A Walk through Ohio City

Rain is pounding on the windows, Jesse and I are pecking away at our respective laptops, and my cat is curled at my feet.

Just a few days ago, I was strolling through Cleveland without a jacket, snapping photos.

Ohio City, a neighborhood just across the Veterans Memorial Bridge from downtown Cleveland, is an eclectic community.  It is home to the West Side Market, which I visited several years ago.  I distinctly remember seeing an elderly lady hobbling along, a wicker basket on her arm; a shawl wrapped around her head and tied beneath her chin.  She looked like she had just stepped off a boat from the Old World.  In the other direction, there was a drag queen wobbling along on high heels.

I knew the rest of the neighborhood had to be just as interesting, and I’m glad I got the chance to go back.

Here is a bit of what I saw:

This telephone poll was crooked by more than just a few degrees.

Cleveland is urban.

It is rusty.

And smelly.

Yet somehow optimistic.

If you give it a chance, it has pleasant surprises in store.

It is a city full of people who do not give up.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to train there for three weeks.

Once Hurricane Sandy has subsided, I will be back to canvassing in Syracuse.  In the mean time, I hope everyone in Sandy’s path stays safe and dry.


Pumpkin and Fastman

Autumn is slipping by, and I haven’t taken many photos.  I’m in my third and last week of training in Cleveland, and I’m liking this activist business.  I am angry, but I am channeling the anger into something productive.

Still, it’s imperative that I step back from the issues.  If I let any one passion consume me, then I will probably self-destruct.  The only point in preserving the environment is because there is so much that is wonderful about this world that we can’t afford to let go.

I was reminded of this wonderfulness last weekend.  I received a picture on my cell phone, which I was hesitant to open because I have neither texting nor data on my cell phone plan.  I don’t know how much it cost me to receive that photo, but the joy it gave me was priceless.

It was Fastman, holding a guitar and smiling cheekily.

Fastman is my coworker Lauren’s neighbor.  He is a chubby little nine-year-old guy who frequently wears shorts but no shirt or shoes.  When he heard the sounds of ukelele, guitar, and drums emanating from Lauren’s apartment a few weeks ago, he begged his mom to go downstairs to visit.  While his mom shared the latest apartment complex gossip, Fastman gave Lauren a requisite hug and then turned his attention to Pumpkin.

Pumpkin is a one-year-old white cat with splashes of orange on his back.  He is lithe and dainty and prances about on his tip toes.

The reunion of Pumpkin and Fastman was a glory to see.  Fastman began to sprint around the kitchen, sliding on the black and white tiles.

“Chase me, Pumpkin!  You can’t catch me!” he shouted.

And chase him Pumpkin did.  When Fastman zigged, the cat zigged.  Pumpkin zagged when the boy zagged.  They whizzed about in a blur of motion for ten or fifteen minutes, until Pumpkin melted onto the floor abruptly, as only cats can, and Fastman was wheezing.  His mom admonished him to settle down before he had an asthma attack.

I have seen cats chase ribbons and computer cords and flying squirrels, but I have never seen one chase a nine year old boy.  Running about the kitchen, Fastman and Pumpkin tugged the adults in the room into the present moment.  Fastman didn’t need Nike tennis shoes, computer games, or a smart phone to make him happy.  He was a kid, doing what kids do best.  When he went home, he left behind a wake of contentment and peace.

So when I got Lauren’s photo, I smiled.  A cat, a Fastman, and a group of friends are a recipe for happiness. Moments of joy are all around us, we just have to find them.  They’re what life is all about.  And they’re what’s worth fighting for.