A Mallard On The Cuyahoga

For the past week or so, we’ve been visiting friends and relatives and touring my boyhood home in Rocky River, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. One day, we took a cruise boat from downtown past I. M. Pei’s stunning Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame building and boldly turned into the mouth of the river that caught on fire: the Cuyahoga—that onetime residential and industrial sewer that disgorged its waste into Lake Erie to the point where the beaches were closed when I was a child due to high bacteria levels. As we snaked through the flats down the winding watercourse beneath seventeen bridges, past entertainment pavilions, restaurants and sculling shells parked by the bank, toward the sole surviving steel mill, I peered over the side and saw a mallard duck gliding across the water. What a sign of redemption! Another day, to the south, we traveled on a train through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, along the river, the Ohio and Erie Canal, and the towpath full of cyclists and runners, past woods and wetlands and a bald eagle roost. Another day, we drove through Rocky River Reservation, the western part of the Emerald Necklace of parks that encircle Cleveland, from the yachts, sailboats, and kayaks at the mouth of Rocky River, beneath massive, ancient shale cliffs, past old river fords, picnic areas, riding stables, and continuous trails with bikers and joggers, to a nature museum on the river and Berea Falls. We toured downtown Cleveland, which is gradually rising like a phoenix from the ashes of urban decay and manufacturing abandonment, with its new sports complexes, skyscrapers, restaurants and Playhouse Square theaters, and saw the housing complex where Congressman Louis Stokes and his brother, Carl Stokes, the first African-American mayor of a major American city, grew up. We passed thriving universities—Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, and Case-Western Reserve University and Medical School—the CWR University Hospitals, and the mammoth Cleveland Clinic medical complex. We drove through Rockefeller Park, near where Langston Hughes attended high school, past the Museum of Natural History, Botanical Gardens, and Western Reserve Historical Society, and I feasted on works by Picasso, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Warhol, Pollock, et al at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which is midway through a $258-million expansion. To cap our visit, we witnessed a live DVD recording session by the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Most performing Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 at Severance Hall. Superb. Look for it on PBS. A vacation in Cleveland?  Not so crazy. I recommend it.

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One Response to A Mallard On The Cuyahoga

  1. swk says:

    It sounds like my recent journey back to RR for a reunion. I always tell people what a wonderful city it is especially when you know what’s there and take the time to rediscover it.

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