Brain Crumbs

I used to have a side­blog for one-offs, riffs and links, now that’s what Face­book is for. How­ev­er, here are some things I picked up on, real­ized, or thought about over my trip to Indi­ana last week.

  • The first thing is one I’ve always won­dered about: Why is the Yel­low Freight Company’s logo orange?
  • I saw a big bill­board with a bald eagle and Amer­i­can flag that said “Amer­i­ca — Bless God”. This doesn’t make any sense. Amer­i­ca can’t bless God because God is from whom all bless­ings flow. The top 3 hits for the phrase could gen­er­ate no end of cul­tur­al crit­i­cism writ­ing. I could go on, and would real­ly like to, but I’ll spare every­one.
  • It took over a year, but I’ve now trained myself both phys­i­cal­ly and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly to eat small­er por­tion sizes. That means, on the occa­sions that I pig out, I’m actu­al­ly just eat­ing what Amer­i­cans con­sid­er to be nor­mal por­tions. My weight fluc­tu­ates between 178 & 182, and since when­ev­er I try to dip below that, my appetite goes into over­drive, I fig­ure that’s right where my body wants to be.
  • Picked up this sweet piece of fur­ni­ture for $70:

Antique Oak Dresser


I talk about Wal­ter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechan­i­cal Repro­duc­tion too much. By too much, I mean every cou­ple of years. I real­ly should read some oth­er stuff that he’s writ­ten, so I don’t get too pseu­do-intel­lec­tu­al­ly schol­ar­ship-boy­ish. Like I’m about to.

I col­lect stuff, not a lot, but stuff nonethe­less. It used to be base­ball cards, then Tolkien books, then good sci­ence fic­tion in gen­er­al and now beach glass, good movies, and local music para­pher­na­lia. I used to col­lect things as if the things them­selves were pre­cious. Ben­jamin would call this the aura of the art object. He posits that orig­i­nal works of art have greater val­ue than repro­duc­tions. That’s the kind of rea­son that peo­ple go for mint first edi­tions, signed copies, &c. There’s noth­ing wrong with that. I would still love to get my mitts on a first edi­tion Star­ship Troop­ers with the awe­some dust-jack­et, but my collector’s cri­te­ri­on has changed over the years.

I no longer col­lect things as if the things them­selves were pre­cious, I col­lect them because of what they con­tain. So now when I’m at Half-price Books, and I see a hard cov­er of LeGuin’s Lathe of Heav­en with the orig­i­nal dust-jack­et cov­er art, I don’t care that its just the book club edi­tion, I care that it is hard-bound and there­fore more durable than my paper­back ver­sion. The dura­bil­i­ty mat­ters because it pro­tects what is real­ly impor­tant about the book, the sto­ry itself. So I’ll pick up an Asi­mov omnibus and get rid of my ancient paper­backs (which are worth more than the omnibus) because the omnibus will last longer.

I don’t mind that my Egon Schiele came from All Posters or that the Death of Marat in my bath­room (which nev­er fails to make me act dis­gust­ing­ly smug) came from the same. If my art selec­tions are con­sid­ered a col­lec­tion, I have what I have because I like it, not nec­es­sar­i­ly for its extrin­sic val­ue. I try to col­lect expe­ri­ences, emo­tions and moments of com­mu­ni­ca­tion now, not every last edi­tion of the Lord of the Rings. (Although if you want to hook me up, I won’t com­plain).

Cleveland Fremdschämen

Last week, I post­ed on the fol­low­ing on Face­book:

Cleve­land and LeBron should be two, respon­si­ble, con­sent­ing adults, and if it is time to move on, the last thing Cleve­land needs to be is the co-depen­dent, I’ll-debase-myself-if-only-you’ll-stay, undig­ni­fied, crazy ex.

