Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's "Ky-ah-HO-ga" -- the Mohawk say so

Did you see Cleveland Magazine mentioned on the Plain Dealer's front page yesterday? Mike McIntyre, the Tipoff columnist, credited us with a friendly assist as he tried to settle Cleveland's eternal debate: whether the river and the county should be pronounced "Ky-ah-HO-ga" or "Ky-ah-HOG-ah."

McIntyre covers the main points: that West Siders tend to prefer "HOG-ah," while East Siders say "HO-ga." He credited Jimmy Dimora with endorsing "HOG-ah" last week. (During his "diatribe" -- Dimora's own description -- against county Republican leader Rob Frost, my notes show Dimora also reduced the name to three, almost two, syllables: "Ka'HOG-ah" County.)

McIntyre writes, "Cleveland Magazine declared hoag correct after once interviewing a woman who speaks Mohawk. Cuyahoga is derived from an American Indian word." I had tipped him off to one of my proudest discoveries of Cleveland-iana, which we published in our December 2005 "How Cleveland Are You?" quiz:
The most poetic legend claims Cuyahoga is a Mohawk word for “crooked river.” So we called someone who speaks Mohawk: Martha Lickers, curriculum developer at the Ronathahonni Cultural Center in Ahkwesahsne, Ont. The Mohawk word for “big river,” she says, is kahionhowanen, which is pronounced “gah-yo-ho-wah-na.” HO-ga it is.
Gah-yo-ho-wah = Ky-ah-ho-gah. That not only settles the HO-ga vs. HOG-ah debate, it identifies the origin of the river's name! Alas, it's not "crooked river," as the poetic legend goes, just "big river."

No wonder our discovery didn't catch on. The idea that the name means "crooked river" is one of those Cleveland myths we don't want to let go -- like the legend that the bullet holes in Great Lakes Brewing's bar were shot by Eliot Ness.

Speaking of the river: "Burn On," our complete package of stories about the 40th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire, is now online. It's also in the July issue of the magazine. (If you'd like to link to it, here's a shortcut: tinyurl.com/CMriverpackage.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dimora: Investigate the investigators

"Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire," Jimmy Dimora said this afternoon.

With that, the embattled county commissioner accused the "Rove-Gonzales" Department of Justice and the Republican Party of conspiring against him. Dimora announced he will ask U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress to investigate the federal investigation of him.

In a fiery press conference late today, Dimora charged that the Justice Department started its investigation of him as an attempt to discredit Democrats and lower the turnout in the presidential election. Many people, he said, "had an interest in making sure I am out of the way."

For more, see my complete post on the Cleveland Magazine Politics blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

D.M.C. the teacher: Life lessons from an old-school rap legend

Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, in unlaced Adidas kicks and a black gazelle hat, once raised hell in a museum much like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He broke Elton John’s oversized shades and stomping on Michael Jackson’s sequined glove in the video for his band Run-D.M.C.'s 1985 hit, "King of Rock." This mayhem has proved more ironic than iconoclastic, since Run-D.M.C was inducted into the actual Rock Hall this year -- and McDaniels was back last night to speak to a crowd of educators from across the country and fans.

McDaniels, now 45, appeared as part of the Rock Hall’s Summer Teacher Institute “Electrifying the Classroom” program. Wearing designer jeans and a T-shirt, his head clean-shaven, he stood up for old-school hip-hop in a gangster-rap era and recounted his life story's highs and lows.

Run-D.M.C. mainstreamed hip-hop and created rap-rock — without glorifying drugs and violence. McDaniels, a hard-working, deep-thinking father of hip-hop, cringes at the modern hip-hop era of “slangin’ cane” and “sippin’ outta’ pimp cups” -- all justified as merely art imitating the harsh reality of ghetto life.

“You’re a goddamned liar," McDaniels says to hip-hop acts who use this defense. "Even in a dirt-poor ghetto, there’s some good. Everyone in the ghetto's not a pusher, everybody’s not a pimp, and everybody don’t like to go to strip clubs.”

Gangster rappers may sell ten million albums, but the negative images destroy ten million lives, he says. He questions why they don’t rap about the old woman who cleans houses for 50 years to send her children to college. There are songs about using guns, but none about choosing not to, he points out.

