Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Under the bridge

When Eric and I watched the story about The Fabulous Five and their plan to blow up the Route 82 bridge, we laughed. According to the CBS correspondent, their intention was to disrupt travel for persons working in corporations. Now this bridge sees plenty of traffic and innocent people would have been tragically hurt or murdered had the plan come to fruition, but logistically speaking, this lil' stretch o' road between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills ain't the biggest (ahem) bang for your buck if you're trying to blow up something in order to prevent people from getting to their corporate jobs.

If The Fabulous Five is the best the anarchists have to offer, I don't think we have much to worry about.

My great grandparents,
Emily and Fred Doubler, circa 1920
The Route 82 bridge spans a portion of the Cuyahoga River Valley that is southeast of Cleveland proper. I'm a sixth generation Northeast Ohioan and my family has lived in and around this part of the Valley for most of the associated decades. My great grandfather's sweetcorn and potato farm eventually became part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio's only national park. I've written about all of this before (go for the pictures if nothing else), and I continue the tradition; the bridge is just a few miles from where I sit typing right now.

The Route 82 bridge is very close to Old Station Road, which takes me back back back.

Dad, circa 1975
Dusk was falling on an August evening. I was probably about 12 or 13. We lived just a few hundred feet from Lake Erie in Lakewood--an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. My family had moved there from Brecksville when I was five. The air was completely still and thick with humidity. Lake bugs swarmed and buzzed. We had no air conditioning. Fans just pushed around the warm air. The weather felt like a prison with walls so soft, yet inescapable.

Dad and I were sitting in the backyard, steaming in the heat.

"Come on," Dad said, "let's go for a drive."

We piled into his primrose yellow XKE coupe. Dad didn't tell me where we were going and I didn't ask. I just basked in the air turned magically cool by the car's motion, my hand sticking out of the passenger side window like a tiny bird swooping up and down in the draft.

My brother John and me, circa 1978 in front of the Lakewood house with Dad's XKE coupe.
The air smelled of the Lake along the Shoreway and of Cleveland's acrid industry as we sped down I-77 past Republic Steel. Dad exited 77 on 82 and headed towards Old Station Road, which winds down the bank of the Cuyahoga River Valley. It was once the way to the Station Road Bridge, which traverses the river. We parked.

"Listen," said Dad as we stepped out of the car.

The air was electric with the undulating chant of the crickets and heavy with the smell of the river. The tangled trees and vines were secrets against the indigo sky. Perspiration beaded on my lip. Dad drew disappearing red circles with the glowing tip of his Marlboro. I waited.

It took a few minutes for them to start, but start they did. The deepest loudest croaking I had ever heard. I couldn't believe it was real.

"What is it?" I asked, my spine straightening.



We listened to the whole beautiful orchestra while Dad finished his beer. Then he took one long last drag of his cigarette and dropped the butt in the empty Stroh's can.

"Time to head on back," he said.

Old Station Road is cordoned off now. I've defied the "no trespassing" sign and poked around back there in the night, but I've never found the bullfrogs again. Maybe they moved. Maybe they died.

Maybe it's time to look for them again.

You can have the anarchists. I'll take the memories.

*  *  *


Bill said...

As usual, your memories, written, almost bring tears to my eyes. I can only hope my daughter will remember some similar beautiful times with me.

Mike Williams said...

Your reminiscence of the city I left behind are like postcards from an ald friend. keep them coming Erin.

Meagan said...

I used to live in Greenwood Village so I went over this bridge multiple times a day. Now I use it maybe once a month, usually with my 11 month old son in the car with me. This pretend bomb thing pissed me off for so many reasons. Haha, so funny that they're idiots, but I just want to beat the crap out of all of them.

Anonymous said...

I somehow missed the casting call for extras for "The Walking Dead". I don't recall encountering anyone looking like that when I used to run in the valley, but I imagine I LOOKED like that to some of the residents
I've got some hot mess memories of The Valley, summer and winter...Riverview Road stoned and heart leaping out of my chest after Zeppelin and after Yes at the Colisseum, 19th row on the floor, my left ear was merely ornamental after those shows, a perfect 360 on 303 in a blizzard on the way to view a Cavaliers game with 1,800 of my closest friends, and a bicycle trip from Kent to Shaker via the bike path, and broad daylight scromping in Kendall Park...

Ahhh, the dreams, the memories, the dreams...


alphadog said...

