My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

A Long Hot Stinking Summer

A summer heat wave has hit the North Coast.  When you have three days in a row above 90 degrees and humidity to boot, North Bay Ontario sounds very alluring by now.

As the air conditioner cranks up and I run out of ice cubes in the freezer, I for some reason think about an old movie  that many have seen over the years, some of you even when it first came out in Cinemascope..The Long Hot Summer.  This overblown 1958 melodrama (the working title for the script had to be SUDS) with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward was a big deal when it came out.  However, whenever I see it, I start howling with laughter half way into it.

Cleveland’s own Newman plays Ben Quick, a redneck hustler with a history of setting fires.  He stirs things up in a small Southern town owned by an even bigger redneck hustler, Will Varner, played by Orson Wells.  Varner is the fat, coarse, conniving, big mouth operator who owns the entire area and nobody, not even his pig-headed daughter (Joanne Woodward) will stop him from getting his way.  In this epic full of  nasty rumors, fights, Angela Lansbury pestering Orson on when they’re getting married, Lee Remick running around in as flimsy a wardrobe she could under the Eisenhower Administration, Orson being trapped in a barn by his own son (played by Anthony Franciosa; now what’s a Paisano doing in a flick like this?) who tries to set it on fire, Paul nearly getting lynched, and oh yes Joanne falling in love with apparently a gay guy, Paul woos Joanne throughout and, after all THAT, there’s a happy ending.  How the heck did they pack all that crap in a little under two hours?

There’s another good reason why The Long Hot Summer is on my mind and it’s not just the sweltering heat.  While First Son-in-Law Jarrod is no Newman, for the life of me, when I think of Orson barking orders from the big white plantation house he calls home, it’s so easy to move on to The Donald think he can do the same thing in the Oval Office.

The reality TV show that has become the presidency is not only providing a steady stream of ‘breaking news’ for evening cable news shows, and fodder for the Australian Prime Minister to make jokes out of, but we all now despite his protestations there’s, as Malcolm Turnbull quipped “this Russian Guy” who must be elated that whatever took place last year gave him a bang for his ruble.  Yet, for many Americans, there’s a dark edge to the humor and I that when I watch the news I am amazed and angry at the same time.

Even when Trump goes, the damage has been done.  As I’ve written in previous posts, many of the people who voted for him did so because he promised to deliver on changing things that they believed hurt themselves, their families, and communities.  What Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have been trying to ram through Congress (such as the Health Care Bill now under wraps in the Senate) are not the things many voted for   Their anger and frustration will flare up again, and get worse.  Now, as shown by incidents such as what happened in Alexandria Virginia, you also have disturbed people who, in this case, supported Bernie Sanders who felt they had to take the law in their own hands with near tragic consequences.  If neither party really makes an effort to address the average American’s need for a living wage, good health care, opportunities for their children, safe communities, and that the future will at least get a little better (which I argue was starting to happen under the Obama Administration), there will be such an explosion that our governing class won’t know what hit them.

As I write this, another movie comes to my mind far removed in location, and tone from the Newman/Woodward Sudser.  It’s  a rather sparse black and white 1961 film version (with Sidney Poitier and another Cleveland native Ruby Dee) of a play by Lorraine Hansberry: Raisin in the Sun.  It is the story of a black family buying a house in an all white area of Chicago.  Naturally, a very polite meek looking white man from the local neighborhood association drops by to offer them a check to get the hell out of there.  The happy ending in this film is that they managed to stay.  For those of you reading this who don’t know it, Ms. Hansberry took the title of her drama from a poem, A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes.  Of course it was a reflection on the hopes and frustrations of African=Americans in the 1950s but the message is universal; especially today

Starting on Sunday, things here south of Lake Erie will be a little more normal with temperatures in the high seventies by Tuesday. On that day is the congressional election in Georgia  I will definitely keep an eye on it and, naturally, I hope Ossoff can pull it off.  If he does, then there is hope for next year in my book.  Then of course is Robert Mueller’s investigation.  However, it will take a few years I fear before anything approaching normal will take place in the country.  In the meantime, will things explode?

Standard
A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Let’s Take a Break at the Lake: Another Quick Little Post.

IMG_20170610_195732

The East 55th St. Marina lookng West.

One of the reasons I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted is because of all the things that have been happening at once. This does not include what is being shown on the news everyday. Last Sunday there was an afternoon with Jerry Springer in Bainbridge Ohio.  Friday, a planning and zoning workshop in Warren Ohio.  This week block watches and ward club meetings once I get home from the job.    I have to use the lunch break on the job just to read the Washington Post Daily 202 just to get my bearings with what the heck is happening to this country.   I wound up listening to NPR’s broadcast of the James Comey hearing in my car as I drove from work to get ready for my dental appointment.

