Theft and Acai bowls.

When I went on a ramble about my history with utility bills, I had made mention of the fact that my family and I had just moved to a new part of the world that none of us had ever lived in, let alone visited before: the desert. Previously, we had lived in Japan as a part of the US military.

Prior to our departure from Japan, one of my former co-workers had expressed to me his hopes that the culture shock wouldn’t affect us too greatly. Naturally, I didn’t know what he was getting at so I asked him to unpack what he meant.

He legally lives in Japan and is married to a Japanese woman. What he had meant when he was expressing his hopes for my family and I was what you all probably all ready realized. My family and I had been living in Japan for three years at that point. On top of that, we were living on a military base. For the uninitiated, military base living isn’t glamorous. If anything the best part about military life was that everyone is expected to behave themselves at all times.

My coworker was aware that my family and I would be living off base for a year and amongst civilians for the first time in close to a decade. On top of that, the majority of the population that my family and I had interacted with were of Japanese descent. While the Japanese population numbers are high, the majority of the Japanese behave themselves in a respectful manner because:

  1. It’s common decency.
  2. It’s built into their culture.

My coworker had visited his own family back in the States multiple times since the beginning of his marriage. Every time he’d come back to the States, he’d have a hard time enjoying his time there because we Americans, can be a singularly self centered lot. His wish was that we have an easier time adjusting to that than he ever did.

At the time, I didn’t put much thought into what he was getting at. I was packing up my home and my employment was coming to a close. It was obviously very nice of him to show concern like that, but really, how much adjustment would we need to do?

Famous Last Words

Finding a home in the Phoenix area was proving to be a bit of a problem. This search had resulted in my wife and I making the decision to move our family into an apartment for our year in the desert. After the dust had settled from the movers cramming a four bedroom home into a three bedroom apartment, I had set about downsizing.

It wasn’t easy. And it took the better part of two months.

What a lot of single people and couples don’t seem to realize is that no matter how “minimal”  you live, you will always accumulate junk and stuff that you know that you won’t use, let alone have a need for, ever.

When you apply that to yourself, your significant other, and any children that you may have, in my case three kids, that’s a lot of stuff.

Rookie Mistake

In order to make a bit of breathing room available for myself and my family, I had made a point of storing our bikes outside of the apartment. There were bike racks all throughout the property. I figured that I ought to take advantage of it.

So I bunched all of the bikes together and locked them with the shitty, little coil locks that I had bought when we were living in Japan.

Fun Fact: In an effort to deter theft, you, regardless of your race and placement within the land of the Rising Sun, you are legally required to register your bike with the bike seller. When you do that, you fill out paperwork and have an impossible to remove, decal  placed on your bike.

I opted for the shitty locks because I was the only member of my family that rode off base regularly. On top of that, if your bike did get pinched when it was on base, 100% of the time it was by some asshole kid who went joy riding and you could always find your ride relatively close to where you “left” it.

So the bikes lived outside for those first couple of weeks.

When I managed to get the inside of the apartment into a workable shape, I broke the bunch of our bikes down from one group, into two groups. My thinking was that the kids would never ride their fucking bikes if they had to move three other bikes just to get to theirs.

Two days later, I woke up to three out of 6 of our bikes missing.

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That morning, I fully understood what my coworker was getting at.

The Morning in Question

I was the first person up. Some time during the night, my wife had gone out to the living room and had fallen asleep on the couch. Our bedroom, the master bedroom, has a sliding door that lets you out on the back porch. Our back porch is five feet away from where I had grouped and then re-grouped my family’s bikes.

Suffice it to say, when I had opened the blinds and saw that someone had helped themselves to our bikes, I was fucking pissed.

What made my discovery worse was the fact that our apartment complex is gated. There are pedestrian gates and automobile gates of which, you’d need a key, or key card to access. I had happened to regroup the bikes on the same week that the automobile gate had broken and was left in the open position. Oddly enough, this was also the same week that my wife and I had noticed a lot of “new” faces that we hadn’t seen before, or since.

Culture Shock Achievement Unlocked!

So not only did I commit a rookie mistake most foul, I also had zero proof that the three bikes stolen from us were in fact ours. Two out of the three bikes were bought in Japan. I have the receipts but everything on them is in Japanese. The third bike was bought off of my brother 20 years ago. And no, I had no photos of any of the bikes in question. Filing a police report would be useless.

After I had gotten over my anger, I was gifted with a relatively lucid thought: none of the tires had air in them and the two bikes that were bought in Japan had Japanese tubes in them. Meaning that, whoever jacked them wouldn’t be able to ride them adequately unless they replaced the tubes.

It wasn’t hopeful but I had to try. So I threw on clothes and tiptoed past my wife and out of the house without waking anyone.

The game is afoot!

I found my wife’s bicycle 30 feet from our home.

Most Japanese bikes come standard with a mounted ring lock over the back wheel. You’re not going to cut through a lock like that. On top of that, there’s no way that you can pop the lock off without crippling the bike. Our bike thieves saw this after the fact, and as a parting fuck you they had severed the brake lines and gear shifters.

Finding my wife’s bike had spurred on so I kept walking. After a thorough inspection of my apartment community, I came up empty handed. Undeterred, I widened my search to include the surrounding residential blocks.

What an Acai Bowl Is

Of course, my luck did not progress past finding my wife’s bike. It was after 8 in the morning and the temperature had all ready been climbing steadily past 90 degrees. I had looked by dumpsters, down alleyways, behind stores, and in the yards of suspicious looking homes. All for naught.

Eventually, my thoughts returned to my wife and how she’d be up by the time that I’d be back. On the scale of shitty things to wake up to, waking up to the realization that you have been the victim of petty theft, is a shitty thing to wake up to.

