Of late this blogger has been resumed in h/i/s/er/t’s travels and having the opportunity to wander this great and storied land. This time, the travel is work-related but from time-to-time, there is a break in my remunerative work and I can indulge in some tour of this or that local, talk to this or that local, and truly live among the people.
I am glad that I have not until this time seen America. Having traveled the European Backpacker Thing(tm), the visit North Africa for a moment thing, taken to travel Russia by rail from end to end and by boat from Vladistanigrad to Astragradistan in order to visit historic sites and learn from various cultures how to say, “yes, I want fries with that, yes to go, no, I don’t want to super-size that for XYZ local currency.” I have wandered the byways of old Erin, lochs of Rob Roy’s local, sipped the milky bathwater of…. Bath. I have nibbled stale biscotte in Italia, and supped on hotdogs and split peas in Vienna, soaked in the afternoon sun as the mosquitoes sucks my blood on the French coast, slept on top of a toilet room attendant’s stall in Monaco, passed out in a city park in Pamplona Spain, and fought off hookers in all locations or otherwise was priced out of their fine services since my budget was always shy a few romps and could but hope that hitting on enough Australian chicks would land me some company. I have beaten off gypsy children in the steppes of Russia, run from hungry insane flesh-rotting beggars in Morocco, dashed away from twisted leg-pointing-to-sky cripples in Delhi and given all manner of homeless and helpless money, pens, food, and condoms so that they may better their lives.
I have been to the ruins of the Inca, Aztec, Toltec, and certain pottery museums that need to be flattened. I have placed flowers at shrines in Kashmir, stones on top of graves in the ghetto of Prague, pissed off the Great Wall. Pissed off the top of a bus on the way to the Himalayas. And, in recollection, I have urinated off of, atop, or on, perhaps more UNESCO heritage sites that I should admit on this semi-anonymous blog. As of this month, I have been as far south, and as far north as one can legally drive on the Eastern coast of North America – both times in a convertible, if one counts a CJ-7 Jeep in the convertible category. This is not to brag, to claim I have some knowledge greater than anyone. All that these adventures have taken is money and the ability to buy a ticket, pay a service, book a hotel, or understand that for three months you will be living with college students, trying to make a “continental breakfast” fill you for the entire day until you are forced to eat the 1000th baguette with as much nutella as you can slather on in order to create the greatest Euro to calories ratio in order to stretch the travel budget.
“What do you mean foreigners pay $12 to get in?!!! Local price is 100,000.00 Vergeristandens (.000014 USD)! I don’t have the budget to pay this in order to see the gilded foreskin of King Lollypop Jaguar Penis IV!” The woman behind the desk apologizes in a version of my mother tongue and chatters in her language, some college kid with a trust fund behind you is like, “It’s because of colonialism man, you owe them to pay that price,” and true it is, but still… How am I going to drink myself to death tonight AND eat? I guess I’ll have to pick one….
This is to say, I am not an amateur when it comes to travel. Not unfamiliar to rustic conditions, strange people shouting and waving guns about, police checkpoints or awkward situations far far away from any compound of people who represent the state and administer its laws.
It is in this light, we must consider Cleveland.
What. The. Fuck… happened to Cleveland? I know, we can Wikipedia the story, we know we transitioned from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy and now, in the Knowledge Economy has come and those this black glasses worn by all interviewed in Wired and Fast Company are indeed a sour milk for at those teats few sip or suck and all else rots and rusts as if our of some lost stanza of the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner –
Is this an abandoned fac-tor-y?
Is that a crack house, and are there three?
Her lips were red, her dividends were tax-free,
Her 401k were full of gold,
Her retoric smacked of shit and vinegar
And stunk of hypocrisy…
We can see the wrecks of barns and sliced apart farmland, half turned into agribusiness and saturated with chemicals and pelted with genetically modified corn the other half turned into cul-d-sac communities in the expanding Geography of Nowhere (hats off to Klusterfuck Nation). We see too, the factories that have yet to be torn down dot the landscape. I have been watching entire acres of them being raised in new Jersey. An entire industry devoted to removing all trace of industry. I remember watching one grand building, a Beux Arts structure with grand dormers being torn down in Springfield MA because it was degrading the Basketball Hall of Fame, a lone testicle-like structure, were that testicle belonging to the likes Lance Armstrong.
Cleveland is indeed blasted in parts. Some have been entirely removed. Like the downtown. The majority of the place is a parking lot. They have parking lots that are buildings built for the intention to house cars. They have parking lots on the ground. They have parking lots that are buildings retro fitted to be parking lots. One establishment, an eatery of historic tone and Irish flare, right next to a gay nude club, had several proud framed images of progress, the old grand hotel that stood nearby being detonated as if fifty years later, the Nazi fifth column, the communist infiltration had finally done its work in removing American endeavors, blasting the hundreds of thousands of old bricks made of the best sand, the old growth forests turned into lumber, the pipes, the toilets, the lead paint, the asbestos, the terracotta details into a pile. And do not be fooled by the “renovated 2-3 bedroom signs,” because the rental office too was rotted and left behind.
