'Are you the writer?' Yes. WaitI mean, why?

At my talk at the Coventry Village Library in December, people in the audience seemed to remember a lot of things I've written in this column. [photo courtesy Heights Libraries]

Because of some of the things I do—like performing and writing—Ifve always come into contact with a lot of people. And living in Cleveland Heights, where I grew up and went to school, and where my parents did, too, I especially know lots of people in this city.

It used to be that when my kids were teenagers, and wefd go to a concert at Cain Park, at intermission they would jump up and ask me to give them a head start to get to the Terrace for food, because theyfd learned that if they stayed with me, wefd never make it there before the house lights started flashing.

I donft see old friends everywhere anymore. Though now Ifve noticed that when Ifm anywhere around here with my son and daughter-in-law, that happens to them. In their lives they come into contact with hundreds of people—through my sonfs work with his Heights Tigersharks swimming program and the high schoolfs swim team, which he coaches; plus other projects hefs led, like the first few years of FutureHeightsf Music Hop; and because my daughter-in-law is a teacher at Heights; plus, they both grew up here.

These days I get approached not as much by old friends, but by strangers, because of this column. People recognize me from that little picture, and stop me everywhere I go in Cleveland Heights. Readers often e-mail me or contact me through this paper, but many talk to me in person, too.

Before, after (and even during) my December talk at the Coventry library, people mentioned things to me about my life and about this city that theyfd read in my columns. While I was going from store to store during last monthfs Coventry Village Holiday Festival, several people mentioned specific stories I had told here.

As I was walking down Lee Road after the Heights High homecoming parade in September, a man on a bike stopped and said, gAre you the writer?h I said yes, which might not always be the best answer, because you donft know why theyfre asking. But, luckily, he had no grievances; he just told me that he always reads this column and that he enjoys it. 

I was out walking one summer morning when a woman, also walking, passed me (which is, unfortunately, very normal). She glanced back at me, slowed down to my speed, and said, gAre you Budin?h I said, gThat dependsh (slightly better than an automatic gyesh). She said that she had just read my column, and proceeded to relate her own, similar, experience. Then she picked up her original pace and took off.

There was a Zagarafs Marketplace employee, who, whenever he saw me, said something about my most recent piece. Like, one time, after Ifd mentioned Dorothy Fuldheim in that monthfs column, I reached the end of the checkout, where he was standing, and he said, gDorothy was terrified of cats.h I expressed surprise. He added, gShe wasnft afraid of anything else.h I agreed, and he moved on.

Almost every time Ifm in Zagarafs, which is now Davefs, some other shopper stops to say something about one of my columns. I think that to someone who isnft me it would sound as if these people were starting in the middle of a conversation. But I always understand.

Every time I go to Cumberland Pool (to sit in the shade and watch my grandchildren swim), someone comes over and starts talking to me, saying things like: gSo, where was that clump of bushes [in Cumberland Park] where you used to hide out when you were a kid?h Or, gSo you stopped getting in the water when you were how old?h And so on.

When I was in a house on Hampshire Road during this yearfs Heights Heritage Home and Garden Tour, in September, a woman came up to me and asked where the hidden stairs, from Mayfield up to Hampshire, used to be. Ifve written about them a couple of times. At that point, I hadnft yet located them. But I went back the next day and walked all around the area of Hampshire, and then Mayfield, where I knew they had been, and with the help of Google Maps, plus a little minor trespassing, I finally found them.

I wish I had gotten that womanfs name or e-mail address, so I could tell her where to look. But shefll probably see this, and she can contact me through the publication. And so can you, if you have anything to ask or tell me.

And thatfs why I write this column: knowing that some people enjoy it and maybe even get something out of it. And itfs gratifying when people talk to me about it. I think thatfs what every writer strives for.

David Budin

David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.

Read More on Songs and Stories
Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:24 AM, 12.29.2022