To think that two years ago we would be at this point right now boggles my mind.

IMG_20170610_193041

A view of the marina looking West.

So, when things are spinning around you and you shoe horn things into your daily routine so they can get done, what do you do?  Well, in my case drive to the East 55th St. Marina Saturday night to hear a band and hang out by the water.   A waitress at a local diner told me about this and in some ways it’s one of Cleveland’s best kept secrets.  The marina, just west of the remains of Gordon Park  and the now demolished First Energy Power Plant, hase been driven past by thousands of commuters from Eastern Cuyahoga and Lake Counties daily as they head downtown to work or go to the West Side.  It’s that easy to miss since it looks like a blur of docked boats with an ugly structure at the end of a parking lot extending into the Lake.   However, there’s a little more to it than what meets the eye.

IMG_20170610_195005

View of the restaurant/shop from the dock.

IMG_20170610_194811

Looking North from the shore.

Every Saturday night in the summer, the marina is host to a series of bands just like those held at Edgewater Park on Thursdays or at Wade Oval at University Circle on Wednesdays.  However, with a smaller crowd and ample parking, the ones at the marina seem more appealing.  Also, instead of a bunch of food trucks, there is an outdoor bar and restaurant people can order from.  While the place may not have the bottles of champagne in wine cases that I saw Friday at Warren’s Avalon Inn, there is a pretty full bar there and soft drinks too which is what I settled for.  The menu is basic but from what I see just as good as what you can find at Wendy Park on the other side of town. There’s even a little shop.

Since they took over, the Cleveland Metroparks have taken measure to improve the maria (as they have the other parks and beaches they acquired like in North Collinwood).  However, I think that more can be done.   As I stood on that pier jutting out into the water I looked across to the breakwall.   For some reason, I can see at least six boathouses like I saw up in the Muskoka Lakes Region of Canada being built there.   I can also see a water taxi to downtown and Edgewater Park or better a tour boat like I saw in Erie PA going out on Lake Erie from there going to, let’s say, Grand River Ohio for lunch.  You can dream up a lot of things standing at the end of a dock.

Another crazy week in the news coming up.

 

Photographs by James Valentino

 

 

Standard
A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores’ Membership Meeting; A Quick Little Post.

IMG_20170523_174537

The NE Shores Development Corp. Meeting at Euclid Beach.

I truly believe that to have a successful city, you must have strong neighborhoods.  One of the signs of this is to have a good network of local development corporations that work with the community.  The Collinwood area happens to have two of them; the one representing North Shore Collinwood being the Northeast Shores Development Corporation.  This has been around for decades and I remember stopping in their offices in the 90’s when they were actually housed in a building next to Euclid General Hospital. Board members, and executive directors, come and go but I’ve been a fairly loyal member.  However, Wednesday’s Quarterly Membership meeting was the first I’ve been to in a year.  Instead of at the Collinwood Rec Center, they decided to put it across the street at Euclid Beach Park.  That’s where I went a little before 6:00 to the pavilion to see what was going on.

IMG_20170523_180729

Mary Louise Daily speaks with Scott standing next to her.  New Executive Director Camille M. Maxwell sits to his left.

I knew some of the people already, such as Councilman Michael Polensek’s aide Mary Louise Daley, but the vast majority were new faces. Even the new Board president, a guy named Scott, I never met before.  However, I wound up staying there for over an hour and a half, and not just because of the hot dogs.  They just appointed a new Director and I got to chat with some of the staff for the first time in years.  None lives in the neighborhood.  However, one young lady did just buy a house in Old Brooklyn which at least is in the city.  As for the business development specialist, he lives in the same area of Cleveland Heights where my mother grew up.  As for the new director, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Actually, a lot of positive things are still taking place here.  Work is still going on regarding the new Euclid Beach Pier.  As for the La Salle Theater on East 185th Street, they are in the process of getting more funding for the renovation project there.  Also, we’re going to get one of the big white Cleveland signs like the one that everyone has been taking photos with at Edgewater Park.  Considering the terrible events last month at Mr. Car, this meeting put things all back into perspective.  While my neighborhood is not one of those targeted in that new Cleveland State Univeristy study commissioned by Mayor Jackson for investment, it still on the cusp of becoming one happening place.  Chatting with some of the people there, I met a lady who moved here from Shaker.  She told me that a realtor told her that the area where she moved to was getting a lot of money coming in renovating those lakefront properties.  Also, like many of the other former Heights’ residents who moved into North Shore Collinwood over the past few decades, she loves the lower taxes from what she was formerly paying.