Cleveland is a lazy city otherwise. At least the good citizens of Detroit have the pugnacious innovation and worth ethic that would have made Cotton Mather proud enough to celebrate Devil’s Night once a year and otherwise take down, remove, rip apart, kick 16 shits out of their formerly wonderful city. In Cleveland, apart from the junkies and scrappers, there seems no appetite to warm the winter winds or fan the lake effect snow with some old fashioned burn down the ghetto. Apart from the evidence of a local fire here and there, structure after structure stands in mute testament to the reverse perverted economics of our land. Apparently The Google, Yahoo, and the NDA have not move in with their jobs of the future. Apparently the presidents Herr Bush and Uncle O’s White House have not given every child who was left behind or not raised to the top an iDevice or otherwise brought them up to snuff with the standards on SCIENCE! TECHNOLOGY! ENGINEERING! & MATH! (STEM) so that a GLORIOUS FATHERLAND CAN BE BUILT BRINGING MANKIND INTO THE FUTURE AS THE HEROIC JOBCREATORS play with their collectives selves, relieve their progenitoristic energies onto some object, say, a chocolate chip cookie, and then make us eat it as they watch least we lose our job on the spot.
This blogger must still travel according to the budget set, and so the blogger stayed in a hotel that had once been a grand, perhaps 2 star jobber back in 1960something. The structure looked like Beirut, and the Palestinian boys playing soccer in the parking lot only added to the faded cement and dirty glass structure, some windows open allowing the curtains to flap in the lake-effect late summer wind. A set of showers were brewing and the sunset lit up the corresponding clouds into resplendent pinks, red, orange, and deep blues. The entrance was once Modern, and yet had an antique long desk for check-in with carved grotesques and arabesques. A think layer of weird cultural confusion and taste-in-the-ass proclivity lent a strange aire with signs in Arabic and Chinese sculptures as well as that Asian tendency to just place things where they need to be rather than think about where they look good so that some item of utility is just parked in the hallway because, well, the ice machine needs to be plugged in and… oh look… there’s a plug (which is strange because most Americans think Asians are born with Fung Shui… turns out they’re not).
The Lobby smelled like any $40 motel/hotel in this country since all were built to be hermetically sealed and when those supporting systems breakdown or otherwise cannot be maintained to the standards of the original builders, all manner of mold, stank, and funk accumulate as dank water is the potpourri of the American flop house. Plastic palms placed… well there, because there is room…. A vase is there…. The elevators are the same as I saw in Beijing. Exactly down to the flashy brassy cheap coverings and coatings described as Dallas 1983 and I can never see but anything else. The room was passable for the price. It also was dank but when I opened the window the breeze from the water came in and I took in the view… the hotel pool, long ago covered but a light and happy smattering of trash that fell/blew/tossed/thrown from the wind/windows across it. Also, a view of the “hotel fountain,” a sump filled with feted water and trash hidden from view by weeds and then the former sunny party rooms, the ballroom perhaps, now filled with all manner of crap and the condensation of so many bad mistakes and tears. The abandoned buildings next to the hotel had even more spread about the roof including parts once integral to the building’s functionality. And then, in the distance, the towers of the banks and special interests that remain and the rest of the city clustered about the casino, the sports arena and whateverthefuck. I have found that if a city has room to place a sports arena anywhere near or in the downtown, that city will never recover. I have also seems, although this is opinion and not scientific data-driven value-added fact, that for each casino build in the city, God sends 30 unbaptized children a day to the fiery abyss of Hell to stand on their heads in a burning lake of excrement.
The hotel bar was quiet that night. I was burnt out with the day’s travel and looking forward to going back home. I ponied up to the bar, but not without looking about at my surroundings. I had not expected much. There was nothing but empty close to the hotel. The nearest bar was next-door, but that had been closed for years, and torn apart by Father Time, Brother Love, and Jake the Junkie.
The room was large. Too large for the number of tenants and guests or for any local population that may or may not exist. To my surprise, there was an additional set of rooms. Those former ballrooms lit by the sun before someone tapped up plastic and paper in order to cover this feature. In this space were stacked small refrigerators. As if there was a hotel somewhere that once had refrigerators in each room and then one day, management could not afford to maintain them and yet, as with many poor people, could not see to toss them out because maybe he’ll use them one day. To increase the The Shinning factor there were all manner of New Years decorations hanging from the ceiling save for any piece of party artifact that may date said “HAPPY NEW YEARS” for the historian, anthropologist, or forensic criminal detective. The floor was missing in parts, things were arranged as at the lobby in the same order of utility over ethics. The entire space was an overwhelmed owner and staff, trying the best that can, each faction however it was divided from countries where plastic deck chairs are acceptable furnishings for a restaurant… and mind you, this blogger’s ass has sat in these exact same chairs from Veracruz to Volgograd, Bucharest to Bombay. Now, this dining room and bar still had their wooden chairs and bar. There was some attempt to decorate the wall that separated yet another are of this palatial dining space into what was now the breakfast room as well as maintain what had once been a moderate bar for moderate budget travelers from the 1960s, renovated in the 1970s and then Arabic or Chinese elements added in the whatever, whenever this happened. The other patrons were contractors and the man behind the bar, as many I meet, worked three other jobs. He was a nice fellow, and I wondered whether his rock-a-billy looks meant that this was a strictly “ironic job” since I could not much imagine he was making a living of any kind on my tips, his wage, or any sort of bonus that must not exist, considering the state of the hotel, and the entire city.
So it is that we can simply turn away from these cities since we can fly out or drive away with ease. We can go to these cities and have a very selective experience. Get a burger and a beer at Tiny Pub. Have an ass-slamming time at the bar next door. Go to the casino and waste our future on the crap table because bingo takes away our money way too slow. What has happened to this city is again a red flag tossed onto the field of the American Dream, and while not [yet] as Detroit, we must wonder, how long before we too hear of some Devil’s Night consuming yet another city as the ghosts of Dresden were possessing our society in order to take their much deserved revenge.