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The Accidental Framing of the Indie Cleveland Experience

By tt stern-enzi · April 10th, 2013 · The Alternative
I’ve never been one for guided tours. Most of my adult traveling experiences are rooted in my single years, when I went off alone or with friends, sometimes girlfriends. Mainly, I set off with no plans, no guidebook. 

I wandered, and if I got lost I fumbled through it on my own. The world, to me, is an independent bookstore with musty tomes full of forgotten inscriptions or a record store with a smattering of 8-tracks, stacks of vinyl, maxi-cassette singles and, of course, the soon-to-be rare CDs just waiting to be perused. 

And, without fail, I’m that guy strolling down the aisles, dipping into a collection here, sampling a title, scanning a line or two and then moving on to whatever strikes my fancy next. 

I appreciate the staff hovering around, eager to answer questions or to find something for me, but I’m usually not looking for anything in particular. I’m just looking for the next cherished discovery to add to my private stash.

That’s travel for me, too. The places, the experiences, I savor them, but rarely on film, no flashes for the digital archives. I store them in the membrane. I’m full of wrong turns, happy accidents. I end up truly lost; I’ll ask for directions back to something familiar, but it’s always a last resort, not because I’m a guy who can’t stand getting help. I simply enjoy the journey.

Positively Cleveland offered me the chance to experience the Indie Cleveland vibe (based around the opening weekend of the 37th annual Cleveland International Film Festival), so I signed on for the press tour, but I was skeptical. Would it cramp my style, force me into a box of pre-packaged highlights with little of my own vaunted trial and error? 

The whirlwind tour would feature feverish excursions throughout the many eclectic neighborhoods of Cleveland proper that I never would have packed into just one trip on my own.

After 13 years in the Buckeye State, this would be my first trip to the “mistake on the lake.” What a moniker.

I’d never actually heard that before this trip. Shows how little I know, I guess. But now, I’ve got some knowledge, some of my kind of experience with Cleveland. 

I only made it to three films, and there’s not a bit of regret in that admission, although I have nothing but praise for my selections (The Weekend from Germany, the truly marvelous Caesar Must Die from Italy and Under My Nails, the Puerto Rican/American production from Ari Maniel Cruz who was on-hand for a Q&A following the Saturday night screening I attended). 

The whole festival program, which featured titles I was personally familiar with from Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), included many more from the festival circuit and a host of new discoveries. 

I was suitably intrigued with the Tower City Center, the hub of the festival with its multiplex, more than 75 specialty shops, various fine and casual dining options and the Ritz-Carlton right onsite. The lucky guest would never have to leave the complex during the fest (April 3-14), the truly fortunate would create their own moving magic.

Maybe it would come from a visit to Happy Dog for a doggone good time. I tweeted that immediately following dinner, and as corny as it sounds I couldn’t resist saying it again in print. They offer two dogs (regular and a vegan sausage) with 50 different toppings, a host of additional condiments for the dogs and fries or tater tots. 

Happy Dog is like Senate on steroids (actually, Cleveland as a whole feels like a performance-enhanced version of the Queen City), but not just because of the food. 

There’s music (at one point they taped a performance by a septet from the Cleveland Orchestra and pressed it on vinyl, no less), a writer’s night with readings and even a lecture series featuring scientists from Case Western University.

A rare and treasured moment might include wandering through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as Nile Rodgers and Chic ran through their sound check for a special performance later that night. 

There’s no other way to experience the Hall, a space dedicated to music, than with live raw music as your private score. How about a little Madonna (“Like a Virgin”), David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”), Duran Duran (“Notorious”) or, well, the obvious (“Le Freak”)? You could be forgiven for skipping the U2’s 3D concert film, I think. 

And just this one time, I took pictures. Accidents will happen, right? 

CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: letters@citybeat.com



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