IMG_20170523_181348

I hope the Corporation starts renovating their new offices on East 185th St. soon so they can move back there.  I also will try to attend more meetings to see what is going on.

 

Photographs by James Valentino

 

Standard
A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Buying Irises; A Quick Little Post.

IMG_20170520_101808

The main entrance to the Rockefeller Greenhouse seen on East 88th St.

In light of all that has been going on, not just on the news but also in this blogger’s life, I haven’t gotten around to seriously working on a post that I’ve been researching for weeks. However, I offer to my readers (roughly all three of you) this quick little post!

The Rockefeller Greenhouse had their annual plant sale Thursday May 18th through yesterday.  Fortunately, I was able to get there around 10:15 A.M. yesterday  Organized by volunteers, it may not be as flashy as the sales organized at the Holden Arboretum but this one draws a good crowd as evident by the cars parked on the street and the parking lot in the park on across the road.  I went there determined to buy a few dwarf irises for the garden.  I knew that I could find them there since I bought one last year at a table manned by iris enthusiasts who tend the Greenhouse’s Willott Iris Garden, many of the plants in the pots being grown from rhizomes thinned from it during their regular maintenance.

IMG_20170520_105320

Ron (left) and Bob (right) pose for the camera.

I wound up striking up a conversation with a man named Bob who sat behind the table with occasional comments from his colleague Ron who was busy for the most par running around.

IMG_20170520_110935

The Willott Iris Garden.

IMG_20170520_111107

A view of one of the beds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iris Garden is past its peak bloom but there are still many plants with flowers of a nice array of colors.  I wasn’t able to locate the two that I purchased but spotted some that I hope Bob, Ron, and the others would thin out for next year’s plant sale.    The origins of the garden started in 2008 when the iris hybridizer Tony Willott died leaving behind his rows of hybrid irises.  So, with the support of his widow Dorothy, a group of iris enthusiasts got together, cataloged then, dug them up and by 2012 had them replanted on the grounds of the Rockefeller Greenhouse.  Today, the Willott garden is a big attractions in late spring with its many blooming irises of various sizes.

IMG_20170520_111204IMG_20170520_111229

As for yours truly, I bought two dwarf irises for the yard and they are now in the ground. One, Laurelwood, is a very unique rust bi-colored one while the other, Dainty Design, is an apricot colored one brused with cream. They should be very nice additions to the garden.  However, it will take a whole year to see if they bloom and a lot of things can happen in the meantime.  As for the plant sale, from the way the crowd was even on its’ last day, I’m positive it was a success.

IMG_20170520_113905

My two purchases .

 

Photographs by James Valentino

Standard
My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Don Peck’s America Is Still In A Pinch.

I remember something from when I was in college that still sticks in my head.  I was with my parents at a restaurant in Painesville Township which is east of Cleveland, Ohio.  We went to this place over the years and we would usually sit in the enclosed porch section which looked out on Mentor Avenue.  Anyway, that day we were there not too long after my father, a certified welder who was laid off from his previous one, got a better job.  For some reason, as my mother talked to the waitress she mentioned this fact and that she was glad because for a few months we didn’t have any health insurance.  As she was saying that, she almost sobbed and I could tell she was embarrassed.  “I know,” the waitress replied and a few seconds later my mother regained her composure and we gave our order.

I write this because this was in fact over two decades ago and the bread and butter problems that so many men and women have faced then are still occurring, the latest as a result of the Great Recession of 2007-2008.  In light of the race in Georgia, the Scientist March, and (as I shall call him) the idiot savant’s refusal to still release his tax returns, reading Don Peck’s Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It is again very illuminating on how we got to this point. As I originally wrote in a review six years ago, Pinched is a well research book. In nine chapters, the author explores how the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression has had lasting impact on the average American.

Peck argues that the financial meltdown of ten years ago simply accelerated long-standing trends in American society when it comes to making a living (and thus echoes to a degree Derek Thompson in his later piece) “America’s classes are separating and changing.  A tiny elite continues to float up and away from everyone else.  Meanwhile, as manufacturing jobs and semiskilled office positions disappear, much of what the United States has historically regarded as its middle class is in danger of drifting downward.  Left in between is what might be thought of as the professional middle class-unexceptional college graduates, for whom the arrow of fortune points mostly sideways, and an upper tier of college graduates and postgraduates for whom it points progressively upward, but not spectacularly so.” (Page 34).  In this environment women apparently rebounded in finding jobs better than many working class men.

