Tuesday, June 29, 2010

take me down to the desert sea...

When I was a kid, I read books all the time. I still read books all the time. With the exception of 2 weeks of retail hell, I have worked in places full of books and places where you could spend a slow day at the register reading. I used to read a book a day.

When people ask me why I do this whole exploring-abandoned-buildings thing, I think the seed was planted way before I thought I'd be an art student and listened to a lot of gritty punk rock and was totally into stark black and white photos of broken things.

When I was in first grade, I wanted to be an archaeologist, or someone who dug up dinosaur bones. I was also fascinated by natural disasters like volcanos, and how the city of Pompeii was buried for centuries under layers of ash. This was probably why I didn't have many friends, because I was pretty weird and not into Barbie dolls or New Kids on the Block.

I was either going to have 20 kids and move to Wyoming (don't know why looking back now) or spend my honeymoon with my future husband digging up dinosaur bones in Mongolia. But the Valley of the Kings had already been dug up completely and that involved being out in the hot sun and being detail-oriented.

I'm not detail oriented. But I loved reading about bygone eras and places where civilization once flourished and I still do. Around this time, I was homeschooled and the missionary kid curriculum my mom used for me was way more multicultural than my peers in grade school learning about Kwanzaa.

I was ten years old and reading anthologies of Korean and Chinese folklore, did a huge paper on Islam, learned about the Greeks and the Romans and the Renaissance but also Byzantium, the Inca, the Maya, Sundiata and Mansa Musa and Genghis Khan and more.

One of my favorite writers as a kid was Elizabeth Enright, who wrote about the kids I wanted to be. I lived vicariously through the Melendy kids exploring New York City and the grounds of their Four-Story Mistake and Portia and her cousin hanging out in abandoned Victorian houses on Gone-Away Lake. I thought that was so cool.

I realized quickly that no one else cared about stuff like this in our teens and so it got substituted by subculture, which helps a person find a lunch table to eat at but ultimately only takes you so far because you realize eventually that the worth of a person and their character is greater than what bands they like.

And now I'm rediscovering this part of me that loves old things and strange things that no one cares about, like warrior queens and world music and I love that my roommate rocks out to Ethiopian mezmur and Saturday night Arabic pop on the radio and that there are other people who like obscure byways and abandoned places.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

vacay and birthday

It's rare that I get out of Cleveland, but me and the roommate didn't get to Detroit so the islands were the next best thing. We slept, took walks around the island and into the creepy nature preserve woods, ate mulberries off of trees in people's front yards, sat on the rocks, played some Celtic music for the neighbors, and roasted marshmallows. Also discovered that long slices of banana mashed in with s'mores might be the best thing ever.

I love that the interior here is straight out of 1960 in the best way possible.

24 hours was perfect to rejuvenate us and we took the long way home down Route 2, stopping in Oberlin, driving through Lorain, and taking a walk through the Metroparks before heading back into Cleveland to get her viola fixed and so I could stop by my parents' to hang out on the back porch and give my dad his birthday gift of Jimi's "Valleys of Neptune."

We sat in his little room in the basement with the pictures of us kids and the posters on the wall listening to wailing guitar and that amazing voice from a man who never thought he could sing. He told me that his friends from high school had seen him open for Janis Joplin but that he found that Mercedes Benz song so annoying that he didn't go.

It's hard to think of him as being born halfway through the last century because he still seems frozen in time to me, with his love of playing basketball, watching Indians games, playing guitar and cranking up Led Zeppelin records in the basement, his hair still as black as it always was to the point where people ask him what dye he uses not knowing that he hardly ever combs it let alone does anything else...

Friday, June 18, 2010


I hadn't made Friday night plans but ended up going down to the Voices Worth Hearing/Art Worth Sharing exhibit at the Wall Eye Gallery/Saigon Plaza. If you haven't, you should, if good photography and the culture of your city is a thing you enjoy. I drank pop and ate amazing Vietnamese food and caught up with Kevin and Francois and my former roommates while watching people from all over Cleveland mingling, hearing Spanish, Karen, Hindi, Vietnamese, Kirundi, and Kiswahili spoken all around me.