McDaniels grew up as a straight-“A” student at an all-boys Catholic school in Queens. He filled stacks of notebooks with rhymes emulating his heroes Grandmaster Flash and Kool Moe Dee. They used hip-hop as a device for education and communication, and ultimately evolution, McDaniels says. “They lived in the roughest place, and you never heard violence, profanity, or disrespecting women.”

Those notebooks were discovered by a young Russell Simmons, who had made a name for himself opening for Bronx rappers. The rest is rock history, and a lesson for the many children he talked to through the program, including more than 90 schools via Web chats.

“The reason why you pay attention to your studies is you never know who’s looking,” he told them.

It took hard times for him to become such a vocal proponent of education. Fading fame and a feeling of emptiness left a heavy-drinking McDaniels with thoughts of suicide -- until a cathartic cab ride listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”

“One whole year, all I listened to was Sarah McLachlan,” he recalls. After finding out he was adopted, McDaniels called up the singer/songwriter, who he’d met at a party, and who was also adopted. The two collaborated on “Just Like Me.” McDaniels went to co-found the Felix Organization, a camp for foster children run by grown-up, successful adoptees.

McDaniels' new message inspired at least two of the 60 teachers in attendance.

“He reaffirmed what I think most teachers believe, that each child has such potential and we’re doing whatever we can to bring that out in those kids,” says Janet Myers, a high school communications teacher from Joplin, Mo., with 33 years of experience.

Debbie Supplitt, an elementary teacher in Battleground, Wash., had never heard of Run-D.M.C. before. But she sees, even in first-graders, the negative hip-hop imagery McDaniels rails against. “We think we’re isolated in the suburbs, but we’re really not," she says. "TV crosses all cultures. So does music.” --John Hitch

Dimora: "I will prove my innocence"

"I am innocent," Jimmy Dimora said this morning at the county commissioner's meeting. "If I have to have a day in court, I will prove my innocence."

Provoked by county Republican chairman Rob Frost, the embattled Dimora launched into a long speech at the end of the meeting today, attacking Frost and responding to the federal corruption investigation.

"I haven't done anything wrong," Dimora told Frost. "I'm innocent. I'm not resigning."

For more of Dimora's comments, read my full post on the Cleveland Magazine Politics blog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Librarians make noise, protest budget cuts

What happens when you try to take a library away from a librarian? All hell breaks loose.

Well, that’s bit of an exaggeration, but let me say that any stereotypes of librarians as meek and mild-mannered were shattered this morning at the Save Ohio Libraries rally at the Cleveland Public Library. More than a hundred from around Ohio made the trek to Superior Avenue to send the message to Governor Strickland that they wouldn’t stand for his proposal to reduce the Public Library Fund by 50 percent starting next year. If Strickland gets his way, cuts for library funding in Ohio in the next two years would total $227 million.

Signs with slogans such as “Save Ohio Libraries” and American flags were all over the place, but a few gems stuck out, including the woman holding the alliterated gem “Slasher Strickland to Slice Libraries” and pictures of Strickland holding a book with “READ” across the top, modified to say “CLOSED?” The Kingsville Library even showed up with puppets that yakked along with the crowd during chants of “Act Now, Save our Libraries!” It was definitely a stark difference from the quiet atmosphere indoors.

The rally kicked off at about 10:30 a.m. with Cleveland Public Library director Felton Thomas Jr. explaining how the budget cuts would affect the downtown branch. Cleveland’s library gets 35 percent of funding from the state government, so Strickland’s budget proposal would basically slash $14 million over a two-year period. But for the 70 percent of Ohio libraries that receive at least half of their funding from the state, the consequences will be even worse -- they may have to close their doors.

"We understand that there are no easy answers, governor, but without our libraries, there are no answers,” said Thomas to the rally-goers, his words encouraging a voracious round of applause.

Heads of libraries from all over Cuyahoga County and beyond took turns explaining reasons why libraries are necessary, citing children’s programs, places to vote, English education and programs for the disabled.

