Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trump double down melt down

Donald Trump is a pretty smart guy, so it's hard to say for sure whether his totally unhinged campaign performance this afternoon was merely a calculated ploy along the route to some goal only he has identified, or just more evidence that the pressures of the multi-front election battle he is waging — against Democrats, Republicans, decency, and a host of other foes — have combined with the centrifugal forces of his own world-class narcissism have caused him to lose his mind.

If you missed his epic rant today, simply know that the Donald didn't just double down against his critics; he quadrupled down, across and over. Everyone except his audience and those they represent — angry, frustrated Americans willing to dispense with common sense, ignore incontrovertible evidence, believe unmitigated hype, and anoint the Donald as both personal and national savior — was denounced today as part of a vast conspiracy to steal from him what he called the most important election in American history. It's us against them, he said, as he reminded them of the tremendous sacrifices he was making on their behalf as the only man alive could save America from the vast criminal conspiracy of the corrupt Obama, crooked Hilary, scheming media, and political insiders who fear what he would do as President. 

It wasn't all negative all the time, though it was pretty much all unmoored bloviation that paused only for effect, or to gather steam for the next hyperbolic fusillade.  Trump promised to cure all the ailments of the inner city, which he seems to think harbors all and only the blacks. He will give us jobs, end common core, fix our worthless schools, and end the worst crime wave in 50 years or more. Under his administration, inner city mothers will once again regain the ability to go the store for milk without fear of being murdered. (He didn't promise they wouldn't be sexually assaulted.)

As his enemies close in with their baseless slander and outright lies, armed with polls that suggest diminished possibilities of winning, the bully Trump seemed bent not just on completely destroying the Republican Party but the as many democratic institutions as he can take down with him. All in all, his performance was a reminder that his loss will be somebody else's fault, and that even that loss will leave in its wake a gaping political mess.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Glenville II • Friendly Reunion

Yesterday I posted about getting together for lunch with some of my childhood friends. A few of our readers wrote me directly to wish us well for the reunion; one said he would like “to be a fly on the wall” when we got together. Another reader suggested I expand this piece as a rebuttal to the falsehoods currently being spread about the universal perversity of the inner city by he who will remain unnamed but must be forcefully rejected at the polls.

Four of us did meet and had a grand time. As might be expected we ran our mouths for more than 20 minutes before anybody even looked at the menu. Our waitress was gracious enough to snap a few photos of us.

Charles Stith, Charles Brown, Virgil Brown, Richard Andrews

The photos and the conversation sparked a lot of reflection and reminiscence on the part of all. What struck me when I got home and looked at the picture Charles had already posted to Facebook was the sudden realization that with my whole family of origin having passed, these three gents are the folks I’ve known the longest in life.

Charlie, Virgil and Charles were all born in Cleveland. Virgil and Charles were kindergarten classmates whose houses backed up one to the other. Charlie’s family moved almost directly across the street from me the year after my family moved here from Washington DC.

Those who believe the nonsense of a certain prevaricating pretender to the presidency would have all of us inner city public school products following some path of pathology, but the reality is quite different.

There are of course myriad threads that have bound us together over the years, and those memories and shared experiences are part of what we celebrated. But we also reveled in the understanding that none of the obvious differences among us had impaired our relationship. As Virgil noted, we may have fallen out with one another at times, but at this stage none of that matters.

As for the variety of human experience embodied in our tiny quartet, consider that among our cohort is a conscientious objector and a Vietnam vet [his book about the experience is now in its second printing[1]]; a teetotaler and a recovering alcoholic; we even have a Republican by birth and affinity.

We are all fathers who love and support our children, the vast majority of whom have moved far away, living in Florida and California to be sure, but also in Australia, Turkey, and Hong Kong. Charlie and I even share a niece and nephew in common, as his eldest sister and my older brother were married for a time.

There are others whose names we called today who have traveled this era and area with us, still others who have passed on in military uniform or hospital garb. They too were part of our celebration today.

Most of you reading this no doubt find parallels to these variegated patterns in your own longitudinal friendships. I hope you feel as fortunate as we four marvelous if not magnificent men.[2]

Bangkok by Christmas, 2d ed.,
by Charles M. Stith
[1] Trafford Publishing, 2016 []. 

[2] Only after finishing this piece did I realize that each of us was named after his father. Three of us learned today there is a Charles Ellis Brown V.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Glenville Yesterday! Glenville Tomorrow?

