There's an art show tonight at Loganberry Books where a real photographer is showing some of her work that's inspired by urban decay and graffiti. I look through these beautiful photos and realize that we've been to the same places, only she didn't get arrested.
I'm 5 days away from completely probation and realizing as I ride the Rapid that most of my photography involves some element of illegality as do those of most of my fellow artistically minded Clevelanders and other rust belt denizens. I'm fine with giving up the abandoned buildings.
Those places still fascinate me the way that ruins in the Old World would if I lived there, but I don't want to deal with the court system again, much less run across who knows who. Now that I know what the law is, I respect it, and in all honesty, those adventures were things I'll look back on a few years from now and go "Damn I was stupid back then."
My favorite parts of the city are the dead zones along railroad tracks cutting through industrial wastelands, where everything is growing and a whole other world exists underneath bridges and in forgotten worlds, where flowers spring out of concrete and vines take over fences, the soil is red from the rust of former manufacturing and the bright aerosol colors are arcane hieroglyphics showing that others have gone before us in a city that's gray most of the year.
But these places are owned by someone. Someone who's hoping that a developer will come along someday and buy these swaths up for the revival that may never come, for an industry that can be elsewhere, or someone who might be dead and doesn't know, or some nameless corporation in another state, or languishing in brownfield purgatory.
I went to hear this photographer speak last week and she talked about her excursions into the architecture of this city and times she ran into trouble but was always very nice and gracious, asked permission, but she's an older lady so she has some modicum of respectability as opposed to me being young and in racially mixed company in a city where the culture of past generations is still segregated.
There's so much talk about the creative class and making this a haven for artists. Other cities are known for their bright murals and incredible graffiti, but here, if it's not safe and clean and able to be consumed or surrounded by trendy restaurants and beautiful people, it gets destroyed. I wish I could have experienced 'The Temple of Lost Love' back in the day before it was whitewashed by city workers and the Campbell administration. The aesthetic may not be appealing to all, but it resonates with a lot of us.
I felt a sense of loss when the RTA started buffing over a decade's worth of paint from the Red Line. Does that gray paint really look better? Does someone painting "Cleveland Rocks!" in rainbow letters of declaring their love of Led Zeppelin on a wall really hurt anyone?
So now I'm trying to figure out how to continue to pursue exploration and artistry in this city without getting in trouble again. I've done a good job of keeping it legal, and I intend to continue to do so to the best of my ability but I think now about how many things that are not moral wrongs that there's something on the books about. For all of us who've ever cut through someone's yard or picked up a piece of furniture off of someone's curb, or walked down some railroad tracks or opened someone else's mail by accident.
I'm sure it won't be as hard as it feels sometimes, but I'm honestly jealous of all these photographers who don't feel like they have to debate these questions.