About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

Riding the Rails with the Lake Shore Live Steamers.



A mobbed Penitentiary Glen Nature Park, September 10th 2017.

About twenty minutes from Cleveland in Kirtland in Lake County is the Penitentiary Glen Nature Park.  Originally called Halle Farm, it was the summer home of Sam Halle of the Halle Brothers Department Store who purchased the place in 1912.  Since 1976 the 424 acre property has been owned by the Lake Metroparks.   I have driven past this place over the years and it always seemed busy.  This year, I discovered one fo the reasons why; something very unique.


A view of the station and would be riders.


A train coming into the station.


Just a few yards away from the nature center on the edge of the woods is a train station which serves as the depot for the Lake Shore Live Steamers; whose miniature trains ride the rails through the trees.  These are not toy trains however, but more like the one that  Walt Disney rode on in his home movies.  Volunteers, such as fellow North Shore Collinwood resident (and former radio guy) Dennis Crislip, operate the locomotives and people can ride on top of the freight and passenger cars they pull.  Twelve times a year, the public is allowed to join in the fun.


One of the trains.


Riding the rails towards the covered bridge.  Taken in August.

Established in 1969, Lake Shore Rails came to Penitentiary Glen in 1983 when the back orchard track was laid out.  Since then, more routes have been added and there are 30 trains in total operated by the members. All of them are privately owned, built from kits and on  a few occasions completely from scratch.  They are powered by gas operated engines with hydroelectric pumps.  The train cars have an incredible amount of detail to them.  In the case of the Boston Main Locomotive that really caught my attention, the story behind the Pullman cars it pulled is worth noting.  The man who built it wrote the Pullman Company to see if he could obtain a swatch of their paint color so he can match the paint as authentic as possible.  The company must have been quite impressed with him since they wound up sending him cans of paint in the original color.


The layout of the railroad routes.

According the President Ken Brooks, there are clubs like this all over the county.  In fact there is one large one in Arizona that attracts a national following.  However, they don’t run until January because of the heat.

Naturally, the Lake Metroparks take the opportunity to use these free ride events as a way of promoting their own events.  The second time I went, September 10th, was Bug Day and the Nature Center was almost as busy as the railroad with families exploring the rooms and looking at the displays. As it turned out, what I thought was the Halle residence is in fact the stables with an addition built when it became a nature center; doubling its size.  The horses were sure living in style back in the day!  There are a few other buildings associated with the farm to the north, including one where the railroad enthusiasts store their trains.


One family poses for the camera.

The Lake Shore Steamers will be having their free Sunday rides from 1:00-3:00 PM off and on throughout the rest of the year, including today, October 9th, and December 2nd. Dennis mentioned that they are always looking for volunteers which can mean those lucky individuals can hop on the rails twenty-eight other times of the year.   This is really one of the hidden gems of NE Ohio.


The Nature Center.

Photographs taken by James Valentino.

My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Friday Night Musings


This evening, before I attended a sold out Summers at Severance concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem, I visited what was once the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.  I say once because it’s now along with the Holden Arboretum called Holden Forests and Gardens.  Anyway, the first words to come out of the mouth of Librarian Gary Esmonde were “Don’t tell me you are still involved in politics!” Then, he was the one to tell me that he heard Steve Bannon was finally let go and showed me the article in the newspaper he was reading to boot.  Wow, Neo-Nazis converge on Charlottesville last Friday, Steve Bannon gets the boot this one.  Things happen faster than I can write.

What I saw on the television last Saturday stunned me.  I knew that with Trump in the White House much of the discreet bigotry that we still see in Society will roar back into the public mainstream.  However, what took place there, leading to an Ohioan to drive his car like a would be Isis Jihadist into a crowd of people killing Heather Heyer and injuring so many others shocked me.  That day, I did a quick post on the blog regarding this.  Later, I received via on of my social media accounts a comment from someone I know from the neighborhood.  This individual (who I won’t name to protect) wrote that it sounded like sides were wrong in Virginia; just like the President this person voted for in November would say.     Initially, I was so angry I invited others to chime in, and I usually don’t like doing that.   The subsequent cyber-debate between this person and a guy I know pretty much reflects the polarized mood of this country right now.  However, where we are at now didn’t just come out of the blue; and that’s the problem. The thing is, this person is not the only one I know who would side with Trump on this matter.

The mass resignations of CEOs and now members of Trumps Evangelical Advisory Board (of all things) I pray will put more pressure on his enablers in Congress to do something.  Former president Barak Obama’s tweet that went viral said what many people out there wanted to hear. So did John Brennan in his letter to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer where he writes,  “If allowed to continue along this senseless path, Mr. Trump will do lasting harm to American society and our standing in the world.”  Unfortunately, the Donald has apparently already done both.


