one is going to move down there to revitalize it because the closest thing to city is St. Clairsville or Wheeling.

I sometimes wonder where all the people go. I guess it's out east or down south or out west. No one seems much happier out there, and I think about how impossible it is to sustain most of those places in the middle of the desert where the lawns are freakishly green like the water's going to last forever.

For those of us who are left, I wonder... Is it still a neighborhood if all the people are gone? When does it become a ghost town?

One of my friends grew up off of 105th and Superior. Another of my friends lives off St. Clair, around the corner from where my great-uncles used to hang out, where my dad was born, before they were part of the white flight exodus and scattered to places like Parma and Garfield.

We drove through his old neighborhood via East Boulevard, where there are truly beautiful homes overlooking the Cultural Gardens, but so many of these old houses have been unloved and neglected for years. There are so many, and we think about how many families grew up there, how people used to hang out in the parks. We wonder if it will ever be like that again.

We're blessed enough to still have employment, but we're in no position to move back into neighborhoods where our grandparents fell in love and reclaim them. We can't afford to. People from past generations tell us about the jobs in factories and downtown, but few of us have those.

Few of us have stability in our relationships, and even fewer of us can even think about kids or houses right now because most of the time we're treading water as it is. A lot of us are still living with our parents, splitting rent with housemates, because we don't have another alternative if we want to fight to stay.


Derek Evan Barber said...

Hey Beth!

This is some really sharp commentary and you ask some really good questions about what it means to be living in a city in America during an uncertain time...

Hope things are good with you as well.

In an effort to share some new music I've been really digging, have you heard of this band?

a very original one, i believe...

all the best!


Anonymous said...

Good Post.


Anonymous said...

18 months after your post, but your words really resonated with me... very astute observation. I am mystified and saddened by wholesale abandonment and blight of the old cities.