“So why not soften that fact with breakfast?”, I thought.

And then I remembered the Acai Bowl place, Berry Divine. We had been back in the country just shy of two months. Neither of us knew what an Acai bowl was at that point. Even if it was shit, at least she’d have breakfast, right?

It wasn’t shit.

Basically, an acai is a berry. What Berry Divine does is freeze a bunch of the berries. Then they serve it in two forms: soft serve or… I don’t know what they other one is because I have always gotten the soft serve. There’s different types of bowls that you can get that have different types of fruits, nuts, grains, and sauces. The point is that Acai bowls are good.

After being indoctrinated into desert hippie culture, I proceeded to make the sweaty march back to our apartment in order to deliver the “good news” to my wife.

Every step that I took back to our apartment served as a reminder of my naive tendencies. As I got closer to home I began to notice all of the obviously homeless men and women who had bikes of their own. Makes you wonder where they got those bikes from, doesn’t it? As I reentered our property, I began to notice all of the bike racks on the property that had no bikes in them. Sure it was hot as fuck at that point in the year, but I can see now that there were probably other reasons for the lack of pedal power.

To her credit, my wife took the news a lot better than I did. I’d like to think that waking up to breakfast helped but I know that of the two of us, she’s the more realistic of us when it comes to matters like this.

Later that day, my wife and I went to Target and purchased real bike locks that couldn’t be cut off or hacked through. Having the worst of it behind me, I regrouped the bikes into one lump and locked them up.

A week later, I went to assess the status of the bikes that were left behind. I had had time to cool off plus I figured that some general maintenance was in order. In that time, someone had come back to helped themselves to the front tire of one of the remaining bikes. Fuck you, Tempe.

In the end

My coworker was dead on when he spoke to me of culture shock. None of the aforementioned bullshit would have happened in Japan, let alone on an armed forces base. The worst part about the whole experience wasn’t having the bikes stolen nor was it blowing smoke up my kids asses about where my bikes went.

The worst part about the whole ordeal was the realization that it was all my fault. I should have known better. I should have paid attention to the bums on bikes and the lack of bikes in our general area and put security ahead of unpacking. But I didn’t. I don’t think that I can be blamed, right?

It Starts with Butts #1

What follows is a smaller section from a story that I had to abandon. Be nice, please, and thank you for reading!


Lena Cage hailed from a long line of people who owned, grew, and operated great butts. While it may seem a rather ribald detail to offer about someone, it is in fact that truth.

The butts that composed the Cage family operated healthfully in the normal fashion.

They provided ample cushioning when sat upon.

They passed waste like champion derrieres.

They provided hours of amusement including but not limited to: slapping, pinching, poking, farting, farting on ill-natured people, and consensual acts of sodomy (between peoples of appropriate ages) after the Supreme Court ruled the anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2004.

At present, Lena’s bum was rather tender.

She had been in car for some time with her mother and brother. They had been collecting and organizing a caravan to Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in North Olmsted.

Today was the day that they were going to inter Lena’s father.

They had just picked up Lena’s grandmother, her mother’s mother, and were on there way to pick up an Aunt that Lena never had anything to do with who lived close by the cemetery.

“You know, there’s still time to give the Old Man a proper Viking funeral… You know: light him on fire and let the birds pick over what’s left from the pyre” Lena said.

Her brother chuckled.

Mom didn’t say anything. She looked like she was having a hard enough time piloting the car.

Granny clucked her tongue in disapproval as she tried to mortar her ass around from the front passenger seat to properly give Lena the skunk-eye.

Ever since Lena was a small child, she could not figure out the point of funerals. She understood that people die on a regular basis. But what the actual point of getting a bunch of people together in a poorly decorated room to cry over the absence of someone they loved escaped her even today. It didn’t produce immediate closure. It didn’t make sense.

The closest that Lena ever got to solving this mystery of life was when she realized that people on a very large scale, are selfish.

They want things. They want what the advertisers (regardless of where they see the advertisements) tell them that they want. They want what their neighbors have. They want what other family members have, even if it is something that is a part of the person’s personality.

With funerals, people are selfish because they seemingly want to feel miserable about missing the recently deceased.

Why else would funeral homes still be in business?

In most cultures even today there is no ‘big ceremony’.

In certain areas of India along the Ganges, it takes time before the body of a deceased family member is disposed of properly.

In Tibet, the body of the deceased is taken to a mountaintop where it will eventually become fodder for the birds and other animals. The beautiful part about this was that this practice was commonly referred to as a ‘sky burial’.

When she was in high school, Lena read about the life of Korean families during the time of the Korean War.

Since most families were poor, they typically stayed together. That is, they didn’t separate like American families when a child becomes a legal adult. When there was a birth in a Korean family, the oldest member of the family would take a jug of water and go down to the banks of the local river and wait to die.

Lena saw that there was a beautiful kind of poetry in the idea of the oldest member of a family sacrificing (for lack of a better word) their own life so that the youngest, newest member of a family could have a solid chance.

Still in the process of mortaring her ass so she could give Lena her what-for’s, Lena couldn’t help but compare this ideal to the life that her Grandmother has led thus far.

By all accounts, Grandma was a nice person. To people outside of the family, she would be pleasant, engaging, and hospitable even.

To people who were family, who knew how she was and what she had been through, she would continue to uphold the facade that she would for outsiders but there was always an underlying tone in her voice that would convey that Grandma didn’t give a shit about anything else other than the next family get-together and if everyone, even the really distant relations, was going to be there.

As the years bore on, Granny’s attitude worsened.

Retired, and with nothing to do, Grandma sat around feeling like a privileged senior citizen.

