I’ve Never Been to Cleveland

In January, the Atlantic did a survey of an issue that often overlaps with my feeling of why travel is so important: perception. Often we find outside perceptions of a place immediately burst when you go. Things like, oh, that in the ’90s, that Americans should be leery of traveling in Vietnam, travel to places like Colombia or Mexico is too dangerous to consider, that all Russians or Parisians or New Yorkers are unfriendly. All you have to do is go to know better.

The survey looked at the 50 biggest cities in the US and which had the most positive and negative associations. The positive 10 included lots of coastal cities with Seattle at #1. The negative list predictably ran through the Rust Belt, with three Ohio cities in the top 10, and Cleveland at #3 (behind #1 Detroit and #2 Birmingham).

I wonder how many of the people surveyed had been to those places?

I’ve never been to Cleveland, the city Liz Lemon linked with sandwiches in a ’30 Rock’ episode and has been misspelled for years (it’s named after Moses Cleaveland), but always have wanted to. I go tomorrow to attend the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this weekend and see some rock sites.

Before I go, I thought I’d document a few things I think I think about Cleveland.

  1. It won’t always be pretty but I’m guessing there will be particular pride in the place that championed its own ‘You Gotta Be Tough’ slogan on t-shirts since the early ’70s. I learned a bit of that while talking with locals for my ‘9 Reasons LeBron Should Stay in Cleveland’ post for Lonely Planet a couple years ago.
  2. Cleveland really is the heart of rock’n’roll. A lot of people wonder how Cleveland got the Hall of Fame. In the early ’50s, DJ Alan Freed famously used the term ‘rock’n’roll’ to make R&B more attractive to white kids. A writer for the Plain Dealer said, ‘It wasn’t Alan Freed [that brought the hall to Cleveland]. It was $65 million.’ Ie Cleveland raised the money before places like Memphis or Detroit (or New York) could. I think I think it’s more than that.
  3. The Cuyahoga is not on fire. Pretty much any article on Cleveland — a travel story, a political story, a sports story, REM song (‘Cuyahoga’) — mentions that its river was so polluted it caught on fire in 1969. (It burned for 20 minutes. Actually a 1952 fire, one of 12 others over the years, caused much more damage.) Since then, the city’s been committed to cleaning up the river. The fish are back. I kayak it on Sunday.
  4. Joan Jett and Michael J Fox aren’t still slow dancing, as brother/sister (weird), at the ‘Euc.’ In the rather bad ‘Light of Day’ film — that was almost a Bruce Springsteen movie called ‘Born in the USA’ years before his album — Jett and Fox ‘bond’ at the Euclid Tavern. I’ll go tomorrow to see that fabled dance floor, and have a burger.
  5. Axl won’t show. G’n’R are getting inducted, and I think the question of will/won’t he? will hang over the whole evening. [Looks like I was right.]
  6. It’s not boring. And I’ll wish I had more time.

We’ll see once I get there.

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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4 Responses to I’ve Never Been to Cleveland

  1. Unknown says:

    Cleveland is a city with a ton of hidden gems.

    Great Lakes beer is a must! http://www.greatlakesbrewing.com/ All local bars with have the beer, and the Brewpub is on W.25th across from the famous Westside Market, which is also a must on Saturday mornings. Neighborhood is known as “Ohio City.”

    “The Euc” is a couple blocks by Little Italy, which is an old school Italian neighborhood worth seeing.

  2. Good to hear that you didn’t find Cleveland boring. The place is good enough to visit and enjoy your peaceful evenings, still unable to understand why it was at number 3..

  3. Nathan says:

    I think Cleveland is a beautiful city, but I’m from Pittsburgh and have a particular affinity for the rust belt (just don’t want to live there anymore!).

    There’s something special about places that were once something that they aren’t necessarily anymore. Bittersweet, like an entire city living in an old polaroid.

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