I was in Cleveland much of this past week at the national conference of the League of American Orchestras. Warren was a key presenter at one of the elective breakouts; the magistrate at Juvenile Court with whom he collaborates and I also spoke at the same session. Warren and Lynne talked about the stunning therapeutic drumming program that Warren and the Symphony created for the juvenile treatment court and its impact on the juveniles, while I spoke briefly about community and spanning the silos that non-profits and courts and art entities often operate in.
Just to brag: it was an amazing seminar, Warren was incredible, there was a lot of energy and intense discussion in the room, and I had a blast. Plus I wore my "Frida Kahlo in Oz" outfit and had people coming up all the rest of the day to rave about the seminar, undoubtedly because I was the only person at the conference dressed so brightly and stood out in the seas of neutral and black outfits.
Every day at the conference there was a two and one-half hour block of time devoted to constituency meetings. Constituencies are smaller groups of similarly-placed attendees: executive directors of orchestras of comparable financial size, marketing staff, conductors, financial managers, and so on. I was a constituency of one, so did not attend any of those meetings. Instead, I wrote (adding about three thousand more words to my novel) or walked.
Downtown Cleveland is a great walkable town, ranking right up there with Chicago for me. Friday I walked from the massive Cleveland Convention Center (on Lakeside on an oblique from City Hall) past the War Memorial Fountain to Terminal Tower. From there I walked west to 6th, then strolled up through the Warehouse District back to the Convention Center. I admired the streetscape: the collection of enormous public architecture in the City Beautiful style (Daniel Burnham, who was instrumental in designing Chicago's lakefront park system, also designed Cleveland's public space), the green space (thank you, Daniel), and the rehabs and repurposed uses in the Warehouse District (turning nineteenth century commercial buildings into 21st century storefronts and downtown living space). I savored the pleasure of a good walk in a good walking downtown on a gorgeous day.
We stayed west of the downtown, out along the I90 corridor. Most of the time, Warren and I drove in and out of the downtown along the city streets, not the interstate, so I got to see some neighborhoods as well, including pocket-sized commercial districts within the neighborhoods. We stopped at one small neighborhood deli to grab some dinner and had the best gyros that I have had in years. Cities with functioning neighborhoods also rank high on my list of good places to be.
I told Warren that if someone said to me I had to move to one of the three C Ohio cities (Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati), I would pick Cleveland without hesitation.
Don't get me wrong. Cleveland faces lots of serious issues including deeply embedded racism, poverty, job loss, and hunger, to name a few. The city just entered into a settled with the Department of Justice that puts into place an independent monitor and sweeping plans to limit the police department's use of force and to address, among other things, how the city police deal with community and with the mentally ill.
No, Cleveland is no golden land. But it would still be my choice for many reasons, including not feeling exposed or uneasy about the small Star of David necklace I often wear.
Our last evening there, after eating out with Warren's constituency group, we retrieved the car and started to head to the hotel. Then both of us heard loud pops—not gunfire, not something dire—but fireworks. The Cleveland Indians were in town, but these were not coming from the ballpark. Rather, they were rising up from the Port of Cleveland. Warren pulled over before we went over the Route 2 bridge and we watched the display rise into the deepening dark. Not every firework made it to the highest heights, but the ones that were lower reflected in the window glass of the Romanesque apartment building on the opposite side of the bridge.
I couldn't have scripted a better way to end the evening.