A Shakerite's ode to her Cleveland Heights neighbor

As I look forward to studying for a master’s degree in comparative journalism at the University of Swansea, Wales, I feel that I can finally assess how the Heights area has affected me. As a Shaker Heights resident throughout high school and later an undergraduate linguistics student at Cleveland State University, I have grown to know Cleveland Heights thoroughly, thanks in large part to a good friend whom I'll call "Monica," a native of Cleveland Heights.

In my first semester at Cleveland State, I attended a fraternity party with Monica. We met a Heights High alumnus there who greeted us by announcing that nowhere else in the country but in the Heights area could the label “tree lawn” describe the thin strip of grass which precedes lawns. He said so in a good-natured manner, betraying his affection for a culture that would so label an obscure architectural accoutrement.

Monica used to inform me accurately about Cleveland Heights laws, note which meters afforded the longest parking, and teach me which specialty drinks to ask for on our trips to coffee shops. She would insist upon shortcuts to other suburbs through winding Cleveland Heights streets.

Early on, Monica and I spent most of our free time gallivanting about the Heights, scouting out late movies at the Cedar-Lee Theater, and visiting numerous coffee houses that were consistently open past 11:00. Before I knew her, however, I became acquainted with Cleveland Heights largely through outings with my family to Borders at Severance Center, the Stone Oven, and Zagara’s or Marc’s for groceries.

Cleveland Heights engendered some of my fondest and most entrenched memories of adolescence. I dreamily remember the pleasant drives my family and I took to get a bite to eat at the Stone Oven, for example. My Dad, who often accompanied my brother and me, would indulge with us in light nutritious fare such as turkey club sandwiches (before I turned vegetarian) with couscous. I would try to concentrate on homework in the midst of meandering jazz music, giggling after a stop in the lavatory where the portrait of a charming female nude with visible underarm hair faced the mirror.

When I was older and could drive, I explored Cleveland Heights more independently. I won’t forget the French film at the Cedar-Lee Theatre I went out to see with “Business French” classmates in college: it told the story of boarding school boys in World-War-II-era France whose inspirational music teacher compelled them to band together as a heavenly choir. The touching ending was accompanied by scenes of the French countryside and paper airplanes with goodbye notes inscribed being flown towards the departing teacher by his grateful students. The black ceiling fans in the Cedar-Lee whirred above as I held my tears back to peer around at other spectators' reactions. Afterwards, my class and I headed over to Jillian’s bar for some pool, fries, and beer, an outing which my French professor politely declined to attend in order to maintain a boundary between personal and scholarly life.

In short, Cleveland Heights, especially “downtown,” has often inspired awe, as do most cultural and infrastructural aspects of Cleveland (I migrated to the city with my family from Zanesville, an economically depressed southeastern Ohio town of comparable population to Cleveland Heights). But I am also aware that when one has the luxury to reflect at leisure about a locale, it is probably time to move on. I will remember Cleveland Heights as the place where Shaker Heights students went to mingle with a new flock, the source of a rival team in renowned yet rowdy football games, as well as the more commercial district where I would go as an adolescent to seek fun outside of sometimes staid Shaker territory.

Suphie Wesner is a linguistics and French language graduate of Cleveland State University and a Shaker Heights High School alumna. She plans to pursue graduate school in journalism in the future and currently enjoys her position as an assistant teacher at True Sisters Day Care Center.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 2:27 PM, 06.01.2008