“It’s like a mini New York,” commented my dad as I packed for Cleveland. He wasn’t far off; Cleveland’s architecture is stunning, with intricately carved old stone buildings lining its downtown streets. I’d edit my Dad’s statement though: Cleveland is like a mini post-apocalyptic New York.
Even in the middle of the day, the streets aren’t exactly bustling. It feels a bit like those walking the streets are the survivors of the global pandemic 24 hour news heralds on slow days. The city is quiet like the suburbs, and even sirens are an infrequent performer in the soundscape. It’s the kind of quiet you’d expect before zombies jump out and feast on your jugular. Much of the stunning architecture is vacant or boarded up, proof that there really was a recession – even if Toronto seemed immune. In short: Cleveland is beautiful, but lonely. As a survivor of this pandemic, these zombies, this recession – here are some stories of my time in Cleveland.
Made a Border Guard Profoundly Uncomfortable
“Canadian” I yawned, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and my contacts out of place. “What is the purpose of your visit?” I blinked hard trying to get my vision back and settled for bleary haze. “I’m touring a show based on Fifty Shades of Grey.” “What’s that?”
I’d criss-crossed the border a dozen times over the past few months, but this was a new question. Caught off guard, I mouthed wordlessly for a moment as my barely-awake brain tried to come with an answer suitable for 7 am and a government official. I cleared my throat. “It’s a book about a girl who’s a virgin, and then I guess she loses her virginity to a billionaire who is really into BDSM. So it’s a lot of that, but like also a bunch of her emails to him.” We stared at each other, neither of us really sure that I had actually said what I had just said. He glanced down at my visa and then again up at me. “So what do you do?” Another new one. I shuffled uncomfortably as I imagined the phone call to my boss explaining why I had been detained. “I play a young virgin who falls in love with a billionaire.”
A long silence followed. He searched my eyes, and in that moment I knew. Here was a man charged with protecting his country, with defending it from the ills of the rest of the world, from keeping out those who’d do it harm. I knew, as he stared into my eyes and down into my soul, that he was seriously searching his own for whether or not to let in anybody who had just said those two very terrible sentences aloud. He sighed as his resolve and faith in the world shattered.
“Alright. You have a great day, ma’am.”
Foiled a Minor Crime
Eating healthy on the road is the bane of my existence. Unfortunately, one of my first lines of dialogue in this play is about what a rockin’ bod I have, so I live at the gym and eat sadness, more commonly known as health food. Each Cleveland morning for me began with a walk to CVS to buy a pile of depression, more commonly known as a yogurt and a protein bar. One morning as I made the incredibly hard decision between “chocolate chip shattered dreams” and “peanut butter hang myself”, I noticed a gentleman stuffing Nibs into his coat. We made uncomfortable eye contact. I scuttled away, “peanut butter hang myself” in hand. I did what any self-respecting, fully grown adult would have done, and I tattled. A few moments later, as I stared at Megan Fox on the cover of a men’s magazine and allowed myself the brief day-dream of having full lips (Like, seriously. Imagine?) I heard a man yelling about his Miranda rights. It was, of course, the Nibs-thief, who was now being confronted by a security guard as he attempted to abscond with his licorice pieces. Illogically at this point, the Nibs-thief took a swing at the guard. The ensuing scuffle resulted in the thief’s jacket being tackled off and Nibs and, surprisingly, two bottles of Pantene tumbling to the floor. Then the Nibs-thief booked it out of the CVS and into the frigid Cleveland streets with nothing but his t-shirt and split-ends. As the police cruiser rolled up, and cops scrambled out and started the chase, I did what any self-respecting, fully grown adult would have done: I stole the “peanut butter hang myself”.*
Dinner with a Hot Blonde
“He was into you,” Suzanne persisted as I linked my arm into hers to steady her. The streets of Cleveland were messy with ice and the air was biting with cold, but we were stubbornly going ahead with girl’s night. “It’s just that we’re both Canadians. That’s what Canadians are like when they’re abroad,” I replied. Suzanne was sure that during our TV interview early that day I had used feminine wiles to successfully charm our host. I, on the other hand, was arguing that I do not have feminine wiles and if I did, the application of them would surely be uncomfortable for all involved. I’d taken my high-heeled boots off during the interview, so that when I stood on camera next to Suzanne in her heels, we’d appear to be the same height. Suzanne was sure our host had been impressed by my character and was now taken with me. To me, it seemed Suzanne had decided I was a friend. Suzanne is a gorgeous blonde full of sass and infectiously fun. She’s always laughing and smiling; the dull seems like an adventure with her. For our girl’s night we decided to walk until something struck our fancy – which was a quiet Italian restaurant a few blocks away from our hotel. We ate, drank wine, and gave each other the Cole’s Notes version of our dating histories. We bonded over similar exes and the embarrassing stories wine made easy to tell. Occasionally, Suzanne would steer the conversation back to whether or not I had been flirted with earlier. We debated, picked over facts, and giggled long after our wine glasses were emptied and we’d strolled out to another bar. We proudly accepted the scotches bought for us by the gentlemen at the end of the bar before descending into “real talks”. I may not have charm or feminine wiles, but Suzanne sure does. By the time we linked arms to struggle back over the ice to our hotel, I felt like I’d known her forever. It felt just a titch less lonely in beautiful/lonely Cleveland, and as we arrived at the hotel and said our goodnights, my cellphone dinged and made Suzanne the debate’s winner. “You’re right. He just messaged me.” Suzanne was gracious with her I-told-you-sos.
Good Times, Cleveland.
*I actually didn’t steal it. I paid, because I wouldn’t survive one night in the slammer. But my co-star insisted that stealing a “peanut butter hang myself” was a much better ending and I’m trying not to stifle his creativity. Plus he is right – it is a better ending than “I then remembered I have wicked-bad split ends and bought some Pantene.” Thank you, Pat.