Monday, November 30, 2009

open letter #6, dear anonymous

From the comments of my previous Open Letter

Anonymous said...

Dear Blogger,

I feel your pain. The solution is to find another city to love. You can give all your youth, energy and passion to Cleveland, and it will bleed you dry. Yes, Cleveland has some interesting aspects to it, I myself have always enjoyed Cinematheque, Westside Market, the Orchestra, etc.; however, it is the attitude of people and the overall economic climate that cannot overcome a couple of hotspots. Move on and move up.

Dear Anonymous,

That's easy for you to say. I wonder what constitutes "moving on" and "moving up." Is that the Sunbelt, the East Coast, the West Coast, Chicago? I wonder where you grew up, and what shaped you and where you are now.

Yes, there is a lot of unemployment and despair. But I don't think that we're unique in that regard. That's a good chunk of our country right there. And when I hear people talk who've moved out and moved on, they don't seem that much happier because happiness is not where you live or what you have.

I've never been all that ambitious. If I was, I would have left long ago. I've never cared about moving on or moving up. One of my friends lived in DC for a few years and she said it was horrible because even though there were all these amazing things going on everywhere, she had no one to hang out with and it just made the loneliness worse.

At this point, I'm surrounded by such a great crew of friends and family. We don't need much to be entertained. Give us some cans of Arizona and a five-dollar pizza and we'll hang out all night. We love cultural events and history and going out, but that's not why we exist. That gets pointless too.

This is the place where God has put me, and I'm content here. I could be happy somewhere else but there's a part of me that's inevitably drawn to places that people write off. My heart breaks for this city, but it'd break if I was in Chicago or DC or Seattle too. I'm sure that I could live almost anywhere if I could find a sense of community and people who are real, but right now, here is where it's at.

holding onto what's golden...

A little minor drama aside, the birthday was good and Thanksgiving weekend ended well.

Kristy and I went out on Thanksgiving morning before the festivities for another round of graffiti photography/driving around Cleveland listening to Soundgarden. This has been a tradition of ours since we were freshmen in college and homesick like crazy, taking advantage of gray skies and the cold to drive around with our cameras and a stack of CDs.

We went back to some former haunts, and found a new one, ended up climbing up the hill to an old warehouse in the Flats covered with paint. The colors of the building and the spraypaint were a beautiful combination.

Went over to the east side too, because I know there has to be good stuff I haven't seen.

Also stopped by to shoot a piece of family history. This was where my grandparents lived after they got married and where my dad was born.

For some reason, I had to shoot this too:

Came back to the west side and shot some murals

... I've always loved Scott Radke and this time I had a decent camera to document with...

Friday I thought I crashed my laptop and it took me awhile to get it back to working order again. It was cold outside and no one was around and I didn't want to go and shop anywhere so I moped around and was profoundly antisocial. Easier to hang around in a grungy old t-shirt and jeans than go out anywhere. Ended up not totally wasting my time because I began working on another art project and it was turning out beautifully.

Saturday, it was gorgeous outside and me and the roommate decided to randomly go out to the east side in search of adventure. We ended up at Whole Foods where we felt very west side as we tried out all sorts of sweet smelling organic hand lotion and wondered why everything was so expensive because we usually shop at Marc's or Save-a-Lot.

After a failed trip down Lee Road in search of hair product and such, we ended up hiking around Shaker Lakes, driving around Shaker listening to reggae, and detouring over to the Rockefeller Greenhouse off East 88th. I have a feeling this will be a favorite destination as the weather gets colder and I crave heat and the sweet smell of tropical fruit and flowers. And it's free.

Then we stopped at Edgewater for the first time in forever since now it's too dark when we get off work to go down there.

The leaves were golden and the water was as blue as it gets here.

The rest of the cousins and family came on Saturday night and we had a great time as we usually do. It's cool seeing everyone get older and get out of high school and get more awesome.

