Tag Archives: Shaker Heights

Molly Shannon & Free Range Parenting

This evening I saw this Atlas Obscura item posted on This.cm about people mailing themselves places. I don’t know why, but it got me thinking about fellow St. Dominic’s School graduate Molly Shannon.

I had thought she had snuck herself onto a plane via luggage, which is generally similar to mailing yourself.

And NPR did an interesting item on travel, which featured this Molly Shannon story.

Here’s an excerpt:

OK, parents, I would actually warn you not to let your kids hear this next story, except the thing that the children in this next story accomplish would be impossible for any kids to do today. Basically, they go to the airport, and they try to hop on a plane to go to another city. The comedian Molly Shannon told what happened to Marc Maron on his podcast, WTF, which is a great podcast. They did this in front of a live audience in November, 2011.

Molly Shannon

I hopped a plane when I was 12. We told my dad– me and my friend Anna were like, we’re gonna hop a plane to New York. And he was like– he dared us.

Marc Maron

How old were you?

Molly Shannon

We were like 12.

Marc Maron

Oh, good. That’s good.

Molly Shannon

We went to the airport, and we had ballet outfits on, and we put our hair in buns. And we wanted to look really innocent. And this was, again, when flying was really easy. You didn’t need your ticket to get through. And we told my dad, and we were just like– we saw there were two flights. We were either gonna go to San Francisco or New York, and we thought, oh, let’s go to New York. It’s leaving early.

So we went. We said to the stewardess, we just want to say good bye to my sister. Can we go on the plane? And she was like, sure. And then she let us on, and it was a really empty flight, because it was out of Cleveland, Ohio.

And we sat back there, and then all of a sudden, you just hear, like, vroom. The plane takes off, and we were like– And we had little ballet outfits, and buns. And I was like, hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

And then the stewardess that had given us permission to go say good bye to my sister came by to ask if we wanted snacks or beverages. And she was like, can I get you ladies something to eat? She looked like she was like, oh, mother [BLEEP].

So we wondered if we were going to get in trouble, but she ended up not telling anyone. And then when we landed in New York City, she was like, bye, ladies. Have a nice trip.

Marc Maron

I just, like, I’m– it’s such an exciting story, but the irresponsibility of all the adults in this story is somehow undermining my appreciation of it. You were 12-year-old girls in ballet outfits, and everybody was sort of like, have a good time! What world was that?

Molly Shannon

It was crazy! It was a crazy world.

Marc Maron

What did you do in New York?

Molly Shannon

Well, again, because I had a crazy childhood, we called my dad, and we were like, we did it! And he was like, oh God! Molly! Oh, jeez, well, try to– so, basically, he couldn’t–

Marc Maron

Try to what?

Molly Shannon

He didn’t know what to do. He said, try to see if you can stay– go find a hotel that you can stay in, and me and Mary– my sister– we’ll come meet you. We’ll drive there.

But basically, we didn’t have that much. We just had our ballet bags and a little bit of cash. So we went to a diner, and we dined and dashed, and we stole things. We were like little con artists.

Marc Maron

Wait, did you actually make it to the city?

Molly Shannon

We made it to the city. I was like, how do you get to Rockefeller Center? Because I had just seen TV specials.

Marc Maron

Nobody said, are you girls lost? Nothing like that?

Molly Shannon

No. Nothing. So we did try to go to hotels, and my dad would call and ask, could they just stay there until we get there? And none of the hotels wanted to be responsible. So he was like, all right. You’ve gotta come home. And he was like, but I’m not paying for it, so try to hop on one on the way back. So we tried to hop on many planes, but the flights were all so crowded. So we ended up having to have him pay for it, and he made us pay it all back with our babysitting money. The end.

Marc Maron

So that was the big punishment?

Molly Shannon

Yeah, that was– there was no punishment.

Marc Maron

Well, no, I know. I mean, clearly.

Molly Shannon

He loved that kind of stuff. Like I said, he was wild.

Marc Maron

I love the– the sort of strange, nostalgic excitement you have for– for this borderline child abuse.

