Monday, January 24, 2011

nugget #20

I moved to the Cleveland area towards the end of the 70s, and then moved back to Buffalo in 2002.  The following is my view of the two cities.

Bufland vs. Clevefalo
By Bill Donnelly

            Away Back in the Day, before I even began road racing, I remember watching a Monday Night Football telecast.  Yes, they did have television before I started running, I’m not that old, but we didn’t have remote controls for the TV.  I either had to sit one foot from the TV so I could easily change channels, as most Manly Men like to do, no, need to do, or I could bribe my little brother Tommy to sit one foot from the TV and change the channel at my order.  It just took promises of one M&M per channel change, and he was mine to command.  Now mind you, this was back when there were only about four channels that came in, and of course one from Toronto on a good day, so it didn’t take a lot of M&Ms. 
            Anyway, back to Monday Night Football.  Tom may have been busy studying for his mid-term in Beginning Russian (this probably was the third year he had to take Beginning Russian) so I was sitting one foot from the TV, hand poised on the channel changing knob (yes, we had such knobs back then) when Howard Cosell made a statement that sent shock waves through half the civilized world.  I believe the game had to be the Buffalo Bills playing the Cleveland Browns.  I’m not positive, but once you hear his statement, you will understand why I believe this to be true.
            The announcers were talking about the two cities and Howard said: “Buffalo is just a smaller clone of Cleveland!”  Why, I never!  You can just imagine the outrage felt by us Buffalonians.  Turns out Clevelanders were just as outraged.  Our local papers were talking about it for days, and it turns out the same was happening in Cleveland.  ABC apparently had their phones ringing off the hook by outraged citizens from both cities.  The nerve of that Cosell dude.  Neither town’s citizens wanted to be compared to that other bucket of rusty bolts of a city because they were just the butt of jokes and putdowns all the time. 
            Well, I’m here to tell you that he actually hit the proverbial nail on the old head.  You see, I had grown up in the small town of Moose Kabibble Falls, Minnesota (at least that’s the name that comes to mind), but moved to Buffalo, NY in 1964, and came to really like the city.  I then moved to north-east Ohio in 1978, and lived in Cleveland itself from 1990 until moving back to Buffalo in 2002.  And I came to really like Cleveland as a city, and let me tell you, Cleveland is just a bigger clone of Buffalo.  And I mean this in a good way.
            Why, even their start to great cityness was quite similar.  Yes, I know cityness is not a real word, although it sounds like a femanly type of malady, if you know what I mean, but I can make up words like this because I’m me and you’re not.  HA HA HA YES!  Back to the point, Buffalo became the major city in the area when it fooled enough officials into believing that it was the perfect terminus for the Erie Canal rather than Black Rock, even though the latter was better suited for the end of the canal.  Thank god for small favors I say.  We could otherwise be rooting for sports teams such as the Black Rock Bills and Bisons, and the term Black Rock Wings just doesn’t make it.  Anyway, in much the same manner, Cleveland, the very next year, beat out the town of Ohio City for the finishing point of the Ohio and Erie Canal ( built by the same fine drunken Irish who cut their canal constructing teeth building our more famous Erie Canal), and the rest is history.  Maybe I should write a history book!
            The two cities grew to be very similar.  Both dependent on the Lake and the Canal, they became blue-collar cities with pockets of immigrants making neighborhoods into their own.  Both had their giants of industry, Cleveland with its Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and Buffalo with its Donnelly Design Tee Shirts.  And let’s be honest, in the early seventies, both cities were the stuff of jokes on the national level, Cleveland because their river caught fire and so did their mayor’s hair, Buffalo because of President Millard Fillmore.  No, he wasn’t still President when I was younger, in fact, I think he was already dead, and he still is.      
            Having lived in both cities for quite a while, I came to see how similar they both were, and I will say that being similar is not a bad thing.  But I must say there are two main differences. 
            The first is how the two cities are divided.  Yes, both cities had their ethnic sections which were clearly defined.  Areas where only Italians, Irish, Blacks, Poles, or what-have-you lived, and these areas had their own delicious flavors and feel.  In both cities these pockets of singular types have been eroded as our great melting pot finally starts to melt, err, lots of ethnic folks move to the suburbs, but some of the flavor remains in street signs, restaurants, and those too old and poor and stubborn to move.
            But Buffalo was always and still is looked at as divided into four sections, north-side, east-side, south-side, and west-side.  This is where one difference lies, Cleveland has two sides, and two sides only.  The east-side and the west-side, and never the two shall meet.  I mean, these are two halves that shall not be brought together, and some joke (but almost are serious) that you need a passport to travel between the two sides. 
            The sides are divided by the Cuyahoga River (which means “crooked river”) that formed a valley, the bottom of which is now called “The Flats”.  Once the industrial center of Cleveland, most now know “The Flats” as the entertainment district of Cleveland, their own version of our “