Thanks Erin O'Brien, it was the highlight of my day.

philbilly said...

Occupy Jail Cell.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

Awesome, as usual Erin.

Memories of Cleveland ... boot hopping in the winter (some call it bumper skiing) and pulling the back fender off of a very rusty VW Bug in the process .... catching my first fish ever (a rainbow trout) off of the fifth hole of Little Met ... getting into the Rocky River and allowing the current to speed us downstream ... catching fireflies in the summer in mason jars ... Dairy Deluxe on Saturdays (sometimes) on Puritas Ave .... going to the Air Races with my Dad every year, parking in front of Burke to watch it all ....


Erin O'Brien said...

Aw gang, thanks. You helped me turn something awful into something wonderful.

As Phil said, those stupid kids can Occupy Jail Cell as we breathe a sigh of relief and share some memories. Sometimes the good guys win.

Anonymous said...

Fine read.

The problem with being an Anarchist is the miliitant egalitarianism. As the readership of this here blog knows well from ole Bill's posts a movement is judged by it's worst members. I would like to suggest that another group of anarchists would have prevented the "cordoning off" of Bull Frogtopia and perhaps saved their voices.


Sean Craven said...

Is it just me, or would those guys just have been sitting around the house pulling their puds on the internet if the feds hadn't played funs-and-games with them?

How much did that cost, anyway?

Bill said...

Yes SC. It's just you.

Kirk said...

Where'd the anarchists get the idea that there are still corporations in Cleveland?

Just kidding. If you live in Cleveland's southwest suburbs, you used to take that bridge to get to Geagua Lake and Sea World, back when those two amusement parks still operated. I think you used to take it to get to the older Chippewa Lake as well, but I'm not sure, as that place closed before I knew how to drive. That valley you speak of is now a national park, though one that doesn't charge an admission fee. Considering Cleveland's reputation as a factory town, you really don't go too far to see greenary.

Who is Eric? Is that Goat's real name?

Kirk said...

You really don't NEED to go to far to see greenary.

Bill said...

Actually the photos of those guys remind me of the Bill Ayers booking photo. If these guys play their cards right, they'll be teaching in the Cleveland public schools in a few years.

Erin O'Brien said...

Yup, Kirk, Eric is the Goat.

The Doubler farm was taken by imminent domain to be part of the national park. Plenty of my tribe members were unhappy about that then, but I'm sure happy about it now. The land remains wild and lush and untouched, with no parking lots or Golden Arches to mar it.

Anonymous said...

Is proficiency at card playing a requirement for teaching in Cleveland?
There was a Sea World in Cleveland?
Is there a fee for asking questions?


Anonymous said...

@Erin-are you aware that quite a few properties in the CVNRA have been leased back to small farmers? A neat trend, they're prioritizing sustainability in their leasing.

RJ-Yes, Virginia Kendall(that's a national park pun-I'll explain another time)there WAS a Sea World in the Cleveland area. It opened in 1970 adjacent to Geauga Lake amusement park,in Aurora Ohio, which was beginning to make the transformation from a traditional Mom-and-Pop operation to a mid-major regional theme park.
The two parks enjoyed a friendly competitor/symbiotic relationship and saw steady growth through the early '90s, when Geauga Lake was purchased, and the two eventually were merged, under the Six Flags brand.

This was an extraordinarily bad idea.

The Six Flags people foolishly gave up the rights to Sea World trademarks like 'Shamu' the killer whale, and after a brief burst of interest the property's attendance quickly declined; Six Flags sold the property to Cedar Fair Inc, which promptly made some other really mad decisions,and by 2007 there was only a water park remaining on the site.

Why such interest, Mike, you might ask? Even if you didn't, it's because I worked at Geauga Lake from '77 to '94, starting as a game operator and leaving as manager of the merchandise department, getting through grad school along the way. The first guy I worked for told me "you don't need no fuckin' college-I'll teach you all you need to know about the world with three little balls and a row of dummies"...and he was right, to a certain was an important and complementary part of my education about the world. And besides, every summer we hired in a fresh supply of 18-year old girls

When I look back at how fucking stupid some ownership and management people were out there while I was there, and yet we made money hand over fist, it really makes me wonder how operators like Six Flags and Cedar Fair (owners of Cedar Point in Sandusky OH, one of the biggest parks in the world)could absolutely and spectacularly fail in such an expensive and clueless manner.
I know, way TMI...

