My friend and former classmate Aubrey Hirsch is from Cleveland, and she keeps telling me that the city is wonderful and that it’s made out of mermaids and rainbows. And sometimes, truffles fall from the sky. So when I got the chance to visit the city for part of Dogzplot’s summer reading tour, I jumped at the chance.
The part of Cleveland I drove through was pretty rough. I saw a cop waiting for the bus, carfuls of angry-looking shirtless men, and several private armored security vehicles. It was a lot like the movie Robocop, except without the robocop. Eventually, we left that part of the city and found a pleasant industrial neighborhood surrounded by old factories and water towers.
The reading itself was in the Morgan Conservatory, which is a great space. It reminded me a lot of the high school art room, with a row of impressive art prints leading into a warehouse-sized room full of printing presses, mannequins, tables, and scattered cabinets full of art supplies. Highlights of the reading include, of course, the impeccable Aubrey Hirsch and the handsome Devan Goldstein (or is it the other way around?); Steve Kowalski reading the hilarious and sad piece “When Cleveland Wins the Super Bowl”; and Andrew Rihn’s rustbelt poetry. I picked up copies of Rihn’s chapbooks The Rust Belt MRI and Foreclosure Dogs, and I’m loving them: they’re clever and sad, steeped in the darker shades of Americana.
Afterwards, we went to the wonderful (and wonderfully-named) Prosperity Club. They had great fish and chips, and my buddy Sal got the Reuben on Potato Pancakes, which is described on the menu as “House cooked corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing between two potato cakes.” Basically, the city’s equivalent of the Double Down. Sal said it was delicious, and I’ll definitely order it the next time I’m in town. So, basically, Aubrey was sort of right: Cleveland’s streets might not be paved with singing glitter and there weren’t t-shirt cannons shooting cheeseburgers at us, but it’s definitely a pleasantly surprising and underrated city.
Original Cleveland sign photo by Flickr user Nodame