And I hear rumors of snow and I don't care, because this fall has been gorgeous and amazing. I'm so used to crappy weather around my birthday that I just appreciated it so much.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

26 on the 25

So we're learning dates and times in Swahili right now and I've realized that what I'm learning in class isn't going to help me much as far as actually having a real conversation since the language has changed so much from the time our textbook was written.

I'm taking a class on Ethiopia next semester since what I know of the history is totally interesting and because I love being somewhere where I can satisfy my curiosity and stay a lifelong student without having lifelong student loans. Unlike many of my fellow Kent State cohorts, I graduated in three years, so I'm taking classes now that I didn't have time for then, with my 18 credit hour semesters spent in the English department with occasional forays into art and political science.

After that, I'm hoping to try Arabic this fall, because a lot of people on my side of town speak it and I'd like to at least be semi-literate and know words other than those related to Islam or food.

And I'm looking forward to this weekend, with birthday celebrations and hanging out with the extended family.

I feel good with where I'm at in life, I really do. I've made a life for myself in a city where that can be difficult to do. I have a job that I honestly enjoy that hasn't involved me selling my soul to mindless consumerism and dullness and has enabled me to do things I always wanted to do and never thought that would happen.

I've got some seriously awesome family, the best roommate one could ask for and some really incredible friends. Things have stayed interesting and mercifully free of much of the drama that encompassed high school and college.

I am so thankful and feeling so blessed because I never thought it could ever be this good.

oh yeah, and I share a birthday with these guys

Monday, November 23, 2009

so many things used to mean so much to me...

So me and the roommate took a mini road trip down to Columbus this weekend and had a great time. I used to think that Columbus was more or less a series of giant malls and suburbs and a really big school but now that I'm doing the driving, I'm glad I've learned this isn't true, even if the 45 mile an hour speed limits through the suburb still spook me.

Perfect weather for walking around and exploring and brought home a carload of stuff: African fabric, Madlib albums, Turkish jewelry for Christmas gifts, injera from an Ethiopian bakery by request, thrift store finds, and new music. Also had amazing Ethiopian food at the Blue Nile (waaay cheaper than Empress Taytu) and got to hang out with the awesome extended family.

Spent Saturday night in zealous apartment cleaning mode, something that probably should happen more, and Sunday with various combinations of family. The last two months of the year are always crazy because everyone's birthdays including mine fall at the same time and there's the holidays as well.

Also considering taking my music to the next level and learning how to play upright bass. I love the sound and would love to learn the technique, and since my student loans are pretty much paid off, I could actually afford to do this. Would love to delve into jazz and maybe classical, even though I get the feeling that the instrument may not fit in the back seat of my car...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

best of the blotter 9: those darn kids again

GENERAL COMPLAINT, SHOPPING PLAZA: Police checked the status of a handicapped placard after a Nov. 8 complaint that “they didn’t believe someone handicapped would be driving a sports car.“ The sticker “checked out,“ police said.

SHOPLIFTING, AURORA ROAD: A 38-year-old Toledo woman was charged with theft Nov. 13 after police were called to the Paper Palace on Aurora Road, where two women and two children had come in and purchased a small amount of merchandise. When employees noticed them giving stickers out to the children in the parking lot — stickers that had not been purchased — police found $229 worth of stolen merchandise on the suspect, including seven cutting tools used in scrapbooking.

CAMOUFLAGE, MIDDLE SCHOOL: Police responded to A.I. Root Middle School around 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 13 on report that an SUV carrying young teens dressed in camouflage, was parked at the corner of W. Sturbridge Dr. and Lawrence St. The caller said the teens were not doing anything unlawful, but the caller was concerned because of their attire. The vehicle was gone when officers arrived.

JUVENILE COMPLAINTS, LAKE OF THE FALLS: A group of juveniles who were “up to no good” caused a resident to call police Nov. 2. The resident said the kids were hanging around on benches and were not from the area. Officers could not locate the group.

JUVENILE COMPLAINTS, DRIFTWOOD DRIVE: Three teenagers knocking on doors and claiming to be German disturbed some residents Friday. The boys asked each resident where Fernwood was. Officers later located the teens as they were stealing a speed limit sign.

piecing it together.

