Best Of 2000

If you take a wrong turn at the boarded-up castle in the Flats, you'll end up on Canal, a road at the bottom of a cliff that seems to stretch on and on to nowhere. Tower City's parking ramp looms, ugly and green; the hairpin turn, littered with garbage, hides under a dark overpass; the stern-faced figures that guard the Hope Memorial Bridge tower far above. Weeds and ivy cling to bleak concrete walls, names are fading from the fronts of brick warehouses, and if you take another wrong turn under the Eagle Avenue bridge, you end up in a barren wasteland, weaving your car between 15-foot hills of loose asphalt. Every beautiful landmark needs ugly places nearby for people to park, every city needs a crumbling industrial zone, and you can find both on this spooky street on the forgotten edge of Gateway.
Public Square at 9 a.m. is like a high-school hallway right before the morning bell rings. Crowds of bodies rush down the sidewalk in unison, like a wave, and eyes stare in blank anticipation of that first-period World History lecture (or an interminable 9:15 staff meeting). People walk shoulder-to-shoulder, clutching briefcases or tote bags. The loners trudge in the opposite direction, their neckties or scarves blowing in the wind. An occasional blonde bounds through the crosswalk with a smile on her face, swinging her attaché case in time to the music on her Walkman. Probably was a cheerleader.
If Public Square is like a high-school hallway, the airport is like the cafeteria. The constant buzzing of conversation hardly wanes during the many P.A. announcements. Small clusters of people sit or walk together, some laughing and some fretting. Those sitting alone with their nose in a book, or leaning back pretending to sleep, steal glances at the individuals around them, examining the clothes of a couple speaking French or eavesdropping on a discussion between two laptop-toting men in golf shirts. Members of the cleaning staff trudge by, pitching half-empty cans of pop and candy-bar wrappers into wheeled trash bins. Ah, the glamour of it all.
Positioned between I-480 and Hopkins International Airport, the One Hundredth Bomb Group restaurant sits like a shelled European cottage overlooking the plane-filled runways of the next century. Ask for a window seat, then watch the puddle jumpers, 747s, and -- if you're lucky -- government-apprehended spacecraft head for the horizon (note: UFOs are seen only after a few libations).
It's a special kind of advocate who will stand in protest time and again with handmade signs and only a handful of supporters. It's a rarer sort who will drive a councilman to violence (or even alleged violence, as the case may be). This year Edwards has done both. When members of the Carl Stokes Brigade told him that tradesmen from Joe Jones's East Side ward were not being employed on a $26 million renovation project, he decided to check it out. He visited the site, filmed it, and collected reports from workers on the job. When he determined that the Brigade members were right, he went public. Protests, interviews, even a heated exchange with Jones followed, resulting in the councilman allegedly punching him in the jaw. Although his claim was disputed by Jones and failed to result in prosecution or a lawsuit, Edwards used the incident to focus attention on the lack of minority inclusion. Now that it's election season, Edwards intends to raise the issue with voters. "We want to make sure all citizens have access to jobs and access to fairness," he says. Advice to candidates: Get out of the way.
This 86-year-old has spent 65 years working behind the bar at Jerman's Café, which her family has owned for 92 years. Jerman, who generally tends the bar from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, will often sit and make conversation in the evening, and she's easily the most pleasant bartender in town. Perhaps her mild-mannered demeanor is what attracts such an eclectic cast of musicians, artists, and professionals to Jerman's.
Whether he's talking to homeless people, senior citizens, or (we would suspect) space aliens, Kucinich knows how to relate. Ironically, the idealism that destroyed his mayoralty has served him well in Congress. No one else could have single-handedly ignited the effort that saved St. Michael Hospital and Mt. Sinai Medical Center-East from closure. Kucinich has the passion and the flair that make realities out of near-impossibilities. Unlike many politicians, he knows how to listen as well as speak. No doubt his motivational skills will get the vote out for him this November. He's looking at securing a fourth term in Washington and probably many more.
The temperature at 601 Lakeside started rising at about the time of the Ku Klux Klan rally. Branded a Klan-coddler, a cop-hater, and a dictator, the mayor still managed to keep his cool. He refused to deviate from his plan to let the hatemongers say their piece in peace. Ironically, White was the only victim of violence -- when a planned détente with NAACP President George Forbes turned ugly and White narrowly avoided being pelted with crockery. Last fall, Mike Polensek cranked up the heat when he usurped the council presidency. Suddenly the mayor was under attack for his management style, his war with the cops, and his friendships with the likes of Nate Gray and Fred Nance. To his credit, the mayor granted interviews to everyone, from the news stations to the black press. No matter what was being lobbed at him -- criticism or coffeepot -- White was always himself. Proud, self-assured, and unflappable.
In 1820, a good half-century before Public Square got its first taste of the modern world with the installation of electric lights, the Old Stone Church was founded and soon stood as an outlet of faith amid the secular city. Somehow, though the face of Public Square has changed many times throughout the last two centuries, the landmark has survived. Surrounded by banks -- one of which, Key Tower, dwarfs the stone structure -- it now stands as a testament to the survival of the old world in the new, though not completely unscathed. In 1989, the church's bell was removed from the steeple and presented to the city as a "lasting memorial to the history of Cleveland's Public Square" -- perhaps the building won't dodge "progress" forever.
The John G. White Folklore Collection is a boon to any budding magus or occult scholar. Boasting over 47,000 volumes in the broad "folklore" heading, the catalog reveals countless books on the occult sciences, magic, and witchcraft, including Agrippa, Crowley, and a 1768 work on vampires. The collection does not circulate, but members of the public can research titles at the library, as long as they register as "researchers" and call ahead with any requests. Best way to go about that is to find what you want in the online catalog (, then e-mail or call in your request, and it'll be waiting for you when you arrive. We've come a long way since the Inquisition and the burning of the Library of Alexandria.
Since seizing the council leadership in November 1999, Polensek has captured the drama of City Hall past and returned it to City Hall present. Sometimes the once peaceful seat of local government resembles West Side Story. Sometimes Cabaret. Never The Sound of Music. The first thing Polensek did when he took the presidency was make big-toothed tires out of council's rubber stamp, which he often uses to drive over the mayor's proposals. According to Polensek, politics should be an adversarial process, and he doesn't apologize for his brash, agitational style. So far, he has led the charge against the Civil Service debacle and the mayor's lakefront transgressions. What's next? We don't know. But it will be newsworthy.
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