This crisis directly affects politics and from the sharp swings in voting patterns, people are at a point where any change is worth it. “American politics has grown meaner as economic anxiety has lingered.  Anti-immigrant sentiment has risen, and support for the poor has fallen.  By many measures, trust-which to a large degree separates successful societies from unsuccessful ones-has diminished.  The number of active militias in the United States increased from 43 to 330 between 2007 and 2010.  And while frustrations will ebb when the economy improves enough, ideas and attitudes carry their own momentum” (Page 25).  This leads Peck in Chapter Eight to make this very accurate conclusion: “In the end, if we remain stuck in an economic climate in which stagnation and disappointment are the norms for large numbers of Americans, the most-likely risks to our politics are not rogue leaders or an insurgent populist party.  They are endless vacillation, low levels of public trust, and political options that are stunted by a poisonous atmosphere and heavy discontent.” (Page 152).  As shown in Weimar Germany and 1930’s France, a long festering economic malaise can make people turn against mainstream institutions which they feel failed them and look for something else; usually something more authoritarian in nature.

As a man, it does interest me reading this what Mr. Peck writes about men in the work force.  He goes even further to put this in the greater context of generations who had gone through the Great Depression, and even the Gilded Age.  (Something common with today). On the study of the Great Depression in Chapter 3. “Many young adults who could not find footing in the job market were left permanently scarred. Glen Elder, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina and a pioneer in the field of ‘life course’ studies, has spent much of his career tracking the various generations that lived through the Depression, to see how it shaped their lives.  Some three decades after the Depression ended, and even after a long postwar boom, he count a pronounced diffidence in aging men (though not women) who had suffered hardship as twenty-and thirtysomethings during the 1930s.  .Unlike peers who had been largely spared during those lean years, these men came across, Elder told me, as “beaten and withdrawn, lacking ambition, direction, confidence in themselves.” (Page 53).  This is also something that can be seen in later generations of men who were affected by later economic crises.  It would be interesting to see if this lack of self-confidence and direction manifests currently in thirty-something millennials as well.

The interviews are still potent.  From a homeowner in Bridgewater Florida to an unemployed construction worker with eight children in Reading Pennsylvania, Peck interviewed a wide range of Americans for whom the American Dream tanked.  For some reason, the plight of a man using the name Mark Nickelson sticks in my head.  A native of Ohio, he worked his way through college and got into law school passing the bar in both Massachusetts and New York.  However, after much effort, he only landed a job at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2010 through a fellowship program “The job doesn’t make use of his law degree, and he doesn’t advertise that degree around the office, he said.  Whenever a colleague finds out, ‘they’re like, You went to law school?  What are you doing here?” (Page 75).   Nickelson should be in his early 30’s now and I wonder if he finally got to use that degree, or pay off those student loans.

Now, what about the movers and shakers of the nation?  What role or responsibilities do they have?  Peck cites the work of Christopher Lasch whose book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy is something worth the author of Pinched to refer to,  Lasch believed that America’s elite feels that they are part of a global community (think Davos or that W20 Summit in Berlin Ivanka Trump went to) but are emotionally detached from the rest of the nation.  Patriotism is not high on their list. “Consequently, Lasch argued, modern elites tend to “exercise power irresponsibly, precisely because they recognize so few obligations to their predecessors or to the communities they profess to lead.  Their lack of gratitude disqualifies meritocratic elites from the burden of leadership, and in any case, they are less interested in leadership than in escaping from the common lot-the very definition of meritocratic success.”  (Page 112).  On the other hands there are those of this group, with their pocketbooks, have done just as much harm to our body politic as those who give up their citizenship to save a buck.  Thus the elites that lefties, populists and Tea Party types have been railing against are not really the ones holding the reins, or pocketbook, of power.  The Koch Brothers, the Mercers, and Betsey DeVoss’ family have done far more to threaten the proverbial American Way of Life than Chris Matthews, the NAACP and Cher ever did.

Naturally in a book like this, solutions are suggested.  After all, who would really want to buy a scathing critique about America without offering a ray of hope? Peck (along with Thompson, McAffee and Brynjolfsonn, and Jim Russell for that matter), pointed out what may be measures that could in the long run address this situation the American Middle Class is stuck in.  Like these other gentlemen, and Richard Florida for that matter, Peck asserts that improving the education opportunities of lower-income children is crucial, but doesn’t get into real details.  “Over the next decade or two, college education simply cannot be the whole answer to the woes of the middle class since even under the rosiest of assumptions, most of the middle of society will not have a four-year college-degree.”  (Page 177)   I do like the idea of career academies as well as the concept of a national innovation bank.  Some of his other ideas, such as Wage Insurance, would never play in the current political climate. Wage Insurance, something many in Trump’s Circle of donors would scoff at, “ Wage Insurance kicks in when unemployed people find a new job that pays less than their old one, making up part of the difference, say half, for a couple of years.” (Page 167).

