Tuesday, September 1, 2009

She's a Wallflower

She was once majestic, virile, a bit gritty but always one happenin' place! Attractive bedroom communities like Barberton, Manchester and Cuyahoga Falls once adorned her. Hundreds of thousands were employed and rubber and polymer ruled. Yep, Akron was a dominant industrial city with a great future. But more on Akron in a bit.

It's been awhile since I posted a new entry. Two weeks ago I headed down to Nashville on an invitation from Jeff. We enjoyed some fine ales and also took in a Sounds game with the family. It was fun. Afterwards, I kept telling myself that I was going to take a few days off before stations began to settle in on the start of the Fall ratings period. And although business has been up, funds have been depleted. So, once again, we opted for a trip home to northeast Ohio via automobile as opposed to a flight to some tropical locale. Heck, you can drink margaritas anywhere, can't you? So, yes, we backed up the blue X-Terra, loaded it up, and headed down I-70.

While home in Akron, we stayed in Donna's mom's house. Pretty spartan digs, let me tell you. We did have running water and electricity. The toilets worked, too. We had a small refrigerator that held copious amounts of Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale and a few small cans of Diet Coke. And we had a radio, which seemed to sit on either classical WKSU or Smooth Jazz WNWV, "The Wave". Our sleeping quarters consisted of an air-mattress and a small table on which to set my CPAP machine. Oh, and we had a bag of Golden Krisp potato chips. That's it. Like I said, definitely not some swanky hotel in a sub-tropical paradise.

Akron, Ohio is a bit of an enigma. You will not likely see Akron in a Kiplinger's list of "Best Towns in America in Which to Live". At first glance, she's a poster-child for decaying rust-belt cities. There's nothing particularly attractive about her. She's a girl in jeans and a faded t-shirt with her hair pulled back and without make-up. She's a bit rough-edged with a hard demeanor and a wary glance, somewhat distrustful. Her un-trimmed median strips on I-76 are proof-positive that she doesn't sweat the details. The neighborhoods that surround the Central Interchange look as if they've been rode hard and put away wet. Hell, our old house in Kenmore is now boarded up...and Irene's house, next-door, isn't even there any more!

But it's real. What you see is what you get. The complexities and nuances are many and the niceties take awhile to find. So between visiting the folks for their birthdays and getting together with my brothers, we peeled back some layers of our old adopted hometown and found out some pretty interesting things about the former Rubber Capital of the World. We found out that people in stores are, for the most part, still pretty helpful. We found out that Akron has a jewel of a public library... clean, expansive, and new. We also drove past the new Infocision Stadium, which has replaced the Rubber Bowl, and discovered a world-class facility, at least from the front-seat of the X-Terra as we drove around the block. We also realized that the University of Akron has grown from a small commuter school to a big, bold urban university, one that dominates downtown.

We also re-discovered some things that we already knew: that Canal Park, the home of the Aeros, is as good as any minor league park in baseball...and the beer selection isn't half-bad! We also found out that West Point Market can still rival any similar store that Jeff and I could have visited a couple of weeks earlier in Nashville...that Primos Deli still has one of the best beer selections and some of the best sandwiches in northeast Ohio...that the Akron Museum of Art has a fairly impressive modern art collection. (even if I still don't completely understand how most of what I saw qualifies as "art")...and that right down the street from Donna's Mom's house sits the beautiful Goodyear MetroPark, a hop, skip, and a jump away.

No, cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, and Portland will always get the publicity. And once the economy turns around, they will probably get the jobs, too, when they return. The "niceties" are easy to see in these cities. They're chic, pretty, pampered, and cool. They're not wallflowers, like Akron. They jump on to the dance-floor quickly and with fanfare. I guess that's why they're attractive, even to people like me. But sometimes the qualities that are deep-down inside just need time to rise to the surface. Or, better yet, maybe the person doing the searching just needs to have the patience to let them rise to the surface. After all, the wallflower does eventually want to dance. You just have to ask.


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Gary D said...


You were in Akron? Hmmm....that's not that far from Canton is it?

Bye Steve..Bye Dave...

Gary D.

andy said...

primos deli...they still put chips in a bowl on the table? man, we ate a lot of those when the wone studios were over on s hawkins. i was just telling beth that the next time we're up visiting her folks, we needed to drop by luigi's downtown...i assume that's still there too. akron was one of the cool stops early on in my career.