Brag about yourself, Cleveland

Pup peeves

I like to think I have talent in some things. I did manage to land this writing gig. But like most Clevelanders, I don’t actually often tell others about what I do. Newly admitted Case Western Reserve University students often have the complaint that “nothing happens in Cleveland,” but perhaps the better claim is “nobody talks about what happens in Cleveland.”

In the mash-up that is New York values combined with Midwestern niceness, Cleveland does most of the things the coasts do—we just don’t seem to tell anyone about it. For instance Cleveland is home to such diverse activities as wintertime surfing on Lake Erie, LGBTQ roller disco parties, pinball competitions, Cleveland-Style Polka parties, Dyngus Day, street fairs, farmers markets’ and more. Its population growth of recent college graduates outstrips places like NYC. It contains hundreds of restaurants and cuisines. Yet it seems one can only find this out if one digs.

Perhaps our reluctance to brag and boast about what we do, unlike locales like Portland or San Francisco, is a reflection of a distinctly Cleveland mindset: We do the thing; we just see little need to brag about doing the thing. Our food culture is based on real food that actually tastes good, not long lists of adjectives describing fads like cronuts or foam. Our work ethic leads to a strong sense of getting things done, and not talking about getting things done.

This may also be part of where the problem lies. If we don’t talk about the things we do, how can we introduce newcomers? In days of Cleveland past, when it was home to nearly a million people and fostered scenes like Jazz and Modernism, there were simply enough people around to continue on traditions like Cleveland Kurentovanje (a Slovenian late winter-early spring carnival) or clambakes. But now after it has seen a great exodus to the suburbs, its traditions and history deserve broadcast. Cleveland is not a generic spot on the American landscape. Its history is rich, diverse and incredibly complex. Its traditions are unique and distinct, a wonderful hybrid of Middle America with Eastern Europe and New York City. Newcomers add the influences of Asia, Africa and beyond.

As CWRU students, we too can learn a lesson here. It is not always best to keep one’s head down. Sometimes our accomplishments deserve to be shouted down from Terminal Tower’s observation deck. We are capable of great things, even in the face of a crippling workload and an administration that at best is described as “benevolently neglectful.” We are as much a part of Cleveland as anyone else, and we should make that clear. So go on, brag about yourself.

Zak Khan doesn’t even go here anymore, but they have a lot of feelings and angry barking.