Wednesday, June 2, 2010
My Home On The River That Caught Fire
I started foaming at the mouth and chasing my own tail today. I recognized this as an early warning sign of resuming wanderlust. Shit, I really thought I’d make it longer. You see I have a history of poor impulse control and a tendency towards erratic behavior. But the doctors assure me that I’m not bipolar. I just possess sundried and assorted forms of craziness and restlessness.
I am from Cleveland. A place where the checkout lady at CVS calls me ‘honey’ and was there when I had to purchase tampons for the first time, underage beer for the first time and Plan B for the first time. A place the humidity makes my cleavage sweat even at midnight and is about as welcome as a the middle seat on an airplane between two bulbous, perspiring 300-pounders whose beads of sweat are inching closer and closer to my elbows on the quarter-inch of armrest that is allowed me by their bratwursts of arms. A place where people invite you in to sit down at their dinner table because, “Don’t you just know, this young lady was so nice to me today at the grocery store. She helped me with my buggy.” (and yes we say ‘buggy.’ And sweeper, and clicker. And if you don’t know what those words mean then you’re just not cool enough).
Cleveland. Land of surprising ethnic diversity left over from Rockefeller’s days. Not like Aspen, where you see a person who isn’t white walking down the street and find yourself wondering how they got so tan in the middle of winter. Cleveland’s got the Czechs, the Croatians, the Poles, the Russians, the other assorted eastern Europeans, the Slovenians, the Irish, the Puerto Ricans, the Mexicans, the West Africans and of course the Italians. Oh, the Italians. I dated one once. They make excellent lovers but terrible husbands or boyfriends. Remember that. It might serve you well someday. They are the race of hair gel and tempers, rigatoni and knee-bending sex. I will never stop missing inappropriate ass grabs from old men with gold crosses or the sort of overstuffed feeling that only copious canollis, everlasting slices of pepperoni and Grandma Marie’s urgings of, “Come on Katie, you’re too skinny, just one more slice of lasagna,” can wage upon one’s stomach.
Cleveland. A place where this hot mess of a world that we live in right now stares you right in the eye. It’s my family friend’s face when they find out that they have a bun in the oven and no way to support the ones they already have. It’s my sister’s eyes when she knows that she might lose the restaurant that is their income, their home and their lifeblood. It’s the brittle little tear that drops down her cheek that’s already seen too many sorrows when she owns up to the fact that cancer is eating her husband alive and leaving her with two babies. Alone. It’s my brother-in-laws head in his hands to hide the tears on his lean, 200-pound high school football star frame when he hears that his house might enter foreclosure. It’s a place where unemployment is 13%. It’s a place where the pain of the Great Recession and the Economic Crisis are more than a trite buzzwords garnered from CNN. It’s a place where these phrases spell a nasty reality. That life’s hard. Life’s a bitch.
And unfortunately for me fluttering free spirits with tendencies towards eccentricity and penchants for musing philosophically about the meaning of life, don’t get along so well in the school of hard knocks. No time for that nonsense when the bank man’s coming to take your house. I got tired of this weight. The weight of the Cleveland humidity sticking to my skin, even at midnight. The weight of the problems in my loved ones faces wearing me down. The weight of my memories dragging at the edges of my psyche.
And so I’m headed West again. It will be the tenth time my 2005 Subaru has crossed the country. And I’ll rejoin comrades in our bubble. Where this sadness is far, far away in a land called Cleveland. The place where I’m from. So don’t fuck with me because I’ve got a whole city behind me ready to kick your ass because us Clevelanders stick together.