While soaking the rich isn’t the answer, I agree with Peck that high earners should be paying more than they do now.  I wonder what he thinks about Trump’s idea to repeal the estate tax (as Governor John Kasich has done in Ohio)?  Aggressive wage subsidies (for up to a year) to employers who hire the long-term unemployed, a targeted and temporary incentive, seems interesting but again questionable.

While I do understand Peck’s argument that people’s mobility to get to jobs in other parts of the nation should be encouraged, what about the towns they leave behind?  Besides that, in light of the problems people have with student debt, the idea of using college loans as a model for a relocation loan (Page 165) seems unfeasible. Putting more money into R & D is laudable.  However, in light of what has happened since November 2016, it would be a struggle to keep government spending in this area as it is.

After repeated attempts to contact the Atlantic and Mr. Peck, I still haven’t received a response.  However, here are the questions I wanted to ask him.

  1. When he wrote this book, did he ever thought that after two terms of Barak Obama we would wind up with something like the Trump Administration?
  2. What does he see the economic state of most Americans in 2021?
  3. Have the notions of public responsibility, social cohesiveness in short a functioning Civil Society continue to weaken since 2011?
  4. Did he think what Christopher Lasch wrote about has become a reality?

It would have been really nice to hear what Mr. Peck had to say about these.

Recently, a book by Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein on the fate of people .living in Janesville Wisconsin after the GM plant there closed in 2008 shows that what Peck discovered in his book still affects so many people around the nation; and that many wound up voting for Trump.  I would be surprised if Mr. Peck writes a sequel to Pinched in 2021.  After four years of Trump on the one hand and a Congressional leadership eager to pursue the same policies that led our economy to the brink in 2008, we’ll get to see if the problems he chronicled remain or gotten worse.

Standard
A Quick Little Post, Uncategorized

Friday Night Musings; A Quick Little Post.

IMG_20170421_183538Another delay has occurred in what is supposed to be my next piece for the blog.  Life has intervened and the day has been too busy to write much, let alone again try to call up the Atlantic to get a live person.  Besides, there was a vigil to go to this evening.  At 6:00 P.M. I was one of many people who decided to stop in front of Mr. Tire on East. 185th Street to show their support for the family of the couple shot with their dog on Good Friday last week in what is now considered a pre-meditated planned murder.  The indviduals who did this shocking even took more than two cars in the lot and the pursuit to bring them to justice continues.  Of course, Councilman Michael D. Polensek (whose ward includes the Cleveland part of East 185th spoke and brought many others to come up and do the same.  In the audience not only was State Senator Kenny Yuko there but Councilmen Zack Reed and Jeff Johnson.  However, Mayor Frank Jackson was noticeably absent as were many other Cleveland Councilmen.  Nevertheless, it was important for neigbhorhood residents to be there, and they were.

Standard
Uncategorized

I Still Say Happy Easter; A Quick Little Post.

As news about how Cleveland and other law enforcement look for a man bent on killing more than the elderly man he did this afternoon (and for a time posted on Facebook), perhaps wishing everyone a Happy Easter seems rather trite.  All this started while I was in Grand River Ohio at an Easter Dinner given my a lady who told me she hadn’t done such a thing in 35 years.  The scattered rain predicted by the weather people last night pretty much passed us and in fact it was a beautiful day.  What a disconnect from how my day was as all this developed in my city.  This is on top of the fact that on Friday a man who owned a small car dealership on East 185th St. was shot with his wife.  All this has been so utterly senseless.

I just came across Councilman Michael D. Polensek’s (Ward 8) comments yesterday on this.  I wonder what he thinks about this new incident.  American carnage.

Yet, you have to try to put this into a bigger picture.  The shootings Friday were so shocking for everyone here in the East 185th St. area is because, overall, crime has been in fact going down a little.  My area is considered to be the second safest area in the city of Cleveland (after West Park). Major projects are underway, such as the renovation of the La Salle Theater and (as cited in my previous blog entry) property values are slowly but steadily recovering.

I hope they find the murderers and perhaps Mayor Jackson and staff will reconsider their proposal to recruit only 65 more police officers when, thanks to our vote in November for an income tax increase, they can hire so much more and put them in our communities

Once again, I still say Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 

Standard