An Open Letter to Cleveland's Construction

An Open Letter to Cleveland's Construction

Under construction since 1868!
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Dearest Cleveland, City of sports teams that hang at the mercy of the Three Fates, I pose a question:

Why?

A five-minute drive in any direction from my house greets me with an unnerving amount of potholes. You would think my car is a lowrider given how many times it bounces on the road. I left for not even two months, and this is how you greet me? I mean, potholes are no new obstacle of mine, but this instance felt particularly aggravating. When can I drive on a smooth road again? When will the construction angels float down from the heavens?

Speaking of construction, are you done yet? Every time I take a trip downtown, something looks different or is in the process of looking different. As great local comedian Mike Polk Jr. says, Cleveland has been "under construction since 1868." He said this in 2009, and it still rings true short of a decade later. We laugh, but the jokes come from a serious place. Cleveland has been under construction its whole life. Everything changes all the time and the city never looks finished because when one project closes, another opens, apparently. A road is always closed, part of the highway (I-90 or I-71, most likely) always has a lane of cones. Detour signs are nothing out of the ordinary in Downtown Cleveland.

But like I said, when one project ends another one always starts.

The Flats reemerged from its zombified state, Public Square revamped its look with grassy hills, a neat restaurant called REBol, and an ice skating rink. The Q even has massive renovation plans underneath it that honestly look like something out of science fiction, or at least dystopian.

Look at this! Are we hosting the Olympics? (Could you imagine?)

Things are looking up for Cleveland. Maybe. Potentially. Hopefully. Telling myself this is a instinctual ritual I need every year to instill a wavering sense of hope in me for my city. Maybe one day we will stop being under construction so much, and maybe then they can fix this potholes.

Please.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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As An Original Northeasterner, I Grew To Love The South And You Can, Too

Where the tea is sweet, and the accents are sweeter.

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I'm not Southern-born. I'll come right out and say it. I was born in Connecticut and moved to Atlanta when I was 9 years old. I didn't know a single thing about the South, so I came without any expectations. When I got here, I remember that the very first thing I saw was a Waffle House. I thought it was so rare to see whatever a waffle house was but little did I know there was a WaHo (how southerners refer to Waffle House) every two miles down the street.

There is such a thing as "southern hospitality," and it's very pleasant for a newcomer to see. Southerners are raised with such a refreshing sense of politeness, and their accents are beautifully unique. It brings a smile to my face when I hear a southern accent because it's such a strong accent and one of my favorites. They answer your questions with "Yes, ma'am" or "No, ma'am" in the most respectful tone. I remember feeling so grown and empowered just because I got called ma'am. Southerners' vocabulary and phrases really have its ways of integrating into your own vernacular.

Before I came to Georgia, I never really said words like "Y'all" and "Fixin' to" but it's definitely in much of what I say now. I can tell when I go back up north to visit family that some of what I say may sound a little off because the dialect is very different. I find no shame in it, though, and neither should any southerner.

The weather in the South isn't so bad, in my opinion. Sure, there is very high humidity, but after living here for 10+ years, you learn how to deal with it. However, there's nothing like the summer thunderstorms. I love stormy, rainy weather and it rains quite often in the south, so when my birthday in July rolls around, I look forward to seeing that rain. It's the most peaceful weather to me and inspires me to write even more.

I could go on and on about the amazing fried foods here or the iconic yet insane Atlanta traffic, but those aren't what make me love the South. The people of the south are so different from up north but in the best ways. Everyone is so expressive and creative, as well as their own unique self. Southerners aren't the shaming kinds of people, but instead the kind who embrace who you are from the start. There's a fierce loyalty and a strong sense of appreciation that is just unmatched by any other place. No matter where I go, I always find comfort in knowing that I'll be coming back to this place I'm proud to call home.

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