I wasn't expecting so many cars when I got down to Ohio City for the memorial service last night. I was expecting the news crews circling like vultures when they smell death.

I could see the windows lit up at St. Patrick's and I got inside just before the service started, trying to pray and contemplate and collect my thoughts which is sometimes so hard to do when everyone around you is devastated. Besides Jody & Ernie, I really didn't know anyone else there, recognized some people from the drop-in center and the Catholic Worker house, wandering souls that I've seen walking down Lorain Avenue.

Seeing Ray's picture by the prayer cards make me choke up and I wonder what he would have thought of the first minister there invoking a "holy one called by many names yet nameless" when he most definitely was whispering "Emmanuel" as he died after helping the others escape.

There was a lot of talk about coming together as a community and being united and getting in touch with our "better selves," but the longer I exist on this earth, I am less and less convinced that it is true. Not that we don't do what we can, but honestly the only real change I see is what God does in us and how that affects the way in which we live and view others.

Sure, you can move back into the neighborhood and fix up an old house and bring up the property values and keep your money in the city by going out to the theater and the nice restaurants, but do you care about your neighbor? Do you think about the struggles that you see around you? Do you consider them a nuisance that you hope goes away when more people like you move in? Or do you get involved and engaged? Your idea of a quality of life is not the same as another's.

Loving this city is not just about the cultural amenities, the sports teams, the funky neighborhoods, and the happening arts scene. Don't get me wrong, that stuff is cool and I enjoy it too. Still, you can find that kind of thing almost anywhere. I could have moved somewhere else and found more lucrative employment, but I stayed here because of the people.

I love this city because even though it's profoundly corrupt and falling apart, the people here are amazing. If you don't care about your neighbors and look out for them, it doesn't matter how you live or what you do on the weekends, you don't care about your city.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

they remained, others fled

This is the inscription on the Carter family tombstone, a family with 9 kids who stayed when the plague hit and everyone else left town. I wonder if this will be my epitaph someday too.

On Tuesdays, since I have my car, me and Lindsay have been taking mini Cleveland adventures on common hour/lunch break. Today's involved fresh-baked naan bread from Aladdin's bakery and then hanging out at the Erie Street Cemetery.

I've always wanted to check it out but usually remembered this whenever I was at an Indians game and it was already dark. I've been a geek for old cemeteries since I was 9 or something and this one was old and I finally got to see the grave of Joc-o-sot, vaudeville performer, sports team haunter, and chief who got stuck dying in Cleveland instead of his native Wisconsin.

Evidently, some of these bodies were "reburied" here in 1939 which is kind of creepy. Maybe that's what early settler associations did back then.

Is it indicative of living in a dying city when your favorite destinations are forgotten streets, abandoned buildings, and graveyards? Does it just cement the fact that I'm still alive and enjoying it so much?

Also, today is Jeff Buckley's birthday. I played a half hour worth of him on the show today, but didn't feel like playing "Hallelujah" because everyone does.

Friday, November 13, 2009

best of the blotter 8

ROBBERY, MEADOWBROOK BOULEVARD: Two men with a gun reportedly robbed another man of a wallet, with $90 cash, and a bag of raisins Nov. 3.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF, ASHWOOD ROAD: Someone drew a heart and put shoeprints in fresh concrete Friday.

ANIMAL COMPLAINT, RIDGEBURY BOULEVARD: At 8 a.m. Saturday, a man phoned police to say a squirrel blew the transformer in his back yard. Police got a similar call of the same happening that morning on Barkston Drive. CEI was advised in both cases.

INTOXICATED PERSON, PEARL ROAD: A man, who was staying at King’s Inn, was advised last Thursday for being drunk and disorderly. The man was allegedly wandering up and down Pearl Road screaming at passing motorists and yelling at mailboxes.

PRAYING, TIMBER TRAIL: Police located a suspicious vehicle parked on Timber Trail around 9 a.m. on Nov. 3. Officers found two men in a blue van. The men, who were German, informed police that they had been praying at the location. Officers told them to find another spot.