Cleveland city councilman and former Ohio Rep. Eugene Miller let the crowd in on a little “secret”: that Strickland would be at the Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown at 11:30. He encouraged everyone go to the hotel to give him a piece of their mind.

“It’s strange having to fight my former colleagues for funding,” Miller said, adding that he knew how to get to Columbus pretty fast if need be.

I talked to Rebecca McFarland and Mike Stein from the Euclid Public Library, and they said that the system has already been feeling the effects of cuts in the past year.

Stein explained how he believes the governor's proposed cuts would affect the system.

“What the budget calls for is not a reduction of the budget of libraries, but closing libraries,” he said. "They won’t be able to be able to function. … If they cut the current budget to what is proposed, there aren’t libraries, basically. Libraries as we know them are done.”

While some have suggested merging the Cleveland Public Library with the rest of the Cuyahoga County system, Thomas argues that doing so would be detrimental to urban libraries and is not a viable solution to the funding problem.

“When you merge a system, you take out the long-term history of how they serve the community,” Thomas argues. “Our system is very different than the Cuyahoga County system, which are for the most part suburbs. We deal with very urban communities, and the ability to serve those is something that we worked over many years to learn how to best reach out to those communities.”

Library supporters have until Friday to garner support from the community to persuade Strickland to balance his budget differently.

A Place Fit for a Prince

Like the artist of Purple Rain fame, the Cuyahoga Falls restaurant formerly known as Lefever’s River Grille will soon be reborn and rechristened. Executive Chef Michael Fiala, the guy who made the now defunct Inn at Turner’s Mill such a satisfying place to eat, is at the helm here along with partner David Slaght and group of investors. The new name will remain a secret for a few more weeks, but I was among a small group that gathered Monday night to sample-- and score-- dishes from a menu that goes public next Wednesday (July 8).

Our assignment was to taste five appetizers, three salads, and nine entrees, and rate each on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (great). The food was set out buffet style one course at a time. The challenge was to keep self-serve portions small enough so you could go the distance.
I failed, forced to cry uncle before the final two- a char grilled pork rib chop with cheddar cheese grits and chimichurri sauce, and a ribeye steak topped with spicy corn and sweet pepper sauce.

Fiala’s food concepts are creative and tasty, and will often spotlight farm fresh ingredients. The bibb lettuce salad was composed of local leaves jazzed up with candied pecans and blueberries and Tea Hills of Loudonville, OH supplied the wonderfully moist organic chicken he served with an outstanding mushroom bread pudding. His panko crusted walleye with potato bacon was a favorite at my table . Fish will be a big part of the offerings: we tried grilled rainbow trout atop a lovely herb salad; poached salmon with red onion slaw; pan seared halibut in a roasted tomato beurre blanc; and scallops dabbed with cucumber melon sauce. Garlic marinated anchovies kicked up a traditional Caesar salad- really wanted to go back for seconds on that. Two seafood appetizers got high marks from me—crab cakes with red onion jam and pan roasted mussels with ginger pesto and jicama slaw. Other thinsg deserving of a shout out were a baby iceberg lettuce salad with feta cheese, pickled red onions and banana peppers in a kalamata olive, cucumber vinaigrette, and a vegetarian grazer's pie made with creamed spinach and wild rice on a potato crust that had a satisfyingly rich and complex flavor.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a fine place to spend an evening and well worth the drive from Cleveland. The space- in an old power generating plant- is attractive and comfortable with a dash of beam and brick charm. The dramatic views of the river can’t be beat. And after Monday night, I know Fiala will quickly win a following.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Re-Birthday Party

Cuyahoga County residents and families covered the grassy slope that is Settler’s Landing at today’s celebration — Once Gray, Now Green: 40 Years of Progress on the Cuyahoga River.

The Waterband kicked off today’s events with a folksy-reggae-pop performance (I believe the term the band coined for its genre is ‘folkedelicfunkpop’). What’s even cooler than the band's unique blend of electric and acoustic style is its contribution to your drinking water. In 2008, Waterband raised and donated $4,000 to various nonprofit organizations specializing in providing clean water.

