So, consider the following review of a trip to Cleveland from an Austinite a lesson to professional folks who are trying to market Cleveland. This lesson: Cleveland is attractive because it is Cleveland. Accentuate the sausage and peppers and lay off the world class amenities yada yada. A lot of places have world class amenities. Not every place has Rust Belt Chic. Now, that review via a thread at City Data:

Everybody, sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. First of all thanks to all for your recommendations. I wanted to check back in and give you a run down on how it went.

1. Friday – we arrive and check into hotel (Key Center Marriott) by 1 p.m. We take a brief walk to E. 4th and enjoy jalapeno wings confit and the pomme frites at Greenhouse Tavern. Highlights: It is breezy and 75 degrees (high in Austin was 102 the day before) and I tried my first Great Lakes beer – a pilsener. After sitting there for 5 minutes, I spot my first hipster riding by on a bicycle. Already looking like home!

2. After a quick nap (fiance was battling the flu) – we head out for dinner at Lola for celebratory birthday dinner. I had pork belly appetizer and pork loin entree (pig – the magical animal). Then hop in a cab and head to Velvet Tango room. Enjoyed a Moscow Mule and an Old Fashioned and listened to some cool jazz. As we were finishing up I heard the saxophone player getting asked by of the lady patrons to come to her place and listen to some old jazz records. Nice.

3. Saturday – hop in the car and head over to West Side Market. Found it to be lively, crowded, impressive. Really enjoyed the street fair across the street and the general vibe of the area. Loved the downtown view from Ohio City

4. Hop back in the car (where 5 people are lined up for my parking spot) and head east for some sightseeing. Loved the University Circle/Wade Oval area. Just beautiful. We park the car in a garage a block off Mayfield and head to Little Italy for the Feast.

After a sausage and peppers and cannoli we get back in the car and drive through Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights areas. I believe it was as I was circling around Shaker Square that the little lady declares that she officially wants to move here.

5. Flu symptoms start peaking and I have to take her back to the hotel. After she goes down for a nap, I grab my camera and head to the water front to catch a glimpse of my first great lake.

6. Decide that I can’t stand it and spend the $20 for a couple of hours in the Rock Hall. That was really neat, but you kinda get numb after the first 30 minutes. “Hm, there’s the jacket from the Thriller video. Neat.”

7. Head back and leave for dinner at Hodges. I don’t remember the entree, but can state that the lobster corn dogs are the Best Thing I’ve Ever Eaten. However, flu symptoms are peaking at this point and we have to call it a night.

8. Sunday – wake up and check out of hotel. Hop in the car for lunch at Happy Dog. Fiance is feeling better and declare this joint to be the highlight of her trip. Says it reminds her of a Tarantino flick. More sightseeing and head to the airport for departure.

My impressions:

A. Overall – you have a damn fine city and don’t let anyone tell you different. I’m a total outsider with no ties and have no reason to gloss over anything. I hear alot of bad things, but when you ask questions, you usually find out it’s from people who’ve never even been there. Even my friends in Austin were like, “Why the hell are you going to Cleveland?” “Have you ever been?” “Well…no. But I’ve heard.” Just the general vibe was that it is a city stocked with amenities, warm friendly people and realness.

B. Downtown – I found downtown to be lively, safe and fun. Much better than many larger cities (read: Dallas).

C. Inner ring burbs – fantastic. Cleveland Heights, Shaker, Tremont, Lakewood. Just look like ideal places to live to me.

D. Area between downtown and inner ring burbs – Ooh. Here’s where the problems are. It became apparent that the old, former blue-collar/manufacturing/warehouse area in this ring is what is going to have to develop next as downtown completes its transformation. It was a little sad seeing the abandonment of a former great era. I was intrigued by the look and feel of Euclid Ave with the BRT facilities. I’m a transportation engineer by profession, so I got to geek out on this a little bit. Hopefully this will help transform this corridor in the future.

E. The main negative – just a general negatively from the people I encountered about their city. I got a lot of questions from bartenders, people at the bar, etc. about why I would vacation in Cleveland, or even consider moving there. It was a little frustrating that I was having to school them on how good it really is. Negativity can feed negativity, and it looked to me to be one of the area’s biggest challenges. IMO, the people there could stand to adopt just a SMALL fraction of the type of regional chauvinism you see here in Texas. Everything in Texas is not as rosy as people make it out to be, but you can’t tell that to a Texan. That type of advocacy and chauvinism can be grating to an outsider, but it at least makes people try to do great things and makes people happy to live there. I’m not saying that doesn’t exist in Cleveland, just that it could use more.

Anyway, that’s my novel. Thanks so much again for all your help and recommendations. She and I are having some serious discussions about where are going to live in the future. She’s really pushing Cleveland hard, and I certainly feel I could be happy there. I think by the first of the year, I’ll have decided and be ready to start looking for jobs there if appropriate.

About that negative: the negativity. I think there is a fine between self-deprecation and self-defeatism–between trying to better yourself through an awareness of failing and failing through a cynical projective decrying that stems from a lack of awareness–and I hear it from newcomers and visitors of all sorts that Cleveland’s defeatism can be toxic to the narrative.

What’s more, when a city becomes molded in its own inability to appreciate itself, you tend to get voices that scream “we got to be something else”. Hence, our creative class development that intends to layer that cellophane of universal cool over the Cleveland cultural and spatial topography. And then by doing this, we only further invalidate all that is real about us. This is madness. After all, said theologian Julius Charles Hare:

Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.

Richey Piiparinen