Showing posts with label Cleveland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleveland. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Celebration of "X"

The party is on!

Today is an especially meaningful day in my world as my father, the XMan, would have turned 70: 12-12-17. My mom is having a get-together to celebrate his life and our connection to him at his favorite restaurant, Mallorca, in downtown Cleveland.

Holiday. Celebrate. It's a celebration, and that's what certainly would have happened had he been here.

Ten years ago, the family also celebrated his birthday at Mallorca, and I came in from California without him knowing. I have an incredible memory with how excited and happy he was to see me along with our family and friends.

It's been a long haul, to say the least, with recovering and dealing with his passing in Feb. 2011. Anyone can read numerous posts on this blog and see the raw pain and mourning that transpired. Gut-wrenching. If anyone feels the need to go there, various posts on this blog will take you to that pain.

But I don't feel the need to go there today. I count my lucky stars that I have found my soulmate, Dina, and that my girls are growing into kind and caring individuals. I got a killer house and am into my education career more than ever nowadays. I am counting my blessings and would love to celebrate my dad and life with some tasty Mallorca paella.
What does it mean to be human? Well, death is certainly a part of life, and it's foolish to pretend that doesn't exist. Anyone who met the XMan quickly understood what a unique individual he was. Eccentric. Hilarious. Kind. Glorious. Polish. Mustachioed. Emotional. Hell, I'd love him even if he weren't my father.

But he was, and always will be, my dad. I guess I just thank the cosmos that I got to spend 37 years of my life with him. Gratitude. Maybe the best way to think about today, and all days, is that I was lucky to have him in my life in the flesh and now in spirit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cleveland shares values — and a CHAMPIONSHIP!

The RTA bus would pick me up on Turney Road, then go down Broadway though urban decline and eventually reach Public Square. I would get off, wait a bit and take another bus over the Detroit-Superior Bridge and be dropped off walking distance from St. Ignatius High School.

I didn't think much about it at the time, but going through downtown Cleveland to the near West Side for high school shaped a lot of who I am. I learned some street smarts, how to talk with people asking for spare change and how various types of workers go about their days.

Floods of memories and emotions continue to come my way as I bask in the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA Championship.

I am not sure people outside of Cleveland understand our feelings. They may be baffled. A big reason for this is the unparalleled civic pride we have for our city. We Clevelanders have always been connected through our punishing winters, negative press from the outside world and a sense of community that continues to get stronger.

In all fairness, I have seen a lot of civic pride from New Yorkers and Chicagoans. It is legitimate, but it's not as close-knit as ours in Cleveland. Two major-league baseball teams in one city? Those cities are just huge.

Cleveland is smaller, but still a metropolis. We're all big fish there. If you're still in Cleveland, you've looked around the world and have realized that you'll take the lack of traffic, accessibility, low home prices and lifelong friendships over what you might find in other cities.

We have been brought up with Cleveland, and it is in our blood. We all have stories like this, and here's mine in a nutshell:

My grandparents were brought up in Slavic Village. My mom's parents lived there during their whole lives. My dad's parents soon moved to a bordering suburb — Garfield Heights.

My dad avoided the Vietnam draft by going to law school and supported himself and his young family by working at Kroger's. When he become an attorney, his law office was on Public Square for more than 30 years.
Two of my uncles were in advertising in Cleveland. My Uncle Bob climbed the ranks through another Cleveland landmark — Higbee's, which is now the Cleveland Jack Casino. As a youngster, I found myself downtown all of the time in the natural center of Northeast Ohio.

The city's economy bloomed when it was a steel and iron town, and because of that, the city always has had a blue-collar mentality and sensibility. Or as LeBron correctly put it when he returned to Cleveland, "In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have."

LeBron matured and grew and showed that Cleveland is worth returning to. He gets it.