She came from the point in time when you worked at a job you hated so that you could support your family and so that you could eventually retire from the very job you hated. What the people of her generation failed to realize is that you needed to be active. You needed to be mentally engaged. If you weren’t, everything atrophied: Inside of your body and outside of it as well.

As much as it pained her to admit this, Lena couldn’t fault the woman for how she turned out to be.

Lena’s grandmother came from a time when women were responsible for the children, the house and everything that has to do with it and above all else, the happiness of the husband.

Lena could never understand why most women of that day and age accepted that kind of life.

‘Its practically stone age thinking’, Lena thought to herself.

Ever since Lena could walk, her parents knew that she was an independent spirit.

Since Lena’s first day of school, she knew that she, and she alone was responsible for her own happiness. The idea that it was the woman’s job, the woman’s place in life, to make sure that her husband was happy (instead of the husband being smart enough, being man enough, to be in charge of his own happiness) lest she get beaten for doing a poor job of any of it, raised Lena’s hackle’s.

Lena knew that her Grandmother had suffered that fate for a long time. Her grandfather was dead long before Lena had been born. Lena could only imagine what he would have thought of her should he had been alive during her time.

Regardless of her Grandmother’s personal history, Lena couldn’t help but cringe at the idea that she shares the same genes as this person. Here’s a woman that is in the winter of her life. When she retired, she sat on her ass so much her legs atrophied nearly to the point of complete uselessness, and then she decided to go out and get a job.

Just so that she could have something to do. But that wasn’t enough for Grandmother. Eventually, she retired from that job and with nothing else to do, she became the Matron of her family that no one wanted her to be.

It borders on the point of ridiculousness. If Lena isn’t on her A-game at family functions, she’ll get cornered by her Grandmother and will have to suffer through the endless one-way conversation slog about cousins and distant relations that Lena never gave a shit.

Granny had succeeded in turning around so that she could properly give her granddaughter the nasty look that the ‘Viking’ comment had merited.

Looking at her Grandmother, Lena tried to force her facial muscles into something of a smile. She was out of practice. She hadn’t done much of it since her father had passed away.

“This woman would never take the jug of water and sit down by the river waiting for Death”, Lena hissed to her brother.

 

Two Edwards.

What follows is a section from a longer, abandoned story. Be nice, please. 


At no one point in his life did Edward Roache ever contemplate getting stabbed in the ass.

But it happened.

And it fucking hurt.

Edward was a quiet young man. He often blamed his parents for that.

Prior to Edward’s birth, his parents had been married for quite some time. At his mother’s behest, Ed Sr. got on board with the idea of having a child regardless of the fact that they were in their late 30’s at the time.

Given the Roache’s rapidly advancing age, Ed was their only heir.

Edward’s singularity, combined with the fact that they didn’t live in a neighborhood brimming with children that young Ed could play with, coupled with the fact that older, first-time parents seldom realize what they have fully gotten themselves into, did not provide Ed with the oral ferocity that most people from his generation are armed with.

Midway through Edward’s formative years, Mrs. Roache saw fit to remove herself from the lives of her two Edwards. Since Edward’s birth, Esme Roach had been nursing the thought that being a parent, for her, was a mistake.

She loved both of them. She really did. But she couldn’t reconcile the fact that her peers, other women her age, were enjoying their lives. While there are some enjoyable aspects of being a parent and raising a child, Esme couldn’t convince herself that the work that needed to be put into being a passable parent was the reward that she was looking for.

So she left.

Ed Sr. did the best that he could do. This was no small feat considering the fact that Ed Sr. never had a father of his own. His parents, (Ed Jr.’s grandparents) had divorced when Ed Sr. was very young. This was before divorce had become as commonplace as it is today. Combine that with the fact that he hailed from a point in time where men didn’t really have anything to do with their own children (because it was considered ‘the woman’s job’) and you have a middle aged man trying to complete a marathon when he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

What no one realized at the time was the fact that his parents put Edward on a slippery slope. When a family goes through a trauma like divorce, children either shut down and wait for the dust to settle or they act out because they don’t truly understand what is going on.

In Ed’s case, it was the former.

 

Ed didn’t mind being ‘the quiet one’.

Everyone else outside of the Roache family thought otherwise.

Edward could come across as cold, intimidating, and sometimes rude, all by keeping his mouth shut. It didn’t matter how many times he assured people that everything was fine, that he enjoyed listening to them talk (for the most part), that he just didn’t like talking. Everyone, at some point, left Edward alone and moved on to someone more ‘entertaining’.

That is not to say that Edward’s life was the life of a hermit. There were a few friends here and there that stuck by him and that he opened up to even if it did take him years to do so. There was even “a” girlfriend for a very brief period of time.

As a teen, the one thing that sucked for Edward the most about being raised by his father was the loneliness.

Everything changes when you are a teenager. Your outlook on the idea of family and how you look at your family, how you see the world and your place in it: for teenagers, it’s really easy to get sucked into those handful of moments that make you feel like a drop of ink in a bowl of milk.

What all teens fail to realize is that the real trick lies in knowing that it’s going to be ok.

Everything will be fine.

Friends are going to come and go. It’s ok to have a lot of them.

Life is change. It can’t be avoided for long.

If there were one insight that Edward had wished his parents imparted on him at that time of his life, it would have been that.

Now in his 20’s, Ed realized that his struggle with the idea of change was his cross to bear.

 

As he grew up, Ed was never able to shake the feeling that his mother left because she couldn’t love anyone more than she loved herself. She had enjoyed her moments with Edward when it was her weekend to have him. But that enjoyment was usually dwarfed by her moments of unbelievable self-centeredness.

The last time that he saw her, she had made mention about the day that she found out that she was pregnant with him. She was at the doctor’s office and the nurse who was examining Esme offered her the ‘morning-after’ pill.