One of the families I hung out with this past summer was featured in the show and their kids were on all the promotional flyers. It was weird to see them looking so serious when I think of them running around a soccer field or this little guy dancing to "Baby Got Back" in the living room.

Due to crazy circumstances this past year, it'd been a year since I'd seen the whole family and I realized how much I missed them and that I was missed too. But we hugged and kissed and laughed about how none of us really know a lot of Kiswahili "kidogo, kidogo!" The kids have grown up so much and their English keeps getting better, and their dad got a job and I was so glad to see them doing so well after everything that they've been through and the things that have happened in the past year.

It was such a contrast for me to see these black and white photos juxtaposed with the family looking at them and laughing at the expressions of their kids, the bright colors standing out.

And it's a beautiful summer night full of reconnecting and thinking, riding my bike home as the sun sets, and I want to stay up all night and paint but I'm just too slackerish right now.

a little more conversation

I was running errands last night and I saw police cruisers and cops with shotguns in my general vicinity. I kept driving and when I came back the street was blocked off and when I turned the corner to go down the next one, there were even more police cars, a crashed car and police gathering evidence to put in a bag and the whole neighborhood out because evidently some guy went crazy and they found 4 guns and a hundred knives in his apartment.

Viva Cleveland.

And the rest of the night was quiet. I listened to music, gessoed boards from a generous friend, bought some lemonade from the kids down the street, and spray painted canvases and painted on the back porch until the sun set.

I bought a projector off Craigslist at the suggestion of my art instructor and it's opened up whole new worlds to me as far as taking images and doing something larger scale with them than what I've been doing. I can't draw realistically to save my life so it's good to know that I have a nice crutch and that what I'm doing actually looks like what I want to do.

And since I work at a job where I interact with a lot of people and I tend to make small talk with everyone. this also means that I get asked out a lot and it's awkward. I've lived my life so long being "just friends" with everyone that the whole "Can I take you out to dinner?" so quickly freaks me out. I think I'm just a sucker for the ones with better game than that, who take it a little bit slower instead of "you're pretty, will you go out with me sometime?"

I don't know what I prefer, but that's a little too much. I want a few months of casual conversation so I can get a good read on you, see if there's any red flags that come up. Even then, there's some that I've known for three years when suddenly something happens and someone's not who I thought they were.

I've made a lot of mistakes in the past and I don't want to make them again. Yet as we get older, the time gets shorter, and the stakes are higher, and everyone around us is pairing off for better or worse and so I understand the desperation. And I know we all get lonely.

They say the best person to end up with is your best friend. But no one wants to be your best friend. No one wants to have conversations and chill hanging out where we ponder deep things and laugh at absurdity and see where things go naturally. Is that too much to ask?

This whole let's go on a date to get to know each other because I think you're cute is so not the way I do things. I feel embarrassed when my meals are paid for and I'm given things when I know that my heart isn't in it that way. I don't do that whole playing games thing because that's cruel and I'm wasting someone's time. I feel bad when cross cultural signals get screwy and something seems to mean something that it doesn't or when it seems like they hope it goes somewhere so they can get citizenship and stay here. I can't tell you how many times this has happened too.

Maybe men and women just can't be friends once one gets attracted to the other.

And I'm cursed with this general English-major-ish interest in people in general. I love life stories and hearing perspectives and experiences vastly different than my own. But just because I'm interested and intrigued by humanity in itself doesn't mean I'm interested in you that way.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

best of the blotter 22

TRESSPASSING, PEARL ROAD: A 19-year-old Independence man and an 18-year-old Brook Park man were cited for trespassing and obstructing official business at 1:33 p.m. after they were seen by officers running from the a grove of trees near St. Ambrose Church, then jumping into a car parked at Rolling Hills Plaza. The car was pulled over for not having an illuminated license plate and it was determined that the duo was trying to steal a blow-up Pepsi bottle decoration in front of the church.

DOMESTIC DISPUTE, HOWE ROAD: A woman called police Friday because her grandson, 17, demanded that she lock herself in the bathroom while he had a female friend over for a visit.

The boy had met a woman on the Internet and he didn’t want his grandmother around while he was romancing his new friend.

