Monday, November 24, 2014

An armed society

It was a few years ago. I was traveling on I-480 at the perfectly acceptable speed of 78 miles per hour. A local law enforcement representative, however, saw things a little differently.

The lights went on behind me and I pulled the Mini Cooper over to the berm. Yes, I got a ticket. Yes, I paid the ticket. And, YES, that year, the Goat put a Matchbook cop car in my Christmas stocking as a little reminder of my infraction.

O'Brien Speedway

But this post isn't about any of that. This post is about the way that cop handled the situation and what it says about me, you, and a dead little Cleveland boy.

I've only been pulled over a couple of times in my life, although I might be forgetting a ticket or two. Once when I was 17 and going about 40 in a 25, a cop pulled me over, asked for my license, saw it was my birthday and let me go. Another time I was in my mid-twenties, riding my motorcycle. A cop pulled me over. As he approached me, I took off my helmet and my hair spilled out, which obviously surprised him. He quickly scanned my license, told me to stay safe and sent me on my way.

Those cops were different than the one that pulled me over that day in the Mini. And, no, I don't mean about letting me off the hook. It was in the way he behaved. As he walked up to the immaculate Mini Cooper, he was crouched down, hand on his gun. He inched up to the window and just peeked in, minimizing the exposure of his head in the window. The guy was clearly assuming I was a threat and he was taking the precautionary offense in a potential micro arms race between him and me.

As he went through the process, his manner continued to be overtly guarded--as if I was already a suspect. (Which of course I am. We all are. Don't believe it? Go to the airport and see if they make you take off your shoes.) Nonetheless, I was taken back by his suspicious questions: Where you comin' from? What were you doin' over in Willoughby Hills? Where you going? and how he scanned the interior of my car.

Let's fast forward to the conclusion.

How many times have I heard comments from the pro-gun camp about an armed society is a polite society, or I love guns; I think everyone should have one?

You wanted to be an armed society? Okay, fine. You've got one, pal. And like it or not, we're going to collectively treated as such--whether it's little ol' Erin O'Brien in her Mini Cooper, a 12-year-old kid with a toy gun or a guy reaching for his wallet, cops are assuming we're all armed and dangerous, armed and drunk, or just plain armed and stupid.

So just hope you don't come face to face with a cop that misinterprets your actions or is poorly trained. In fact, best hope to not come in contact with any armed person with poor judgement and a mean hankerin' to stand his ground. Because there is no difference between Trayvon Martin's death and that of the 12-year-old boy killed by an idiotic* cop here in Cleveland over the weekend. They are both about the shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality. They are both about the man with the gun acting as judge, jury and executioner.

I don't care if you've got a badge or not, manslaughter is not an appropriate response to "feeling threatened."

How the hell did we get here? When does it stop? When does it ever ever ever stop?

*a reader took exception to the word idiotic, and I agree it may not be the best choice of words. That said, what is the right word?

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The immigrant song

Mediterranean Food Market

Back in early October, I pitched a story on local ethnic grocers to my editor. He gave me the nod and slated it for publication on Nov. 20--today--which serendipitously coincides with President Obama's scheduled remarks on the subject of immigration tonight.

Tink Holl Food Market

The research and writing of the article, The Diverse Language of Food: a Guide to Ethnic Markets, was both grueling and exhilarating. I am very proud of the result. It reflects this town and its people. It's about where we've been, where we are and where we're headed.

Almadina Imports

The people I met as I gallivanted around Cleveland snapping pics and interviewing for this piece were a true inspiration. These are the real Americans--hard working as they endeavor to deliver the very best of the best to their customers. They embrace diversity. They know it's the only way to run a business.

Marco Mougianis at Mediterranean Foods,
the shop his Gramp opened some 50 years ago

Diversity is what built this country. It's the only thing that will save it.

Bob has manned the counter at Krusinski's for 53 years

Now then, dear reader, imagine this. About a week ago when I was deep in the throes of penning my article and a bit breath-taken by it all, I took a break to go to the gym, where I mounted an elliptical machine next to two white men in their sixties. Here are some snippets of their conversation, spoken loudly enough to be heard by anyone within three or four feet.

One mused on people who file for bankruptcy. "I'd shoot all those sonsabitches first. I wouldn't even leave any for pallbearers."

There was another comment about Obama wanting to let "them" all in and how he couldn't remember "the numbers" in California, but "you wouldn't believe."

Race predictably came up.

"Can you imagine if they had a white scholarship fund? Nope. You can only do that for the n-----s."

That's what it looks like folks--the very worst this country has to offer, and a far cry from this quote from Enrique Muniz Jr., owner of La Borincana.

"All the Africans working here are refugees. They came here legally through the Catholic Church. No one wanted to hire them, but we opened our arms and hired them."

Enrique Muniz Jr.