“Why didn’t you take it?” Ed asked as a vague feeling of numbness crept up on him.

Shame and a slight twinge of regret flitted across Esme’s face.

“I thought about it, but I couldn’t do it. I wanted to be a mom”, she told him.

That was the last time that they had talked. It’s been over a year. He found an odd sort of comfort in the fact that he was nearly an abortion.

Blind as most twenty-something’s are, Ed didn’t realize until years later that there were traces of his mother present in every female that he was romantically linked with.

The last relationship that Edward was in started at college.

It was the 2nd semester of his first year. Rebecca was outside with a bunch of her friends, one of whom Ed had gone to grade school with. Everyone was smoking. Back then it was still considered fashionable to be an angst-ridden 20-something with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth.

Ed was smitten with Rebecca before he had lit his first cigarette.

She was short, had a head full of teeth, and a type of feminine confidence that he had never encountered before.

Rebecca became a substitute for the hole in his life that his parent’s had never bothered to patch.

Ed did everything in his power to be a part of this young woman’s life: emailing, instant messaging, calling, practically stalking… It was pathetic. What he didn’t realize until it was too late was that he was trying to make someone love him who didn’t want to love him.

This occupied 2 years of Ed Roache’s life.

Ed knew he was working way too hard and getting nowhere. He couldn’t help himself.

Rebecca saw this but she didn’t want to decide how she really felt about him.

Eventually, they both agreed to just be friends.

After some time, ‘Friends’ became ‘friends with benefits’.

‘Friends with benefits’, finally, gave way to being a ‘couple’.

Ed’s happiness knew no bounds. He finally got ‘the girl’. He accomplished the one thing that he had invested a significant portion of his life in. Ironically, his accomplishment was awarded to him as soon as he stopped trying.

Ed should have known that things were wrong when she told him that their relationship had to be secret. At the time, she was still living with her parents. She had just gotten out of a relationship and her parents would never let her live it down if they had found out.

“What’s the big deal about that?” Ed asked.

“I have a habit of relationship-hopping,” she admitted.

Like the big, dumb, idiot Ed was, he allowed it. The satisfaction in knowing that they belonged to each other was enough for him, even if they did have to hide it.

In all romantic relationships, there is a certain level of OCD that permeates the first couple of months. For the first couple of months, the only thing that matters is being with the other person. Responsibilities? Those can wait. Outside interests? The only thing that is interesting is the other person. Living for your self? How can you live at all without them?

Eventually, that initial obsession wears off allowing reality to set in. Reality officially takes hold when you finally see all of the things, even the shortcomings, you had missed from the very start.

What Ed didn’t see at first was that Rebecca treated him like garbage. Oogling other guys in front of him, always hanging out with her friends and never his, never showing an interest in the things that Ed was interested in: it was bad.

On top of that, they never had sex.

Ever.

They did the normal things that boys and girls learn to do to each other in high school but it never progressed past that because she was a virgin who was saving herself for marriage as dictated by her faith (that being Catholic).

Hindsight has shown Edward that Rebecca’s virginity was part of her allure. She was vocal about it. She was not ashamed. And it was something that most definitely would not leave her until marriage.

This is not to say that Edward thought that he could change that.

Every person currently on the face of the Earth relishes being a ‘virginity thief’. At some point, every one has been a part of such thievery. Edward is no exception to this.

It took Edward the better part of a year to see his relationship with Rebecca for what it was: a thing that shouldn’t have happened.

It wasn’t until their first Christmas as a couple that Edward realized just how miserable Rebecca was.

She didn’t know what to do with her life and she didn’t know how to deal with the fact that she was legally ‘a grown up’. Like most twenty-year-olds who are too chicken-shit to acknowledge that they are their own problem, Rebecca responded to her own inadequacy by taking her frustrations out on the people around her.

Specifically, Edward.

Ed had been taking the brunt of her emotional turmoil for fear that she would stop loving him.

Ed became thoroughly sick of her shit shortly after the New Year.

So he made up his mind to break it off with her.

After returning home from breaking up with Rebecca, the person that he had spent a significant portion of his life chasing, Ed climbed the flight of stairs that led to his bedroom.

It was late.

Ed Sr. was all ready asleep.

Ed was greeted by their boxer, Crankshaft.

Ed’s mind was reasonably elsewhere.

As he tiptoed up the stairs to his bedroom, his eyes drifted naturally towards the ankle-high laundry chute door just outside the door to his room.

Thoughts began to float across his mind. The days of when he was a lonely child who used to tie twine around his G.I. Joe’s and have them jump down the shoot, the other end tied to the handle of the metal shoot door… using the chute as an echo chamber to distort his voice… hollering down it to communicate with someone in the basement… All of these memories bubbled to the surface.

For as lonely a child as he was, he was pretty happy.

At the top of the stairs now, Ed caught site of Crankshaft, as he was about to go into his room for the night.

Ed looked at the dog.

Crankshaft looked back at him like he knew what was wrong.

Ed really needed a hug.

“Come here, Cranky” Ed whispered.

The dog dutifully obliged.

When the dog got to the top of the landing, Ed proceeded to squat down, and felt the corner of the cold metal of the laundry chute door bite into his left ass cheek.

Trying not to knock the two of them down the stairs, Ed hugged the dog, went into his room, and laughed himself to sleep.

Tremont Arts Festival

Here lies the very first article that I wrote for an online publication. The original article can be found here. 


On Saturday September 17th and Sunday, September 18th, Tremont will be hosting their 13th annual arts and cultural festival at Lincoln Park. The park is located at 1208 Starkweather Avenue. Saturday the Festival starts at 11am and ends at 6pm. Sunday the festivities begin at 12pm and end at 5pm.

