Ah, Cleveland, our hometown! Also known as “The Mistake on the Lake,” an industrial city famous for a river so dirty it burned and a former mayor who set his toupee on fire with a blowtorch while cutting the ribbon on the opening of a welder’s convention. It was this series of unfortunate events, to be sure. People joked and said Cleveland could not succeed because it was located on a lake that was eerie, featured a landmark tower that was terminal, a major downtown by-way known to be marginal and sports teams famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Repeatedly.
Ha ha ha! We’ve heard it all before, but we aren’t going to replow that tired, old, clichéd ground today. Instead, let’s get a new perspective on the future of our much-maligned city by looking into history’s rearview mirror to a time when the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and its mascot Reddy Kilowatt gave the city its brand and bragging rights as “the best location in the nation.”
At the time, Cleveland was the sixth-largest city in the country and the slogan was meant to convey its worth as an industrial powerhouse and progressive business capital. My mother pooh-poohed that idea and said Cleveland was named best in the nation because our four distinctive seasons and a temperate climate that made it the best place to live in the USA. Eventually, “the best location in the nation” slogan disappeared. For a millisecond – in an attempt to copy New York’s “Big Apple” – Cleveland started calling itself “The Plum” … until locals pointed out that plums are “the pits” and become prunes.
Cleveland was never a thrilling place to call home. It does not have the glamour of New York and Los Angeles, the panache of San Francisco, the exotica of Miami, unrelenting sunshine of San Diego or mystique of New Orleans. But what Cleveland and its environs do have is the lack of dramatic and life threatening weather events. No hurricanes followed by rooftop flooding or desolation-producing tornadoes and earthquakes. Cleveland is “the forest city,” but when was the last time we had a renegade wind-fueled forest fire that destroyed thousands of acres of primal forest land and millions of dollars’ worth of private property? And let’s not forget the less-than-zero chance we have of being buried by an avalanche. While it is not a weather-related thing, we don’t see Northeast Ohio as a prime spot for the next version of Jurassic Park. Heck, we couldn’t even hold on to Sea World, another example of why the world seems to have rejected the Cleveland area. Who needs it? You just know those prehistoric creatures will escape and wreak havoc in the outside world like the Chagrin Valley.
For all of its faults and man-made embarrassments, Cleveland is prime for a comeback. Why? Because climate change is not going away, none of the aforementioned weather events are either. Folks who live in those exciting, glamorous weather-torn areas will realize there is a place where they can have peace of mind. A place where they need not fear being swept away by a revengeful Mother Nature angry at the way we have mistreated the planet and ignored her repeated warnings. You can almost hear her screaming into the wind, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” Yes, there is a way to live without fear in a safe, almost weather-proof and disaster-immune place, where the four seasons are not named fire, flood, earthquake and hurricane, and where three-bedroom, two bath houses do not start at $1 million. It is not the East Coast, the West Coast or the Gulf Coast. Mother Nature has spared this place called the North Coast because it has suffered enough. As you may have guessed, the place Greater Cleveland is where nothing happens, weather-wise.