Is Howard Fineman right in saying his Huffington Post article that Donald Trump will want to be the “last man standing” amidst the chaos he sows or is Tony Schwartz in saying that he will resign by the end of this year if Mueller gives him immunity.  Both choices are tough ones, and so much damage to the nation has been done in the meantime.

I wonder what will happen next week.



About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

Jazzing It Up At Another Beachland.


The Stokes Legacy Orchestra at Beachland Park.

One or two of you out there may recall a piece I wrote for this blog about the old village of Nottingham and where the name Beachland came from and how it got associated with that area of North Shore Collinwood east of Euclid Creek.  It all started with a housing development over 100 years ago consisting of a few streets off of Lake Shore Boulevard.  Those streets are still there today as is the part at the end of them called, believe it or not, Beachland Park.  It was in this space overlooking Lake Erie that I went Thursday evening to hear my cousin’s two boys and their friend play in a jazz band.  It wasn’t just any jazz band but the Tri-C JazzFest Stokes Legacy Jazz Orchestra.   Led by Dominick Farinacci, the ensemble brings together students from various high schools and colleges with professional jazz performers in creating a pretty good show.








The boys’ parents, who live in Westlake, seem to come over here a lot; to the other Beachland on Waterloo.  As for their grandparents (AKA my Aunt and Uncle in Twinsburg) they have been over the family homestead off and on over the years so not at all a stranger to the area.

It was to start at 7:30 PM and I decided to be there a half an hour early.  However, walking halfway down the street, it began to downpour and I wound up underneath roof of a pavilion drenched.   It was only when the skies cleared, after eight, that the show began, and it was worth it.  One of the performers that really impressed me was a 12 year old girl from Hudson who sang like a pro.  As for my second cousins on the drums and guitar, they were excellent as always.  The older of the two just graduated from St. Edward’s High School and will start attending a conservatory in Connecticut at the end of the month.

I had to leave early to get ready for the job the next morning.  However, the place was packed and my relatives stayed for the entire concert.  When I got to where my car was parked across from the Beachland Presbyterian Church it was still there; like I knew it would be.

As for Beachland Park, it is one of a string of lakefront private parks overlooking Lake Erie in the North Shore Collinwood Neighborhood of Cleveland (East Park being the one most recognized by locals).  They have proven to be one of the main attractions for people who have purchased homes here and sparked, at least north of the Boulevard, some major investment over the past couple of years.


Steps leading down to Lake Erie.

This is just one of the many hidden gems located in the northeast corner of Cleveland.



Photographs taken by James Valentino.

A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Thoughts on Charlottesville; A Quick Little Post.

What I’ve seen so far on the television regarding the violence that broke out today in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving one dead and 19 injured disturbs me.  The debate over removing a statue of Robert E. Lee aside, what happened today, and Trump’s manufactured tweet, is another step down a path for this country that I fear.  This on top of the jitters over North Korea,  and now Venezuela, makes me think about what our president said on the campaign trail and in his inaugeral speech of an America that, seems today far more like what he spoke about than only a year ago.  Despite saying the words “there is no room for prejudice”, the Alt-right and White supremacists are emboldened because they have a few of their own now in the White House.

This American carnage “stops right now”, as Trump said in January, or will it get worse?


A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

A Quick Little Post.



View of Lake Erie looking West from the Villa Angela Beach Pier.  Taken Saturday.

The dog days of summer are staring to feel like more like Indian Summer this past week here on the North Coast.  Not one day braking 90 last week and seventies this weekend.  Actually, this is the perfect weather for me and it’s really nice to not to have the air conditioner running.  Saturday  I took a walk at Wildwood and Villa Angela.   The surf on Lake Erie were high and the waves were crashing over the breakwalls with wild abandon.  I myself came more than once being splashed with water on the fishermen’s pier at the mouth of Euclid creek.   For some reason, weather like this make my mind wander north and I kept thinking how it would have been a nice day to drive up I-90 to Canada.   Instead, I wound up at a steak dinner in Newbury Ohio.

This past Wednesday, the Washington Post’s Daily 202 has something on the new book that just came out by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake.  Having just glanced at this ad hoc review by James Hohmann, I must admit that it’s something I might like to take out of the library if possible.

To be honest, I do respect those on the other side who sincerely believe conservative values and are willing to work with liberals and progressives on major policies if need be.  Congressman Flake seems to be one of those in mind.  It is very courageous of him to stick to his guns at a time when so many Republicans chucked those very values out the window once Barack Obama left the White House.

Again, things are developing so fast when it comes to national politics.  I wonder if the Donald would like to frame a copy of the latest issue of Newsweek for one of his golf courses?   Then again, after seeing that publicity stunt..I mean rally…in West Virginia (“lock her up?”), I wonder what the President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Australia think about us since so many actually did vote for this guy.  Thanks to the transcripts, among other things, we all can get a pretty good idea what they think of the man himself.

