Three on the Fourth

I’ll have to check my past years’ calendars to see whether or not this is true, but I think I’ve just spent my third-in-a-row 4th of July in Cleveland, Ohio. Well maybe it wasn’t exactly on July 4th last year, but for three years in a row we’ve celebrated the June 30 wedding anniversary of dear family friends in Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, and this year was their 65th! This was not an intentional happening but instead a fortuitous serendipity. In 2009,  I wanted to make a trip to Cleveland to visit family friends and see what was new, since it had been some years since I’d been in the area after growing up in Rocky River. We had not yet seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and there were other new sites I wanted to see. My wife thought we could probably find a strategic place to watch fireworks on Lake Erie without having to go very early to get a parking place with easy walking and then having to maneuver our way home late at night through all the cars that arrived after us. We found that venue in 2009 — a dinner cruise on Lake Erie with fireworks afterward. We sat on the top level of the cruiseboat and watched the sky light up all along Lake Erie (some bursts seemed right above us) and had an easy exit from parking and a short drive to a nearby hotel.

By June/July 2010, I had published Well Considered and was thinking about writing my next book. This one would be a young adult novel set in the area where I was a young adult, just as my first two books had settings I had personally experienced. I decided to make a research trip to Cleveland/Rocky River, and once again, the end of June/beginning of July was a convenient time frame. After that trip, I wrote my most popular blog post of 2010:  “A Mallard on the Cuyahoga,”

Now in 2011, I needed to return to Cleveland to check some details for the writing I’ve been doing this year. Again the most convenient time was over July 4 and our friends’ anniversary.  In Cleveland, we toured the industrial flats along the Cuyahoga River by car and saw the massive Arcelor-Mittal steel mill (formerly owned by Republic Steel and LTV). Yes, they still make steel in Cleveland. Ore boats two football fields long, sixty feet wide, rising sixty feet or more above the water still ply the curvy Cuyahoga and deliver ore that the mill makes into rolls of sheet steel used to make car bodies and appliances. And despite the heavy industry, this year I saw a great blue heron fishing by the river – the same river on which the Cleveland Rowing Foundation has been holding its Head of the Cuyahoga (HOTC) Regatta since 1996.

Also in Cleveland, we experienced the trendy Tremont part of downtown for the first time, dining on orzo with eggplant, artichokes, and hearts of palm, and then drove by the Christmas Story House — you know, “The Christmas Story” — not the Biblical one, but the one that runs 24 hours a day on television at Christmas time, when we get to plead, “Don’t put your tongue on the flagpole!”  and “You’re going to shoot your eye out.” Downtown we climbed all over the William G. Mather ore freighter surrounded by breath-taking views of Lake Erie and the lakefront development– Great Lakes Science Museum, I.M. Pei’s stunning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame structure, Cleveland Browns Stadium, etc., with the Cleveland skyline in the background. All along the lake were marinas filled with thousands of pleasure boats. Sailboats raced on the lake. Seagulls flew everywhere, squealing, squawking and laughing. Edgewater Park and Wendy Park downtown bounced with young picnickers, and woodsy Rocky River Reservation was full of bikers and joggers. Cleveland is one of America’s beautiful, lively cities.

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