28 Days in Cleveland

Morgan Meis in Art Hopper:

Corrie-Slawson_I-80W-from-CLE-Tonys-East-Peroia-620x417I came to Cleveland carrying the same bias with which most visitors arrive. I thought I was coming to a broken city. Cleveland was broken, I assumed, for the same reason that all the other cities and towns of the Rust Belt are broken. The jobs went away, more or less, when heavy industry collapsed. What was left was a city gutted. The famous Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 still burned in my own consciousness (as I suspect it does for many) as the city’s primary symbolic event. The river itself caught fire. It still seems an incredible and outrageous event. How does a river become so polluted that it catches fire?

I remember listening to the Randy Newman song “Burn On” when I was a little kid.

Cleveland, city of light, city of magic
Cleveland, city of light, you’re calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
‘Cause the Cuyahoga River goes smokin’ through my dreams

Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on

Mr. Newman was employing a high degree of irony and humor when he called Cleveland a “city of light” and a “city of magic.” Paris is called “The City of Light” because it is so beautiful and because of its historical role in The Enlightenment. Randy Newman called Cleveland the “city of light” because he saw it as a hell on Earth, an environmental catastrophe where the rivers burn night and day.

More here.