According to the Tremont West Development Corporation web site, “The mission of the Festival is to celebrate the cultural and artistic diversity of Tremont and Greater Cleveland by encouraging the artistic and cultural endeavors of its visual and performing artists”.

What you can expect is food, music, dance and poetry performances, art your children can participate in as well as art that you can purchase.

On the surface, it may seem that the goal of this festival is to raise money solely through merchandising. This is not the case. After speaking with Festival Manager Scott Rosenstein I learned about the beginnings and overall intent of this festival.

In September of 1999, Rosenstein, along with several other residents, (notably Jean Brandt, founder of the Brandt Gallery, Tremont’s longest running art gallery) started this grass roots promotion of area artists.

When questioned about the popularity of the festival over the past 13 years, Rosenstein feels that he is subjectively pious. Folks really look forward to it and Artists reactions to it have been favorable. Many of them have participated multiple times. This is with good reason, too. It is standard procedure for the artists to submit a survey regarding their experience in the festival. Over the past two years, well more than half of the artists have had positive experiences with the park layout, the amount of sales they have made and the level of help they have received from the event staff.

Speaking as a former resident, I have often wondered what it was that attracted artists to Tremont.

Initially, I thought that it was the churches. It’s the first thing that even a casual observer would notice. There are a lot of churches in this neighborhood. It doesn’t even matter which direction you from. I-71, I-90, I-490… All of them have a church within view. According to “Cleveland on Foot” by Patience Hoskins, there are 25 multi-denominational churches within 1 square mile of this neighborhood.

After speaking with Mr. Rosenstein as well as doing some research of my own, I have come to the conclusion that it is the combination of the religious presence of the area as well as the history of Tremont.

Take the site of this weekends festival, Lincoln Park, for example. In 1850, Mrs. Thirsa Pelton originally bought the site with the intention of opening a girl’s school. Unfortunately, she died before the school could be built. As a result, her heirs surrounded the park with a fence and locked the gates. In response to this action, Tremont residents repeatedly tore the fence down because they felt that this was an area that should be open to the public. Bitter litigation ensued further resulting in the city’s purchase of the park. The residents celebrated the opening of Pelton Park on July 4, 1880 with a barbecue and additional festivities. It wasn’t until 1896 that the park was renamed Lincoln Park.

The history of this community runs deeper than most people, locals included, seem to realize.

The original settlers of the neighborhood we now know as Tremont hailed from New England. These people were economically better off than most and they were in search of an area outside of downtown Cleveland to build their homes. They settled in Tremont in 1818.

In 1851, these same settlers, through a remarkably nebulous set of circumstances, decided that the area known as present-day Tremont would be the future site of Cleveland University. Initially, classes began in an off-site location due to the fact that the future of the school depended on said proposed site. It was the intent that this area was to be named University Heights. Hence, the names of the streets like Literary, Professor, College, etc.

After a full year of operation resulting in the awarding of 8 degrees, attendance declined rapidly during the fall of 1852. By 1853, the idea of Cleveland’s first university was abandoned. Supposedly this was the result of a personality clash between members of the board of trustees.

8 years later, the Civil War started.

While it’s fairly obvious where the war occurred very few people realize that Cleveland was the site of one of the largest Civil War camps. In July of 1862, Camp Cleveland was organized and located in the area that is presently known as W. 5th, W. 7th, Railway Avenue and Marquardt Ave. For three years, the camp housed visiting units, confederate prisoners, and served as the training ground for 15,230 officers. The camp closed shortly after the end of the war in August of 1865.

Facts like these seem to be easily kicked to the side when it comes to the rejuvenation of a local area. While it is good on many levels that this sort of rejuvenation happens, people become more concerned about the trend that a local area produces as opposed to the history of that area.

There really is no happy balance between the two.

Personally, I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of us had to suffer some very terrible history teachers throughout our formal education. We’ve been conditioned on some level to think that history is boring.

History isn’t boring. It, like everything else in life, is what you make of it.

Tremont is a testament to this.

With its flourishing restaurant scene, the economical growth that has been stimulated by shopping area known as Steelyard Commons, and its budding art scene, Tremont is well on its way to being a hotbed of Culture in Cleveland.


The following was an article that I wrote for an online publication. The original article can be found here. 

The Price of Sacrifice.

What follows is one of my first short stories. That was rejected by everyone. Be nice, please. 


Early on, before Vanessa was born, Saul came to the conclusion that the only thing he had to do to be successful as a parent was to do the exact opposite of what his parents did.

It worked.

Any gaps that were left from his parenting philosophy were filled in instinctively.

He knew he would do anything to protect Vanessa. She was the second female (his wife being the first) that he ever fell in love with.

As time went on, Saul proved himself to be an exemplary father. He attended all of the necessary school functions. He gave ‘Ness advice that he thought a father should give and he was always there for her, keeping her tethered to the ground.

As Ness entered womanhood, her relationship with Saul became a little more distant. It felt natural so Saul didn’t question it. She could only exist as his little girl in his mind now and Saul was ok with that. Vanessa kept in touch with her parents, especially her mother. Admittedly, Saul felt a little put out by this but he didn’t mind. Whatever they were talking about, he knew it was only something his wife could be there for and he was ok with that.

One day Saul came home to find his wife and his daughter sitting at the kitchen table.

His daughter was the first to say anything.

“Hi Daddy,” she said getting up from the table to hug him.

“Hey there, puddin’ pop”.

He could see that Vanessa and her mother had been crying. In the gap of time between saying ‘hello’ and his daughter moving from the table to hug him, nausea swallowed Saul whole. As she went to put her arms around him, that’s when he saw it: A bruise like a small nebula, hidden underneath a small fortune of make-up. Breaking the embrace, He looked from the small nebula to the depths of his daughter’s eyes.

