A bad part of town

Living in the Cleveland metro area for the past four months, I’ve been astonished at how nice it is up here. In the parts of town where I live and hang out most of the time, I couldn’t imagine any place better (people tell me “wait until winter,” but we’ll see). I started off my Saturday with a hike in the Metropark at the South Rocky River Reservation, on a path that requires I climb several flights of stairs that is challenging, but healthy. What a refreshing way to start a day! After that, I took a long drive through the Metropark, ending in at the Brecksville Reservation, exiting the Metropark to get some lunch. Since the Subway I stopped at didn’t have any chairs, I decided to delay lunch until after I’d gone to the library to get some books.

Online, I was looking for books by George Soros and Benoit Mandelbrot, brilliant hedge fund manager and mathematician, respectively, related in that they both understand the inadequacies of modern portfolio theory in finance. (When will “modern” no longer be modern?) The only library in the metro area that had books by both authors on the shelf was in Maple Heights. Must be a nice part of town, I thought, to have such serious finance books on the shelf. Not being sure, however, I set my GPS on Most Use of Freeways, to minimize my time on backstreets in case I was wrong.

On exiting from the freeway, I realized that in fact this was not the best part of the metro area. I saw a store on a main street whose windows were boarded up with plywood. In Florida, this means that a hurricane is on its way. In the Cleveland metro area, it could mean it’s a high crime area. As I followed instructions to the library, given by the GPS, I grew more alert, especially to people on the street and to cars near me. I was thankful for the heavily tinted windows of my Florida car, although aware of the conspicuousness of my Florida tag and the GPS on my windshield. As I turned left onto Library Road, the terrain continued to be ominous (perhaps this is too strong a word, but that was my impression). I noticed there were many cars in the parking lot, but as I got out and quickly made my way towards the entrance–whose location was not clear (I had to backtrack from my original attempt to find it), I noticed that a sign in the window said CLOSED, COME BACK LATER. Um, I thought, if this place is closed and there are this many cars in the parking lot, who knows what’s going on. Finding the entrance, I saw people and entered: the library was open after all. I asked a woman in circulation where the bathroom was, and after she told me I politely noted that the sign in the window said the library was closed (she told another woman about the sign). I found my books–upstairs–and went to check them out. Before that, while downstairs checking the place out, a tall young man with long hair enter into the library. He had a glazed look on his face. A very light skinned mixed-ethnicity young man was downstairs checking out children’s books. He appeared to be mildly retarded, and I felt great compassion and sympathy for him. As I exited the library (with the sign still saying CLOSED), I headed quickly to my car, got in, and locked the doors with a motion of my elbow, a movement that seems natural in my Volvo 940 Turbo.

As I pulled onto Library Road leaving the scene, a police car was heading in in the opposite direction. As I exited the road and turned right, I saw a police car parked in a parking lot across the street with a vigilant officer inside and hoped that the traffic lights would stay green. When they turned red, I did not go all the way up to the line when I was in front in the right lane of the four-lane road where I stayed. I kept far enough back so that I could not see the people through the open windows of cars on my left, nor they see me. At one point, my car was rocking to the bass beat of a car behind or next to me–it’s hard to tell directionality with low frequencies. Sitting at the first light, I saw a sign on a building for sale: GHOST TOWN REALTY (no kidding). Finally, I pulled onto the Interstate, headed west, with my excellent books with me. On the one hand I was intrigued by the neighborhood, on the other I had the thought that it might be better to have the books delivered to another branch if I checked out books from there again. Getting home, back to my temporary apartment (most things seem temporary to me these days, which in the long run everything is except our souls/spirits/minds), I checked on the Internet to see what the neighborhood was like crime-wise. Indeed, many bad crimes take place there. Examples include the police breaking up a crowd of 100-150 young males, perhaps viewing a fight, with pepper spray, and the theft of nine catalytic converters from a car lot. Also, anything left out, such as two tables in preparation for a yard sell, are stolen. It’s weird, those catalytic converter thefts also occur here in Westlake where I’m living. But the valet parking and living room furniture on the sidewalk for passers by in the shopping district seem like in another country from where I just checked books out. We have a lot of work to do here in the US to help those less fortunate to share in the American abundance.

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