Below, excerpts from the upcoming Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology.
From the Intro:
The book is descriptive, not prescriptive. It tells stories of who we are, not who we are promising or pretending to be. Cleveland is not perfect. But it has a distinct sense of place. And in a world of ever-growing ephemerality and superficiality, our authenticity is an asset.
On being working class, from Eric Anderson:
When I was a boy, my father would come home from the mill and wash his face and hands in the sink; I would tell him about my small day and watch the water turn brown as it swirled. When he was done he would wipe his face on the towel and leave behind the imprint of a red skull; he couldn’t wash enough to get clean.
On wanting soul in Middleburgh Hts, from Pete Beatty:
Whenever I am confronted with the dead people in the parking lot (which is not that often), I think about the hereafter. I think about where I might go after I close my eyes for the last time. I think about some of the first people to live where I was raised, and how their bones spend eternity rattling in the dulled sonic backwash of screenings of Transformers 3.
On being Iraqi in Cleveland, from Huda Al-Marashi:
In the company of my new friends in Cleveland, though, I discovered how many stereotypes I’d held of my own people. My notions of Iraqis were based on a single community, most of whom had immigrated in the 1970s, and much of what I’d observed had been generational. These women, however, were my peers, with similar interests and tastes. They dreamt of HGTV homes, arrived places on time dressed in the latest styles, and even if they didn’t always wear their seatbelts, at least they believed they should.
On being a waitress in the Flats, by Kristin Ohlson:
[and] for a while I had the notion that every woman should spend some time in a job like this where the work is all restless motion, where you glance off people’s lives as you bring them their beer and fries, where you walk back and forth from gloom into sunshine, where the music coming over the loudspeaker makes you dance your way to the tables, your hips jingling change, your neck and arms reflected in the tray you hold high over your head. You have secret knowledge of what the cooks are up to in the kitchen, you know what happens in the parking lot late at night, you know there are dark rooms in this building that no one imagines, but you’re the emissary of good times. You smile and you flirt and you are paid.
On home life, by Jacqueline Marino:
I became a mother on the West Side of Cleveland. Two days after my daughter’s birth in June 2004, I brought her home to a white colonial that was built in the late 1920s. It had a smoking porch overlooking our neighbors’ vegetable garden and a red brick wall. Beyond the wall, Poor Clare Colettine Nuns prayed in seclusion, as they’ve been doing in Cleveland since 1877.
No one smoked on the smoking porch anymore. Not with a baby. Not with the nuns in eyeshot. Mostly, we paced up there [...]
On being black in Cleveland, by Jimi Izrael:
Most black folks I know, if not chained to an under-paying, soulless vocation selling widgets and/or pierogi, get on the first thing leaving—at the very first chance. They come back for births, barbecues, and funerals, or sometimes they don’t come back at all.
On Harvey Pekar, by Erick Trickey:
Decades ago, Pekar’s work was already refuting the idea of the Rust Belt as a non-culture. Like today’s Rust Belt artists, he was fascinated by the city’s ethnic heritage, fluent in the history recorded in their grand architecture, obsessed with a sense of loss and ruin. But there’s one very important difference between him and his enthusiastic Rust Belt chic successors: Pekar’s view of Cleveland and the Rust Belt was almost entirely devoid of optimism. In fact, Pekar was a gloomy man.
Yeah, I know.
By Richey Piiparinen