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Local writers embrace Cleveland culture in new anthology
"Rust Belt Chic" aims to define Cleveland in locals' terms

Mark Urycki
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A new book explores the culture of Cleveland from the people who live there. "Rust Belt Chic" is a collection of essays by Northeast Ohio writers who don't gloss over the rough parts of the city but sometimes embrace them. 

WKSU's Mark Urycki reports the authors want to point out the authenticity of Cleveland culture.
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A segment of David C. Barnett's “Tales of the Regional Art Terrorists”

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A segment of David Giffels' "Lake Effect"

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“Rust Belt Chic” is a term coined years ago by Joyce Brabner, the wife of Harvey Pekar, to describe what out of town media was looking for in their trips to Cleveland.   She called them “anorexic vampires. “  One of the contributors to the book “Rust Belt Chic, David Giffels, says the authors wanted to take control of the phrase “rust belt” and define the city themselves.

“One of the things that seems to be a habit of our is to re-identify who we are because Akron is no longer the rubber capital of the world and Cleveland is no longer the steel city that it was and so there’s this urge to find a new identify.  and what has happened every four years during the presidential cycle is this to urge to define us from the outside to define, to fill that void  in a way in which we really bristle against and resist.”

That’s what led to Richey Piiparinen and Anne Trubek to put out the call to area writers to describe their Cleveland.  Maybe it’s because Cleveland hasn’t been flooded with tourists or even recent immigrants that the city’s old culture of a blue collar ethnic mix remains authentic. Anne Trubek.  

“We said let’s tell the story of Cleveland, present and past.  We’ll tell it ourselves. We’ll put our mark on what’s going on in town and showcase local writers.“

Therapy for too many Cleveland jokes

Piiparinen “To really put our flag in the ground showing this is not “creative class chic” this is called “rust belt chic.”  And it’s not about hiding your problems. It’s not about being something you’re not,  appreciating who you are, confronting your conflicts,  integrating your conflicts into your identity as a way of understanding who you are so you can move forward.”     

Sound like psycho-therapy?  Piiparinen has a graduate degree in clinical psychology and a graduate degree in urban planning.

The essays in “Rust Belt Chic” are personal and more appreciative than complaining - more about the city’s resilience, its ability to get up after being knocked down.  Piiparinen calls that “narrative therapy.”   

The shared experience of sports

Anne Trubek says a lot of submissions came in about sports, from men and women.

“Almost everybody wrote about going to the game with their father, no matter what age or gender, or how much sports was important to them.”

David Giffels says sports remain a shared experience for the city.  He points out Cleveland sports history is not about losing; it’s about almost winning the big game, only to come in second.  His entry, called “Lake Effect,” is about the infamous 1981 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders when the Browns came roaring back in the final minute to almost win.  

New investment

Today, young people are moving from the suburbs into Cleveland, and urban planner and researcher Richey Piiparinen says they represent new generations that don’t carry the baggage of loss or failure that their parents and grandparents did.

Piiparinen   “I often think of a city as a stock. If “last one to leave turn the lights out” is your psychology then there’s going to be disinvestment.   Because people are going to leave and without people there’s no money, no circulation of capital.“

Getting Clevelanders to accept and embrace their history, good and bad, is a way the authors hope will empower them to make the city better.

The second acts for Anne Trubek, David Giffels, and Richey Piiparinen, at least for now, are readings from their book “Rust Belt Chic” around the region.  The next one is tomorrow evening at the Akron Main Library. 

Listener Comments:

Thank You Dracha for your subliminal hint to the Cleveland Orchestra to get out and about for the People. And Thank You KSU for having the courage to post Dracha's Article: The Iceality of Recycling Everyone’s Favorite Rustbucket (2010)

Tune in tonight, Friday May 24, 2013 WVIZ at 9PM, for the Cleveland Orchestra’s inaugural “At Home” neighborhood residency in Gordon Square. The program features The Cleveland Orchestra performing at St. Colman Catholic Church, this performance marked the first time The Cleveland Orchestra played on the west side of Cleveland since 1980!

Posted by: Ambassador Renate (ARK in Berea) on May 24, 2013 4:05AM
About the above post...
Albeit long winded and full of platitudes....
Wasn't funny...
I want my ill spent time reading that back but know I can't, will be more careful going forward...

Posted by: Dave Bartholomew (United States) on December 19, 2012 1:12AM

Iceality of Recycling Everyone’s Favorite Rustbucket (2010)

The Cav's lost so even Lebron can save leveland's image now. There is no time for Casino's too. So as the 2010 vacation season starts, Cleveland is not going to rate anywhere as a tourist Mecca.
While do have some first class attractions, nobody living here can afford to see them and only the Cleveland Orchestra, subsidized with our
tax dollars, can leave here to travel places where they can be heard; which is part of the reason nobody living here can afford to visit the
other attractions here. City Leaders could affordably change the name of one of the free beaches to some thing more appealing to visitors,
perhaps the "Sacred Beach of the Holey Vagigi" in honor of Oprah or Ambassador Renate might work. So tourism here remains a joke; and, sadly, the irony is because many finicky travelers are influenced by the loads of national jokes about Cleveland. It is a vicious circle and Cleveland
ends up on the bottom of all the National polls but it is still the hometown to dozens of decent people.