Ira Glass

Molly Shannon, talking to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, which I recommend, and which you can find on iTunes or through an internet search. We spoke with the other girl in that story, who has not talked to Molly Shannon in a while, didn’t know that she was telling that story publicly, who confirmed all the crazy details in the story. She says they held hands and prayed while the plane took off.

Growing up in Shaker, I also had parents who would let me do crazy-by-today’s-standards things. Like walking home from school, or biking all over Cleveland. (In first grade I biked about a mile to my new classmate Liam’s house, and his mom was surprised my mom let me.)

The Shannon story is just pure, unadulterated awesome. And while we think it wouldn’t happen nowadays, it has — though it has to be much less common.

I often wonder what the world will be like when my children are 12. And I worry.

The Wonders of Privatization (Snow Edition)

contractorsBainbridge Township, Ohio

“Did they shovel our porch?” my sister asked my mother. “Yep.” replied mom. “Wow.”

Ohio, at least northern Ohio, is experiencing one of its worst storms in recent years. Last night, the meteorologists spoke only of dire outcomes. And we’re only supposed to get a foot of snow.

This is not the same Ohio I grew up in, where snow was quite prevalent and a few feet fazed only the carpetbaggers. Snowmageddon in D.C.? Nothing compared to the great snowstorm of 1996 where we got over four feet of snow.

In recent years, snowstorms have been more mild here.

A year ago, my parents were still residing in my childhood home on Eaton road in Shaker Heights. To its credit, Shaker Heights has a very good public works system relative to neighboring communities. Of course, that comes at a high cost.

Shaker recently raised its taxes to keep its very good public works system — snow and trash removal — despite state budget cuts in the form of aid to cities. They proposed, and the voters approved, tax increases.

My parents moved. One county over, in fact, to Bainbridge Township in Geauga County, where taxes are lower (both in income and property taxes.)

Despite telling us for years they would impound our childhood in storage and buy a loft downtown, they opted to move east to an even bigger home. It’s a nice home. But, it’s in the snow belt.

Shaker Heights, like all inner-ring suburbs, gets its share of snow. Chagrin Falls and the surrounding parts of Cuyahoga and Geauga Counties tend to get a lot more snow.

The meteorologists were a little off on the timing, but they seemed to be correct on the amount of snow. It’s coming down hard.

Interrupting our alcohol-fueled games of bananagram and Jenga was the sound of snow plows. Since most of Bainbridge is unincorporated, the communities (run by Home Owners Associations) hire contractors to do the work of government that cities, like Shaker, ordinarily perform.

Dad came out of his new office and notified us that Ali and I would have to move our cars if the contractors were to plow our driveway. It was more of a command.

This, of course, was foreign to us, since we grew up using the winter mouse murderer known as the snowblower.  (If you’ve never seen mouse blood and parts sprayed over snow, then you haven’t truly lived, my friend.)

In Shaker, the city plowed the streets. When I was younger, they had this strange device designed to plow sidewalks. But given the age of those sidewalks, it often resulted in destroyed slabs and damaged machines. I don’t know this for sure, but I am pretty sure they killed that program.

The plows were big, and all of their drivers were city employees. Presumably belonging to a union. While the plows afforded bigger economies of scale, the labor contracts probably negated those benefits, since public employees’ unions have CBAs with pensions and overtime.

Of course, you had to plow your own driveway, and we used our snowblower to clear the block’s sidewalks because that’s how we roll, but the streets were plowed well — better than in the city of Cleveland.

Out here, however, the contractors plow your roads, your driveway, your walkway, and your porch.

Ali’s car — the Lesboat I call it, since it’s a Subaru — has 4WD. It pulled out of the driveway with ease. The “Silver Fox”, my dad’s old Honda Accord  that I now drive– complete with FIGHT TERRORISM license plates –does not. It was quickly evident when trying to move it why he no longer wanted it.

It got stuck.

I tried, in vain, to back it out of the driveway, a slight decline. Our driveway in Shaker was about a one-story incline that required skill to navigate. This, one would think, would be easy. Not so much. Without 4WD, skill was required.

After a few tries, my dad put on his boots and came to my aid to help push my out. It didn’t work.

All of the drivers of the snowplows stopped and got out of their trucks to help push me out.

