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About 10 years ago, I left Cleveland, Ohio — where I grew up — because the economy was still slow and struggling for this mid-western post-industrial age city. For me, an architect by training, opportunities were very limited. Like most things, you don't realize “what you’ve got until it's gone.” Or in my case, until after I had left.
Immigrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere came to cities like Cleveland in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th Century to work and make a better life. They recreated what they knew and in turn, altered and adapted their culture to the city of Cleveland. I really miss the various ethnic enclaves in different pockets of neighborhoods.
Every city has a Little Italy, but do they have a Slavic Village? Neighborhood places that readily serve fish and perogies on Fridays? They do in this city on Lake Erie.
I was back home recently during the July 4th holiday and was given a tour of a city I had forgotten about. The West Side Market is still there and improving. The joy of experiencing the WSM should never be taken for granted. I used to live a block away and treated the Market like it was my pantry. West 25th Street was struggling to become something. Now, it is a destination.
Almost across the street from the West Side Market is the renovated Market Square next to Great Lakes Brewery. I can get the GLBC beer in other cities now, but being back home and sitting in that bar eating perogies and drinking a beer is an experience of its own.
The city of Cleveland may have shed a few people over the years, but those people always seem to come back. I was amazed at the change of the Public Square and new Convention Center. I do have to admit that I have my own opinion of the casino inside of a historic old building. but everything else that was happening with it seems amazing.
There are some other things that I miss about my hometown such as easily being able to see a band play in a neighborhood bar. People are laid back, blue-collar folks. Some cities just don't get it, but Cleveland now has it. The following is a baker’s dozen of things to experience if you make it to Cleveland:
A media hullaballoo was stirred this week at the Cincinnati Zoo. A longtime gorilla resident named Harambe [which, ironically, means in Swahili, “all pull together” — as in communal action for social benefit] was shot and killed when a three-year-old boy snuck past a railing and fell into a watery moat in the gorilla’s enclosure. Eastern and Western gorillas — and a further subdivision of four or five subspecies — are the largest living primates, with DNA very similar to our own.
In terrestrial zoology, gorillas are ground-dwelling, mostly herbivorous, apes that inhabit the central African forests. They have been unjustly slandered as being brutish, as when people call a shambling, loutish big male an “ape.” In the wild, gorillas are said to live 35 to 40 years. But in captivity, despite what appears to be ferocious resentment and acting-out episodes, they have been seen to live 50 to 60 years. So Harambe could have lived maybe another 40 years had zoo officials not rushed to fell him.
New video footage of the 17-year-old silverback suggests he was trying to protect the three-year-old who fell into the zoo enclosure just minutes before the 400-pound animal was fatally shot.
For a few moments, Harambe and the boy had held hands, and footage shows Harambe was indeed being protective of the boy, not aggressive. There are now significant questions as to whether the gorilla needed to be shot. Zoo officials said that a tranquilizer may have taken too long to take effect, had there been imminent danger to the child. Protests are already up and running against the shooting.
So our treatment of animals is in the public eye again.
I somewhat share the sadness and grief of our poor treatment of primates, our close cousins, as well as intelligent animals such as elephants, dolphins, whales; I would include another favorite, giraffes, all of whom require huge acreage to feel at home, to feed, forage and thrive.
I also believe, as does the writer of this NY Times piece — that, in the future, we will regard the current-day treatment of these sentient beings with huge discomfort and embarrassment. Who doesn’t love seeing animals in the wild? I have been to Africa eight times, but a zoo, for all its convenience, is a prison of hopelessness in many cases. It is rare to find a zoo that does not enrage and defeat the spirits of these noble creatures. One exception is the wonderful San Diego Zoo with its large roaming spaces, though, in fact, there’s never enough space for the needs of mega-fauna.
In China I saw domestic dogs caged in zoos, and the Westerner's heart broke for the evident senselessness and cruelty. These loving companion animals do not warrant a cage. The killing of the mature gorilla this weekend may have been necessary to save the life of the child who invaded its cage-space but I still believe they could have tranquillized the animal rather than killing it (though not being there, I can’t tell).