The teen’s father arrived and made it clear that the woman wasn’t welcome in the house.

COMPLAINT, MADISON AVENUE: Police received a complaint about kids on the Madison Park playground that were too old to be there at 2:37 p.m. June 10. Officers cited a boy for being too old on the playground.

SUSPICION, MAIN ST.: A pedestrian on the bridge called Saturday to inquire “what the big orange thing in the tree is . . . that almost looks like a person” on the west side of the falls and the south side of the river.

An officer checked and reported that it appeared to be a stuffed animal that someone had tossed up into the tree.

SUSPICIOUS PERSONS (UNFOUNDED), SOLON ROAD: A resident reported shortly before 10 a.m. Friday that two men in suits appeared at the door, wanted to come in and wanted to show his daughter a video. After she declined, the pair continued going door-to-door.

When approached, the men explained that they were not solicitors but Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were “not seeking to obtain funds or contributions.”

INDUCING PANIC, RIDGE ROAD: A man entered Flowerama on June 7 and told a clerk that he and his higher power were going to blow up the store to make room for a parking lot.

It happened at about 12:20 p.m. The man then left the store, at 5804 Ridge, and removed several items from his vehicle.

The man left a gray box-like item, an orange cord and a blue box at the edge of the Flowerama parking lot. The items were connected with a cord.

Officers determined that the objects were not explosive devices. Police are looking for the man.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

why I drive like an old lady now

I don't have much of a lead foot but enough to get myself 2 speeding tickets in the past year. There are way better things that my money and time could be spent on than court dates and speeding tickets.

I've realized that raging against the proverbial machine doesn't do too much good in situations like these, and also that my court date involved much less stress than everyone else's in the room.

Out of the 30 or so people in the courtroom, I'm one of three white people who've gotten tickets and for those people that say that profiling doesn't exist, I wonder if they've ever been down here.

And I know that I've got much less hassle than everyone else in the room, negotiating getting the points off my license rather than choosing between house arrest, 180 days in jail or a fine of a thousand dollars for screwing up and then screwing up again and again.

I look at these lawyers who look like they spend loads of money on their hair doing a terrible job of defending their clients. We defendants sit next to each other in the benches clutching our paperwork, not saying anything and feeling awkward.

I think about how much money the city's making, how even though my fine was halved, I still ended up owing $261.

I walked out feeling liberated, but thinking about how screwed how many other people were that day and every weekday in this world.
One of the problems about living in the rust belt is that it seems like everyone leaves whether they want to or not, opting for either coast, Chicago, Columbus, wherever. Some see themselves as rats abandoning a sinking ship, others love this place but can't find work.

And so I sometimes get bummed out when it seems like I'm one of the only ones who sticks around and it's hard to broaden my circle. It gets so easy to hang out with the same 5 people all the time and hard enough to find other likeminded souls, not to mention that social situations with new people still make me nervous as I always feel like I'll say the wrong thing and screw it all up.

So I end up at a house in Cleveland Heights on Saturday night, knowing a few faces to start with, but meeting a whole new cast of characters that I get the feeling will be a part of my life for the next few years. It's amazing how instant connections can be sometimes and how comfortable groups of some strangers feel, when the conversations are real and no one sees a need to be something they're not.

And knowing that even as small as this city sometimes feels, there are still more people to meet, more places to discover and that keeps me feeling like I made the right decision to stay for the time being...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

best of the blotter

ANIMAL COMPLAINT, DRAKE ROAD: Residents called police because they were trapped in their home by a temperamental squirrel.

The squirrel was desperate to get in the house, according to the residents. The squirrel kept jumping at the garage door and would run at the residents any time they opened a door.

MISCHIEF, WEST 130th STREET: Motorists called police Saturday because a group of juveniles were jumping into traffic.

One of the boys was wearing a bear costume, according to the callers. The group was gone when police arrived.

SYRINGE? NO, SHARPIE: A resident told police that there was a possible syringe lying in a front yard near Grant St. and S. Broadway St. on May 29. Police responded and determined that the object was a actually a Sharpie ink pen.

