So yes, I live in Cleveland. Well, a nice little suburb southeast of Cleveland that reminds me of my East Coast roots, but I’ve been in Northeast Ohio for 30+ years now. (How did *that* happen? Well, I’m about to tell you.) I have to say I believe that Cleveland indeed rocks. Or else I wouldn’t still be here, I suppose. I grew up just outside of D.C. (as did Jack, which is where those points converge), but both of my adoptive parents were from Ohio–Dad from Cleveland and Mom from Youngstown–and I spent many a summer day in “the grey state,” as I thought of Ohio as a child. I loved coming to visit my myriad of cousins for family reunions and weddings and even the occasional funeral, but I can’t say I ever really thought of living here.
Then, during my senior year of high school, Mom and Dad told me they were going to move back to her hometown of Girard, after my Dad retired from his government job, and they would like me to pick a college in Ohio. Now, I had my mind set on going somewhere in sunny North Carolina, so I felt somewhat deflated. Over my spring break, I visited the University of Akron, and resignedly said I’d go there. Fine. So I did. (Not much of a college selection process compared to what I went through with Ali.)
I ended up having a great experience, and as I said to my girl during her whole college search, it’s what you make it, wherever you go. After my first year, the ‘rents said they’d decided to postpone moving to the Buckeye State until my middle sister graduated a few years later, so if I wanted to go to school with my friends in Maryland or somewhere else, I could. I said I’d stay put. It was a fateful decision. I’ve not left NE Ohio to live anywhere else since, except for one year in Southwest Ohio, when I attended Miami of Ohio in Oxford for graduate school.
A communication major, I got involved in the campus radio and TV stations, and eventually did internships in a couple different newsrooms, including WEWS-TV, where I landed my first Real Job during my senior year. I also met my daughter’s dad there at Ch. 5. And my parents finally did move back to Ohio. Work, family, new friends, an MSB album, and a sudden belief in the Browns (hey, it was the days they actually made meaningful playoff appearances)…all these things conspired to keep me here. But I can’t say I’m sorry. I like it here. And it’s here I met Paul, the love of my life. (He isn’t from Cleveland either.)
Cleveland gets under your skin. It has heart. And a chip on its shoulder. (Did someone say “burning river” or “mistake on the Lake?” or “The Drive?”) Yes, it also has Lake Effect snow and endless road construction, and that whole east-west side debate; but I never get tired showing off my city to my friends who visit from other places. The Rock Hall and music scene. The great University Circle area with its amazing, free museums and world-class orchestra. Affordable living. The Iron Chef Michael Symon-inspired restaurant scene. And lately, the growing Northeast Ohio craft beer scene–Great Lakes, Fat Heads, Willoughby Brewing, Market Garden, Chardon BrewWorks, Hoppin’ Frog, Thirsty Dog…and more.
That’s why when a friend at Gray Publishing here in town asked me if I’d like a copy of comedian Mike Polk, Jr.‘s new book, Damn Right I’m From Cleveland, I said sure, I’d look at it. I laughed out loud more than once, and it wasn’t just because I was several bottles into a six of Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale.
With topics such as “Dating on a Cleveland Budget,” “The Cleveland Enemies Hall of Fame” (yes, He Who Shall Not Be Named *cough*LeBron*cough* is mentioned there), and “A Thoughtful Comparison of Three Area Gentlemen’s Clubs,” anyone who has an occasion to visit our fair city should pick this up. There’s history–why did we drop the A in Cleaveland?–and tips such as RTA protocol. Plus, I found my favorite chapter, “Great Lakes Brewing Company, A.K.A. the Main Reason Many of Us Haven’t Moved Yet.” All these things are related with underlying love and affection.
Who is Mike Polk, Jr.? Just another Cleveland comedian. This town seems to breed a lot of them; names you may know like Bob Hope, Teri Garr, Tim Conway, Harvey Pekar, Jack Riley, Martin Mull and Drew Carey. (Look those folks up yourself, I’m link-lazy at the moment.) Polk made a name for himself recently with a couple of viral YouTube videos:
And now this book. Which I think would make a nice stocking stuffer for those who appreciate Cleveland in all her glory. If you’d like a copy and you happen to be in Cleveland tomorrow night (Nov.28), you can see Polk do a bit of stand-up at his book release party at Pickwick & Frolic at 8 p.m.– $18 gets you in the door and a copy for yourself or your favorite Clevelander. If nothing else, we Clevelanders know how to laugh at ourselves.