In any case, a full-grown gorilla is in a sense sacred. There is not a huge oversupply of these magnificent near-humans. They are being hunted and shot and “accidented” out of existence, their numbers steadily dwindling. It is estimated that there are some 150,000 to 200,000 left in the wild, numbers notably reduced from a century ago, when habitat was less invaded, less violated by hunters, and assuredly less “touristified.” In years to come, when more research is done, we will know much more of the intelligence of these creatures given us by a beneficent Deity. Our magnanimity to them will enlarge. Perhaps the zoos will be emptier, but larger. And the inhabitants of these zoos will be less afflicted and diseased, wracked with sores and grieving expressions. Satisfying, to me, is the flamboyantly fabulous aquarium in Dubai's largest mall and hotel complex. There is an enormous depth of voluminous water, and thousands of genera of fish and mammalia, all fed steadily to avoid cannibalism of some of the species who would eat each other if not provided food.
I loved the vastness of the swim-space — hundreds of feet deep — which afforded the species room to circle and dive and explore and propagate. I know fish have split-second memories, but the kindness of the aquarium's capacity cheered the children and adult viewers, instinctually. Zoos need to be like that, too -- expansive enough to let the animal's nature not be constricted and bruised for all his barred and minimized life. This is not to say we should all be in court clamoring for Raymour & Flanigan bedroom suites for chimps, or the latest tablets for orangutans. But a measure of empathy and kindness would not be out of place for humans as they regard those less free than we.
Honestly, if you live in New York City, you don’t need to drive — you don’t even need a driver’s license. However, if taxis are nowhere around (because you don’t live in Manhattan) or the only way you can get somewhere is by bus (because you don’t live in Manhattan), then having a bike can be helpful.
There are a few rules of the road you'll need to know before you get on two wheels, though:
1. Everyone Hates You
You’re riding down a busy intersection, fearing that that person texting to your left won’t see you and will cut you off. You, being the more alert and safer one, slow down and go on the curb to avoid getting hit. A pedestrian then shouts, “Sidewalks are for people.” You are filled with rage and adrenaline and yell, “Then what am I?” Now you continue on your route, feeling pleased with your well-timed comeback, all while avoiding danger.
The thing is, people hate bikers for no reason. Drivers get angry because they can’t make those illegal turns or speed up with you around. Pedestrians will never understand that you’re on the sidewalk for a total of five seconds and you have better coordination than their multitasking selves can handle.
And even then, they can never understand that you’re taking a safer route than crossing a very dangerous road (like Queens Boulevard, coincidentally named the “Boulevard of Death”).
2. Idiots Will Be Idiots
No seriously, go ahead and make that illegal turn. Sure, it’s OK for you to cut through a gas station to save 30 seconds at the red light. No, why would I be mad if you double-parked when there was a completely empty spot available literally right behind you?
The first thing you’ll learn while biking is that the stupidity level of people is just off the charts.
You would think that that people would have learned something from their driving test or mandatory five-hour class, but that’s only a dream. I am convinced that the DMV only passes people with sob stories and anyone who pays them a fee. Sooner or later, you will realize that if you worked for the police, you would hand out enough tickets to get New York state out of debt. For now, you’ll have to live with the people who refuse to signal and the jaywalkers who believe it’s OK for them to walk at a red light but it’s illegal for cars and bikes. 3. It’s Free Exercise and Transportation in One!
I’ve just told you why it sucks to bike ride in any city, but let me tell you why it’s amazing. You sail on by joggers, dog walkers, pedestrians, drivers, motorcyclists, and boarders. When you weigh the pros and cons of it all, biking is technically the best form of exercise and transportation. You get to places faster, you use muscles not used in other transportation modes, and you even get to rest and still go places. You basically are “fun exercising.”
Former Mayor Bloomberg caught onto this fact, and took the initiative to make New York City healthier. More bike lanes, stairs, food ratings, calorie counts, anything to do with smoking, trans fats, salts, and more.
And those are the ones that got passed, not like the infamous soda bans and taxes on sugary drinks. The best part? New Yorkers hated him but loved his initiatives.
What am I saying? Take a walk instead of a bus for three blocks, or ride a bike that mile to the shopping center. It’s way better than sitting down across someone who just won’t stop staring at you in that creepy way.
Or even when there’s no subway to a place that’s five miles away, just take the bike out and ride. The main thing is, biking places is so much easier since you’re reliant on yourself to get somewhere, you are getting there quicker by avoiding traffic, and you’re helping the environment as well as your body.
For the drivers out there — learn to follow the rules of the road, and hope you learn that those three seconds you save speeding or cutting people could cost someone a life.
For a small charming city, North Carolina’s Wilmington has produced a lot of famous people.
Among the names that can be found on the local Walk of Fame includes basketball legends Michael Jordan and Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon; NFL quarterbacks Roman Gabriel and Sonny Jurgensen; tennis pioneer Althea Gibson; country music star Charlie Daniels; revered newscaster David Brinkley; actor Pat Hingle; and motion picture producer Frank Capra, Jr.
