Cleveland Skyline

Cleveland 2019

posted in: Midlife, Personal Essay, Photography, Travel | 0

Tell someone you are going to Cleveland and you will likely hear some kind of “mistake on the lake” joke or a very outdated reference to the Cuyahoga River catching on fire. Yes, that was 50 years ago.

I had to go to Cleveland earlier this month for a conference and, ignoring such comments, went with an open mind. I had never been to Cleveland and had no reason to think that I wasn’t going to enjoy my short trip. I have rarely been anywhere that I have truly disliked (I’m looking at you Orlando).

I am happy to report that I did, in fact, enjoy my time there.

The conference I went to was for the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) which is held every other year. I attended two years ago when it was in Baltimore, another city that people often look down on but that I found delightful.

This year’s conference was particularly interesting and educations and book-ended by engaging keynotes by Michele Norris and Alison Bechdel. Many of the session I attended addressed bigger issues (inclusion and diversity, social justice aspects of open educational resources) than more functional aspects of library work. Perhaps I just picked the right things to go to, but this conference felt more inspiring than many I’ve been to.

Of course, the best part of any conference is getting to see old colleagues and to meet new ones. I was especially fortunate to have spent time with two of my best friends who I don’t see often enough.

I have a friend who works for ACRL so I usually get to see him at these and other related conferences. Initially, it seemed like we might have only had time to see each other at a happy hour, but, luckily, we were able to have a leisurely dinner one night.

I am thankful I get to see him once or twice a year, but I know we’d hang out all the time if we lived in the same city. We’ve been friends for about fourteen years and it’s a shame we don’t see each other more often.

Another highlight, friend-wise, was getting to see another friend who was not attending the conference but who lives elsewhere in Ohio and was willing to drive a couple of hours so we could have lunch together.

Unlike my friend from ACRL who I get to see somewhat regularly, I hadn’t seen this friend in probably about six years. I had met her while I was living in Las Vegas when my personal life was unraveling. She was instrumental in helping me keep myself together during a really difficult time. I was thrilled seeing her again and touched that she was willing to drive about two hours each way to get together. Perhaps needless to say but I hope we get opportunities to see each other again before another six years passes.

One of the amazing things about being now 51-years-old is how long I’ve known some of my friends. At one time, I thought of both the aforementioned friends as my “new” friends but now I’ve known them each a dozen of years and more. The weekend prior to my Cleveland trip, a childhood friend visited Philadelphia. I’ve known him about 40 years. And it’s a little hard to believe, but I’ve now known Holly for nearly a decade. That’s almost 20% of my life.

So Cleveland.

I stayed in a hotel near the Convention Center which is located between downtown and Lake Erie. It was easy getting downtown from the airport by rail which I always appreciate and the area was very walkable, which I also appreciate.

I got in on a Wednesday afternoon and went to the opening keynote. I had plans to attend a happy hour that night so had a little time to explore after the keynote.

The most notable (and possibly most discussed among my peers) was how empty Cleveland was. There were very few people out and about. I noticed that immediately during my initial exploration which was at 5:30 on a Wednesday night. One would have expected seeing a lot of people heading home from work, but things were pretty quiet. I don’t really have an explanation or understanding of why that was.

In an effort to travel light, I only brought my Olympus TG-5 with me. I wasn’t sure how much time I was going to have to take pictures so didn’t necessarily want to bring a bigger camera. Plus, I have started becoming more comfortable relying on the TG-5, and it served me well. Yes, there were times I wish I had my Canon with me, but, overall, the Olympus served me well.

The first night, I mainly took pictures near the Convention Center, including famous landmarks such as Tower City Center and the Fountain of Eternal Life. I also took a rather cool (or so I think) shot of the underside of a bridge with my phone on my way to the happy hour.

As I suspected, I didn’t have many opportunities to take pictures during the main couple of days of the conference which ended on Saturday afternoon. Since my flight home wasn’t until Sunday morning, I had the remainder of Saturday to entertain myself which is when I took the majority of my photos.

I took the bus out to the Cleveland Art Museum which abuts the campus for Case Western Reserve University and Wade Lagoon. Although the weather was all over the place the first few days of my stay, that Saturday was pleasant and sunny.

The museum was huge, and I only got through a fraction of it in three hours. The standing collection has free admission, but I paid to see the special Shinto exhibition.

After that, I spent the rest of my time in the modern wing. Following-up on my recent fascination with Ninth Street Women, I was thrilled to see Lee Krasner’s Celebration. They also had a Jackson Pollock painting and while I was looking at that, a museum employee walked by and let me know “we also have a painting by Jackson Pollock’s wife.” Really? If I was looking at the Celebration, would he have told me “we also have a painting by Lee Krasner’s husband?”

Lee Krasner's Celebration
Lee Krasner’s Celebration

After my three hours at the museum, I walked around the area a little bit more before hopping on the bus to get back downtown for an early dinner.

Atypically, I didn’t take many pictures of food while in Cleveland, mainly because I was socializing with people I hadn’t seen in a while. But I did enjoy most of my meals: my breakfast sandwich and coffee at REBoL, a fabulous dinner at Butcher and the Brewer with my friend from ACRL which featured house smoked corn dogs (which I did try to take a picture of but it was too dark), a light but delicious fish dish at Blue Point Grille, but the highlight of my meals was my dinner at Lola Bistro. I had beef cheek pierogies (with mushrooms, horseradish crème fraiche) for an appetizer and a smoked pork chop entree (with chiles, polenta, bbq onions) with some well-paired wines. In lieu of dessert, I enjoyed a Rusty Belt (Mezcal, Cardamaro, Sfumato, Honey-Rosemary Syrup, Green Chartreuse).

I was tempted to have another cocktail but I wanted to get to the lake before the sun set.

During my initial exploration, I tried to get to the lake but couldn’t see how to cross the highway and train tracks. On Friday night, the conference had an event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and while walking there I saw a way to get to the lake.

My timing was perfect as the sun was just beginning to set. I lingered there for at least a half-an-hour to make sure I captured the sunset in all its colors. I also took an interested macro shot of some kind of decomposed sea life.

Despite some unpredictable weather, I enjoyed my time in Cleveland. I would not hesitate to return if an option presented itself. I would like to get back to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because I didn’t get to see much during the conference event. It was over-crowded and difficult to explore the exhibits.

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