Elephants and assault rifles and Abe Lincoln—oh my.
Our sweet little city by the lake has been the center of the universe for the past four days or so, as delegates, media and crazy people from around the globe descended on Cleveland for the 2016 Republican National Convention.
There’s been alleged plagiarism. There’s been Duck Dynasty. There’s been television host Samantha Bee, driving around in an intentionally poorly re-branded Herman Cain bus. Cleveland’s downtown streets have been equal parts zoo and circus, with a dash of sideshow and a sprinkle of norovirus for good measure.
But somehow, amidst the craziness of suited-up bros with slicked-back hair and little old ladies in bedazzled cowboy hats, Cleveland’s magic has managed to shine through—and this downtown resident couldn’t be more proud.
I packed my bags on Sunday morning with the intent to leave town for a few days, fearing that my liberal-leaning little heart couldn’t take it and knowing that my forty-minute daily commute out of downtown would be nearly impossible once the RNC was in full swing. But before I left, feeling a mix of genuine curiosity and sheer FOMO, I set out to explore the scene a bit with a friend.
It’s a strange feeling—waking up in a city you barely recognize. A maze of menacing black fences, concrete barricades, snowplows used as roadblocks... where were we? Urban Farmer, located on the corner of E. 6 and St. Clair, was practically inside of a prison. There were police officers—smiling but dressed for war—every few feet. There were folks walking around heavily credentialed; others were heavily armed. I saw more than one “Don’t Mess with Texas” T-shirts within the first five minutes, and more American flags than I’d ever seen in my entire life.
It was a lot to take in. I said “Bye Felicia,” and left—nervous for the next few days and wondering what I’d return to on Friday. Much like an undiscovered indie band or Chris Pratt on the first three seasons of Parks and Rec, Cleveland had flown under the radar for ever. We’ve built it up and supported it and loved it for so long. Opening Cleveland up to share with the world was a little terrifying, no? I don’t have children, but I imagine this is what it feels like when you send them off to their first day of school. Will we do well? Will people like us? Will things go wrong? Will everyone see what makes us so great?
Spoiler alert: We did. They do. Not too badly. And YES.
Although I wanted to be as far away as possible from the RNC itself, I’ve found myself not able to look away from my Twitter feed throughout this week. I’ve seen things that have made me angry. Things that have made me laugh. Things that have made me say “What the actual fuck?” out loud to my computer screen. But most importantly, I’ve seen things that have made me proud to be a Clevelander.
Al Roker drank Platform Beer and rode the RTA, excitedly pointing out the West Side Market. Greta Van Susteren has been tweeting about how much she loves our architecture. Our police department has been simply amazing, handling situations with grace, logic and a touch of humor, when appropriate.
From our amazing food to the picturesque Cuyahoga, from to our beautiful buildings to the 37 thriving T-shirt companies, the world has seen what makes us who we are. And through all the craziness, credentials and Chris Christie, Cleveland has shined more than anything. I’m so happy we had this chance to share our beautiful little city with the world. I’m happy it was peaceful and protested and policed so well. And I’m happy it’s almost over.
I can’t wait to come home. Happy Thursday, you guys.