That’s service.

(My mom rewarded them with a sixer of Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold.)

It got me thinking about city-provided services and private contractors.

While city-provided big trucks may be superior at providing the economies of scale necessary to plow big thoroughfares, the same could be done by a smaller amount of F-250’s, or bigger trucks. (Ohio isn’t big into privatization, while my current home of Virginia has embraced it, with VDOT using private contractors to plow main roads.) If allowed to compete, they’d presumably buy bigger trucks.

When the weather is tame, cities eat the cost of stagnant trucks and employees. Contractors have more flexibility. If it is particularly snowy, they can hire guys with trucks to join their team for the season, or lease trucks fitted with plows. That saves time and money, especially when competing for contracts.

And when it comes to providing service, they do a better job and more thorough job, at least when it comes to plowing snow.

In Bainbridge, however, my parents still have to take the trash out to the end of the 30 foot driveway. In Shaker, they employ little golf-like carts that pick it up from the back.

In the end, it’s all about trade offs, I guess. And my parents seem to value lower taxes and better snow service.bsig





Bomblecast #16 — NIMBYism, Cleveland, and McDonald’s

Friends, no guest this week — but I did add some great production value for you all.

So grab your blankets, your egg nogg, and pull up a chair for episode #16 of the Bomblecast.

Goodbye, Shaker

This weekend, I helped my parents move out of my childhood home in Shaker Heights to Bainbridge Township, a small community outside of Chagrin Falls.

One day, my dad had me help him destroy part of my childhood (red wagon, hockey sticks, etc.) and some trash by taking it to the town dump.

This sign pretty much sums up how I feel about Shaker, despite the good memories I do have:

Old Economy Village, Yesterday’s Cleveland

Cleveland: Our main export is crippling depression

Once or twice a year, I make the trek from Alexandria, Virginia back to my native Shaker Heights, Ohio. I’d visit more, but with 66 percent of their children in the Washington area, my parents are frequent visitors.

Aside from navigating the hell that is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the drive from Washington to Cleveland is uneventful. That is, until you are about 20 miles from the Ohio border. There, in Beaver County is something called “Old Economy Village.”

Old Economy Village was founded by Harmonist Utopians, a celibate group of German Christians, who, after being persecuted in Europe, fled to the United States. They formed a commune and dominated the Pittsburgh economy in the early 1800’s.

Shaker Heights, my hometown, is an affluent suburb of Cleveland founded by a religious group (called the Shakers) that also didn’t believe in procreation, and took their sexual frustration out in the building of furniture. Today, you can buy copies of their work at Target. My television stand is excellent, though the craftsman (me) did not live up to the Shaker heritage.

Nowadays, Old Economy Village is a relic of the past. A tourist attraction in an otherwise boring part of Pennsylvania, if you count the forced stoppage in Breezewood as actual tourism. Stopping on Oekonomie, as it was known, will bring you back to a bygone era, where all city folk bought into a civic ethos and worked to advance its goals, no matter how silly.

In the early 1830’s, the Old Economy Village experienced a fatal division. A young whippersnapper convinced many of the village folk (the younger ones) that celibacy was a bad idea. About 70 years later, the colony dissolved and is now a landmark, a rest stop on the way to your final destination.

Today, you can visit a real life, partially working, Old Economy Village: Cleveland.

Cleveland was once one of America’s top five largest cities. Today, it is barely in the top 50. Cleveland comedian Mike Polk, Jr. once joked Cleveland’s “main export is Crippling Depression,” only he wasn’t kidding. Cleveland’s main export these days seems to be people.

The mayor of Cleveland when I was in high school, Jane Campbell, gave us a speech on “brain drain” and encouraged us to stay in Cleveland. Imagine my reaction when she became chief of staff to Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Even our former mayors are eager to leave Cleveland.

Like the Old Economy Village, my hometown of Shaker is known as a quasi-utopia in Cleveland — albeit a liberal utopia. But, unlike the efficiency the Old Economy Village is known for, Shaker (and Cleveland itself) is known for the opposite: relatively no economic activity.

