The Quiet Life, Right Where Suburbanites Left It

A lot of times, I sit at my house in Cleveland and think of the people whizzing by a few miles away, rushing home to their “paradise” in the suburbs or the country, escaping “urban problems.” A word comes to my mind, to describe these people, so desperate to escape the traffic and crime and smog of the city.

That word, my friends, is suckers.

All that effort, all that expense, and the very things that they are seeking in pristine suburbs and the country are fading behind them. Calm traffic, nature, sense of community, all those, ironically, are now the domain of the city.

Let’s start with traffic. Trying to escape the hustle and bustle? Your best bet is downtown. The closer to the city center, the better really. Because there is no traffic in the city of Cleveland. Rush hour in Cleveland consists of 10 minutes by two interchanges in downtown Cleveland.

The second you leave city limits though, even to go to Lakewood, get ready to idle. In fact, the Cleveland region’s development patterns are so backwards that the worst traffic in the city is on I-480 ten miles east of 271. I once drove through there at rush hour and traffic was just stopped. In the middle of forests. Stopped. And people are sitting there waiting in their Hyundias and business suits. Because that’s how desperate they are to live in whatever those suburbs are over there. I’m sure they must be wonderful, the way people are willing to spend their precious leisure time patiently waiting in line everyday behind thousands of people for the privilege of going home. But count me out.

Then you have nature. I know a few of these suburban dwellers. They like to brag about deer trespassing on their yards. But we’ve got better tree-cover in my neighborhood than any suburb in the region, I guarantee. And even on a postage stamp lot, all it takes is one gargantuan tree to make it feel like you’re living in a treehouse. I’ve got hawk’s sreetching. Raccoons prowling. I — swear to God — saw a fox at the 25th Street rapid station. Because the rapid line by my house is a haven for wildlife – not because we’re intruding on their territory. Because we’re peacefully coexisting. That’s the way I like it.

Living in the city of Cleveland, you see, is the best of both worlds. Sometimes it feels like I live in a small village with the amenities of the city. The Near West side of Cleveland is a very tight-knit community. Between Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway and Tremont, the three fancy Near West side neighborhoods, I’m always tripping over people I know. It would be annoying if everyone wasn’t so nice and likeminded and smart.

At the same time, I don’t have to deal with the hassles that come with country and suburban living. I don’t have to use my car hardly ever. I can walk to the post office, hardware store, coffee shop, movie theater, grocery store, bank, etc. I haven’t filled up my tank in months, seriously. All that money I saved I am able to use to treat myself to nice dinners or set aside for a rainy day.

Suburban people are always telling me how terrible crime is in my city. And I hear about it on the news. But honestly, I don’t see it. My experience with crime here has been about identical with when I lived in the suburbs in high school: one time my car got broken into (nothing was stolen, no damage). When I first moved here, I was certain there were murderers waiting in the bushes because that’s what everyone said it was like. Now I feel just as comfortable as any neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. It was all a big lie.

Another thing I’m constantly hearing from suburbanites is that the schools are so terrible in the city, no one in

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their right mind would ever live there. Except the thing is, they’re opening a new charter school by my house — a bunch of parents from Ohio City. It is going to be modeled off this amazing charter school in the east side. Besides that we’ve got Urban Community School, Tremont Montessori, plus about a half dozen decent private and public schools.

I’ve been living in inner-city Cleveland for about two years ago, and I’ve got to be honest, I don’t see the downside. Plus, I am stealing my house. Stealing. And that means I am not under too much financial pressure, which may be the greatest reward of all.

People from the suburbs keep on telling me what a bad place to live Cleveland is. And I guess that’s part of the reason life is so good here. So affordable, so low on traffic, so easy.

So, let them race home on the highway from their stressful jobs they need to pay their high mortgage so that they can live in the place “with the best schools” and save a half percent on their income taxes, while their efforts go up in exhaust.

The good life is here in the city. I just wonder how long it will take Cleveland to figure that out.

-A.S.

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