Thursday, 7 May 2015

Wandering around Cleveland's downtown...

As I write this it's just gone 10pm in the UK and it's just gone 5pm here in Cleveland, Ohio. At home voting in the General Election for 2015 is over. I voted by post prior to coming over here and when I wake up in the morning I'll know who's in charge of the country for the next five years. I won't say who I voted for as it would ruin the whole idea of the secret ballot that we British have enjoyed for so many years.
I love this art 'installation' near Cleveland's City Hall

The weather here – especially today – has been wonderful, although I'm told that this part of the USA gets pretty rough winters with snow and ice being commonplace between October and March and sometimes the temperatures going down to minus 30 degrees. That's cold. However, the people living in and around Cleveland tend to get good summers. Right now there are blossoms on the trees, the skies are blue and today the sun shone brightly. All week I've been walking to the Cleveland Convention Center in my shirt sleeves. Alright, I was also wearing trousers (otherwise I might have been arrested).

With my work done and after having lunch with a learned gentlemen I'd met earlier in the day who was connected to my line of business, I decided to take a walk around town and started walking in the direction I've been taking all week along St. Clair towards Louie's Bar, where the burgers are cold, incidentally, and the food, in my opinion, not that brilliant. On the same block, however, there are some excellent establishments including a Lebanese restaurant and a place called Johnny's, which is next door and which I visited the last time I was in Cleveland back in 2013. I headed up St. Clair then turned left along West 9th Street, left again on to Superior Avenue and then along Prospect Avenue, turning left on to East 9th and then joining Euclid Avenue and walking up towards Green Square and heading back towards the Convention Center where, I remembered, there was a Starbuck's in an office building. It was just what I needed and the fact that it was dark and shaded from the heat outside made it a good place to stop for tea and a biscuit and a read of the New York Times which I found rather boring and I got annoyed with the fact that All The Words In The Headlines Started With A Capital Letter.

One of many empty streets on Sunday
It was tempting to walk down East 9th Street to the North Coast Harbour on Lake Erie but I decided to head back to the hotel instead from where I write this post. It was equally tempting to just sit on the grass and take in some rays.

The area around Euclid and Prospect Avenues is different from the main downtown where office buildings dominate. Instead the architecture is very much like that depicted on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti album cover.

The 18th floor of my hotel offers a great view of Cleveland looking east. There's the Burke Lakefront airport (designed for small jets), there's Lake Erie and there's the railroad track along which some very long freight trains wind their way through and out of town. What you can't see, of course, is the FirstEnergy stadium. For the past few days my colleague and I have enjoyed relaxing on the 18th floor in the early evening with a glass of wine, but now that he's gone to Buffalo for a meeting and I'm alone here on Lakeside, I'll probably give it a miss as being alone is something you can do anywhere, although I might take another look at that view as I'm flying home tomorrow night.

Turn left for Burke Airport
I get the impression that Cleveland has more than it's fair share of crime and I've been told to avoid going East from the hotel and to keep West. The downtown is pretty safe but you do occasionally get the odd feral-looking person talking to himself and it's best to avoid making contact with them. I've also been warned not to use the trolley (a free step-on, step-off bus service that makes circuits of the city). Generally, though, it's okay and not dissimilar to Indianapolis in terms of the downtown, although I'm guessing that a lot of American cities look the same downtown and are surrounded by suburban areas that are either good or bad in terms of crime. That said, crime, in its various guises, can turn up anywhere.

Going back to office buildings, something quite odd is the office block I can see from my hotel window. All night and day there are lights on but I never see anybody in there, just empty desks. Last night the only sign of life I could make out was a wall-mounted television that must have been showing the basketball game between Chicago and Cleveland (a grudge match that obsessed the entire city – and no, I don't know the score, but I think Cleveland won). Anyway, today (about five minutes ago, in fact) I saw life in the building. There was some kind of meeting going on, but it's ended as the room is now empty, just the like the rest of the place. Where is everybody? Ah! I've just seen somebody in there, so it's not completely devoid of life.

Tulips outside City Hall
I thought there was a bike share scheme going on here in Cleveland, but I've not seen any bike stations and had there been such a scheme I was walking through the right parts of town where I might have expected to find the bikes, but there was nothing. Prior to coming here I read about Cleveland's bike share being the only privately-owned scheme as most are run by the local authorities – that might have something to do with the lack of bike stations and, indeed, the lack of bikes.

I arrived here late last Saturday and on Sunday morning the roads of Cleveland were empty. So empty that it would have been possible to simply lie down in the middle of the road and read a book – it's a similar story in Montreal and in San Antonio and Indianapolis (a luxury we can only dream of in the UK).

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