But don’t panic — you may not have missed the fun yet. The re-birthday party continues this evening. Stop at the log cabin under the Detroit Superior Bridge anytime before 8 p.m. for some re-birthday cake, games and a little river history 101 from the River’s Bend historical interpreters.

40 years later: Burn on, big river!

Water on fire: It’s elementally wrong, like earth made of air. So when an oil slick on the Cuyahoga River caught fire on June 22, 1969, 40 years ago this summer (see top photo), the rest of America laughed instead of recoiled: What kind of city is so estranged from nature that its water burns?

But fire and water are part of Cleveland: the steel mill’s flame, the inland sea we call a lake. Of course waves and flames came together in a town built on industry, sweaty work in furnaces and an oil baron’s headquarters on a watery highway.

Today, we have done more than clean up the river. We’ve made our most embarrassing scandal a defiant part of our identity. Our pride can’t be extinguished.

So we're commemorating the Cuyahoga River fire's legacy in the July issue of Cleveland Magazine. This essay by Mark Winegardner, author of the novel Crooked River Burning, explores why an industrial accident became the ultimate Cleveland metaphor and why the river fire became internationally infamous -- blame Time, which published a photo of a Nov. 1952 Cuyahoga River fire (second pic from top) and passed it off as 1969's.

To read the rest of our feature package on the 40th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire, pick up a copy of the July issue of Cleveland Magazine -- in bookstores and subscribers' mailboxes this week, at newsstands in July -- or visit clevelandmagazine.com starting next week.

For more on the 40th anniversary of the river fire, check this blog later today for a report from this afternoon's Cuyahoga River Re-Birthday Party, at Settler's Landing under the Detroit-Superior bridge.

If you're in the mood to celebrate, stop by the party from 2 to 8 pm. Also, stop by Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Ohio City for their party, from 4:30 to 10:30 pm, a preview event for their Burning River Fest, to be held Aug. 15. If you'd like to know more about the river's history, we also recommend the documentary The Return of the Cuyahoga, showing tomorrow night at 9 pm on WVIZ.

(If you'd like to link to Winegardner's essay, you can use this shortcut: tinyurl.com/CMriver.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A few days ago I found myself at the far end of Concourse C at Cleveland Hopkins Airport with two long and unexpected hours to spare. On a quest for food, drink, and a way to pass the time I wandered into BanJoe’s Café, a concession opposite gate C-21. What I discovered was a chocolate lover’s dream. Beyond the predictable box of Ohio State Buckeyes and the familiar European imports- Toblerone, Lindt, and Droste- was a truly amazing display of bars that went way beyond the ordinary. Forget about just satisfying a sweet tooth – here were gourmet flavored mood altering, message bearing, and mission-driven brands.

I could fight global warming with The Climate Change Bar from TerraPass (tips for reducing my carbon footprint included); rejuvenate with Tree Blush’s chili pepper chocolate; and get the lift I need from a Wonder Bar made by Bloomsberry, a New Zealand company with a very entertaining website (if you're traveling with a laptop or Blackberry checking it out helps maintain a positive state of mind when your flight's delayed). Bars of Chocolove XOXOX , with either crystallized ginger or orange peel, come with a love poem inside the wrapper. Playa del Coco Seeds of Change bar is organic and looks like it's gift wrapped. Dolfin’s dark Belgian chocolate is blended with Earl Gray tea, hot masala spices, or pink peppercorns. Chuao Spicy Maya is spiked with chiles and cayenne.
These may be factory produced as opposed to handmade but they are high quality, high cocoa content, and high impact. They’d do very nicely when gifts- for both coming and going- are needed. I know that a few of these bars arriving with a house guest would make me extra warm and welcoming.

Keep this in mind when you next travel the friendly skies. Once you get through security, (or before you leave the gate area after arriving) you can head down to Concourse Chocolate and stock up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Get Out

The sun came out yesterday, the air was balmy, and I was at one of those rare moments of pause in my work day- just finished one assignment and not yet into the next project. That’s all the excuse I needed to escape from my desk. So I called a friend, who like me is her own boss and has an office in her home, and we went to Flying Cranes on Larchmere Boulevard near Shaker Square.

