Writing my last entry must have shamed me into knocking a few more of those things off the list of things I've failed to do yet in Cleveland. In the last week, I have spent TWO entire days in the city, which blows my typical monthly - let alone weekly - average out of the water.
The first day was last Sunday, in which my friend Joel and I spent an entire morning and afternoon cruising around Cleveland, jumping from neighborhood to neighborhood, uptown to downtown, east side to west side. The weather was stunning. We drove with the windows down, sun in our faces, nineties hits blasting on the stereo, and heeding no attention to maps or directions. It was a day of genuine spontaneity. We explored the new Lee Friedlander photography exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, sat by a lake in University Circle, drank coffee at a neat spot by West Side Market (closed on Sundays - alas!), lunched in Little Italy, wandered all over Tremont, lay out for an hour in a gazebo in Lincoln Park, and took some photos here and there.
My second day of urban exposure was none other than St. Patty's day. I managed to somehow find myself on a top floor balcony suite again this week - this time in the Embassy Suites on Reserve Square at 12th and Superior in Cleveland, to celebrate the holiday in style with my friend Aseem, my coworker Chris and his wife Tricia, and their extended family and friends. Their family apparently makes a tradition of this every St. Patty's Day - taking out a suite, spending the day eating great food, singing karaoke, drinking Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale on their balcony that overlooks a block right off the parade route. Cleveland's got one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country; this being my first ever, none of the Clevelanders let me forget to thank my lucky shamrocks for the unusually spectacular weather this year.
As fun as the leprechaun cookies and green jello shots were, the best aspect of the day, for me, was the mass of adorable little kids running around. Little kids - much like pets, parents, and well-stocked refrigerators - are something you miss out on when you're away at college. You often forget, though, just how much you miss them until you're randomly thrown into situations with them. The result is that the bulk of my Facebook album from the day seems to be a compendium of cute pictures of other's people kids.
My friendship with Aseem is a cool story in and of himself, which begins like so: For those of you who have an appreciation for Indian food, you'll quickly learn upon arrival in Oberlin that it's one cuisine our town is lacking. (When I was training to be a campus tour guide for Oberlin, the guide I was shadowing said to one group of prospective students: "Our town may be small, but you can get just about everything you need here - except maybe underwear." In retrospect, I would add, " - and Indian food.") Fear not, though, North Olmsted's "Flavors of India" is only a hop and a skip down the road, waiting to thrill your palate with its wide range of delectable curries, paneers, mango lassis, garlic naan... Several weeks ago, my friend Seyeon and I went there for dinner. Over the course of our meal, we managed to befriend our waiter, Aseem - who's originally from the Cleveland area, goes to school at WashU in St. Louis, but is taking a semester off this spring to live at home and work, volunteer and, apparently, befriend Oberlin College students.
St. Patty's Day wouldn't have been the same without him. If you're in the area, go check out his restaurant. I can now say confidently I'll vouch for his waiter-ing skills, his green-egg-cooking skills, and his showing-me-around-Cleveland skills.
However, Oberlin is twenty times cooler than WashU (in my entirely humble opinion), so ultimately, I think I win.