"Oh, tell me something I don't already know..." Harry Styles croons over and over again in his song (my favorite from his recently released solo album) "Ever Since New York." I know what you're thinking.....Oh God, not you too. Yes, I gave into the Harry Styles hype: his boyishly handsome looks and his talent are an irresistible combination, and his album has taken over my music library just in time for summer. Oddly enough, when I listen to the song I don't even think about New York - for some reason I think it stylistically belongs in a Cameron Crowe movie. I can just imagine the Almost Famous-esque shot - the main protagonist getting off a bus or train after a long journey and stepping into a city - while the buildings stand tall against an inviting, cloudless blue sky. The opening chords of "Ever Since New York" are in the background and soon enough Harry's voice takes over the narrative.
Tuesday afternoon I found myself entangled with Cleveland's public transportation system (again). I decided to take the bus from my office job at school to the rapid station so I could drop off some paperwork downtown. After a crazy bus ride, during which my driver went through two separate towns, a college campus, on a highway, and stuck to a 50 mph speed limit the whole time (not even slowing down for potholes). Gripping the handlebar attached to the seat in front of me, my teeth clenched, I was convinced that at some point we were going to pull over onto some back road and I would be sold into sex slavery, seeing that there were only two people on the bus, myself included. Thankfully, the rapid station finally came into view and I mercifully pulled down on the cord above my seat to get off the bus, and no more than ten minutes later I was settling into my seat on the train with I'll Tell You in Person by Chloe Caldwell.
The city was pretty empty, and I made the one-mile trek to the main building of my future college, and made my way back to the main part of downtown, my shirt sticking to my back and the strap on my bag digging into my shoulder. I indulged in an iced coffee from Rising Star and I was about to give into the air conditioning when something across the street caught my eye. The gates of the Cleveland Public Library garden were open. I gathered my things and headed outside to the crosswalk, only to be trapped in the midst of a Cleveland walking tour group, but of course quickened my pace when the light changed.
Almost immediately I was entranced by this courtyard, a paradisal corner hidden away from urban chaos. How have I never been here before? I thought to myself, scoping out the place. The car horns and roaring engines of buses were replaced by the songs of birds and leaves rustling in the trees, and soft chatter. It was there that I saw my city in a different light. You can't compare Cleveland to New York or Chicago because it falls into its own category - Cleveland doesn't try to be like anyone, or rather, anywhere else. I'm sure we've all heard "I love New York" stories - strings of moments in that big, roaring city that are completely dependent upon happenstance (just watch Season 2, Episode 6 of Aziz Ansari's Master of None, appropriately titled "New York, I Love You" for further clarification). But that Tuesday afternoon, sitting in that courtyard with my book and my coffee, shaded by the trees, I had an "I love Cleveland" moment. Like any other city, Cleveland is full of surprises and hidden gems, but the genuinity is deep-rooted.
A wave of gratitude washed over me - I was so thankful to be there, and thankful that my own company was enough. There is a difference between being lonely and doing things by yourself. More often than not, we underestimate the things that we can do on our own.
So I encourage anyone reading this to explore your city, wherever you may be - you never know what you're going to find, and how your discoveries will make you feel. And it's worth all of it. It's important to take yourself on an adventure every once in a while.
Stay cool, Cleveland.