Capra, who died in 2007, was the son of legendary film director Frank Capra. One of the reasons that Wilmington became known as Hollywood East was because of his tireless work bringing in productions. Tax credits and a rather balmy climate (it’s about as north as you can get and still find palm trees) also helped.
Past CW Network television shows such as Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed there as well as the recent CBS’s summer primetime sci-fi soap opera, Under The Dome. Films that were shot here include Iron Man 3, We’re The Millers, and The Conjuring. A good way to learn about Wilmington’s place in the entertainment world is to take a 90-minute tour with Hollywood Location Walk.
The film and television industry has also favored Wilmington because of zoning ordinances that have helped the town maintain its 19th century look. A 30-minute carriage ride with Horsedrawn Tours (they use rescued Percheron draft horses and don’t have to face the political scrutiny that Central Park operators have) is a great way to appreciate the city’s antebellum homes and other historic buildings.
Wilmington was settled by European Americans along the Cape Fear River. Its historic downtown has a one-mile-long Riverwalk, originally developed as a tourist attraction, and in 2014 Wilmington's riverfront — which was named the "Best American Riverfront" by USA Today — is minutes away from nearby beaches. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Wilmington, North Carolina, as one of its 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
City residents live between the river and the ocean, with four nearby beach communities: Fort Fisher, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach, all within half-hour drives from downtown Wilmington.
So Cape Fear figures prominently in many local institutions.
Although Wilmington doesn’t have a zoo or aquarium, it does have the Cape Fear Serpentarium which houses a very large collection of reptiles that include crocodiles, vipers, snakes, anacondas, and iguanas. Next door to the Serpentarium is the appropriately named Museum of the Bizarre which contains numerous film props and circus sideshow exhibits.
The Cape Fear Museum of History details how Wilmington was affected by both the American Revolution and the Civil War. There is also a display case of Michael Jordan’s memorabilia from his days at both Laney High School and the University of North Carolina.
There is a touch of New York in Wilmington. The city’s Forest Hills section is named after Queens’ Forest Hills Gardens and there are many Tudor homes on its tree-lined streets.
There are plenty of reasonable places to stay in downtown Wilmington and the fairly new Courtyard by Marriott gives good value and has a great location. You can get a filling southern breakfast a block away at Basics restaurant.
Other eateries such as The Pilot House and Boca Bay are terrific fine dining seafood restaurants. If you prefer a more informal setting, try Shuckin’ Shack which is obviously known for its oysters.
Wrightsville Beach, located on the Atlantic Ocean, is situated five miles east of Wilmington. There are plenty of hotels which aren’t operated by chains but are instead family-run businesses. A good example is the Blockade Runner Resort which opened just over 50 years ago and reminds you of those fun Catskills Mountains hotels from yesteryear particularly around breakfast time with its plentiful buffet. The Blockade Runner offers sailing and surfing lessons. Summer lasts a lot longer here and you can hit the waves without turning blue almost up to Thanksgiving.
The boats from Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours dock right across the street from the Blockade Runner and pretty much guarantee that you can see a few dolphins on its 90-minute cruise. Just down the road from the hotel is the Bluewater Grille where you can enjoy terrific cuisine on a pier that juts out into the Atlantic.
Brunswick County’s Sunset Beach is located 45 minutes south of Wilmington and it’s just a half-hour north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You can easily jog or ride your bike on Sunset Beach because of its tightly packed sand. There are also aviary and turtle sanctuaries here.
The Sea Trail Resort located on the inland side of Sunset Beach has three championship courses but it also caters to the novice golfer thanks to the staff’s excellent instructors who are led by Raymond Reyes.
One drawback to Wilmington is that it has limited air service to our area.
However, North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, is an easy two-hour drive northwest on I-40 and there is JetBlue service between JFK and there. Raleigh is also a fun place to visit with its plentiful free museums.
There’s a free bus route “(the “R-line”) that takes you to almost any place that you need to go. And Glenwood, a lively entertainment district situated there in Raleigh, features a lot of restaurants including the just-opened Raleigh Beer Garden. A fairly new Hampton Inn is located here as well.
For more info on Wilmington log onto wilmingtonandbeaches.com or call (877) 406-2356.
For more on Sunset Beach, try ncbrunswick.com or call 910-755-5517.
And to start exploring Raleigh go to: visitraleigh.com or call 800-849-8499.
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