This month marks 7 years since I decided I couldn’t handle L.A. anymore and moved to Cleveland. It was a mildly impulsive choice, but everything fell into place at the right time for it to happen. I never thought I would end up living in Ohio! People always seem to think I was from here originally, or had family, or had some obligation as to why I came here. Nope. I just visited a few times, knew some people and liked it. Many are still perplexed that I would move here by choice or because I felt like it.
Are there things that bother me about Cleveland? Oh hell yes, but nothing beyond the same number of complaints my husband and I had about Boston, or Orange County, or L.A. to be honest — just different complaints. The wasted potential is my main gripe. Why on earth is there still nothing cool on the waterfront?! Is anything ever gonna get built there?! And when are people gonna stop complaining about losing manufacturing jobs? Can’t there be a new industry to move on to? I don’t like the traffic cops here, and normally I don’t mind cops at all. The city government is so inept it is astounding how anything even gets done. Also, how the hell did the Rock Hall manage to screw up CMJ Fest like that? There are major music festivals in the desert, in the mountains, and in odd places yet Cleveland can’t get its shit together to host an annual one? There’s also the provincial attitudes that I find painful to endure (just watch the local news, it is so quaint!), but I’ve been good at finding the groups of people who are progressive, creative, and worldly. Selling art in Cleveland isn’t easy for instance, it does happen, but not the same volume as some places. But this is why I exhibit all over and use Cleveland as a home base. The Harvey Pekar or Drew Carey Show side of Cleveland is very much alive and well, but that is only one side.
In fact, there’s a number of transplants from major cities that I’ve met over the years; I don’t know why the national media is doing stories about New Yorkers fleeing for Cleveland in recent months, because it has been happening slowly since I’ve been here. They all moved here for the same reasons I did: better quality of life. When I say that, I mean being able to actually go out and enjoy things because you can afford to — little things and big. Just count the number of pro-Cleveland blogs, my favorite site being Cleveland Memory Project. Heck, you can even go on Twitter now and see a hashtag for #HappyinCLE. It is different for everyone I suppose. My husband and I have always had a bad case of wanderlust, so the fact that we are still here speaks volumes. Every time we think about moving somewhere, it just never seems to happen or we can’t decide on what benefits there would actually be beyond maybe nicer weather. Cold and snow don’t bother me, just the darkness in winter. I’m not opposed to moving if something awesome came up or was offered, but it would take another clusterfuck to get me to sell everything and drive cross-country again in the hurry we did when we came here. I guess it is good we stayed, if I hadn’t been near Cleveland Clinic this year I don’t know what I would have done. Truthfully, I’d probably be dead by spring.
I’d probably still really like L.A. if I were rich and had a house in the hills or somewhere away from people where I didn’t have to drive. I tell you, I had the best time in L.A. when I went home for a visit. A visit, not to live. A big difference — mainly that I didn’t have to drive (except on the 405 when I got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half). I still couldn’t wait to get back to Cleveland; SoCal suburbs are just as ugly to me as snow covered rustbelt industry. So when people ask why the hell I live in Cleveland still, I can pretty much give you a short list off the top of my head:
- My fabulous apartment in a gorgeous hood with utilities included and underground parking only just now went up to $700 a month.
- The commute to my husband’s job downtown is 6 minutes.
- the fact we’ve been surviving on just one of us working, or both of us working part-time.
- I have a huge art studio for less than $100 a month.
- I have time for my art.
- The Cleveland Art Museum, and it’s free!
- The Cleveland Clinic, where I had the best rock star surgeon for my type of surgery in, um, the entire world! Also I had an anesthesiologist who sorta looked like Sam Elliot once. That was nice.
- The restaurants are amazing and I can actually afford to go to them.
- The amount of grants for individuals and organizations.
- Traveling distance to other cities is in close proximity. Weekends in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, DC and the like are easy.
- The Metro Park system.
- There’s a venue for every niche; different movie theaters, record stores, concert venues, bars, and art galleries all serving a particular sub-culture of some sort.
- The lack of chains. Unless you go out to the ‘burbs, everything is independently run for the most part.
As much as a complain about the things I consider stupid about this town, I’d actually be kind of bummed if it became too much of a “hipster haven” or overrun with more yuppies. I sort of like it being a well-kept secret; I like having the feeling that the city is all mine and I can run amok! Let’s face it Cleveland, you piss me off sometimes, but after 7 years I still kind of like you.