Tomorrow I'm getting together for lunch with some of the guys I grew up with. There will be somewhere between three and five of us, depending. Only one of us is fully retired, the rest work out of some composite of necessity, habit, or affection. All of us are in our eighth decade of life, and in remarkably blessed health.

The Glenville community of the 1950s was the shared crucible of our youth. Our neighborhood was a fantabulous mix of life and possibilities, of energy and danger, charm and security, predictability and wonder.

Three of us lived on the two-block long Parmelee Avenue; two others lived back-to-back just a few blocks away, off Parkgate Ave., which ran from the Cultural Gardens near our beloved Miles Standish Elementary all the way to East 105 Street, our main commercial thoroughfare.

We all came from solid two-parent, middle-class homes of strivers and strainers. All the fathers had fulltime employment, and all of our mothers worked outside the home as well, mostly in some capacity with Cleveland’s public schools.

To us the neighborhood was sprawling, but we all knew how to navigate the bus system to get around. Life wasn’t perfect but it seemed idyllic.

What we didn’t know was how the larger society was actively working overtime to circumscribe our existence and the lives of those around us. Most of our parents were daily facing discrimination to varying degrees in their workplaces. And the same was happening to us at school, though we were totally oblivious.

Cleveland’s black population had begun to expand rapidly soon after World Ward II, as the city’s industrial might and [undeserved] liberal reputation held promise for southern black families living in places where segregation had the full force of law. As pioneers, uncles, aunts, cousins began to pour into Cleveland, finding work in factories and shops, a hidden consensus among civic leaders actively funneled new arrivals into just a few city neighborhoods: Central, Hough, Fairfax, Mount Pleasant and Glenville. Ethnic enclaves, comprised generally of Eastern or Middle European immigrants who had in their turn also been more or less quarantined, circumscribed each of these areas.

Our confinement was more intentional. Thousands of people were forced to live in areas designed for only hundreds. The strains upon infrastructure — especially housing and public services — were unsustainable.

The Cleveland school board dealt with burgeoning enrollment by building new schools in ways that reinforced segregated housing patterns. Those housing patterns were largely the result of handshakes, winks and nods between federal and local governments and profit-hungry realtors and bankers.

As a kid, I took pride in the fact that the enrollment at Miles Standish grew to exceed 1,000 students during my student tenure; I did not understand that the temporary metal barracks-style classrooms erected on our playground and the adjusted class hours were part of a system-wide plan to segregate us from the white kids, of whom only a diminishing few were still attending my school.

The pattern repeated itself when I got to Empire Junior High, where our enrollment soon shattered pre-existing records, not to mention fire marshal standards. Educational tracking was in full force, and soon the majority of my classmates were being steered onto lower class paths.

At another time, I will write about the circumstances that shifted me out of Glenville into one of the nation’s top prep schools, and exposed me at the precarious age of 14 to an entirely different vantage from a virtually all white world 800 miles away. For today, I will say that my annual academic sojourn east helped me to understand that my beloved Glenville was considered a ghetto by the wider world.

Market Imperatives: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
Over time I have come to appreciate how the larger societal forces impact regional, municipal, neighborhood, family, and individual systems. Local politicians are often blamed for circumstances mostly out of their control, when they should more accurately be held to account for how they respond to those circumstances.

It’s actually a response to changing times that served as the prompt to this piece. I remember when East 105th Street [“One Hundred and Fifth Street”] and St. Clair Avenue was a vital bustling intersection. We shopped at the grocery there near Marlowe Ave. Nearby was a busy branch post office. And I recently learned, courtesy of Lou Stokes’ memoir, that he and his brother Carl opened their first law office just a hop and a skip from that corner.

It goes without saying that any efforts to modernize Glenville must involve the restoration of that intersection as a central commercial anchor. To that end, a community engagement forum is being held this Thursday from 5:00pm to 6:45pm at the Glenville Branch of Cleveland Public Library, 11900 St. Clair Ave.

The forum is the first and perhaps the most important in a series of such sessions concerning the New Eastside Market that will open next spring. Construction of the Market begins next month. The forum is designed to answer questions about the project, which will include a café, a demonstration kitchen, community room, and wellness programming.

The forum will also be an early opportunity for those seeking employment opportunities once the facilities open. Anyone seeking advance information or unable to attend the forum may contact 4k Programs at 216.881.0070 or

The Glenville I knew and loved is gone forever, except in the memories of contemporaries and the stories we share. A new 21st century Glenville is waiting to be built. Thursday’s forum is a good time and place for its architects to gather.