My Theory on the Indomitable Nature of Cleveland, Ohio

December 21, 2015 by RJ



I’ve often heard my hometown compared to Rocky, the movie boxer. It’s not a good comparison. Rocky beat Apollo Creed in Rocky II, Clubber Lang in Rocky III, Ivan Drago in Rocky IV and Tommy Gunn in Rocky V. Cleveland keeps biting the canvas and struggling to its feet for more: KO’d in 1969 (burning river), again in 1978 (financial default), dropped by a quick jab in 1987 (“The Drive”), downed by implosion in 1988 (“The Fumble”), tripped up by Michael Jordan in 1989 (“The Shot”), floored in the late rounds of 1997 (Game 7 of the World Series),  savagely bloodied by the Recession of 2008 and publicly humiliated by LeBron James in 2010.

It’s a good thing that Cleveland’s DNA is steel. Some say steel made the city, but it’s the other way around. The city cut pieces from itself – Eastern European hands, Irish feet – and melted them down together in blast furnaces. Immigrant alloy.

Cleveland’s steel DNA contains traces of my grandfather. He was a first-generation American born to Slovak immigrants in 1904. His own father was electrocuted in a steel mill accident in 1916. It made the local paper. My grandfather dropped out of high school to support his mother; he got work as a mail boy at a local bank. He had progressed to teller by 1929, sleeping on tables in the back room during the Black Friday run on the banks. He retired from that same institution 44 years later, as head of the accounting department.

Cleveland is like that. It’s a car you saved from salvage and rebuilt with your dad or your uncle. Cleveland is that old dull knife that somehow cuts better than a new one. Cleveland spits blood and shouts, hey, hey you bastard, you beat me up last year and last month and last week but one of these days I swear I will catch you off guard and I will knock your fucking teeth out.

Another thing: in a movie about Cleveland, Cleveland would not be played by Sylvester Stallone. Or any real actor, for that matter. Cleveland would be played by that guy whom no one in Hollywood ever expected to make it as an actor.


JOE KAPITAN – Architect. Consultant. Cyclist. Husband. Dad. Neatfreak. College football fan. Microbrew drinker. Good teeth. Ugly feet. Writer of short fiction. Online publications (past and pending) include PANK, elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, Annalemma, Necessary Fiction, LITSNACK, Emprise Review, Corium, Metazen, The Northville Review, Eunoia Review, Apocrypha & Abstractions, and Used Furniture Review.

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