“Did Kenny do this to you?” he seethed.

A venomous rage filled Saul’s soul and made him deaf to the story that his daughter told him. It made him ignorant to any protestations. It poisoned him and began to corrode his being like a flame devouring a dry forest.

He told them what he thought they needed to hear. He knew what needed to be done.

 

Before dawn the next day, Saul found himself in the parking lot of an apartment building. In the apartment building resided Kenny who turned his only daughter, a grown woman, into a little girl again.

Saul sat in his car, still drowning in that tidal wave of anger. He knew that Vanessa needed to feel safe, that she was loved and that this would never, ever happen again. Saul was glad to give her that even if he wasn’t going to go about it the right way.

Saul’s thoughts evaporated as he saw Kenny exit his apartment building.

It was like Saul wasn’t in control of his body anymore: exiting his car, closing the door without making too much noise, none of it registered in his mind. All he could think about was the bile rising in his throat and closing the gap between him and Kenny.

As the distance shortened, Saul fumbled with something in his coat pocket. It all went so horribly fast.

“Excuse me!” Saul called.

Kenny paused by their car, door left slightly ajar.

“Do I know you?” Kenny asked.

“In a manner of speaking, you do. You do know me”.

Kenny had both hands at their side now. They had that far away look on their face that everyone gets when they are trying to make their brain do something it doesn’t want to do.

The dawn of recognition rose on Kenny’s face.

Recognition was followed quickly by Surprise as Saul lunged toward Kenny with a fully charged taser crackling.

Dancing around like a tangled marionette for a few seconds, Kenny bounced off of his car and collapsed onto the ground beside it.

Saul was proud of himself.

He considered the environment for a moment. With considerable strain, Saul wedged the top half of Kenny din his car, while the lower half of his body lay outside of the car.

There was no turning back. The only reality left was that Saul had a job to finish.

A muffled thud crawled up the walls of the apartment building as Saul swung the door shut. The marionette jumped from the shock of the door cutting into flesh.

He opened the door again.

He thought of the pain and fear he saw in his daughter’s eyes; another muffled thud, another jump from the lifeless marionette.

Winded now, Saul was doubled over from the effort.

“Lot less blood than I would’ve thought,” he said aloud.

Groaning as he tried to stand up straight again, Saul put both hands on the door and raised his head to the sky.

“All I ever wanted was for her to be safe and happy. And you ruined that. You ruined that for all of us”.

He brought his head back down to the mess before him.

A dark rage bloomed across his face.

Saul opened the door as far as he could.

A loud crunch echoed off of the walls of the apartment building. Saul was flat on his back besides the car.

 

Saul didn’t realize it at the time, but he was dreaming.

A dying light existed outside of his scope of vision. Saul looked down at a cup in his hand. He regarded it with a benign wisdom.

His surroundings unfolded before him.

Everything that had happened in this dream was like watching a ballroom dance under water, graceful and distorted.

A damp chilled crawled through Saul’s mind as he realized that he was in a cave of loose stone. In the distance he could see that the cave was part of a tunnel system and that he was at a dead end.

Turning his attention back to the cup in his hand, Saul raised the bottom of the cup to his lips and he began to blow. The sound that the cup produced sounded like the horns of war.

A shadow stirred at the end of the tunnel.

Growing in size as it moved down the tunnel, Saul still couldn’t see what was producing the shadow. An eternity passed before Saul finally saw what horrors awaited him.

It was a spider. Nothing more.

Even though it wasn’t more than two inches in diameter, Saul could see that there was something wrong with it. It just looked angry.

Without provocation, the spider picked up the closest sharp object it could find and proceeded to jab at Saul’s ankles.

Saul couldn’t help but laugh at this. Out of all of the possibilities that Saul could have faced, he got a spider that was trying to kill him by human means.

It wasn’t long before the novelty wore off for Saul.

“You’re not long for this world,” Saul’s subconscious intoned to the spider.

With several clumsy movements, Saul picked up the nearest stone and put an end to this nonsense.

To his astonishment, there was a halo of fluid and a tangle of legs radiating outward from the stone.

The legs were still twitching.

The spider that was only a couple of inches in diameter was infinitely larger than Saul could ever comprehend.

Crouching now, Saul scratched the back of his head in confusion.

He pulled his hand away from his head in shock.

It was wet with blood.

Tired of this confused ballroom dance, Saul made for the surface of the dream before his body caved in on itself.

 

It took him a second to realize where he was laying.

“Fuck. Musta’ passed out,” he thought.

Saul propped himself up on his elbows and did a quick scan of the parking lot. There were still only two cars in it, and he was lying next to one of them.

He exhaled a sigh of relief at the thought that luck was in his favor.

Scooting himself next to the car, Saul sat himself up next to the rear wheel on the driver’s side.

Running his hands over his body in search of any adrenaline-dulled cuts or broken bones, he couldn’t help but feel like a damn fool.

“I’m an old man. Old men aren’t supposed to get into situations like this. They’re supposed to manipulate the younger guys to do this shit for them,” he thought.

The only thing left for him to do was to finish what he started.

Saul positioned himself next to the open driver’s side door. Occupying the empty space between the door and the rest of the car the lower half of a Person.

“People seriously underestimate the amount of force necessary to slam a car door on someone,” Saul said out loud.

His head went into his hands.

“Why… Why did you have to be so stupid?” Saul said to the body lying next to him.

Realizing that he would have plenty of time to feel sorry for himself if were to get picked up by the cops, Saul made his first attempts at getting up and dusting himself off since he had woken up.

