Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A former Clevelander returns home.

Here's an excellent article about Cleveland in this month's Smithsonian magazine.

Excerpt: Signs of renewed vitality were everywhere. Downtown warehouses had been turned into lofts and restaurants. Several old movie palaces had been transformed into Playhouse Square, the country’s largest performing arts complex after Lincoln Center. The lakefront boasted the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, in a futuristic design by I. M. Pei. The Cleveland Clinic had become a world center of medical innovation and was spawning a growing industry of biotechnology start-ups. How had so depleted a city managed to preserve and enlarge upon so many assets? And could a city that had once been a national leader in industrial patents in the 19th century reinvent itself as an economic powerhouse in the 21st?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What I like about being middle aged

People call me “sir.” With what I’ve been through in life, I have certainly earned that title.

People tend to take my views more seriously. Being articulate helps, but I was articulate as a youth (by 5th grade, I was reading on a college level) and people didn’t take my opinion seriously then.

I am comfortable in my own skin, even when there’s too much of it.

Less hair makes for less maintenance. Cutting what’s left of my own hair by myself saves me hundreds of dollars per year.

And when I do want to look younger, Just for Men on my beard and a cap for my head do wonders.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crostatas = Heavenly Pizza

I have no real explanation for why it took so long for Dan & me to check out Crostatas, a pizzeria on the corner of Highland and Bishop in Highland Heights. Before we bought our home in South Euclid, we lived within walking distance of it. Now, I drive by it every day on my way to/from

The building itself is not recognizable from its last incarnation, an Arabica Coffee House. Exterior and interior have been redesigned in an appropriately Italian style.

When we stopped at Crostatas Saturday afternoon, we were greeted at the entrance by Barbara, who was also our waitress.

We began with a beautifully prepared Caesar’s Salad, with the Parmesan cheese lovingly flaked over the greens. For a rarity, the dressing was an accoutrement and not an ocean drowning out the rest.

We decided on the Classico Pizza, which comes with Buffalo Mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and caramelized onions – all cooked in a handmade, hickory wood fired oven. I must confess here, I am not normally a pizza fan. I don’t react well to all that grease and cheese, and chain pizzas (which, let’s face it, accounts for most Americans’ taste experience) are usually overwhelmed by salt. But the Classico was a revelation. (In musical terms, it was like hearing Toscanini’s crisp and vibrant Brahms after only hearing stodgy Germanic performances.) The caramelized onions were the perfect contrast and complement to the tomato sauce and Mozarella – all the ingredients were in perfect balance – none overwhelmed the other. It was also beautifully presented, with Oregano leaves forming a perfect trinity.

No diet of mine (thanks to which I have lost 15 pounds since December, and which I broke on Saturday) was going to keep me from the unique dessert: a Nutella Calzone. Huge enough that there was extra to bring home even after Dan & I split it, it was surprisingly unheavy. The bread was sprinkled with powdered sugar, and the delicate flavor was contrasted with the bolder
Nutella filling.

Dan & I will definitely be returning to Crostatas.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Oakwood Reconsidered

Last night, the South Euclid planning commission held a meeting regarding the rezoning of the former Oakwood Club. Due to time constraints, statements from South Euclid citizens were kept to two minutes each - those from other localities 1 1/2 minutes each. Here is the complete text of my remarks, which I have also sent to the planning commission.

My name is Hank Drake. My family moved to South Euclid in 1971. I went to South Euclid-Lyndhurst schools – Anderson, Memorial, and Brush. After living in many towns all over America, I decided to move back to South Euclid in 2008. I have a vested interest in this community.

On January 5, I posted an entry to my blog in which I stated my opposition to the purchase of the Oakwood Club in general, and the building of more retail in this area in particular. I must confess, I am still skeptical about the creation of Oakwood Commons, in particular I do not want to see a Walmart or Sam’s Club there.

Concern has been expressed that the creation of Oakwood Commons would harm other local retailers. Both sides have cited studies which advance their own point of view. But we already have a real-life case study on the impact of additional retail: It’s called Legacy Village. Go to Beachwood Place. Go to La Place. They are as busy as they ever were before Legacy Village was opened – maybe more so. In any case, the purpose of zoning is not to protect niche retailers or to appease one set of people. The purpose of zoning is to ensure land-use that is fair to the greatest number of citizens, while also respecting private property rights. There have been times when politicians have overstepped those bounds and abused eminent domain, such as several years ago in Lakewood which got their mayor tossed out of office. I mention that case because eminent domain would now be the only way to overcome one simple fact: The South Euclid portion of the former Oakwood Club is now Mr. Schneider’s land. Whether we like it or not, it’s his private property to use as he sees fit, as long as it falls within an already established regulatory framework. Currently this land is zoned residential. Mr. Schneider could build houses on it right now, and we’d be powerless to stop him. The last thing this area needs is more housing. But anyone who thinks that Mr. Schneider, after spending all that money to acquire this land is just going to roll over and give it away for use as a park is living in Fantasyland.

What has changed my mind over this issue most of all has been the fact that, when I asked questions of First Interstate and those who support rezoning, I received answers that were factual and rational. But from the Citizens for Oakwood group, all I’ve heard were rumors, suppositions, hysteria, and condescension for the people of South Euclid.

I believe that our best option in South Euclid is to approve this rezoning, but to also use our resources to ensure that First-Interstate keeps their promises with regard to green, Leed-certified construction, mitigation of traffic issues, and builds the best center for the people of South Euclid and the surrounding communities to use. Those who don't like it don't have to shop there.