words, after Cleveland

I did 90 miles today, partly because I liked the idea of camping in Pennsylvania, and partly because I wanted to run as far as possible from the traffic that had been persistent since I reached the Erie shore. I promised some words from Cleveland, so I’ll give it a quick go before it gets much cooler and all I want to do is tuck myself into the sleeping bag.

I got to Cleveland just after noon on Friday and got myself a room that cost more than I really wanted to pay. But I guess that’s what I get for not trying to make reservations until the night before. I’m not big on scheduling while touring. I settled on the Hampton Inn, downtown Cleveland, and they stuck me way up on the top, the 15th floor, floating just above St. John’s Cathedral. It’s an odd thing to look down on a structure designed to inspire awe in those looking up at it.

To tell the truth, I was not entirely displeased with my hotel luck. I’ve stayed in a few Hamptons before, back when I traveled on business, and I knew I could expect a big, cushy king-size bed replete with pillows of varying lofts. And I did sleep well. Very well.

But I also milked them as much as I could. I had three platefuls of continental breakfast, yesterday and today. And just after check-in, before heading up to my room, I requested complementary shaving cream and razor. I had already decided to renege on my No Shave While Traveling policy for two reasons: one, I had multiple people assume I was significantly older than I am; two, the day before arriving in Cleveland I ran into a lad of 19 coming the opposite direction, and in exchanging travel tales it dawned on me that people might be freer in their kindnesses toward him because he was young and looked it.

So, having taken an absurdly long shower and washed my soiled bike clothes in the sink, I set about removing my two-week-old beard with the Hilton’s disposable, plastic safety razor. This took approximately 35 minutes. It was a peculiarly meditative procedure, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cursing and all.

It was getting on late in the afternoon. I decided to leave the Art Museum for tomorrow because I’d read that at least half of their holdings were not on display right now due to construction anyway. Instead, my fancy turned to food. I’d had pretty good luck using Yelp’s iPhone app to find local gems in DC, so I redownloaded that and headed out the door.

I walked around a bit, checking Yelp for reviews of things I’d stumbled across, and walking in the direction of a few things it pointed out. But my eye kept coming back to one entry that wasn’t anywhere near me: a place called Lolita located in a street called Literary. It wasn’t until I was in front of it that I saw it was actually on the corner of Literary and Professor.

I had to walk a few miles, down into and back out of an old canal and railroad area–real, old industrial Cleveland, abandoned, a dead space between urban renewals–but I was enjoying getting to know the city at a walking pace. And it made for good digestion, revisiting that same path on my way back to the hotel after dinner.

The food was incredible. An appetizer of beets in some sort of orange/honey/mint marinade with almond slivers generously sprinkled atop. Entrée was hanger steak on a bed of garbonzo beans, with pickled peppers and sauteéd shalots, and a side of fried brussel sprouts in vinegar with capers. And I enjoyed two different IPAs along with it too. Probably one of the top five meals of my life.

I walked back in a fog of food-induced euphoria and spent a little time lolling about in the luxury of my hotel room, until I snapped out of it and decided it was too early for bed. I was in no mood to search or research a spot to get a nightcap, so I just walked back to a bar I had passed on my way back. I liked its name, Wonder Bar, in blue neon, even though I suspected it was a chain. It was, and my drink was very overpriced. But I got a table outside and got a good deal of journaling done, while the swelling crowd took note of my incongruity. I heard more than one group try to figure out who I was, walking by, and asking among themselves. Sure, I must be someone.

(It’s cold tonight in Pennsylvania. I can see my breath. I’ll finish this story later.)

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