The Little Things

So, Cleveland. I’m figuring you out, you and your weirdness. Or strangeness, more accurately. They aren’t big things, but they’re a bit queer to this Chicagoan. For example:

  • There is almost always no parking on one side of the street, which means everyone has a driveway (typically a two-car driveway)
  • The dreaded east side is actually gorgeous with parkways and bridges that rival Central Park. It’s also where all the old Carnegie and Rockefeller mansions are, which are spectacular
  • Nature thrives in Cleveland. The city planners made sure the city would be built inside the forests that envelop it. Several neighborhoods are only a block from a Metropark (their chain of forest preserves with trails, waterfalls and bridges). Despite what comes after it, autumn was exactly the right time to get here

    Shot in a Metropark 10 miles south of downtown Cleveland

  •  A lot of people in Cleveland are perfectly content to live in their bubbles. Work, home, bar, grocery store, repeat. Very few, even those from here, know much about their city let alone the neighborhoods they never venture to. This is a shame, for there is a whole lot to explore which can easily go to waste. Coming from Chicago where I fancied myself a bit of a historian/Chamber of Commerce, I relished showing visitors around and sharing cool tidbits of information but in Cleveland you have to seek those people out – and luckily I have two in my arsenal who have been sharing some excellent spots
  • Most everyone I’ve met so far are from here. Not just Ohio but Cleveland itself. I can almost never say that about Chicago, so it’s an interesting difference
  • Everyone and their mother has an iPhone (but me)
  • Every restaurant and bar has happy hour, usually from 3-5 or 3-6 which means half priced food and drink, even the fancy joints. Most mid-range bars have pints and bottles from $1.75-$3, the better beers are a comprable $5-$6. Almost never more than that, though.
  • Turn signals are not a commonly-used courtesy and I may have to retract my previous statements about Michigan and Ohio drivers being the only ones similar to Illinois
  • Related, some people around here pronounce the “s” at the end of Illinois
  • Rents are low, it’s true. A two bedroom apartment, the upper or lower of a two-unit (a typical example is this, they’re everywhere) with driveway parking and/or garage, big rooms, hardwood and crown moulding, often dishwashers and washer/dryers in-house, a yard and porch is around $650-$700
  • Beer and booze can’t be sold in grocery stores, you have to go to a state-controlled liquor store. Though, I’ve been to two stores in the last week that had wine and beer in them so I’m not sure where the gray area is
  • It’s perfectly normal and commonplace to greet those you pass on the street or in an aisle, and to say hello to everyone that comes into a room wherein you’re sitting near the door (ie, a bar). That sounds legit to pretty much anyone but someone who has lived in a big city for the last 10 years. I have to remind myself to do it lest they think I’m a jerk ice queen (or worse, a jerk city slicker)

That is perhaps, the best discovery. It’s having a great effect on my wellbeing. I don’t scowl or frown like I did in Chicago, I smile more and find myself walking tall. Cleveland, as it turns out, is really good for my emotional wellbeing. Who knew? I’m slowly beginning to look for a place of my own, now that I have not only one job but two.

Oh yeah, there’s that. My awesome scooter family has given me a job at the local scooter shop doing some design, interior and display rearrangement, real estate hunting for an east side outpost and whatever else they need done. The other job is at an amazing restaurant, perhaps one of the very best in the city. It feels the same as my Chicago job with its pace, very talented and rising chef, a carefully thought out team, local ingredients, French prep and reservation system but in this case, there’s jeans and tattoos – no more high heels, thank the good Lord above.

I’ve also decided on a winter project. Well two, technically. My scooter shop owner friend bought an Airstream Trailer earlier this year and has decided to turn it into a mobile tiki bar. It’s bare bones right now, parked in his brand new (heated) garage. It has to be gutted, cleaned and then furnished and decorated. The guys are more handy than I am, so I’m dedicating my focus to decor. I’ll document it, you’ll see what goes on there if you’re curious.

I also decided to build a Vespa VBB from the ground up. The parts are mostly already at the shop and anything I’d have to buy for it, I’d get for cost. The body and cowls are already painted (same color as the photo, I think) and I’ll have the Haines manual to guide the way. I’ve always been mechanically minded, but I’ve never tackled something like this. I’m really excited, I think it’s going to be a great way to look forward to spring. I will of course be documenting it, in case you’re interested. Wish me luck.

So far Cleveland, so good. I’m very much looking forward to establishing my own life here and that begins with an apartment. It’s going to take a while to save up and get my employment hours figured out, but I know I can afford it. My hope is that by January 1, I’ll have a place picked out and ready to go. Christmas spending will interfere with that a bit, but hopefully my family can come up with a way to even out the way we do it.

And there you have it. Every day is a new discovery and I won’t bore you with all of them, but suffice to say, things are going well and I’m having a great time before the snow starts (which they tell me is a little big epic sometimes). I’m happy. I’m secure. I’m moving forward. I love it.

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