Tuesday, January 10, 2012

this is getting old and so are you

The little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour.

Jane Austen at least left behind some perfect jewels of novels about a world even smaller than my own, and all I have is some poetry, some fragments of novels, a corner of the internet of dubious quality and copious angst that started out with a processing of my feelings of city, homeland, place, and, like someone who starts reading Zinn after a diet of perpetual red-blooded Murkan jingoism, there is more out there than this rust belt town like so many others.

One of my good friends and neighbors was on a panel last night that was ostensibly meant to discuss writing in the context of region but mostly turned into an analysis of boosterism vs. coming to terms with the legitimate and deep problems of the city, which only peripherally has anything to do with writing at all, though maybe it was an understood subtext as I'm sure damn near everyone who has a blog remotely related to the region was in the bar that night and so much of what was said, my own voice added to the fray despite the shyness that almost kept me from going.

And I look around the room, and we're all products of a technocratic society, of multiple degrees, of time to read blogs at the office desk or coffeeshop, and probably have a degree in liberal arts or social sciences, because like me, everyone who talked was in the information fields to some degree, or writing a book, and the vast majority were white, don't have kids in the school system, and could choose what neighborhoods we live in rather than getting stuck somewhere, and are generally between the age of 18 and 35, forgetting that not everyone is in our position.

We can talk about innovation all we want, and being positive and seeing the good things, but blogging about the groovy things we do doesn't change the school system, the party machine and power structure that siphons away millions of taxpayer dollars to the pockets of millionaire cronies for stadiums and casinos and urban playgrounds for the well-heeled, tax breaks for "nonprofits" whose directors make six figures and token gestures to "the children." The innovation has not trickled down to the masses, and even something so world class as the Cleveland Clinic prefers to build swanky campuses in Dubai while closing the emergency room in East Cleveland because of the cost-benefit analysis.

When I muster up the guts and foolishness to bring this up, there are blank stares and someone in the back starts yelling that if I don't like it so much and if I'm so negative why don't I just move and in the noise of that I retreat to my seat to scrawl passive aggressively on a halfsheet of notebook paper and observe the drama that transpires as people not-so-subtly snipe at each other and we're not talking about writing anymore, and people are ranting and before it can get too crazy it's time for the bands to go onstage and I'm out of there.

I've made an effort here to put down the roots that were already growing, to build a life, because I don't believe I can change the world or even change the city but I can at least try to do something in my own small sphere, without attaching some kind of deep significance to it. I've attempted to understand every corner of this city from the lakefront mansions to the abandoned factories, learned about immigrant communities and housing projects, and listened to a lot of people talk who aren't from my age group, income bracket, or socioeconomic strata. With everything, it's way more complicated than black or white or political party or personal taste. There's legitimate celebrations and equally valid grievances that are damn near impossible to distill coherently.

It's hard to "give back" to the community when you're working a couple jobs and trying to stay afloat. It's hard to "innovate" when there's no loans or capital to start with, or the prerequisite palmgreasing and red tape. What I might want is not what my neighbor might need because we're at different places in life.

What I do in my world is not for Cleveland personified, I'd do this anywhere, this is just where I ended up. But I'm tired of boosterism and bitching and honestly regret that I've pigeonholed myself into this regional corner. I may still post here, but I came away feeling disconnected from both sides, like the microcosm of the "love it or leave it" bumper sticker slogan mentality that comes with most kinds of patriotism and provincialism that ultimately shuts down the conversation and chokes out the life.

We still sound like the desperate girlfriend whose tries to overcompensate with the insecurity by talking about how great and unique she is and how beautiful she is. Cleveland is not my Paris just like I'm not Megan Fox or whoever you dudes think is hot. Let the others do the talking and stop with the self-absorbed conversation because it's boring and old.

For those who want to continue to follow the musings and randomness, I'll continue it somewhere else with hopefully a wider scope. I'm really glad that this has enabled me to meet some really fabulous people but I just want to drop out of the conversation that brought me here at this point.


Christine B. said...

Oh man! Thanks for being so articulate about it. I'd like to have a meaningful public conversation about regional literature at some point, hopefully as part of my fellowship. I'm disappointed that someone would choose to heckle like that because you're right, it shuts down all conversation. Maybe I'm hopelessly naive, but this is America, and even though I often don't like what's being said I am willing to listen. Maybe that's just the old reference interview training, I dunno.

Nice use of Granicus btw.

Cookbook said...

I have a whole lot of mixed feelings coming out of that discussion. Mostly I'm sad that we can't have a decent conversation about what is essentially an artistic question without people getting angry, rude, defensive and straying far from the point at hand. If there was one to begin with.

It makes me especially sad, and angry too, that the logical answer for some is "if you don't like it leave." How is that anything but sniping? I think it is a very base reaction. Like we are all back in high school and by getting up there and expressing your opinion you were doing the equivalent of sitting down at the wrong lunch table.

Please keep writing! You're one of the most interesting bloggers I know.

Randal Graves said...


You know you're swankier than Megan Fox (Jake says ewww).

Word verification: submisms, the gurgling misgivings beneath toward the various isms, as in That conference gave me a bad case of the submisms.

that girl said...

I wonder if a certain east side bookstore might be a more conducive gathering than, say, a hipster bar in a gentrifying neighborhood, if your book club homie is any indication.

Thanks for putting up with my snark last night, but yeah, it felt like being in high school again and not being all WOO PEP RALLY SCHOOL WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU.

I'll keep writing, and I might even continue here a little bit, but, while I hate the concept of branding, I do want to divorce myself from manic pixie dreamgirls and Machine Gun Kelly.

You hate everyone and everything is stupid to you, anyway. Why do you hate Freedom/America/Cleveland/Etc?

Bridget Callahan said...

You are seriously the third person who came away from last night or from reading my post and told me they might stop blogging.

WTF am I going to read at work if you all stop?

Maybe you would feel better about it if you changed your blog name? Though I have always really liked that Cleveland Love was not a booster site, but instead a thoughtful journal about living here.

I mean, the OCW group had to know what they were getting into making the first topic boosterism. I knew. But yeah, the lack of actual talk about writing was disappointing.

Anonymous said...

sorry that you had to go thru that and by all means do what you need to do,just leave a forwarding address if you please, thanks

Anonymous said...

I'm just a random guy that for some reason, feels compelled to follow your blog (from Columbus, no less). In other words, I have no connection to the goings-on at the meeting you described, but I've thought this for a long time: you just seem generally unhappy and confused about the direction of your life and where you live. Quite candidly, I think you'd benefit from a change in geography. Beyond your family, I'm not sure what's keeping you tethered to a place that seems to keep you intellectually engaged but sometimes miserable. My only connection to Cleveland is that my in-laws/wife's family live there. I find it a fascinating place, rife with complication, contradiction, history, joy and sorrow. It just doesn't seem to be working for you, though. Just my opinion. Good luck.

DJ J.Fever AKA DJ Melodic One said...

Dont let the hatred of others to stop you from using this creative outlet to voice your opinions! These individuals are mad that you are yourself, and not either selling out, our just posting up what everyone wants to read about. This blog is your soapbox. Dont let others silence u! At the end of the day, your creativity is what make u, who u are! If we stop all creativity, then what do we have left? I have always enjoyed reading your posts and hope u continue!

Anonymous said...

Hey sweetie. I have loved reading your blog, though I know nothing about your city or your region, other than what you've told me, and that's been marvelous. Please make sure to get in touch when you decided what's next - I know I'll want to follow.

Sometimes the fields need to lay fallow. It's how they get ready to grow.