I imagine Obama's upcoming remarks will spur a great deal of talk about immigration in gyms and bars and coffee shops around the country. Which side of history will you be on?

As for me, I'll be here in CLE shining a light on the little corners and rooting for the good guys as the Irish and Hungarian and German blood courses through my veins.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Phone cam round-up

Unfortunate "art" shot

Unfortunate recreation option

Organized fish protest

Payment options for day of reckoning

"I pooped off this -->"

Quality image



Important reference book


Environmentally conscious decorative item

: )

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Extreme thrift shop love and a prediction

Dear faithful pilgrims,

As you probably have surmised, your humble hostess has been inundated with work and these pages have been neglected. While I would like very much to be penning a proper essay, I just don't have the time right now. So your getting an acquisition update and a political prediction. So it's a grab bag. So kill me already

Now dig this:

Maybe the fine people at Keim Lumber Company had this 1,000-piece puzzle made for employee appreciation gifts or to celebrate the completion of their sprawling campus. Dunno. Don't care. All I know is that I totally dig this baby, which I purchased or FIFTY CENTS at (of course) Unique Thrift.

Only problem is, it is still sealed in the box. So, do I open it or leave it in it's pristine condition. Talk about your conflict ...

Then we have this:

That beauty--the CorningWare nine-cup stove top percolator circa 1975--brewed the Coffee of America for years. She cost me nine clams at some resale shop I came across in Burton, Ohio where I had a speaking engagement last month. Yes, I know these were recalled at one point and yes, I will be careful, but COME ON. Is this kickin' it old school or what?

Lastly my prediction: the honorable Governor John Kasich of Ohio will be the GOP's 2016 nominee and it will herald him as such right here in Cleveburg in the summer of 2016.

Guess that's all for now, pilgrims. Love,  Erin

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Cleveland isn't about LeBron, LeBron is about Cleveland

On her September 19 show, Rachel Maddow was wrapping up an interview with Bill Rhoden, who was apparently on his way to Cleveland.

"I love Cleveland," said Rhoden.

"You're the only one," replied Maddow.

Clevelanders are accustomed to such unfortunate jibes, which get more tone deaf every day. Fortunately, the tired old jokes about a burning river are becoming fewer and far between. After all, when two diametrically opposite entities such as the Gay Games and the GOP choose Cleveland for their gatherings, that's saying something.

Then we have LeBron. I wrote about his homecoming announcement back in July, to which occasional Owner's Manual commenter Bill replied, "A basketball player. A basketball team. It's laughable."

You don't get it, Bill. You really don't get it. And if you live in America, you need to get it. Everone needs to get Cleveland. Our future as a country is here.

Watch this:

That is an accurate depiction of this town. LeBron and the Cavs are perfect front men for our dazzling comeback. After all, we've dug ourselves out of a hole with sheer grit and manpower. The best part is that we didn't do it by reinventing ourselves, we did it by rediscovering ourselves.

Cleveland isn't about LeBron, LeBron is about Cleveland.

I am here on the ground, been here forever. I know what the hell I'm talking about. Cleveland is blooming everywhere you look, even in it's darkest corners. What's happening here is about our bones. It's about authenticity--and you cannot fake authenticity.

Swank apartments with rents to match are filling downtown buildings that were considered to be vacant tragedies not so long ago. They have waiting lists--really long waiting lists. To wit: the 1918 Globe Machining and Stamping Co. building leased all 45 of its luxury lofts in the snap of finger when it opened for business this summer. Now there are 50 on the waiting list.

I can think of one project after another that mirrors that success. Our downtown population is skyrocketing. But we've got more than hipster apartments. We've got park systems that are positively magical. I know. I've walked miles and miles and miles of them. We've got water--a lake and a river. (Yeah, I know, algae blooms. We've got a lot of work to do on our public transportation network as well and other problems. We'll get to it. You should have seen the Cuyahoga River back in the 1960s.)

My guess is if you want to get in on the ground floor and purchase a bit of sleeper real estate, you're probably too late. 

Goat and friends

Here in Cleveland, you (yes, you) can walk into a cutting edge maker space at Case Western Reserve University and access a laser cutter, professional 3D printer, circuit board router or 3D stereo inspection microscope for free. You can view gallery after gallery of priceless art, from Degas to Warhol--all for free--at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which just underwent a $350 million renovation. And pretty soon, you'll be able to walk into a gorgeous historic bank and do your grocery shopping. Oh HELL YEAH.

Why on earth, Mr. Entrepreneur, would you go to Silicon Valley when we've got a kick-ass fiber optic network in this jewel of a town?

Oh, and we have an extraordinary dining scene, one of the best in the nation.

There is a staying power to this second act. You can feel it. Clevelanders go in for the long haul, which is why LeBron came back. We love him when he wins. We love him when he loses.

That's because this town is a winner no matter what the happens on the court.

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