Of course, the lead of what happened is that our championship-starved city stopped a ridiculously long drought without a title. So, of course, we are going bonkers because of that.
But we're also going bonkers because of our civic pride and how united we are as a city. I sense that outsiders look at Cleveland in one of three ways:

1) Bewilderment. They just don't get our excitement and never will.
2) Apathy. They don't care. They have lives where they don't truly have the passion and caring for anything, let alone their sports teams. These people will continue to sleepwalk through their lives.
3) Unspoken Envy. Yep. Outsiders probably won't admit it, but this championship strangely — and probably unjustly — validates our community. It validates Cleveland on a national scale. It validates our values. This is not a place that we leave and forget. This is us, and we are happy for that. Who would not want this?

I have lived outside of Cleveland for 21 years now — three years in New York City, and 18 in Los Angeles. A long time ago, I realized that Cleveland will always be my home.

With the exception of my daughters, fiancee and a couple stragglers here and there, I have not developed the depth of relationships that I did during my formative years in Cleveland. A team attitude, a common understanding, inherent trust —values that I used to take for granted aren't as readily available as they are in my hometown.

Our championship is bigger than basketball. It's also about our shared values. We get that. We are united. We are Cleveland.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

River burns; Sophie and Chloe thrive

One of the highlights of my life is my annual two-week summer trip to my own personal nirvana, Cleveland.

Why is Cleveland so spectacular? Well, besides its vibrant economy and championship sports teams, I have a lot of important family and friends there, and I feel most at home there.

My itinerary was so jam-packed of goodness that I must list some of the highlights of what I did.

July 1 — Tova, Sophie, Chloe and I arrive in Cleveland. We examine the best Top Hand (pinball) scores in the history of the game. I somehow scored more than 8,000 about 15 years ago. I try my best to do better than that on the trip, and the best I score is 5,982.

July 2 — Daytime: The World's Most Dependable Man, Tova and I haul four children ages 8 and under to downtown Cleveland. Ultimately, the grit of the city is not as kid-friendly as I had hoped. Evening: Chloe has her sixth birthday party on her actual birthday with many key family and friends and a defeated piñata.

July 3 By this time, I had tried various Great Lakes beers. Burning River, most likely, is my favorite, although Commodore Perry is in the running.

July 4 — Sophie and Chloe witness their first-ever Fourth of July parade at Chippewa Lake. I scold Tova for using the term "white trash." Chloe goes "tubing" on Uncle Ed's boat. We then spend the rest of the day in Westlake at Fred and Judi's. There are fireworks at night, but the real fireworks come when J.T., Neal and I throw Fred into his newly purchased pool.

July 5 — Tova and I finally get some lone time to check out some cool Cleveland stuff. I immediately take her to the House of Horrors, where three ladies were held captive as slaves for many years. I remark how close it is to my high school, St. Ignatius, and the glorious Great Lakes Brewery. We, obviously, go to Great Lakes and another brewery across the street. We even meet up with my friend Doug at the world-famous Harbor Inn.

July 6 — Jack turns 7, and we bowl and celebrate his age.

July 7 — Tova flies back to Long Beach. The Stevens family celebrates Ed and Amy's 25th anniversary at Medina Country Club. Afterward, my mom, Fred, Uncle Bob and I play at Medina C.C. The girls enjoy a day at Chippewa in which Sophie goes "tubing."

July 8 — Sophie and Chloe see their first Cleveland Indians game. It rains for nearly the entire game, yet it is played. The Tribe, who I predict will win another World Series in 2048, lose in extra innings to the Detroit Tigers. However, the Tribe does not allow ace pitcher Max Scherzer improve to 14-0. He stays at 13-0, which is still the best start in Major League Baseball since 1986.

July 9 — Sophie, Chloe, Jake and Ellie and I visit The World's Most Dependable Man in Cleveland Heights to slip 'n' slide. It is awesome!

July 10 — We hit up Geauga Lake's Wild Water Kingdom. This is doubly awesome! Unfortunately, a tornado warning closes down the park only about two hours into our fun. Bummer. We then go to Kim and Ron's, where they have an at-home movie theater. The kids watch "Annie."

July 11 — Afternoon: Grandma and I play "The Buzzard's Nest," five holes of golf at Hinckley Hills Golf Course, with Sophie and Chloe with us. Both of the girls actually drive the golf carts. Night: Three-fourths of the original wolf pack unite as I meet up with Jeff and Cato. Dave cannot make the commute for a full reunion because North Carolina is slightly too far.   