The garden out back, bigger and with more seating than the café itself, is an absolutely unique and charming outdoor dining spot. This time of year peonies, roses, and geraniums are in bloom and wisteria vines creep across a wooden lattice to create a leafy green arbor. The beds are filled with colorful annuals, herbs, and vegetable starts. The place has a homey, spontaneous, informal look that I just adore. And no wonder- the café’s owners Kayoko Irie-Frye and her husband Bill live in the apartment upstairs and this is actually their own lovingly tended backyard, which they are happy to share with customers. They’ve outfitted the space with an eclectic mix of tables and comfy chairs, and enclosed the whole urban oasis behind a tall wooden fence that makes it feel special and secret. To get in, you have to walk down an unmarked alley to the left of the front door and through a gate. But go inside first and place your order at the counter.

Kayoko’s food- a mix of Japanese and light American fare- is just as appealing and very reasonable. For $22.09 plus tip, we had two bowls of the wonderful roasted garlic and onion soup of the day, a salad speckled with tofu cubes and hard boiled eggs in housemade ginger dressing, and a panini made with fresh mozzarella, ham, pesto, and tomatoes. Other regular options include rice and noodle bowls, quiches, sandwiches, teriyaki, and a katsu- a fried pork cutlet. Flying Cranes opens at 10 AM for breakfast and Sunday brunch, and does dinners Wednesday and Thursday until 7 PM, and Friday and Saturday until 8 PM. You can also come just for tea or coffee, pastries, and ice cream. (no website, 216-795-1033)

My lunch break lasted longer than expected. The garden was so pleasant that we sat and soaked up the season for two hours. It was without question time well spent.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dick Jacobs, man who shaped Cleveland, dies

Dick Jacobs, a man who truly loved the city of Cleveland, who rescued Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians from fleeing town and who redrew our skyline died at age 84.

Most Clevelanders will remember Jacobs as the strong but behind-the-scenes owner that revived the Indians from one of the perennially worst teams in baseball to a two-time World Series contender. When he purchased the team, rumors swirled that because the team was so bad for so long, the team could well leave the city behind.

But Jacobs built his fortune in real estate. Most notably, Jacobs was the developer behind the Society Bank Tower — now the Key Bank Tower — which is the tallest building between New York and Chicago.

He had his flops, too, like the development of The Galleria, which was supposed to be a high-end shopping center to compete with Beachwood Place, but now is a beautiful building with very little retail to draw any shoppers in.

Cleveland Magazine, in 1987, was the first member of the mainstream media to be granted an interview with Jacobs. Ned Whelan's story shows a side of Jacobs that is not often portrayed: The funny, smart, hard-working man who, like in this anecdote, continually surprised:
Such street smarts helped him a few years ago when he was approached by a mugger who demanded money. Jacobs bluffed. He reached into his coat pocket, pretending to grip a gun. Then he coolly talked to the man, saying he understood the need for money in these hard times.

Jacobs agreed to leave some cash — a five-dollar bill, as it turned out — at the base of a nearby utility pole if the mugger would pick it up after Jacobs walked away. "I was nervous," he admits, "but I tried to be calm."
After you've read Ned's piece, check out this piece in 2002 when we honored Jacobs as one of the people who defined our city.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Brother, can you spare a dime?

In possibly the worst idea ever — and no surprise, considering it's from the punk rock bar that has 40 oz malt liquor served in a paper bag on its menu — Now That's Class is hosting a 10-cent beer night tonight to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the infamous promotion held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

In 2007, we interviewed a guy who swiped the ball cap off Texas Ranger Jeff Boroughs' head just before things got totally out of hand. He tells a cool story.

If any of my friends are stupid enough to accept my invitation to go, I'll make sure I snap some photos.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Abby, we barely knew ya!

Abby Ham is riding off the Channel 3 morning show into the sunset this week (actually, back to Tennessee and sister station WBIR). Channel 3 afternoon anchor Eric Mansfield mentioned the move, which was announced April 22 and briefly reported by The Plain Dealer about a month later, in his blog this morning. Feels like just yesterday, we were writing about Ham as the newcomer giving the Channel 3 show a jolt in a post-John Anderson era. We'll be interested to check out the new a.m. line-up. We endorse Maureen Kyle getting the upgrade to the desk.