DREAM? A Bradway St. resident called police reporting suspicious happenings around the house at about 4 a.m. Nov. 7. Officers walked around the home and determined that everything was fine. The man who reported the incident said that he may have been dreaming.

raindrops and sunshowers

Things are still crazy in this city, but this week, my soul has been restored.

Between playing music and sharing meals with good people, taking a night off to paint and collage, actually seeing the sun for a week straight, processing through the grief and realizing that there is still hope.

And I'm super excited about going to DC next weekend for pre-Thanksgiving feasting and revelry with some of the only people that are still worth hanging out with post-college.

Also, this is beautiful. I've been listening to it all week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

radiothon week playlist: greatest hits 11/10/09

It's Radiothon week at WCSB and I'm a horrible self-promoter. So if you want to support the best and most eclectic college radio station on the dial, there is still time.

Last year, I got no callers, but this time around, George called me and donated $50 because he's awesome. This is what happens when you're on when most people are sleeping.

But here's the playlist with songs that people have called about or personal faves. If you want a mix CD, hit me up, but also, please support independent media especially in this age of total radio suckitude.

beck - go it alone
afghan whigs - crazy
gutter twins - the body
mos def - no hay nada mas
blockhead - quiet storm
morcheeba - blindfold
tribe called quest - excursions
shalonda - fever
stiffed - hold tight
massive attack - black milk
k'naan & mos def - prayer song
sister fa - saraba
lamb - one
oumou sangare - djorolen
erykah badu - soldier
cut chemist - garden
kid koala - 3rd world lover
MIS - el microfono
sidestepper - deja
tricky - aftermath
funkadelic - i'll stay
amadou & mariam - masiteladi
daby toure - baye
dennis brown - man next door
joe strummer - tony adams


When I heard about that house fire down in Ohio City, I hoped he wasn't living there anymore. Like most people who are in a constant state of transition and had their struggles with substance abuse, it wasn't uncommon to lose touch with him for months.

He slept on our balcony the summer before last for a few weeks and did our dishes every night. I knew it was hard on him because he hated feeling like a freeloader. He moved around all over the west side, picked up welding and machine shop jobs. Sometimes he'd show up at church or I'd see him around the neighborhood.

I emailed my old roommate to see if she knew anything and he's gone. I know that his struggles are finished now, that he's with God and not dealing with all the struggles of this world anymore.

Veteran's Day was always one of those holidays that I never really think about but this year it has more of a face for me besides my grandparents' generation. I think of all the people like him that came home to a hostile country and a lack of a support network who ended up on the streets.

I'm realizing more and more how many people fall through the cracks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

best of the blotter 7

VANDALISM, SNYDER ROAD: A woman called police shortly after midnight Oct. 29 to report someone painted her chicken coop white. Police investigated and found that the out building was wet from rain, possibly causing a discolored appearance. They found no evidence of foul play.

CAVES ROAD, TRESPASSING: Police responded to an Oct. 27 call from a man upset that his neighbor was shooting his .22 caliber rifle and driving his golf cart on the man’s lawn. The culprit admitted to driving on his neighbor’s lawn to scare geese. He said he was shooting at a target. The officer found his target and backstop to be inadequate and warned him. He was also told to stay on his own property.

DISTURBANCE, HILLIARD ROAD: A woman called police at 3:37 a.m. Saturday after her boyfriend came home drunk and fell into a fish tank. The man went with the squad.

THEFT, ELLSWORTH DRIVE: On Friday, a resident reported seeing two teenagers attempt to steal broken playground equipment from Woods Park. The teenagers attempted to steal a bouncing snail from the park. When she confronted the pair, they put the snail back.

SUSPICIOUS PERSON, COLUMBIA ROAD: Officers responded to a report of a man with a rifle walking in the woods behind a church Oct. 28. Police later received a call informing them the man was part of a church scavenger hunt and the gun was a prop. Officers told the group to let them know next time they would be carrying fake weapons.