Shaker is the kind of place where, if they don’t like your kind of business, they’ll brashly tell you: “Your money’s no good here.” As a kid, McDonald’s tried to build a restaurant in one of the few areas zoned for commerce, and a local group of mothers formed “Mothers Against McDonald’s.” The Wendy’s, our lone fast food restaurant in a town of 30,000, of course, was perfectly fine.

Shaker’s main economic claim to fame in recent years is that it was the home to the headquarters of Office Max. After getting bought, the new owners of Office Max actually chose Illinois for its headquarters– the third least friendly state for business in the country — over Shaker. Ouch.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my parents, girlfriend and I drove around Shaker Heights and the city of Cleveland, only to reminisce about how the now vacant storefront used to be this, and before it, that. Cleveland is a city haunted by memories of greatness. And I’m not even talking about sports.

In Shaker, it’s been nearly a decade since little hockey players could buy their jersey anywhere close to Shaker. Abandoned for years, Nicholls sporting goods on Lee Road has been closed. I still remember the joy of receiving my jersey with the supposedly unlucky number 13, which I requested.

At a recent block party, I asked my neighbor where her son got his jerseys these days. She responded — a much dreaded competitor in neighboring Cleveland Heights. It, too, will probably close soon and the kids will probably have to buy their sweaters from Amazon.com. I mentioned I used to get mine at Nicholls. “Where was that” she asked. I told her it was next to Kokopelli Coffee and tea. “You’re dating yourself,” she said. “That place has been closed for years.”

Cleveland is not known for being economically competitive, or even friendly to commerce. Cleveland native Drew Carey and Reason Magazine went in a few years ago with the goal of helping Cleveland rock once again. Of course, Cleveland didn’t listen. The FBI essentially shut down the County Government about 2 years later for corruption. The county has since reorganized.

As I drove around town and passed abandoned storefront after abandoned factory, I was sad, but only sort of. Cleveland brought this upon itself. A high school classmate of mine, I discovered, was the executive chef of an up and coming brewery in Cleveland. That’s all the hope I could witness in a town largely bereft of hope.

Horrible weather aside, Cleveland is full of hard workers and great people. It has a lot to offer, but will it ever prosper again? Probably not. Like Old Economy Village, Cleveland is stuck in its ways, no matter how backward they may be.

Celibacy may have been the downfall of Old Economy Village and the North Union Settlement of Shakers, but economic celibacy will probably be the downfall of Cleveland.

Of course, it could always be worse. We could be Detroit.

Shaker Heights kow tows to unions (is this a surprise?)

From Cleveland.com:

Shaker Heights cutting back on residents’ perks

Posted by Gabriel Baird/Plain Dealer Reporter June 24, 2009 00:52AM

Updated at 11:12 a.m. on Wednesday

SHAKER HEIGHTS — One of the perks residents of this city enjoy is being taken away.

Starting July 1, they will have to haul their yard waste to the curb like most everyone else.

Hard economic times have hit the city.

For decades, refuse collectors have picked up garbage and wastes behind houses, leaving the tree lawns impeccable even on trash day.

But a series of hits to the city’s budget are forcing cutbacks. City officials had expected to collect about $2.7 million less in taxes this year than last. But it could be even worse, said Mayor Earl M. Leiken.

“I don’t know how much more yet,” he said.

Councilwoman Nancy Moore said it could top $4 million.

A few residents in their yard Tuesday said that with the high taxes they pay they deserve the yard-waste perk.

One woman, who was trimming her shrubs, called fellow Shaker Heights residents spoiled, saying placing lawn clippings at the curb was hardly a hardship. She declined to give her name for fear of being ostracized by her neighbors.

Sharon Griswold, who was finishing a new stone path, said that having grown up outside Shaker, she is used to tasks like taking the lawn clippings to the curb.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said.

Other cost saving measures are also coming in July:

• City Hall and the community building will be closed every other Friday, beginning July 10.

Nonunion city employees will take off one day each two-week pay period for a salary cut of 10 percent.

• The pool will close a week before Labor Day.

“These changes will present just a minor inconvenience to residents,” Leiken said.

This is bullshit. The union employees should make the same concessions to help the city. Thanks a lot, Shaker.