Nevertheless, here is a bold, five-tiered approach to solving Cleveland’s problems:

Step 1: Develop a serious business into tourism.
Build a serious ad campaign expressly designed to attract tourists from such “problem areas” as Detroit, Newark, Afghanistan, Mexico, Israel,
The thinking is: Compared to the trouble and adversity the people of these countries experience daily, a week or two in Cleveland will seem positively tranquil and idyllic.
I would venture to say that if a hardy group of, oh, vacationing pirates from Somalia were walking on Public Square and one of its members was
hit by a drive-by shooter, their thinking could be: “Oh dear, we have lost Ms. Haboon, but that’s no reason we cannot still take the Playhouse
matinee and the S.S. GOODTIME II this afternoon as originally planned.”

Let’s face it, this is the Crocodile Dundee type of tourist Cleveland needs to attract: daring, courageous individuals, not easily upset
about harsh living conditions or random small-arms fire. People who won’t stay holed up in their hotel rooms sniveling and complaining each and every time someone in their party is mugged, but who will be out in the bars, restaurants and theaters spending money.
As another example, if a tour group of Red Shirts were set upon by pistol-packing thugs inside The Q Stadium, the delegation would no doubt
pull out their own weapons, squeeze off a few rounds and go back to enjoying the ballgame. Saving the city money and giving our police a

Step 2: A boy saved is a citizen earned.
Recently our hometown U.S. Marines about to be deployed in the Middle East left for California for training. Until they joined the service,
most of these guys have never left our rust bucket area and here we are sending them away to see Sunfunland USA. Sunshine, bikini girls,
Swimming pools, movie starlets in a word....‘giggity’. Hurry back Boys!

The solution is instead of moving them away to California we should keep them here in Cleveland to train. Wouldn't the presence of 10,000 or so
troops in Cleveland boost the economy while also providing our soldiers a more ideal training ground for the bitter house-to-house fighting in
Afghanistan? Let all the armies of the world know that Cleveland could serve as an excellent all around training site for urban guerrilla
warfare. The torching of an old church or temple downtown now and then adds a nice touch of realism too.
But don’t stop there. Invite combat doctors and nurses to come here to our famous Hospitals and study the injury’s caused by modern conflicts.
See, then we would have a real supply-and-demand reason to build a MED MART here. Lets see if the Nashville Med Mart people can try to beat

Step 3: Them Bad Apples, don’t throw them away in this economy.
Advertise to attract the ‘alternative’ conventions nobody else wants. The mercenary crowd, outlaw biker clubs, professional wrestlers,
military unit reunions, etc. With all these dynamic people coming to town, Cleveland would be able to afford to re-open some venerable
downtown cultural institutions like the ROXY and attract exotic headliners like Rima Fakih to perform. You know, the fun places that
genuine rock stars really do want to visit. These places could also provide extra work for the local co-eds like they do in other tourists
Soon, Cleveland would be a truly exhilarating global village again, teeming with thousands of young cheerful, free-spending soldiers and
sailors, rappers, politicians, international policemen and all their many diversified entourages.
OK, maybe then, we can even talk about hosting a Rock Hall Induction Ceremony or opening a Casino or two.

Step 4: Believe in turning negatives into positives whenever possible. Instead of bemoaning the economy and job loss over our fair city, why
not put it to good use? Another future example, when Continental and United eventually close their hubs at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, people,
don’t complain but celebrate the news!
Why not put it to good use?
We can turn the empty spaces they left into a hub for the Strategic Air Command (SAC). This addition would allow the Labor Day Air Show to
expand its hours 24/7. Visitors viewing all this High-Tec military hardware on display would be asking themselves where can you get this
stuff cheap? China and Russia obviously, but fortunately, Cleveland already has an abundance of empty steel plants and auto factory’s (not
to mention the old WW II Cadillac Tank Plant) ready to go into production - all they would need is to immigrate enough skilled people
to hire.

Step 5: Getting back to our Future.
Focusing on North East Ohio’s natural beauty, aquatic charm and 'iceality' may have worked once. But in today's competitive market you have to be bold. A future bold example; by simply expanding Hopkins Airports’ main runway in a shape of a pyramid from Brookpark Rd north through the foreclosed homes area to say about......Edgewater. Dayum!, this would
give NASA’s Glenn Space Center here a inter-galactic welcome mat, SAC an emergency runway and NASCAR a new raceway while giving our resident
poor developers needed work. Look at the PR possibilities, instead of a bunch of small races around the nation, NASCAR could cut their travel
and promotional costs by holding only one single top-notch 50,000 mile race here....and if the drivers car even more. NASA could
promote on the runway to extraterrestrials and UFO's on Google Earth a daily welcome message complete with local room rates and restaurant
specials and weather report in different languages like Russian, Vulcanese, Ferengi, and Klingon, and especially Borg.

This may sound like on far-out proposals but sometime into the future, Cleveland would be back because there only is one way for it to go.

Dracha Arendee
Cleveland, Ohio

Posted by: Dracha Arendee (Cleveland, Ohio) on December 18, 2012 1:12AM
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