Even though I may look like a “New Yorker,” Cleveland, Ohio is where I spent the first 25 years of my life. For those of you from Cleveland, I grew up in Berea, Ohio.
Berea…Berea…you just met a girl from Berea! (to be sung like “Maria” from West Side Story).
Berea is also the headquarters and training facility for the Cleveland Browns, which is best known as the football team that has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory almost as many times as The Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Detroit Lions. At least The Bucs won a Superbowl…
Anyhow, my parents had 2 places that were forbidden for me to visit; I was never to go to the east-side of Cleveland, and I was never to go to Pittsburgh, PA. Let me explain:
Cleveland, in the 70s and 80s (as explained to me by my parents), was split down the middle; the west-side (where Berea is) was predominantly Christian/Catholic/Protestant and blue collar, the east-side was predominantly Jewish and white collar. One time I took The Rapid (Cleveland’s mass transit system) to the east-side just to see what was there. When I told my mother what I had done, she had a fit. “Don’t you EVER go there again!” No explanation as to why. To this day, I’m not sure what the real reason was. The “east-side” was either too far, too expensive, too rough, too wealthy, too…something that I was not to know. And maybe it was because a 15 year old had no business roaming around wealthy neighborhoods by herself. Which I don't get either, because this was the same woman who dumped all 5 of the Sun Country Wine Coolers I had bought a few weeks earlier down the drain, because I should be drinking better liquor than "that cheap sh*t." I never went back to the east-side of Cleveland, until years later when I was in college, and I met a nice young Jewish man from the east side of Cleveland. His mother met me at the door and asked “Are you part of The Tribe?” which was code for “Are you Jewish?” I smiled and told her I was not in the tribe, but that I was familiar with what a “shiksa” is, which is code for a “a non-Jewish girl.” My first date ended up being my last. His mother didn’t want him dating a shiksa any more than my Italian mother didn’t want me dating anyone from the “east-side.” Today, I find this hilarious, because I kind of look Jewish, and he kind of looked Italian.
The law “thou shalt not step foot in Pittsburgh” was clearly out of loyalty for the football team who was responsible for the millions of tax dollars they brought to the city I grew up in. It’s quite easy to never give not going to Pittsburgh a thought, especially when every encounter I’d ever had with someone from Pittsburgh who found out I was from Cleveland always made mention of “The Mistake on the Lake.” Those of you who don’t know, there was a time when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was so polluted it caught fire…thirteen times. However, the last incident happened June 22nd, 1969, a few months before I was born. It was okay when people joked about it in the early 1970s because then it was somewhat recent. But when you’re hearing "Oh, you're from the Mistake on the Lake" and it’s 2021, your only logical response can only be “F**k off, Pittsburgh dude.” As a result, Pittsburgh ended up being dead last on my list of places to visit, ranking solidly after “I’d rather have a root canal without novocaine, than go to Pittsburgh."
And then I discovered that Doug, the man that moved in with me just a few months prior, was a Steelers fan. Not because he’s from there, he just didn’t want to cheer for the Dallas Cowboys with the rest of his family. It's important to mention that Doug's family is not from Dallas either. They lived in Memphis, TN. I guess when you don't have a professional sports team in your backyard, you have to get a little creative about who you adopt as your home team. Doug and I have had some fun with our Browns/Steelers rivalry, and well, that was that. Until...
Doug decides to surprise me with for my birthday…with a trip to Pittsburgh! WTF? Was every other town in the entire world…closed? Doug then explained to me that there’s a bunch of Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area (I love FLW architecture), and friends of ours were lending us their vacation home for a few days so we could experience buildings first hand. Last Monday, I put on my big girl panties, and headed to Pittsburgh.
We spent the first few days touring the country side of PA, which was absolutely beautiful. The leaves were starting to turn colors, and the Frank Lloyd Wright homes were unbelievable. Then…it was time to head to Pittsburgh. I found a few tourist traps I wanted to visit, including “Randy Land” and “The Bicycle Museum.” Wow! I was knocked out. Pittsburgh was actually a fun town! Then I saw the riverfront - absolutely beautiful. Just like the leaves, my 50+ year old attitude towards Pittsburgh was starting to change colors.
Doug and I learned a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright touring 6 homes, including Fallingwater. One of his design techniques is called “compress, and release.” FLW designed a lot of homes with an entryway space with a low ceiling which is designed to move you through to your destination space, another part of the home with a higher ceiling. I feel not only did I experience “compress and release” within his buildings, but I experienced the same “compress and release” with my beliefs regarding Pittsburgh, going from a low space to a high space. And then I realized that not only did I experience “compress and release” with Pittsburgh, this is exactly what I do with my clients.
Thank you Pittsburgh - for a great time and the wonderful lessons learned this past week.