Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mojo’s Cafe

600 Dover Center Road
Bay Village, OH 44140

by Beau Cadiyo

I start with these precepts:

1) Being rich or wealthy is having money - not spending it.
2) It is easier to save money when you are not forced to spend it on necessities like shelter and food (Bread).
3) It is easier to save money in a place where it is otherwise inexpensive to live and have fun (Circuses).

People are often surprised that I want to stay in Cleveland. It’s a city many people love to hate. I was born here, but I’ve lived in various parts of the world, from a childhood spent in San Diego to a young adulthood in Los Angeles, Oregon, DC, Wales and Spain. With this background, choosing to stay indefinitely in the Midwest often baffles my friends and colleagues. They see Cleveland as dying, if not already dead. It doesn't shock me anymore, but I still don't understand what they're talking about. Cleveland is full of opportunities, from arts and culture (Playhouse Square, the University Circle museums, Little Italy's or Tremont's galleries and amazing music venues from the Agora to the Grog Shop to the Beachland Ballroom) to the emerging and amazing culinary establishments (like these). I read in 2006 that Cleveland was one of the nation's entrepreneurial hotspots, and the number of major international corporations based in Northeast Ohio is impressive. In either 2005 or 2006, the Economist listed Cleveland as the top US city for standard of living. Yet people still claim that Cleveland is boring, that it's on the decline, that they want to live somewhere - anywhere - else. These people remind me of a recent New Yorker cartoon where a child and his parents are at a carnival, the tents, rides, roller coaster and lights all soaring and shining in the background, and the kid says, “I’m bored.” This is precisely the attitude many people take. It is these people who will never be truly happy.

In Cleveland, we have the opportunity to build, to create, to do new things. We also have the freedom to do so. I sometimes compare it to Los Angeles, a city which fosters cutthroat competitiveness that makes for compelling television and movies but, as is well-documented, dead lives. Having lived there and been intimately familiar with it, I think I can say that LA is one of the most desperate places in the world – there are millions of people so close to massive international fame, and so many people move there for a shot at that fame, yet it is completely out of reach for all but a few. It’s full, and if you want to try to squeeze in you'll just be another cog in the machine. Cleveland, on the other hand, has opportunities aplenty for people who want to act and have an impact on their community, who want to do something with their lives.

Cleveland is also a place where you can get rich. There was a speech called “Acres of Diamonds” which was, at one point, the most delivered speech in history. It was built upon an easy story: a man learns of diamonds and how valuable they are. He leaves his home, his wife and children, and goes searching for diamonds to bring back for his family. After long years and constant travels, he dies, and his farm is taken over. His successor finds a glimmering rock in a stream on the property. One day, a neighbor comes by to say hello, and sees a giant glinting rock on the mantle; picking it up, he exclaims, “How fortunate! He found his diamonds!” The new owner says says, “No, he didn’t – that is just a rock that we found out back.” “Nonsense!” says the neighbor. “This is a massive diamond!” They take it to be tested and, sure enough, it’s a diamond. The man’s very back yard turns out to be full of the diamonds he died trying to find.

The moral of the story is that if you’re looking to get rich, don't look elsewhere - try looking in your own back yard.* Most of the major fortunes were not made by people who moved to big cities and got jobs there hoping to get big. Standard Oil was founded in Cleveland, where Rockefeller grew up. Bill Gates started Microsoft in Seattle, where he was born in 1955. Sam Walton started Wal-Mart in his home town in Arkansas. Nike is based in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, where Phil Knight was born in 1938.

It’s been said that the best way to get rich is to not spend your money; those who spend don’t have, and those who have don’t spend. Cleveland has a VERY low cost of living, yet, on average, people in Northeast Ohio make more than the national average. Thus, it’s easy to make money here and then not spend as much as you might in, say, Los Angeles or Miami. Actually, I had a professor here who was from Los Angeles. His friends from home used to ask him why he was in Cleveland, and would go off on the familiar litany of the area’s woes: it’s cold, it’s cold, there’s nothing to do, it's a cultural wasteland, it’s cold. His response: Yes, there is winter. Otherwise, his commute was less than theirs (LA traffic really is that bad) and with the spread of franchises across the nation there is little, other than particular items in individual specialty shops, that you can’t get here. Plus, we have our own individual specialty shops here which include things you can’t get in LA or New York. As for culture, most people's culture consists of television, movies, magazines and books, which are no different here than in San Francisco or Miami. Cleveland competes with any other city for musical acts, we have a world-famous symphony, museums with collections and power that no other museums in America can rival, and amazing theaters and acts. One might wonder why people would choose other cities.**

This includes a growing arts and crafts movement being built. I was first introduced to it by Kathy Smash and went to see a show she was co-hosting at Mojo’s Café. Mojo’s was filled with tables and people, all fawning over the handmade things that were relatively unnecessary ("in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word") but also interesting, creative and often beautiful.

Kathy Smash is eager to create, to do new things, to experiment. We discussed the Dangerous Book for Boys and the Daring Book for Girls, canning, soap-making and how poorly people would fare if water, electricity or gas were taken away from us. “It’s almost like we need a survival school without all the racism and weirdness,” she said.

After milling and buying (woven coffee cup hand protector, earrings, hot chocolate…I can’t remember what else), I ordered half of a Chicken Salad sandwich and half of a Tuna salad sandwich, both on croissants. The croissants themselves were simultaneously airy and butter-rich; the tomato was juicy and the lettuce crispy. I thought that the chicken salad had potato salad mixed in, which would have been a great idea; instead, it was all-white chicken, and had garlic mixed in. My coffee was strong – very strong. It made me excited all over again.

I love Cleveland. I love what it offers, the freedom and ideas, the opportunities to really create that are absent in other, bigger places, or where these opportunities are more difficult and commercialized without being better. I love the opportunity that we have here to be part of the resurgence of a city, to be pioneers in doing something – who was it that said he came not to help the healthy but to heal the sick? – and to create new movements and participate in this new, constantly-changing city.

Now if we could just fix the bridge.

*I realize the irony of saying this after having moved so much myself, but in my defense, I did not move here looking for wealth that I couldn't find in San Diego.

**I have a friend, Bianca, in Chicago who wanted to see Mickey Avalon on his last tour. The show in Chicago, however, was sold out, so she couldn't get tickets. We not only got tickets in Cleveland, at the Grog Shop, but we were stage-side the entire night, were sprayed by his sweat, danced onstage during Jane Fonda and she kissed him at the end of the night while he was leaving the stage.

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EJH said...

Wow. TOTALLY refreshing take on the city I love. Thank you for writing this :)

keep me in the loop on that winery thing... and of COURSE I was nice to the Case students. Do you know Lillie? She was so sweet!

David said...

I think your assessment is CLE is spot on!

CopyFireShannon said...

Yessss!!! Exactly. And besides the bad press from out-of-town folks, why it's become hip to be a citizen of this area and yet rip it to shreds, I have no idea, but for some reason, that's what I hear ALL THE TIME.

A friend just moved here from UT by way of FL, and he already loves it. Sometimes I think we're asking the wrong people for their opinions.

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