I’m not going to debate the mer­its of what­ev­er deci­sion LeBron makes. That’s up to him. What I’d rather talk about is Cleveland’s behav­ior regard­ing his deci­sion. Fremd­schä­men doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Pinging the Problem

Con­nie Schultz wrote a col­umn touch­ing a bit on this, and the 20/30 Club mem­bers quot­ed by her get a bit clos­er to the point, but still miss it. I fig­ure the best way to root at this issue is to take a cou­ple of ideas from the col­umn and point out where they get derailed.

Mike Gruss thinks that “instead of spend­ing all this mon­ey and effort to keep LeBron, local leaders/celebs/billboards [should be] focused on stem­ming brain drain­ing [sic] and keep­ing oth­er peo­ple under 30.”

Good thought, but mon­ey isn’t the issue and keep­ing folks younger than me isn’t the issue.

Then there’s the folks from the 20/30 Club who say atti­tude mat­ters.

That’s the first step! But then, it sud­den­ly the 20/30 Club point morphs into wait­ing for polit­i­cal lead­ers or the City of Cleve­land to come to them. Derailed!

A Flanking Maneuver at The Big Fix

All the talk about LeBron being a neces­si­ty for this City, and the hyper­bol­ic “he’s the only thing keep­ing this town from going ghost” is sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly symp­to­matic in the Cleve­land zeit­geist. This town always looks for The Big Fix Sil­ver Bul­let Solu­tion™. Rol­do has been beat­ing this drum for longer than I’ve been alive. LeBron James, The Med­ical Mart, Gate­way, are the three that come to mind most eas­i­ly. All are/were sup­posed to save Cleve­land from Cer­tain Doom™, right?

Big fix­es aren’t the answer, or just a band-aid, or any oth­er crum­my anal­o­gy. What hap­pened with Kat­ri­na, the Hait­ian earth­quake, Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon? Thou­sands of peo­ple rushed to the sources of pain like white blood cells after an infec­tion. Thou­sands of indi­vid­ual solu­tions to the same prob­lem, work­ing simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly in con­cert.

The Real Problem

Sports fans think the Big Fix is keep­ing LeBron, the 20/30 Club thinks the Big Fix is get­ting politi­cos & pow­er play­ers to pay atten­tion to the 20/30 Club, oth­er folks think throw­ing mon­ey at this or that is the Big Fix.

Cleve­land doesn’t need a big fix, because Cleve­land ain’t broke. What’s broke are the atti­tudes of the folks who live here. It is easy to come up with ideas that spend some­one else’s mon­ey, it is easy to say that no one in pow­er pays atten­tion to you. The Real Prob­lem isn’t with Cleve­land, it is with the folks who think that Cleve­land is the prob­lem.

A Possible Solution

If there is one thing I’ve learned in this town, it is that you can’t wait for oth­ers to give you per­mis­sion, to come up with ideas, or to imple­ment them. You take ini­tia­tive. Cleve­land is a place where you have to do things your­self; a true Amer­i­can city. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s a lot of talk, but not much fol­low-through. What Cleve­land needs are the hun­dreds and thou­sands of young peo­ple men­tioned in Connie’s col­umn, plus the hun­dreds and thou­sands of every­one else to have a good atti­tude about this town, to real­ize that Cleve­land ain’t broke, and to do their part to make it a bit bet­ter any­way.

Atti­tudes mat­ter, and Cleve­landers have to stop feel­ing enti­tled to sav­ior ath­letes, enti­tled to atten­tion from those in pow­er, and enti­tled to cash mon­ey. Peo­ple haven’t been flock­ing to Port­land, OR, or Austin, TX for years because of their star ath­letes or con­ven­tion cen­ter facil­i­ties but because the peo­ple that live there are pas­sion­ate about liv­ing there.

You get what you work for, not what you beg for. So instead of beg­ging for LeBron to save us, and pay­ing folks to stand on street cor­ners hold­ing plac­ards that cheap­en the mean­ing of the words Home, Com­mit­ment and Mis­sion, we should love Cleve­land because it is home, and be com­mit­ted to the mis­sion of our com­mu­ni­ty; thou­sands of peo­ple with their own solu­tions, work­ing for each oth­er, not them­selves.

The beg­ging is just plain embar­rass­ing.