The parking lot was located behind one part of the apartment building. At the very edge of the property was a swimming pool. Both were connected by a couple of flights of stairs at the far end of the parking lot.

It was a stretch, but Saul didn’t have any other choice.

He sighed. The weight of what he had done was starting to compress his soul. He pulled a modest flask from his pocket and took a snoot full to steady his nerves.

He had just killed Someone. This was somebody’s Child.

Using his foot as leverage against the car, he grabbed the body with both hands and pulled for all he was worth.

For a brief second there was nothing but a ball of arms and legs floating in mid air.

Saul was flat on his back again, the body on top of him.

A small moan came from somewhere in the jumble.

This Person wasn’t dead.

With a quick shove, the body turned into a mass of angles and curves by the rear wheel of the car with Saul scrambling to his feet.

60 seconds went by before Saul had anything in his head that resembled a coherent thought.

The sun, piercing and clear, was beginning to rise. Saul saw the bright side of this situation.

Crouching over the body now, he whispered in its ear, “You should’ve known better”. Saul smiled for the first time in what felt like a thousand years.

He opened the body’s mouth and poured half of his flask’s contents down the hatch, the rest he dumped on the body’s clothes. With all of the spluttering and gagging, Saul couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that Kenny looked like a fish on dry land.

With a ferocious kick to the head, Saul put all of that nonsense to an end.

“Is everything all right?” called a sleepy voice from one of the apartment windows above.

“What’s that?” Saul called up, feigning confusion.

“I said, is everything all right down there?” the voice said.

“My —– just had a little too much to drink. I’m just trying to get ‘em into their apartment to sleep it off,” Saul called up jovially.

“Good luck with that…” the voice mumbled down.

Saul smiled and waved as he began to crouch down to assist his “son“. Saul knew that even if he were completely screwed, he still had to move fast.

Grabbing Kenny by the foot, Saul dragged them the entire length of the parking lot. Saul paused at the top of the stairs to catch his breath.

The stairs that led down to the pool cascaded before Saul’s eyes. As he positioned Kenny for the final shove, Saul noticed a slight tingling in his right arm.

With what little strength Saul had left, he shoved the jumbled mass down the flight of stairs that led to the pool.

“So that’s what ass-over-tea-kettle looks like,” Saul thought as the body made it’s descent.

The body landed at the foot of the stairs. One more drag and Saul was almost home free. As he walked down the stairs to the pool, Saul noticed the tingling in his arm had become a full-fledged pain.

Saul dragged Kenny to the edge of the pool and pushed.

The body slid in with a whisper.

Saul began to head back to his car, arm howling and the pressure closing in around his chest.

Getting into his car and driving away, the world seemed to swim around him.

Was he dreaming?

He didn’t remember making it home.

He didn’t remember his wife refusing to leave his bedside.

He didn’t remember his daughter crying.

When he woke, Saul knew that he was in a hospital. He knew why he was in the hospital. And he knew why he was handcuffed to his bed. Even though his girls weren’t around at the moment, he knew that things would turn out all right. With a tired sigh, Saul closed his eyes one last time.

 

The Girl in the Window.

What follows is one of my first short stories. Be nice, please. 


            Bertram Ward had no trouble finding an apartment after he graduated college. What Bert was having trouble with was reconciling the fact that his apartment was just as unremarkable as his life at the moment.

It was a one-room efficiency in one of those towns that always lauded itself as a “good place to raise a family”. The only saving grace of this over-sized dorm room was that the entire wall opposite of the entry way was fitted with one big window. You could get a nice view of the street if you craned your neck and you could always “people watch” courtesy of the apartments across the way, but that was really it as far as having a ‘view’.

One early evening a few weeks after he had moved in, Bert stood at that very window. A pang of loneliness echoed through his soul. His gaze wandered over to the apartments across the way. The neighboring building was practically identical to his own building in structure.

“Probably owned by the same company,” Bert said out loud, trying to make himself feel less lonely.

A flurry of movement caught Bert’s eye. A young woman who lived in the building across from Bert tore open her blinds.

Startled, Bert busied himself with nothing in particular in the off chance that the young lady across the way saw him and branded him as ‘the creepy guy who lives in the building across the way’.

The girl in the window had long curly dark hair, the appearance of being in good health, and (this is the thing that killed Bert) she was smiling: It drove him absolutely bananas. Was she happy to let the little bit of light in? Was she aware that she had an admirer across the way?

“Who in the hell smiles when they open the blinds at night?” he thought.

Bert immediately began hatching a scenario that would put the two of them in the same room.

            [He could see it now.

            He would walk into her building like he owned the largest pair of balls in the world and attempt to chat up her doorman.

            “Hi there! My name is Bert Ward and I live in the building next door.”

The doorman didn’t cease reading his paper.

“I was wondering if you could tell me about one of the tenants here? She lives on the 8th floor? Has long, dark hair?”

The doorman replied by letting loose with a fart that could only be the result of a half of a century’s of poor diet and hard living. He followed this up with meticulously folding his paper and staring through Bert at the clock behind him.

“Sorry to have bothered you” Bert mumbled as he did an about face and headed back to his room.]           

            The chime of his watch brought him back to reality.

He’d have to be satisfied with the knowledge that he now has something pretty to look at.

“It’s time for bed, anyway” he thought.

 

Weeks went by.

Bert established a routine: Work, home, minimal social contact, rinse, lather, repeat. Every night ended the same way. Bert would look out his window, watching the sky change colors, waiting for her to open her blinds. His day wouldn’t be complete without her.

At this point in Bert’s life, he’s done everything that a single white male was supposed to do. The banality of life after college was keeping Bert from a good night’s sleep.