THEFT, DRIFTWOOD DRIVE: A man called police Friday to report that he believed someone stole his garbage can from his garage. The man said the garbage can was filled with shredded material, and he was afraid someone would steal his identity. He also wanted it noted that the garbage can cost $45.

SUSPICIOUS PERSON, ROUTE 82: A resident reported last Thursday that someone who looked like “a Unabomber” was walking down Royalton Road. The man was described as wearing dark clothes and sunglasses. He was gone when police arrived.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

open letter #5: Dear Cleveland

Dear Cleveland,

It's really hard to love you sometimes. All your empty homes and broken dreams, annually reselling our souls and our firstborns to men in suits who suck us dry, and girls go missing but no one pays attention because they're from "that side" of town. You get drunk and complain about your losing sports teams. You listen to the same old songs on WMMS or KISS FM. Like a codependent girlfriend, I just can't quit you. I don't mind that you haven't shaved or that you smell funky.

One of my friends tells me that you're like Detroit's younger sister... where she is in 5 years is where you'll be. I think about all those homes going for about what I pay in rent a month, the casinos like alien spaceships landing on a deserted civilization sucking the life out of the city. More people on the street, more desperation. The suburbanites say "oh this will give us something to do!" but they don't like going anywhere anyway because it's "too ghetto" once you hit even the inner ring suburbs.

I think about what you'll look like in a few years, bloated with the salaries of lazy self-serving civil servants, starved in every other way, filled with self-loathing as your lifeblood hemorrhages out of you, leaving behind streets of empty homes and sordid tales. I hope there's something left of you, that you don't die on me.

I sometimes feel like I'm in a dysfunctional relationship with you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I can't be the only one who's noticed this

Back in the day, I thought I'd be a graphic designer printing concert posters and designing CD art. So much for that idea. But I'm still a nerd for graphic design.

Striking similarity, no?

playlist 11/3/09

baden powell - consolacao
dengue fever - sni bong
amadou & mariam - unissons nous
madlib - piano garden
joy jones - nomad
shalonda - fever/day n' nite God bless the child/love lockdown
burial - raver
q-tip - a million times
janelle monae - cybertronic purgatory
willie isz- I didn't mean to
U2 - some days are better than others
baby kites - reef
emmanuel jal - elengwen
thievery corporation - blasting through the city
horace andy - rock to sleep
dennis brown - to the foundation
sons of truth - give it up
mariam makeba - khawuleza
aziz brahim - dios mio
bole 2 harlem - aya bellew
dead leaf - save from the flames all that remains
john frusciante - ramparts
soliman gamil - sufi dialogue
abaji - gibran
bela fleck - throw down your heart
majid bekkas - daya mallah
kora jazz trio - chan chan
manu chao - clandestino

Monday, November 2, 2009

hall o' ween

I'm loving this whole extra hour of sleep thing, and that the weather's been kind of amazing for this time of year.

Me and the roommate and Muk met up with Jerusha and her roommate's friends who are residents at the Cleveland Clinic and they cooked curry for us. It was so spicy and we were sitting on the living room floor hanging out, devouring curry and ice cream, and drinking Indian instant coffee and eggnog, telling stories from work and driving test disasters.

yesterday we had a Halloween party for the refugee kids, which of course got kind of chaotic but they had a lot of fun and kept asking me for candy. We had them wrap each other up like mummies in toilet paper, make masks with paper bags, and of course had candy and cider. Massive amounts of glitter ended up everywhere, and then I ran over to church to help set up for their party.

I was so tired and ended up leaving early there to crash at the house, which I evidently needed desperately. My roommate borrowed my kimono, Kristy went vintage 1950s, I borrowed my dad's Neil Young style fringe vest, wore my hair down, and went hippie, and Muk was originally going to do jazz era but ended up going all Black Power, showed up at my place in a beret and fatigues.

Went to a show and then to a party, wasn't really feeling either, so I came home pretty early. Halloween is overrated even if it was fun to dress up for a change. I realize more and more that while I'm more social than some, I'm still more of a chill out somewhere person than a big blowout party person. To each their own I guess...