Pining and wining

While it doesn’t qualify as a crisis, or even a big problem, I have a situation. The six jars of absolutely amazing wine jellies made by Deanna Ferry in Valley City, OH that I bought at the Fabulous Food Show back in November are all gone. This makes me sad. Unless you’ve tried them, you simply can’t imagine how wonderful they are. My stock included Shiraz & Bay Leaf; Riesling & Tarragon; Pinot Noir Smoked Cherry; Pinot Grigio & Basil; Chardonnay & Rosemary; and Merlot Black Peppercorn. I’d match them up with cheeses, and both were better for the partnership. Each one was my favorite until I tried another. Now I love them all equally- just like I do my kids.
To make my stash last, I used them sparingly, was stingy when it came to sharing, and saved them for special moments and meals. This miserly behavior was prompted by the fact that the woman doesn’t have a website for online ordering. I only had a brochure with the company name- the awkward Garden.Vineyard.Grove, Ltd.- her phone number and email address. I feared it would be a big hassle to re-supply. But I need more wine jelly. I’m yearning to taste the Sauvignon Blanc & Ginger, the Cabernet & Chocolate, along with mustards, fruit leather, and other stuff she does. Finally, I called.

She was making strawberry butter. There’s good news and bad news. Ferry prepares everything she sells herself in small taste-tested batches, and even grows the herbs she uses. It takes her two hours to cook up 12 jars of jelly, and she adjusts each batch depending on the vintage’s particular profile and the strength of the herbs. Needless to say production is limited so there’s no guarantee she’ll have everything on her list, anytime I want it. On the positive side, it turns out it’s easy to get her products shipped to my front door. Some of her culinary creations are also available at The Cheese Shop in the Westside Market , at Nature’s Bin in Lakewood, at the NorthUnion Farmer’s Market in Shaker Square the last Saturday of every month, and at Crocker Park market every 3rd Saturday. For a product list and order form contact Ferry at 330-483-3359 or deannaferry@zoominternet.net

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Too Soon?

If we didn't laugh, we'd cry.

(Note: the above is a spoof of this original Nike Basketball commercial.)

1,500 alpacas at the I-X Center

Seriously: 1,500 alpacas adorably invade the I-X Center this weekend for the National Alpaca Show.

They'll compete in an International Fleece Competition and a National Alpaca Fashion Show.

So foreign alpacas can help make clothes, but can't model them? Unfair!

Since I also blog about politics, I can't help but ask: will Mike White and Peruvian BMW make an appearance?

Here is the press release we just got:



WHAT: The National Alpaca Show. More than 1,000 breeders and affiliated vendors from all over the nation and internationally converge on Cleveland, generating more than 2,000 room nights in hotels and an economic impact of $1,552,000. Attendees can see 1,500 alpacas in individual stalls. During the conference, an International Fleece Competition will take place featuring alpaca fiber from throughout the world judged by international judges.
IX Center, One I-X Center Drive, Cleveland, Ohio 44135
Thursday, June 4 3pm – 5pm
Friday, June 5 8am – 6:30pm
Saturday, June 6 8am – 7pm
Sunday, June 7 8am – 4pm

SPECIFIC EVENTS: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has designated 2009 as the “International Year of Natural Fibres,” which will be celebrated during the National Alpaca Fashion Show on Saturday, June 6 at 7:30pm. The latest in alpaca fashions and accessories, from every day to evening wear, will be showcased.

A free public bus tour to visit four area alpaca farms departs the I-X Center at noon on Wednesday, June 3 and returns at approximately 5pm. The following alpaca farms will be included on the tour:
· Hobby Horse Farm, Wadsworth, OH
· C R Alpacas, Inc., Chagrin Falls, OH
· Humming Hill Suri Farm Inc., Newbury, OH
· Promised Land Farm, Chardon, OH

ABOUT AOBA: Headquartered in Nashville, TN, the Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA) serves to facilitate the expansion of a strong and sustainable alpaca industry through the growth and development of the national herd and its products. Since AOBA’s formation in 1988, its membership has grown steadily to more than 4,000 members in North America.