Chippewa Street
.”  Well, I guess to be fair, “the Flats” came first, plus it is about seven times as big as “The Chippewa” and has a neat crooked river running through it that divides it into two sides.  Water taxies get you back and forth, and there is nothing like being slightly zonkered and seeing a huge ore-boat being maneuvered through this very crooked river.
            So the people of Cleveland are very proud of being either east-siders or west-siders, and constantly point out the advantages as to why one should live on their side of town.  Some examples:  The east side has Severance Hall where the Cleveland Orchestra plays; the west side has the Zoo, where the animals play.  The east, the Cleveland Art Museum, the west, the Great Lakes Brewing Company which has a very good restaurant.  In fact, I recommend it for its food, and history, as this building near West 25th and Detroit has bullet holes inside created in the thirties when Elliot Ness led a raid on the place.
            The east side lays claim to some great hospitals, such as the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital, while the west siders declare the West Side Market is just as important.  Believe me, as one who spent too much time at the Cleveland Clinic; the Market is much more fun, and right next to the Great Lakes Brewery.  East side – Case Western Reserve, west side – did I mention the Great Lakes Brewery.  East side – Jacobs Field, west side – that beer is so good, and you can get it here in Buffalo, on tap, at the Sterling Place Pub at Sterling and Hertel.  Our own Kathy Andolsek cooks up a mighty fine fish-fry every Friday at that pub.  East side – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, west side – lots of neat animals at the Zoo.  East side – Cleveland Browns Stadium, west side – try that Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.  East side - Downtown, west side – did I mention the beer?
            So anyway, you get the picture, don’t you?  I actually lived for a good time on both sides of Cleveland (being from Buffalo, they considered me an immigrant so I didn’t need a passport) and I liked them both.  I mean, it may sound like the west side had more going for it, but I guess the east side had more different things.  You see, when I lived on the near-west side, I was close to the Great Lakes Brewery, so of course I liked that side of town.  You see, I like beer, and that brings me to the other big difference between Buffalo and Cleveland, as I see it, and this one involves running.  About time I got to the running.
            When I moved to Ohio, which I did, as you know, so my slow little brother Tom (too many M&Ms) could get out of my shadow, I was still running, and I did not notice too much of a difference between the two areas.  Then in about 1981 I stopped running (the reasons will be a future article – oh no, not more you say!) and didn’t take it up again seriously until January, 2000.  I started running competitively in the Cleveland area, taking part in many races.  I had run a couple races in Buffalo as a jogger in the 1990s, such as the 100th running of the Turkey Trot.  I also started running races here after I got back to competing, and boy, did I see the difference between the Buffalo’s racing scene and Cleveland’s.
            Now, Back in the Day, I was a Belle Watling, and we searched high and low for races, as there were not that many, especially early on in the decade.  You see, we used the races as a reason to party afterwards.  Our motto was “run hard, party hard”, and we did both.  Races didn’t usually provide beer afterwards, so we would bring our own.  But those races that did have beer, why, they were tops on our list.  And a lot of other runners started to follow our example, especially the Canadians, who always put out the welcome mat for us Watlings after races north of the border.
            Now, back to the future.  Every time I have run a race in the Cleveland area, there was never a beer to be seen after a race.  I swear on a bible, never even one drop to be found.  Imagine my joy on visiting Buffalo for a jaunt and finding beer seemed to be a requirement for a race to be successful.  And now the Canadians come South of the border for our races because we have the beer.  It makes such a difference in how one enjoys the event.
            In Cleveland, they have plenty of fine, dedicated runners, who go all out in a race.  After the event, they visit for a bit, eat a crumpet or two, gather their hardware and it’s off to home and a nap.  In Buffalo, after the race, it’s: get a beer or two in you, visit with friends, have another brew or two, eat a hot dog, more beer, more visiting, beer, dancing in the middle of the parking lot with that dame who beat you two hours ago, another hot dog, oh more beer please, brew, someone gives you your medal you didn’t hear them announce, or not, that calls for a beer, say so long to your friends, why say, I didn’t see you here, how bout a beer, better get home for a nap, been up since seven for this 10 o’clock race, nap, heck, one more beer and it’s home to bed since it is past midnight!
            Ah yes, Buffalo’s runners do know how to enjoy a race after training hard all week.  I don’t know if it’s because of the influence of the Belle Watlings from Back in the Day, or because many of those drunken Irish who built the Erie Canal didn’t go on to Cleveland to build the other canal after all.  They stayed in Buffalo and sent their sober clones out west to that crooked river.  So maybe it is Cleveland is just a bigger clone of Buffalo, and they were just not lucky enough to get all the good genes.     


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