July 12 — Fred, Carlos, Neal and I play Sleepy Hollow. I have one of the worst rounds of the last year. Oh well, I try to impress the boys with my new-found golf skills, and I try too hard. It happens.

July 13 — Day: We fish in Hudson. Jack and Carlos actually catch a fish. Evening: Grandma treats Sophie, Chloe, Jack and Ellie in a group of 10 to "The Lion King" at the State Theatre.

July 14 The girls, Grandma and I visit the XMan's grave site. We conclude the trip by having fun at Fred and Judi's with the kids having fun in the pool.

What does all of this mean? Well, I enjoyed my childhood in Cleveland, and I want to give my girls a taste of what I had. Of course, they got a full-blown, mega-awesome childhood out here in Long Beach, California, with me. But a Tribe game for the first time? A water park? Chippewa Lake, and hardcore Grandma time? This is so good for them — and me. We're talking about the girls spending time with people who I, and them now, deeply love. Yeah, man, deeply love.

As a side note, some of the important adults in our lives were going through difficult times in Cleveland, and, most likely, that was hard on everyone who knows them. But I subscribe to many philosophies, and one key one is that my girls are my happy pills. Spending time with them in Cleveland likely will be a highlight of my life for the next 10 years, and after those 10 years, the Tribe only will be 25 years away from their championship.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Father of Garfield Heights

The worst year of my life ends today as I reflect on the unexpected and painful loss of the XMan.

One year ago today, the XMan passed away from a heart attack in Hilton Head, S.C. Time got funky for me when I heard the news. For some incomprehensible reason, I vividly recall every detail of the hour before hearing the news and the hour after. Who knew the hour before would remain so vivid?

The good news about today's date is that my mother has succeeded with her first step to some sort of recovery: She has survived the year.

Yeah, I'm not very religious, but the majority of the members of the Snooze Button Generation aren't either. Most SBG members are "spiritual not religious." I guess I'm that.

This entire XMan fiasco has made me realize there is much more in the world than meets the eye. I do not exactly know what the heck is beyond the human mind and physical world, but something is there. We are limited as humans. Right?

Something else I've realized is that heaven exists.Heaven is being a 10-year-old boy with a 15-year-old brother, beating the heat of a humid Cleveland summer by hanging out in our basement and playing APBA baseball. At about 6 p.m., the XMan would come home, get out of a suit and have dinner with the family. We'd then play APBA, or other games, until we had to go to bed. I can hardly think of a better way to spend a day - or childhood.

For a long stretch of my youth, the XMan was practically "The Father of Garfield Heights." He was me and my friends' official quarterback in pickup football games. He coached our little league teams. If we were playing Yahtzee, he'd join in. My friends and I called my home, 9911 Garfield Drive, "The Establishment." It became a given that we'd have no more fun anywhere else.

Wow. The XMan has been gone a year. I have never had to go through anything close to as painful as this year. Yeah, I'm persevering through the days. I just hope I can be half the father he was to Sophie and Chloe.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

XMan's death ends blog

The Snooze Button Generation blog and all of its subsidiaries will be taking an extremely long hiatus following the untimely, unexpected and earth-shattering death of the XMan today. The XMan was 63.

"I kid around a lot on this blog, and some people might think this is some sort of twisted or cruel joke," Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens said. "But this is no hoax. My dad is dead. Can you (expletive) believe this?"

The Xman was vacationing in Hilton Head, S.C., where his focus was playing golf. It appears that he had a stroke while sleeping and was found dead in the morning, but details about exactly what happened are sketchy. He also might have fallen awkwardly - and somehow, fatally - in the middle of the night. This fact has emerged, though: He shot a 40 in his final nine holes.

"I'm not going to lie," Joe Stevens said. "All of this news is surreal to me. This hasn't sunk in. I spent the day pacing. My body doesn't know what to do with itself. Is this really happening?"Anyone who knows the SBG founder well knows the tight relationship he held with the XMan. Hell, anyone who knew the XMan knew how cool he was.

