Linda and I went to Cleveland this weekend and had a wonderful time; we both needed to get away. Linda’s daughter Katie taught us how to get a good deal on a hotel via the internet: we had a nice room at the Crown Plaza City Centre Hotel – located downtown on St. Clair and East 9th – for only $40 per night with a view of Lake Erie and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from our 17th floor window.
By noon on Friday we arrived at the Westside Market, which I don’t remember from our days in Cleveland but will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Ralph would have especially loved all the meat vendors’ stalls. After lunch at the Westside Market Café we made the short drive to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, smack-dab downtown and on Lake Erie. Both of us had been there previously – in our past lives, not together – but hadn’t been able to spend the time we wanted to spend at the museum on our previous visits. This time we spent the whole afternoon there and now feel like we have finally given the museum its due. A spectacular experience for anyone who loves music. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was designed by the famous architect I. M. Pei, who also designed the renovation of the Louvre.
After checking into our hotel the need for alcohol became apparent to both of us. Old friend Wally recommended we browse a street near our hotel – East 4th Street – which has been redeveloped in recent years and features many good choices for dining. We could have walked from our hotel, and probably would have during warmer weather, but the hotel operates a shuttle for guests. Our driver – apparently a rabid Ohio State fan – thought there was something absolutely hilarious about the fact that we were from Ann Arbor. I didn’t tip him very well. After stopping at a small bar – a martini for me and a margarita for Linda – we ended up at an upscale Italian restaurant called Chinato where we split an appetizer, salad and small pizza.
Saturday was our busiest day. Breakfast was at Presti’s Bakery in Little Italy, this again at Wally’s suggestion. Little Italy is a special place and I never realized how close it was to our neighborhood when we lived in Cleveland. I wish that Detroit still had great ethnic neighborhoods within its boundaries; Cleveland appears to have quite a few other such neighborhoods in addition to Little Italy.
After breakfast we went to Lakeview Cemetery. I – or rather, Linda – located Bocky’s grave; more on this later. Lakeview is a fascinating, beautiful spot and we would love to visit again during the spring when all is in bloom. Before heading further east to South Euclid we visited Cleveland’s Botanical Gardens in the University Circle neighborhood. Linda, of course, was enthralled and I truly enjoyed it as well. We got in for free as a result of Linda working for Matthaei Botanical Gardens. My favorite exhibit was a replication of the Costa Rican rain forest, and one could even take an elevator or stairs up to the top of the tree-top canopy where butterflies and birds flitted. The gardens were probably the highlight of our trip, at least from a sightseeing perspective.
On to South Euclid with a requisite stop at Alesci’s where I loaded up on sopressatta, capicola, cheese, pasta and various sauces to the tune of $50; I’ll eat well this week at work! Before showing Linda the old neighborhood we met Wally and Vince for lunch in Richmond Heights; both were extremely gracious and asked to be remembered to you, Mom. Linda liked them, too.
L to R: Vince, Joe, Wally
After lunch with Vince and Wally I drove Linda around the old stomping grounds a bit before we headed off on another adventure, this time in a nice, re-developing neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland known as the Gordon Square/Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Linda saw a poster on a telephone pole in Little Italy advertising what she thought was a yarn store. She called the number on the poster and found out that it was really a temporary storefront offering original knit goods from the now-defunct Ohio Knitting Mills company. The storefront – located, as I recall, on Detroit at W. 65th – and the undertaking to sell these fantastic items is headed by Steven Tatar, who is also a sculptor. The company’s website describes the project as follows.
Founded by Harry Stone in 1927, the Ohio Knitting Mills grew to become one of this country’s largest knitwear producers, and was at the center of Cleveland, Ohio’s thriving garment industry. Three generations of the Stone-Rand family ran the Mill for 76 years, producing knitwear for iconic department stores from Sears to Saks, and hundreds of revered labels like Pendleton, Van Heusen, and Jack Winter.
The Ohio Knitting Mills factory took up almost an entire city block, and at its peak, employed over 1,000 workers. Their products ranged from the sublime to the everyday, and between 1947-1974 the mill’s production and creativity were at a peak, knitting up caps, capes, sweaters, shirts, vests, dresses, and pants with bold colors, inventive patterns, quality materials, innovative techniques and a good dose of a strong Midwestern work ethic.
Beginning after World War II, the Mill plucked samples of each style they produced and put them into storage. Five decades later, this archive had grown into a vast collection of remarkable design artifacts, representing mainstream fashion from the classic 40’s, fab 50’s, swinging 60’s, and funky 70’s. We’ve opened this time capsule, and offer to you our collection of perfectly preserved American fashion and industrial craftsmanship.
OK, I told you there would be more about Bocky later. Linda made it very clear that this trip was about us getting away and not about me doing research into Bocky’s murder. I agreed, but just to be safe she decreed that every time I said the “B-word” she would add $10 to the price of the cool gift she planned to find for herself. By the time we got to the retro sweater store in the late afternoon – after visiting Bocky’s grave and lunch with Wally and Vince – the kitty was plenty rich enough for her to buy a super-cool, knee-length sweater from the mid-1960s. Hey, she earned it. In fact, look how many headstones Linda had to sweep clean – nine, I didn’t bring my boots – before we hit the jackpot.
Both Wally and Steven the Sculptor recommended a restaurant called Johnny’s for Saturday night dinner; it was a short walk from our hotel so I didn’t have to deal with the jackass driver who thought everything about Ann Arbor and Michigan to be hilarious. Johnny’s was a great Italian place. I had veal scaloppini wrapped in prosciuto and Linda had the tuna nicoise salad which is featured on the menu page of Johnny’s website.
Waking early and feeling fresh on Sunday morning, we searched the internet and ended up returning to the neighborhood on the west side where Linda bought her sweater. The restaurant was called Latitude 41° North and we loved it: delicious omelets, friendly owner and staff.