Other books of interest are out there that caught my eye from one by Canadian journalist Doug Saunders to the latest by the MIT tech geeks Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee titled Machine, Platform, Crowd.   However, what I really would like to do is more writing, and finding a professional audience who is willing to read and share it.   Let’s see what comes up in the next blog posts.


Photographs taken by James Valentino.

My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Out in the Boonies: Picnics with the Geauga Dems and Other Matters.

There is always that fine line where you go to a group’s event because you have to or you want to.  The tipping point between one or the other is regarding the costs.  So, when a club has their free annual picnic the odds are you plan to be there like I was a few Sundays ago in Russell Township for the Geauga Democratic Party’s Picnic.

An Annual event, the picnic was one of many held throughout\ NE Ohio this time of year.  The pavilion in The West Woods Park was crowded.  Middlefield Councilman Ron Wiech and his team were grilling up the hamburgers, hot dogs, and Italian sausages.  As my my watermelon, it wound up joining the other two already there being eaten.  Janet and Terry Carson were working the tables as a few candidates did come up to speak; and not just Ron.  Former Appeals Court Judge Mary Jane Trapp spoke since the one who won her seat in 2010 is aged out and she would like her old job back.   That wouldn’t be at all a bad thing since Ms. Trapp was an excellent jurist and because there is talk that the husband of the one there now, Tim Grendell, is actually thinking of running for it (having a record of playing poltiical musical chairs with his wife in the past). The residents of the NE corner of Ohio could do a whole lot worse. Then there was a woman who is trying to run against Congressman David Joyce.   Finally, Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill spoke and announced he wasn’t going to run for governor next year since Richard Cordray might.

After all, isn’t the saying that all politics is local?  I continue to keep Frank Rich’s piece in my head on how long it really took during Watergate for the tide to turn against Richard Nixon.  Despite all the mind-boggling news from eight people now at that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower to news that Trump met a second time with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit, it will probably be well into 2017 before anything on  the order of  July 1974 hitting DC.  We’re stuck with the Donald for now, and the damage he, McConnell and Ryan have done so far these past six months has been considerable.  Yet, for many of those who voted for Trump  in November, that’s probably what they want.

So far, all this really hasn’t hit people.  After all, the stock market is still up, housing starts rebounded and apparently for the first time in seven years pay increases for low-income workers outpaced the rest of the population.  Of course, no matter how much our president would like to take credit for all this, it was eight years of hard work by the previous administration that in part made this happen.  It will be interesting to see what economic reports will show a year from now.

It may be 2017 but it’s still an election year.  In Cleveland, not only is there a mayoral race but a number of councilmen such as Mike Polensek, are trying to get re-elected too.  Recently, I attended my second campaign meeting for him at the Lithuanian Hall on East 185th St.  He already ordered the yard signs, had a few T-shirts, planned a fundraiser in August, and has been walking up and down the streets in Ward 8 and plans to do even more.

What Donald Trump said in that New York times interview didn’t surprise me at all; especially throwing Jeff Sessions (let alone Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus) under the bus.  After all, hasn’t it always been for him all about himself?  However, as this piece in the Daily 202 shows, you go ona limb for this guy at your own risk.

With a president who is apparently trying to see if he has the right to pardon himself, it is ever more essential for the Democrats to get their act together for 2018 and be able to win back at least the Senate.  The divisions there between the Sanders supporters and those who are just plain ‘liberal’ might make it rather difficult to bridge for a clear concise message.  However, it can be done, if Perez and company can do more than just send out surveys and requests for money.   Then again, with John McCain not only voting against “skinny repeal’ but also admonishing his colleagues to try to work together, you may just never know.


A Quick Little Post, My blog., Uncategorized

Ashtabula Revisted.

IMG_20170723_103922I took a day off to head out Jefferson, Ohio home of a subject of a piece on this blog a few years back; the Jefferson Diner.  There, while having lunch, I chatted with State Representative John Patterson about politics with a small “p” and what we need to expect next year.  We were completely unaware of the upcoming news about Sean Spicer re-signing and the rest of the stuff that hit the cable news networks this evening.  However, I did learn a few things today over a wing-ding lunch.  For starters, despite the heavy turn-out Ashtabula had for Trump in November, most county-wide offices are still held by Democrats.  I also saw first hand that, at least on a local level, Democrats and Republicans still work together because a local official out there thanked my lunch mate for all his help on a situation regarding a local organization out there.


Kosicek Vineyards

Another thing he mentioned to me was that, on the way back home, I should stop at a family owned winery that to be honest I never saw before.   Having done a piece on Grand River Wine Country for this blog, naturally I was curious and drove down Route 534 further than I usually do to see Kosicek Vineyards.   Only four years old, it has a very nice wine tasking room and a deck overlooking the vines.  One wine I tasted was a Cabernet Sauvignon ice wine which I never saw before but later learned is also produced in some Canadian wineries.  This place is one of many new establishments that have popped up in the Grand River Wine Country to the delight of local day-trippers and of course local officials.


Photograph by James Valentino.