Erin O'Brien said...

RJ, the only one who has to pay a fee is Bill.

Bill, please send a money order in the amount of $1,000 USD to

Erin O'Brien
PO Box 470176
Broadview Hts, OH 44147

MR: actually, I thought that was great.

And for anyone who's interested: Good local coverage on The Fabulous Five.

Anonymous said...


Is making needless, pointless, and ignorant insults about people you don't know anything about a symptom of Alzheimer's?

I'm the father of an autistic 14-year old who spent 4 years in the Cleveland Municipal School District.

There are plenty of problems with public schools in general and the Cleveland schools in particular.

The teachers aren't one of the problems. The teachers are possibly the only reason the entire enterprise hasn't already collapsed. These people are dedicated, caring and committed professionals. I've seen people lead classroom instruction with materials they purchased out of their own pockets; provide classroom snacks they purchased out of their own pockets to kids who weren't being fed properly at home; cry real tears over students having trouble at home OR in the classroom; and eagerly give out home phone numbers to parents so they could be reached any time of the day or night. Most of these men and women are worth of canonization, not criticism, and certainly not snarky insults.

You know, I've seen your "style" here long enough to know you can't resist taking any opportunity, no matter how lame, to throw an insult out at union people or the President. Maybe just TRY to think before you fire away next time, huh?


WV: "catiche" A baked egg dish with a pie type crust featuring erstwhile household pets instead of sausage or other tradition meat additives...

Bill said...

It's nice that you love your public schools and the unions that run them. But, MR, my point must have gone over, or under, your head. I was comparing the 5 anarchists to Bill Ayers. Google it. Or, think about it. Oh. Alzheimers and dementia are terminal. Fortunately, I have not been diagnosed.

Anonymous said...

BULLSHIT! You made your remark about Ayers, and then took your shot at teachers. What the fuck does Bill Ayers have to do with the Cleveland schools? You were taking a shot at teachers, in particular the teachers in Cleveland. Maybe you can't control these impulses but don't lie about what you say when you take a stupid shot like that. At least you can own it.


Bill said...

Maybe you aren't aware, MR, that Ayers has made his career in education in the Chicago school system. Ayers: An anarchist, bomber of public places, turned educator and embraced by the left.

Mike Lawless said...

The debris from that bridge could have squashed spring peepers!

Anonymous said...

Maybe you aren't aware Bill but the Corrupt U.S. Government BROKE THE LAW in trying to prosecute Ayers and others and was complicit in the cover-up of the MURDER of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the FBI, among a number of things.


If you're going to tell the story tell THE WHOLE STORY, including the fact thet the REAL ACTS OF TERROR were being carried out by the U.S. GOVERNMENT in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. We'll leave East Timor for another day.

Sending embraces from the Left I am...


Bill said...

The initialed ones crack me up!

Anonymous said...

COINTELPRO is the punch line to a bad joke isn't it Bill?

"With Liberty and Justice for All."


twinklysparkles said...

Nice post, Erin, though I didn't grow up around there. The Cuyahoga Valley still seemed like a mystery to me, living in Kent for 19 years. I rarely made it there, biked a couple of times from Kent and saw a few parts that were closer to the west suburbs.

I once massaged someone who worked with the sea creatures at Sea World. How cool is that?

It is distressing to read these comment threads that get so emotionally wrought, politics aside. I am all for truth and speaking one's mind, don't get me wrong, still makes me sad.

love, twinkly

twinklysparkles said...

"and saw a few parts that were closer to west suburbs" ON SEPARATE OCCASIONS it should have said. I didn't bike from Kent to Westlake. Yeesh, what do you people think, I'm a jock or something? I had to clarify just in case you thought such a thing.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

Every time I go home (Cleveland), I make it a point to drive through the Valley. Why? It's fucking beautiful, especially in the fall. It also reminds me of my childhood, where I spent many hours fishing, swimming, and generally just hanging out and doing those things kids do. Erin's original post took me back to that innocent time, and I'm very grateful for it.

Teachers, Unions, Public Schools, etc. don't take me back so much.

Erin - again, thanks so much for the original post. It reminds me so much of why I love Cleveland and Ohio, 25 years removed. And why, someday, I will return.


Anonymous said...

The dude top left looks like the alien Kanamits in the Twilight Zone cookbook episode, as rendered by a cartoonist.


Anonymous said...


A practicing Buddhist shared this with me recently...

"True enlightenment means constant heartache."


Bill said...

A practicing psychiatrist probably shared this with someone:

"Constant heartache means deep depression"

True enlightenment isn't all it's cracked up to be.

alphadog said...

I don't deny that enlightenment brings heartache, it's too damn bad the reciprocal doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

"True enlightenment isn't all it's cracked up to be."-Bill

Catechism of a practicing Catholic.


Kirk said...

"True enlightenment means constant heartache" sounds like a variation of "Ignorance is bliss". Anyway, it's only blissfull if you're ignorant about your own ignorance, or unenlightened about you own lack of enlightenment. Once you know you don't know, bliss ends.

For many a king, potentate, and dictator throughout the ages, an ignorant population has meant bliss.

Speaking of ignorance, I mispelled greenery--TWICE!--in my comment above. That has brought about its own private hell.

Kirk said...

That should be "misspelled."

No bliss here.

Anonymous said...

"True enlightenment means constant heartache" sounds like a variation of "Ignorance is bliss"-Kirk

I would suggest it means almost exactly the opposite Kirk. At what point does having compassion for those who suffer elicit bliss or for that matter, ignorance?


DogsDontPurr said...

You know that game we used to play as kids where we all sit around in a circle, and one person whispers a phrase to the person sitting next to them...then phrase is passed on from person to person...and the last person in the circle then has to say out loud what the phrase was...and it usually comes out something entirely different than the original phrase?

That's how some of these comment threads seem to go.

So...what was it we were talking about again???

Erin O'Brien said...

Cupcakes and dildos, DDP.

DogsDontPurr said...

Ahhh yes...

And sprinkles. Because what's a cupcake without sprinkles? (Or is that only true for ice cream cones? I dunno.)

Carry on then...

Anonymous said...


"Post Office" was the name of the game...

Kirk said...

Let me depart from dildos and cupcakes for just one second and respond to RJ's comment.

RJ, this was my thought process:

Enlightenment = Lack of Ignorance

Heartache = Lack of Bliss

I'm not sure where or how compassion for others enters into this, but then, I'm not Buddha. It's his saying, not mine.

For what it's worth, I agree with you that compassion elicits neither bliss nor ignorance. If you don't know another person is suffering, you're obviously not going to feel any compassion for them. And though I'm sure there are those who will argue likewise, compassion doesn't make you feel better. Quite the opposite. It's actually an INTRUSION on well-being, on peace of mind. Now, if you're able to ALEVIATE another person's suffering (and I don't mean by "putting them out of it" the way you do with an aging pet) then, yes, you will indeed feel better. But you won't feel compassionate! Instead, you have been relieved of, rescued from, said compassion, and can now return to your former peace of mind.

Since compassion doesn't make you feel better, does that make it a "negative" emotion? Well, who ever said all emotions are supposed to make you feel better? God or evolution wouldn't have given us the ability to feel something other than bliss if it didn't serve some useful purpose. If we could feel no other emotion than bliss, I don't think we would have survived as a species, as we would have been trampled to death by a herd of stampeding mastodon while we all sat around with idiotic grins on our faces.

Finally, if you would like to avoid compassion so as to also avoid the subsequent heartbreak, then I should remind you that one day you, too, will join the ranks of the suffering, and the very last person you're going to want to be around is a blissful ignoramus.

You may now return to the regularly scheduled dildos and cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, RJ, a few observations if I may:

"Once you know you don't know, bliss ends" sounded familiar to me:

"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked" Genesis 3:7.

As to the question of whether compassion can lead to bliss, I can only share my experience. When I have an opportunity to be of aid or assistance to someone in need, and I have the skills and resources to be useful, it is extraordinarily gratifying to be able to do so. Altruism has it's own rewards, and I believe God is using me as His instrument.

Kirk said...

MR--I agree with you that altruism has its own rewards. It just doesn't easily lend itself to instant gratification, and is thus a turn-off for some.

About that Genesis passage, ever dream you're walking around a public place with no clothes on? Now you know how Adam and Eve felt.

Hal said...

I remember that bridge, and that part of what idiotic media types have called the kie-YOOGA river valley.

As my Mom is probably going to be leaving the Cleveland area soon, this post brings back memories which are now bittersweet.