NOISE COMPLAINT/UNDERAGE CONSUMPTION, EAST WASHINGTON STREET: A resident reported shortly after 6:30 p.m. Sunday that neighbors down the street were “on a microphone having a party, singing rap and swearing.” One male was taken into custody for underage drinking.

ANIMAL CRUELTY, WHITNEY ROAD: A man reported last Thursday that he saw someone shoot a goose from the second-floor balcony of the Cherry Tree Apartments.

The man reported that he saw someone shoot the goose and then a woman ran out of the apartment building and grabbed the goose and took it back to the apartments. Officers on the scene could not find the person who allegedly shot the goose and they couldn’t find any evidence of the incident.

COMPLAINT? A man entered the Medina Police Station on May 29 and asked if anyone had recently filed a complaint against him. Officers informed him that no one had made a complaint.

SUSPICIOUS, TANGLEWOOD MALL: Police received two calls after a 62-year-old man visited several businesses over the course of several hours the evening of June 3.

The Cleveland man asked female employees to go out on a date with him and told one he would take her to the Bahamas.

Police located him in his car in the parking lot. He was told to leave and not return or he would face trespassing charges.

The man told police he was in the shopping plaza to pick up a prescription.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I had made no plans this weekend, but cooked up some darn good curry on Friday night and caught up with a friend from way back, watched the rain come in at Edgewater, added more plants to the garden, and got hooked up with two free Cleveland Orchestra tickets for a night of 21st century composers.

I think subconsciously, I expect classical music to be "pretty" even when it's modern, but I also listened to a lot of Sonic Youth and ended up seeing several Kent noise bands back in the day so I can dig the discordancy and noise as well. I didn't know what to expect with each piece and found myself pleasantly surprised by the Worker's Union piece with the electric viola.

I don't really know what to listen for but having the roommate along who's played these pieces and has an ear for the classical really gave me a lot of insight. I felt like I knew something about all this by the end of the night. And the people watching was fabulous.

Also hit up Tremont for some yard-saling, got some good painting in, and my landlord put a porch swing in the back yard that hangs from the silver maple, which just added another dimension of awesome to the new place.

Friday, June 4, 2010


It's the end of a shorter week, and once again my weekend adventuring might be rained out, but after three months, I've finally met my neighbors. I share a fence with three generations of Puerto Ricans on one side, a family I haven't met yet on the other, and 2 musicians who seem to always be partying and have a dog named "Dude."

I've lived for three years as a renter not knowing most of the people who shared my street, and this has been nice. I don't feel nearly as transitional as I have in the past. This is the most comfortable I've felt anywhere, and the first time I've really made any effort to put down roots.

I'm glad that I think I can get along with these people. I was stupid enough to look up the sex offender registry for the neighborhood and my gut feelings about certain houses were confirmed. It's hard for me to look at that one guy working in his garden and think about how many boys' lives he's destroyed, and I wonder if the younger strung-out guys hanging around there know or are just too desperate to care.

I think of my parents' neighborhood where people used to freak out when immigrant families moved in even though they took better care of their yards and were a lot nicer to deal with, and where people who've lived next to each other for years build huge fences so they never have to see each other. That's no way to live.

But that's the mentality of so much of this world that doesn't want to see, doesn't want to interact, is always in open conflict. I wish I could believe that people have gotten better but it seems more and more like there really is nothing new under this sun...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No letter today, not even a call on my telephone...

I don't know what to do with myself on long weekends, made no plans, took things as they came...

Attempted to transplant wisteria and honeysuckle from my parents' house, found myself feeling lonely as anything on Saturday night, walked to Edgewater, went to a birthday party where a spontaneous salsa party commenced, finished up my two weeks of dog sitting, entertained unexpected visitors last night, met my next-door neighbors, and watched the storm come in.

One of my coworkers hooked me up with that 'unreleased' Jimi material and it's been fighting with Janelle Monae for dominance of my CD player. This was where I was Saturday night, feeling lonely as hell for no good reason when I've got so much all around me.

And 2010 is evidently the year of the breakup with everyone around me struggling with aftermaths and emotions and those of us who've never had our hearts broken sometimes still feel like they're bleeding nonetheless.