It's the end of the world as we know it...

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17.1.05

I live on the east side of Cleveland. I grew up on the (south) West side. I went away for college, law school, and my first job. When I returned, unlike many, I had absolutely no desire to go back to my old stomping grounds. The reasons are personal and complext. But the easiest, and the most easily accepted by those around me, is that the East Side reminded me more of the good things about living in New York City than the West Side did. No one, not even my family still on the West Side, questioned that.

As Steve Gleydura wrote in the December 2004 issue of Cleveland Magazine, "We all know the refrain. The East side is blue blood, cultured, liberal and diverse. The West side is blue collar, new money, conservative, ethnic, white. East Side streets are impossible to navigate. The West Side has no character. East Side means shopping, good school, and high society. West Side means bowling, neighborhood bars and big hair."

Those stereotypes make people accept it when I state my reasons for choosing the east side, even though a few friends who live on the west side won't visit me. In fact Gleydura hit the nail on the head when he wrote: "The wide Cuyahoga Valley - with its steep slopes, sheltered lowlands, and narrow river - run deep, both topographically and pyschologically. As the transition betwen the Allegheny Plateau and the Great Plains, it puts some teeth in the old saw that the West Side is really the Midwest and the East Side is the East Coast. But all too often I've heard, 'It's just different over there,' as if a trip across I-480 transports you into a foreign country, compete with passport jokes."

And the interesting thing is, he's not exaggerating. I hear the passport jokes when I'll invite people over. All of my current friends are East siders. It seems that the only place that the people agree are right in downtown Cleveland. Of course, no one other than young professionals actually live IN downtown Cleveland. Bad schools, no grocery shopping, no parking. Close (within walking distance) to all the office buildings downtown and the warehouse district bars, but that's about it. But when you meet someone, one of the very first questions to ask is where they live. Sometimes, it seems like a relationship with someone from another state is more stable than one with someone from the other side of town. I'm not sure why this great divide in Cleveland, separated by the river. We all hate the weather, obsess about our sports. It's actually quite amusing to other cities, because while it is to a certain degree, the division is not merely by race.

While I bought a house on the East Side, I'm not opposed to crossing the river again back to the West Side. Only a few neighborhoods would I consider though. Most of it is a bunch of conservative, new money yuppy...I guess I'm part of the problem...

6 Comments:

  • At 12:30 AM, Blogger Eden said…

    The East Side of Cleveland is more desirable b/c it is closer to Erie, PA.

    That is all.

     
  • At 5:10 PM, Blogger Matthew said…

    I found this post interesting. It's fascinating to hear about (or notice) the dividing lines within communities.

    The central core of my community (a twin city) is older, with a lot of character, a university campus, old homes, towering trees, and a pro-Democratic voting populace. But the ever-growing outskirts are, of course, full of bland, cookie-cutter homes, winding streets, treeless lawns, and Bush/Cheney '04 yard signs.

    Ah, the future of our American communities. Makes you wanna' hurl, doesn't it?

     
  • At 11:00 PM, Blogger Me said…

    Eden: Yeah, but what good is in Erie?? ;-)

    Matt: In in the "outskirts" - the suburbs of Cleveland. (Other than young professionals who rent, no one lives in Cleveland proper). Some of the other older houses in the area have a lot of character (like the first house I put a bid on and didn't get) but my house is probably more cookie cutter. Traditional colonial. Though I do have the towering trees - you should see the streets in the summer. You can stand in the middle of the street and be totally in the shade all day. In the fall, you can't even seen the concrete it is so covered with leaves. So I guess I don't want to hurl...it's what I grew up used to.

    There is a lot of talk about regionalism here. I think that it's based on the Twin cities. Not sure if it will go through. But a lot of support for it.

     
  • At 1:10 AM, Blogger CC Baxter said…

    This post reminds me of Portland. Another city divided by a river. Each side has its own characteristic and downtown somehow is a tie.

    The Portland Westside is more upper class family and in my opinion with less character.

    The Portland Eastside is traditionally more blue collar but growing in white collarness (mostly due to housing increases thanks to California....'nother topic). Eastside is more "neighborhood" oriented.

    Downtown is undergoing a rejuvenation with actual livability (as opposed to the bar scene only presented in Cleveland?) and is typically filled with young upper class who can afford to live (and work) there.

    Not much more to say, just sounds similar.....

     
  • At 11:41 PM, Blogger Jessica said…

    Interesting post. After four months in Cleveland, i'm still not all that familiar with the stereotypes, because my ventures outside of Case tend to be fairly rare, and limited to the East side (i live in Cleveland Heights). But i don't think this phenomenon is so very uncommon - in my hometown of Wichita, KS, the east and west side might as well be two independent cities. For everything on the East side, there is a western counterpart. Asking people to cross the central divide (also split by a river, albeit a small one), is somewhat akin to requesting the donation of one's liver. It simply doesn't happen (despite the fact that driving across the entire city takes roughly thirty minutes). The current running joke is that the city really will become two in the near future, because the suburbs continue to spread horizontally while the middle simply disappears.

     
  • At 11:05 PM, Blogger Ontario Emperor said…

    Dern:

    I went to Reed College (and left Portland 1/2 year after graduating), so I have an interesting perspective on the east side of Portland. Reed, which mocks everything, set right square in the middle of suburbia. One year we lived off campus on SE 39th in a house we called "The Burbs" and decorated it in the most un-suburban way we could afford (our living room lamp was a big orange orb).

    Other than going downtown, I rarely went to the west side of Portland. The one time that I do remember venturing over there was when our (seven person) dorm was invited to the house of an alumnus. Very well off, very nice house, cable with HBO (this was back in 1979-80, before everyone and their dog had premium cable).

    I suspect that the average Reed student who stays in Portland eventually throws away the old army jackets, stops scrounging for food, gets a nice suit, and moves west.

    My favorite memory of southeast Portland - the Tom Peterson's sign, with the arrows pointing directly at his buzz-cutted head.

     

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