I recently spent a few days in Cleveland, OH on an exploratory trip, visiting a city I’ve never been to before to see how I liked it.
Cleveland has had a long, slow, drain of population, and it is now about 270,000. Less than the size of Glendale (200,000) and Pasadena (142,000) put together.
I stayed in Cleveland Heights, outside of the city, in an AIRBNB run by two guys who bought a half acre estate for $146,000 four years ago, and make some extra income hospitably renting out rooms in their home.
For me, I relished the time away from Los Angeles in an environment of lush greenery, green lawns, deer, and clean streets.
Cleveland Heights is also a historic city, full of blocks of homes from the 1880s to the 1940s, a rich, well-maintained, lovingly cared for collection of architecture, punctuated by churches, parkways, and museums. Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic are just outside its borders, to the south is Shaker Heights, an elegant town developed in the 1920s, laid out with nature preserves, winding streets, gracious mansions and a languid Midwestern grace.
There are many homes for sale in Cleveland Heights and you can buy one for as little as $79,000 with most in the $140,000-$250,000 range. If you are starved for a Hancock Park type mansion there is one I liked for $599,000.
Many miles of interior Cleveland are empty. They were abandoned, bulldozed and cleared away. And what’s left are vast green spaces where the grasses and woods are reclaiming the land.
Even in the poorest neighborhoods, I did not see garbage dumps, shopping carts full of trash, littered streets, graffiti, or dumped furniture.
In Lakewood, OH, just west of Cleveland, a little town on Lake Erie has rows of neat bungalows, leading up to a gorgeous park on the lake where a wedding (between a man and a woman) was taking place in the sunshine overlooking a bluff. I walked around the park, full of bicyclists, walkers, joggers, tennis players and people sitting on benches socializing. Nobody was intoxicated, high, homeless, destructive, or neglectful. And if someone were, I have no doubt they would be arrested.
Lakewood is also “gay friendly” with rainbow flags, anti-Trump posters, tolerance banners, welcoming immigrant signs. I saw liberalism all over Cleveland, but it did not need to co-exist with uncared for mentally ill camping out on bus benches, mountains of debris, urinating and defecating and injecting.
You can hate Trump and still have a clean park system.
You can champion diversity and still enjoy people who say hello to you on the street and sweep their sidewalks every single morning.
In Cleveland, they still prohibit using the sidewalks and parks to sell old underwear and moldy shoes and sweat stained t-shirts and rancid socks on blankets. Nobody calls it discrimination to adhere to a standard of sanitation and order completely absent in cities such as Calcutta and the MacArthur Park district of Los Angeles.
I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I ate cannoli in Little Italy. I visited the historic West Side Market with its food sellers and ethnic hawker stands. I went to Ohio City, a restored section of Cleveland with brick houses, and Victorian mansions, loft buildings and yoga studios.
I didn’t step over feces, walk down alleys that smelled like toilets, stare at intoxicated men on the ground. And nobody asked me for money.
How cruel to enjoy such freedoms away from the rot of Mayor Garbageciti’s Los Angeles.
I walked down to the Cuyahoga River, a body of water that infamously caught fire on June 22, 1969, spurring a cleanup.
In September 2018, I watched a race of college rowers in the now sparkling waters.
Crossing the river are many bridges, a spectacular symphony of rail and road, steel and concrete, which once provided Cleveland with efficient delivery systems of raw materials and finished goods.
Today the industries are gone. One might expect decay, litter, neglect, and illegal dumping to move in.
Yet the parks were pristine. They were clean. There were no visible homeless. There were no mattresses, sofas, or piles of garbage as one sees in every single neighborhood of Los Angeles. I did not see tent cities of despondency in Cleveland.
I was impressed with the civic pride of the city. I was taken with the normalcy of expecting that parks, streets and neighborhoods would be well kept and looked after.
Could I live happily in Cleveland?
Cautiously, advisedly, I think so.