A Tale of Two Clevelands: Supplemental Blog

I don’t usually post twice in one day. Hell, I’m lucky if I get on here 5 times a week. But today, this afternoon, I just had to.

I spent my lunch hour in love with my city. I went to a very Asian noodle shop (Superior Pho, for you locals), where the ratio of Asians to “round eyes” never seems to hover above 1:1 for very long: those who know of it know it’s the best in town, and come back again and again.

Diners who look for a “pretty” dining experience usually go somewhere else. Superior is very small, clean, and functional is about as best as you could describe what decor there is. As a solo diner, which I usually am, you are typically stuck at one of a few bigger tables where there are other solos, elbow to elbow for your slurping and sweating adventure. Today it was so crowded, they took me to a side room and sat me at a four-top with an Asian couple. The server asked them in Chinese if I could sit with them and they eyed me and said ok. She pulled the table “out” an inch and a half so I’d have the illusion of my own space or so they’d feel they retained theirs, and we kept to ourselves. As soon as I saw they were done eating, I got up and moved my chair into the aisle so the lady of the couple could exit out in the small space around us. Before I could sit back down, I saw they were ushering a couple of elderly Asian ladies back to the table, so I stayed up so one of them could scoot around me and into the table. I think she didn’t know what I was doing at first and then realized it and nodded, and I nodded. There’s not a lot of talking to the neighbors at a place like this, mostly because the people I often dine next to are talking in Chinese to each other. You eat your noodles, you keep to yourself. I got my usual additional side cup of jalapeños (I like it hot) and then my big bowl of steaming, hot pho placed in front of me like a prize. If there’s another phrase besides “tuck in” to describe how you begin eating pho, I don’t know what it is. I tucked in and was soon lost in sweating, fragrant basil and lime and ginger flavors, my teeth shredding the fatty meat and slurping up the noodles as best I could shovel the slippery things in.

The elder ladies’ bowls arrived very quickly, and they had little side dishes with something in them. On a previous visit, I asked the guy next to me what was in his side dish and found they have pickled onions, if you ask for them (slight charge). So now I always ask if there’s something I don’t know. “Tripe!” the younger of the two ladies exclaimed. “So good!” I’ve always been a bit afraid of the tripe, remembering my mom’s stories about how smelly it is in Greek soup. Plus, there’s an irony about eating intestines when you’re missing one of your own, like the scarecrow eating brains or something. I guess I never had the courage to order them. I nodded, and the older lady right next to me held out her side dish. “You wanna try? You try. In your soup.” It wasn’t really a question. She gestured, and I moved my bowl over and she dished some in to my pho. I took a big spoonful. “You like?” Lady #1 asked, rhetorically. “It’s good, yes?” she said. “Good!” I said. “Chewy.” We all nodded. She gestured to my dish of jalapeños, which had a few left. “You like-a hot?” she said? “You done?” I indicated she should take the rest, and she snapped them up and put them in her bowl, and we all sat and slurped and nodded. “Nice for winter,” I said, and they agreed. I told them how much I wished there was a place to get pho for breakfast here. She thought for a minute. “No oatmeal!” she said, and we all laughed and nodded.

I left and was warmed from the inside out, from both my hot food and the good exchange. Full belly and full heart. I cruised through downtown watching pigeons dart around, and stopped at Constantino’s, a little grocery, to get some snacks. I rolled right up and found a meter right across the street that still had 10 minutes on it. Sometimes it’s so easy to be in Cleveland, I can’t believe it. People don’t know how good they have it here. Try and get to a store like that in downtown Chicago.

***

I rushed back to the office so I could hear the press conference that AG Holder had come to Cleveland to give. The results of a very long ethics investigation into whether or not Cleveland Police use excessive force, and do so often. I truly was astounded at the (necessarily) dispassionate voices at the press conference laying out so very many bad things about how shit goes down here. So much bad news. If this were a trial and a list of counts being read by the jury foreperson, it would have sounded like: as to charge 1: guilty. Charge 2: guilty. Charge 3: guilty. On and on.

How can the Cleveland I love be so very fucked up. And how can we fix things?

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