The Stevens family is simply in shock. This came out of nowhere.

Stevens will be traveling to Cleveland Thursday to be with his mom, brother, the World's Most Sophisticated Man, Meathooks and many others dear to him. Funeral arrangements eventually will be done with the Rybicki & Son Funeral Home in Garfield Hts., Ohio, but the XMan's body is still in South Carolina.

"I'm speechless," Stevens said. "I did numerous stories about death, pain and loss as a journalist, and when it happens to you, you realize how insignificant the stories are."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The 37th Annual Polish Olympics

If I had won a debate with the XMan 17 years ago, this would be the date for the 37th Annual Polish Olympics.

Instead, I am looking back in nostalgia at one of the greatest events created by mortals - the Polish Olympics. It took place every second Saturday in February in Cleveland from 1974 to 1993.

In 1974, when I was 5 months old, the XMan gathered approximately 25 of his closest friends to play games, eat kielbasa and drink beer in my basement. It was the first Polish Olympics, in which I believe John Sondej, who often wears shorts in wintertime, won. However, it might have been that my Uncle Steve Warner won the first Olympics. I don't recall the exact champ. I was only 5 months old.

The Polish Olympics took off because of its gorgeous blend of Polish cuisine, beer and games. Having more than 40 entrants was the norm, and in the mid-1980s, the event had to be moved to a hall called the Mary Rybicki Building.

The event developed a life of its own and culture, in which some competitors vaguely changed identities for it. I remember that Chuck Withrow, a successful ad man in Cleveland, won the Olympics multiple times and was the Babe Ruth of the Polish Olympics.To win the Olympics was a feat; to win it more than once was godly - partly because luck was a huge factor. In the final Polish Olympics in 1993, the events were darts, dice toss, Facts in Five, penny pitch, poker, Polish bingo, putting, Skittle Bowl, softball throw and Yahtzee.I loved Facts in Five and Skittle Bowl the most because 1) those are cool games and 2) it was the only time of the year anyone would play those games. My least favorite event was putting, and in retrospect, putting was a sign that my parents were transitioning from Polacks to golfers. Also, in retrospect, the running of the Polish Olympics coincided with the running of my childhood. Soon after the Olympics, I graduated college, moved to New York, then L.A.

When the XMan ended the Olympics after 20 installments, I implored him to keep it going, but he said 20 were enough. Maybe it was time to move on.

This many years later, I yearn to bring back the Olympics but do not know if it's possible. I might try some sort of Olympics in Long Beach, Calif., but I don't think the perfect blend of competition, kielbasa and ridiculousness will ever match that for the original 20 Polish Olympics. Na zdrowie!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Ale puts problems in perspective

I have found the Great Lakes Brewery's Christmas Ale. In other words, I have made it back to my homeland of Cleveland.

Because I grew up in Cleveland and have many friends and family there, I feel at home most in this beautiful and gritty Northeast Ohio city.

However, I must say that my time here comes with a price as difficult questions arise. When will we play Texas hold 'em? Should we go to the Browns game or watch it on TV? What will we do if the game is blacked out?

Although it may not be proper to escape these hard questions with liquor, the Great Lakes Christmas Ale offers a way to put these queries into perspective with a beverage that is 7.5 percent alcohol.

Some people apparently have a hard time finding the Christmas Ale because of its enormous popularity. But in certain suburbs, Brecksville included, it appears to be easy to get.

Earlier this month, the Plain Dealer ran a story about the brew, and I learned that the Christmas Ale accounts for 20 percent of the Great Lakes Brewery's sales, even though it is only sold for two months. Dortmunder is the most popular with 35 percent of the sales, and I think I like Burning River Pale Ale the best.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Leg Four: The Homeland

I may be taking a week-long hiatus from blogging because I will be going on leg four of my spiritual journey -- Cleveland, my homeland. I am uncertain if there are computers in Cleveland.

Apparently, this video has become blase in Cleveland, but I still find it funny:

Actually, because of my extremely strong research techniques, I found this other video done by the same guy that is even funnier: