1. Nightlife is limited.
It’s been a month since I moved from Boston to Cleveland. My 30-day impression of the Cleveland nightlife scene is that I have three choices:
- Cleveland Heights: chain bars that your uncle from Tampa would love. Wood-paneled, windowless rooms with TVs in every corner, placemat menus, and neon beer signs. While atmosphere is lacking, these places are redeemed by their specials. I would eat 50-cent wings in a closet if I had to.
- Downtown: “nightclubs” that could be the setting of “Jersey Shore: Ohio.” There’s nothing quite like watching a sweaty, orange 32-year-old in a tiny glittery t-shirt “fight the beat” on a roof bar that overlooks all two of the buildings in downtown Cleveland.
- Tremont/Ohio City: Midwestern hipster bars. The clientele are a dorkier version of East Coast hipsters, but the creative food and extensive beer selection in these places make them okay.
2. Public transportation is nonexistent.
I didn’t bring a car here, so the only reliable transportation I have is my own two hooves and a sparkly gold bike that a generous relative gave me for free. I took the HealthLine bus downtown once, but it stopped every two blocks and took 45 minutes to cover eight miles. Cleveland isn’t very centralized — it’s mostly made up of small, somewhat isolated neighborhoods — so I’ve been sticking to Little Italy / Cleveland Heights for the most part.
3. There’s more wildlife here than I expected.
The east side of Cleveland is surprisingly full of wildlife. In addition to squirrels the size of small cats, tiny chipmunks zoom around the lawns here before disappearing underground into what I imagine to be a vast network of tunnels. I’ve had several encounters with a raccoon family at night and early in the morning — a mom and her three fat, fuzzy little babies bumbling from trees to dumpster in search of snacks.
In the morning, bright red cardinals and noisy blue jays break the suburban silence with their piercing calls. At dusk, you’ll see fireflies — little specks of light blinking and slowly meandering around the grass like embers blown off a campfire.
4. Cleveland Heights cops are a joke.
There are tons of them. They don’t seem to be good for much besides nailing drivers for doing 27 in a 25, and raining down parking tickets on unsuspecting newcomers. On my first day here, I got a ticket for parking my U-Haul on the side of a wide, empty street without any obvious “no-parking” signs. During the five minutes I spent in the hardware store, a cop materialized out of thin air and wrote me a ticket. Welcome to the neighborhood.
5. The weather is less sucky than expected.
I felt like I’d already reached my limit of gloomy weather in Boston, so learning that Cleveland is one of the cloudiest, rainiest cities in the country was disheartening news. But so far, the weather hasn’t been bad at all.
When it rains in Boston, it reminds me of the miserable, steady drizzle of a runny nose. It goes on forever and generally ruins the whole day. In Cleveland, the rain is a whole different animal. There’s nothing quite like waking up on a Sunday morning to gentle pattering on the leaves of the big tree right outside your bedroom window, hearing thunder rolling in the distance, and seeing the dawn light filtering in through the clouds.
I’m writing this in August. We’ll see how I feel about the weather in six months.
6. Recycling exists. It is not used.
Even though the city of Cleveland has a big, bad single-stream recycling program, people don’t seem to be participating in it. All you have to do is put your recycling out on the sidewalk. It’s picked up weekly. It disappears. But the dumpster behind my apartment is full of cardboard, glass, and plastic. Recycling doesn’t seem to be a part of the culture here the way it is in the Northeast.
7. There’s lots of unique food and delicious beer.
The food here is quirky. Not something I expected given the common stereotype of the stodgy Midwesterner. Weird, cheap food plus a great tap menu seems to be a predominant theme in Cleveland. So far, my favorite place to eat is Happy Dog. This restaurant serves three things: hot dogs, tater tots, and beer. The dogs and tots come with an array of delicious toppings, from your basic ketchup, mustard, cheese scenario, to fried eggs or fruit loops. They even list their favorite combinations on a specialty page titled “Suggestive Wieners.”
One thing missing in the Cleveland food scene is delivery. Where are Seamless Web and GrubHub? The only upside to nonexistent delivery is I’m forced to shower and regularly go outside to feed myself.
8. Clevelanders are pretty religious.
Christianity plays a bigger, much more public role in people’s lives here than it does in Boston. Anti-choice posters are displayed prominently on the streets around town, and God is mentioned very frequently in casual conversation — even at my secular medical school.
Coming from a very liberal part of the country and working in research — where virtually everyone is either private about religion or not religious at all — this has been quite the adjustment for me. It creeps me out a little when someone starts rattling on about “God’s plan” or whatever, but it’s also made me realize my own perpetual stream of F-bombs and Jesus Christs are probably more offensive than I used to think.
9. This YouTube video is more accurate than I’d like it to be.
Welcome to Cleveland.