Maybe a little look into the past would have yielded an answer to his sleeplessness. Maybe all he needed was to be needed at the end of the night. While Bert always shielded himself with the idea that some people are meant to be alone, the idea of having someone as an anchor, someone as a constant resonated with him on a subconscious level.

 

It was another sleepless night. Lying on his back now, Bert stared at a lone bar of light splayed across his ceiling from a gap between his curtains.

Bert knew that a lot of the current knowledge about rest and the nature of sleep was bullshit anyways. Make your bedroom for sleep, only. Only go to bed when you are tired. What you eat affects how you sleep.

Utter garbage. Sleep, as weird of an activity as it is, is a choice. If you want to sleep, you have to really want it. This was a theory Bert put into practice when he attended junior college. To fellow classmates, he was known as “one of the Dwarves”. It didn’t matter what was going on at all, Bert had no trouble sleeping wherever he fucking pleased: his car, the quad in the middle of the grounds (affectionately known as “cancer corner” from the amount of people out there smoking on a regular basis) the cafeteria… It didn’t matter. Bert used all of the white noise around him as a lullaby.

Still lying on his back now, staring at that errant bar of light, Bert truly missed those days. All he wanted to do was to get at least one night of good sleep. He wasn’t asking for a whole hell of a lot, was he?

“I can’t win,” Bert groaned.

The red analog clock in his ‘kitchen’ tick-tocked 5:13 am.

After having a piss that rivaled the output most waterfalls, Bertram couldn’t help himself; he had to see if she was awake.

Cursory glances, double paned glass and a distance of 100 feet could only tell a person so much. Regardless, a part of Bert knew that it was love keeping him up at night.

Throwing open the curtains with a great flourish, Bert stood there for a minute taking in the sky as it was affected by the rising sun.

All reds, oranges and blues, Bert felt a calm wash over him. It was like watching a rapidly changing bruise that didn’t end with that sickly yellowish green hue that all bruises ended with.

After the moment passed, Bert proceeded to flop on his bed and wait.

He knew it wouldn’t feel right if he didn’t start it with her.

Bert threw another glance at the clock. 5:19 am.

“C’mon hon. I’m going to be late,” Bert said to himself.

It never dawned on him that he only saw her when the sun was going down.

She appeared a few seconds later.

Something was wrong this time.

Her smile was gone.

She stood at her window, wrapped head to toe in a blanket, taking in the sky much like Bert did.

There was a sad drop of knowledge in the rest of her face.

“What’s wrong, babe?” Bert said creeping towards the window.

“Didn’t sleep good?” The window fogged at his question.

The girl in the window looked up and locked eyes with Bertram. Jumping at the fact that he had been ‘caught’, Bert tried to play it off like he was trying to get the window open a crack but it was stuck.

She smirked at a little at this.

Bert let his eyes travel back to her. He noticed that her window was open.             He waved at her.

Her smirk bloomed into a smile.

Unable to take his eyes from her, Bert watched on in horror as she climbed up on the window ledge and jumped to the ground below.

Bert collapsed in shock.

He looked like a comma without a sentence.

 

Throughout any person’s life, a wide range of emotions and feelings can be experienced. The more basic feelings that have to do with the senses are the ones that we just barely experience. We cannot say that we know what it means to be truly hot unless someone lights a fire in our flesh just as much as we can’t really say we know what it means to feel cold unless we freeze to death.

There is always some small part of our existence that will fight to keep those things balanced. When Bertram saw that last, little wisp of hair disappear from his view, all sense went with it.

Curled on the floor now in front of his window, Bertram felt the cold that fear brought with it.

“WHAT DID YOU DO??” he sobbed.

Why? Why was the only word going through his head.

Sitting up now, “there’s no way that I saw that. There’s…. there’s just no way. I’m just… just really tired.”

His mind was drowning. Without realizing it, Bert stood up with his back to the window, composing himself. Taking another deep breath to steady himself, he turned around to face the world on the other side of the pane of glass.

She was still standing there. Her window was closed and she was in the apartment. She was smiling that same smile that Bert fell in love with.

Tearing at the window latches, Bert threw the windows open and looked into the alley below. His mind shut down at what he saw.

There was a body floating a top a lake of blood. Dotting the perimeter of the corpse were various medical rescue professionals, a handful of Nosey Nellie’s and a couple of policemen looking up to his window.

They couldn’t (didn’t) see him.

It was Bert’s body.

Bertram Ward was dead. He was dead and he didn’t know it.

The fear that had landed on him when he thought that she had jumped was now fighting for purchase against the warmth of knowledge.

He tore his gaze away from the scene that unfolded below them. She was still looking at him. She was still smiling at him.

He wanted to cry but he knew that the tears wouldn’t come.

She waved him over.

Bert closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he was sitting in her apartment window.

She stood in front of him. Instinctively checking to make sure he wasn’t damaging her blinds, he was surprised to see… that there were no blinds.

There was no furniture.

It was a completely bare apartment.

He looked to her: she was still smiling.

Not knowing fully what to say Bert decided to keep it simple.

“Hi.”

“Hello, Bertram” she smiled.

“What’s happened to me?”

“You’re dead, silly ass” she said rolling her eyes.

“How’s it that you can see me?”

“We’re of the same ilk”. To prove it she reached out to touch him. Bert didn’t feel the hand that he was expecting only a cold, more pronounced chill.

He looked into her eyes.

“Bert, people aren’t meant to be alone. Especially as alone as you were”.

Confusion and then realization washed over Bertram Ward’s face.

“It became too much for you to bare. You don’t remember the last time you went to work, do you?”

“No,” he said with a shake of his head.

Her look changed to that of a mother caring for her child.

“What happens next?”

“Shhh. That’s for me to worry about. Come on, Bert time for you to get some sleep.”