2011: The Year We Did Not Suck

Two dozen reasons to be proud you were a Clevelander this year

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We Grew Like Nobody Else

The evidence appeared in neighborhoods from East Side to West, and from market stands all over town: 2011 was the year urban agriculture spread its roots across Cleveland, setting the standard for urban horticulture nationwide. The Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone in the Kinsman neighborhood announced a big chunk of government funding in October. And in December, after two years of laying groundwork, Community Greenhouse Partners got the keys to its site — a former Catholic church at East 69th and Superior. After years of tilling soil, this year came the harvest, as those projects celebrated their first full seasons amid buzz about new projects — like a fruit orchard at West 87th and Detroit, and the Green City Growers Cooperative, which will sow lettuce on a five-acre site in the Central neighborhood. It's a brand-new perspective on sustainability — one that has America's agricultural eyes trained on our next move.

We Vented Our Anger in Style

Cleveland — city of no mean literary talent, historically speaking — found a new bard this year. Longtime Esquire writer Scott Raab took a lifetime of Cleveland-sports-fan pain and threw it in the blender along with his suitcase of personal hangups and his vitriol over LeBron's departure. The result: Raab's celebrated book The Whore of Akron. Bile has rarely issued forth in such a squalidly righteous and eloquent stream.

We Posted Killer Stats

Forbes' dubious decision to rank Cleveland the most miserable city in America back in 2009 feels like ancient history these days. America, it turns out, can't stop showering love and accolades on the Forest City, and why not? According to various organizations — all more trustworthy and scholarly than Forbes, it should be noted — Cleveland is the kind of place New York, London, and Barcelona could only hope to one day approach in awesomeness. The CLE was pegged as the second-best city for recent grads, sixth manliest in the nation, the top city for tech job growth, top ten in the world for bar hopping. We're as patriotic as Bob Hope with a star-spangled mullet, and we're one of the best cities in America for singles — not to mention the safest place in the country to be when the world ends, which makes even more sense in light of our nods for bar-hopping and manliness. Enjoy it now — it's only a matter of time before everyone else catches on too.

We Build Stuff Again

You might have heard about how once we were a titan of industry, and how those rusty monoliths casting shadows over Steelyard Commons once bore the fruit that made America great. Yeah, industry's been dormant around these parts for some time — but that ain't so anymore. A November report bore out what anecdotal evidence has been teasing: Northeast Ohio is building stuff again; we're like China with way better beer. Team NEO, an economic development group representing 18 area counties that we have no reason to doubt, found that while the rest of American industry continues to turtle, Greater Cleveland's manufacturing employment has grown some 3.7 percent year over year, and by 2015 our manufacturing output will officially kick the ass of all of America. Their stats sell this more convincingly than we do, but kicking ass is good enough for us.

We Beat the Heat

Summer 2011 was a breeze for us North Coasters, with only half the sweltering days we endured just one year earlier. We had only nine 90-degree-type scorchers, maxing out for one fleeting moment at 97 on July 21. By comparison — and who doesn't love a sexy weather comparison — air conditioner freeze-alerts were issued on 18 days in 2010, when we roasted like wieners on a grill. Call it proof that there's no more agreeable place to live, and take solace that maybe the polar ice caps are holding steady.

No, Really: We Beat the #$%*&@ Heat

The history books peg the temperature that day in the crisp mid-40s, but everyone who was downtown on the evening of March 29 felt the city boiling over. It was yin to the horrible yang of the previous December 5, when homecoming king LeBron James and the Heat gave the Cavs a 118-90 beatdown in front of a packed house in his first return back in wolf's clothing. Then, four months deeper into the Cavs' dismal season, we got ours. Strong out of the gate and straight through till the end, Baron Davis' ramshackle squad tapped into previously unforeseen energy and came away with a vindicating 102-90 victory, while the rest of the country blinked hard in disbelief. Fans left the Q — voices raw, dusted with confetti, and believing again in a meaningful moral order to the cosmos — and filled up the bars. More than a few even waded back to consciousness the next morn with the now-historic date inked onto flabby biceps. And then our Wine & Gold warriors dutifully returned to tanking the rest of the season, to ensure a speedy turnaround via the NBA draft.

We Restocked the Cupboard

Nothing can wholly repair the damage done to the Cavs after LeBron's departure. You don't just pluck another top-five player off the pile, especially when your franchise sits in Cleveland and Ryan Hollins is on your roster. But there was something of a soothing balm for the raw wound when, after the Cavs tanked to the bottom of the standings, the ping pong balls fell their way, landing them both the first overall pick and the number four slot — beating odds of less than 3 percent. Duke star Kyrie Irving and Texas standout Tristan Thompson were the fruits of that luck. Enough to take the Wine & Gold back to relevance? Not yet. But you can't ask for a better start.

We Had Courthouse Comedy!

The daily punch lines delivered with each round of federal courthouse follies turned a generation of misery into one fortifying real-time sitcom. Amid the parade of lawyers, construction bosses, and mid-level officials indicted this year were some surprises — like former Cleveland Councilwoman Sabra Pierce Scott and Arab community stalwart Sam Qasem. Among the highlights you might have missed: Jailed former county players now exchange small packets of plastic-wrapped tuna for use of the prison-TV remote, and Jimmy Dimora kindly asks that the term "corruption" not be used during his upcoming trial. References to soap on a rope will be permitted, however.

We Perfected a New Cuisine

The Cleveland food scene continued its tradition of steady growth — and it did so on four wheels. During the Summer of the Food Truck, Clevelanders went from being vaguely familiar with the concept to knowing the name of at least one truck (probably Dim and Den Sum) to being able to name-check each of the dozens of gastronomic rigs barreling through NEO. Chris Hodgson took Hodge Podge across America and into the nation's heart on a Food Network reality show, Walnut Wednesdays and other weekly gatherings amassed all the best trucks in one spot, and brick-and-mortar restos from Fahrenheit to Touch started taking gourmet noshes to the pavement. Never has deliciousness been more convenient.

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