Friday, July 18, 2014

Striking Out On My Cleveland Roadtrip

Last weekend we took a two day trip to Cleveland.  It was Kate's birthday, and she wanted to check

Unfortunately we came home with a newfound appreciation for our fair city.  Cleveland might be ok for a daytrip, but it was far from what I expected.
out a different city.  Even though Cleveland is only about a 2 hour drive, neither of us has spent any real time there.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, the Cleveland/Pittsburgh rivalry goes much deeper than just sports.  You can find "Cleveland Still Sucks" tshirts worn year-round.  But we wanted to give the Mistake on the Lake a fair shot.

Our itinerary for the weekend was pretty wide open - hit some thrift stores, a couple vintage clothing stores for Kate, and try to go to the famed West Side Market and an Indians game on Sunday.

Things went south fast.  We plugged the eastern-most thrift store on our list into the GPS and were on our way.  As we pulled up, the metal gate across the door and handwritten sign listing what they sold were bad signs.  The store had an open sign sitting in the window, but it didn't look like those doors had been unlocked in quite a while.
And that seemed like a fitting metaphor for the entire city.  There were pockets of nice shops, nice homes.  But overall the city just looked beaten and broken down.  From a shopping standpoint, the day was a bust.  Kate found a few things, I found zip.  Half a dozen stops yielded fewer finds than the average trip to the Salvation Army store 5 minutes from our house.

But if there is one thing Cleveland did do well, it was food.  We stopped at Melt, a local restaurant with a few locations.  It was well worth the 45 min wait for a table - I ordered "The Dude Abides" a grilled cheese layered with cheese sticks, marinara, and two huge meatballs.  The sandwich weighed a ton, and I could barely finish half, with the other half heading home with me on Sunday.

The Cleveland art museum was by far the non-edible highlight of the trip, with a pretty impressive collection both in terms of scope and size.  They were lacking in major pieces, but more than made up for it in layout and the sheer size of the collection.

We headed to bed with a gameplan laid out for Sunday: West Side Market in the morning, a flea market stop for some bobblehead redemption, and then an afternoon Tribe game at what I will forever call The Jake.

The thunderstorm we woke up to had other ideas.  To make things worse, the West Side Market is apparently closed on Sundays (seriously, who does that?).  We tried to salvage it by going straight to a flea market.  A line of trucks streamed out as we pulled in; apparently we had just missed a big downpour that cleared everybody out.

We made one last ditch effort to salvage the trip - an indoor flea market about 20 mins away.  It looked as sketchy on the outside as it was inside.  Rows and rows of shelves lined with junk, nothing priced and no vendors in sight.  But I spotted a few pegs of Starting Lineups, so I had to at least get a price.  I wasn't going back to Pittsburgh empty handed.  The customer service/owner/snack stand operator told me $3 each on the SLU's.  Music to my ears.

I picked out three Pirates.  I already have a copy of the Clemente at the beginning of the post, but for that price I figured this one could be an opener.  

The Al Martin brought back fond memories, since my parents humored me by scouring the countryside during a vacation to Niagara Falls in the summer of '95 looking for Pirate SLU's.  We didn't have any luck, but it brought a smile to my face to find one almost 2 decades later on a different vacation.  

 The Gary Sheffield was more of an impulse buy, but I've always had a soft spot for the early Marlins teams.  It's not exactly something I collect aggressively, but I've amassed a nice little Fins collection in recent years.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the weekend was the timing.  We went to Cleveland just a day after The Decision, Part II and LeBron announcing his return to the Cavs.  On another summer afternoon a few years back I was sitting in Columbus with my buddy watching the Pirates and Indians AAA affiliates square off.  As another trip-disrupting thunderstorm came in, the video board streamed LeBron telling the world he was leaving Cleveland for Miami.  You could tangibly see and feel the energy instantly draining from people.  The area felt deflated in a humid, sticky summer rain.

Seeing Cleveland, LeBron jerseys and homemade signs sitting in front of every business we passed, having something to hope for was such an interesting juxtaposition to watching an entire fanbase crumble before your eyes.  It was painfully clear that this is a city hurting economically.  A population that needs, and deserves, something to cheer for in their sports teams.  Don't get me wrong.  Cleveland still sucks.  But I hope the Cavs and Indians give the city something to cheer for.  The city deserves it.

But don't think I'm a bad person if I'm still hoping one of the Steelers knocks Johnny Manziel into the next century this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment