Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pedal Pushers

Though I've lived on the western side of Ohio City for about ten months now, it never occurred to me that biking to Tremont was something that would not only be simple, but fun. Perhaps it's because more than half of those months were dominated by crippling cold.

Tremont is one of my favorite communities in Cleveland. The old-world roots mixed with creative contemporary cuisine by some of the city's best chefs, plus the abundance of galleries and the green space of Lincoln Park make it the perfect formula for a diversified urban experience. Before I lived downtown, I would visit as frequently as I do now, stopping into Visible Voice to browse through the books, or to Civilization (featured in the book Celebrating The Third Place) for an iced coffee on a hot day. Then there's Grumpy's, the best breakfast in the city, in my opinion.

When my fiance and I discussed taking a bike ride a local bar, we unanimously decided on Prosperity Social Club, located in the heart of Tremont near Lincoln Park. Prosperity, as it's known to its regulars, is a bar that satisfies my need for both a dive bar atmosphere and for tasty snacks and high-end beer and cocktails. The walls are adorned with vintage beer advertisements, including two separate illuminated Schlitz globes that spin slackly above the bar. Whatever's playing on Turner Classic Movies is almost always flickering on a decrepit television in the corner. The jukebox is predictable yet satisfying. And in the back room, a stack of board games lies in wait next to the always occupied pool table.

I opted for a Left Hand Sawtooth Ale from the draft list and we played a few rounds of Connect 4, all the while being charmed by our sweet bartender and tales of her rescue dog Tulip. The second bartender, a guy who's poured me many a beer over the past few months, teased us mercilessly as we allowed the beers to get the better of our Connect 4 strategy. It's a harder game than I remembered. Perhaps I never had the discipline to really finish a game as a child. Or perhaps I lost too quickly back then. After we both downed a Founders Red Rye, a dizzy ride across the street took us to the Lincoln Park playground, The sweet smell of marijuana idled through the thick air of the evening, its origin unknown to us. We ignored the abandoned tennis shoes beneath the swingset and tore through the sky together, commandeering the playground and the night, kicking our legs forward with some trepidation and landing safely on the padded ground.

Just as we mounted our bikes and began our trek back home, a group of about five young people whizzed by us, and one of them hollered "come with us!" This was a Saturday night. They were on bikes, we were on bikes, it was Tremont. We turned around and chased them.

We ended up meeting them outside of South Side, an unmarked Tremont hot spot with fantastic food and an absolutely electrified night life. The girl, the holler girl, was this kind of flawlessly, naturally beautiful person. She exuded joy as we approached her. Her friends welcomed us with curiosity. It turns out that this was her going-away party. Going to Portland for some reasons I couldn't make out over the bar. New start, just to leave, cousin in Seattle. I caught fragments as I sipped my last beer of the evening, 21st amendment's dark-roasted Back in Black IPA. In a black can, it looks deceptively like a cheap beer and was the cause of much intrigue amongst our new friends.

As we made it to the patio, I felt this total tranquility that I always get amongst strangers, this feeling that I can be the best version of myself right now, untainted, fresh, appealing, free of cynicism. We talked about music, art, the city, our favorite bars. It was the kind of conversation I'd have with my best friends, but the excitement of exploration made it even more thrilling.

I gave my emil address to a sweet girl there. I don't expect her to email me, but it felt good to make a connection with someone new, however fleeting.

This is the way I must live from. I must continue to take these risks, to experiment, to engage, to reach over and sample a stranger's hummus. I need to turn around more instead of putting my head down and powering through. I am open at last.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I've had similar experiences traveling alone around Europe. When I look back at those moments, I think, man, I'm glad I said hey to those people in my room or butted into a conversation while in the main area of a hostel. Tons of people are quite open, and it just takes a 'hey' to make a cool evening better.