The difference between artists and cruise directors

600x255Just listened to a 2012 podcast with Junot Diaz that came out after the publication of his linked short story collection This Is How You Lose Her. He has this to say about criticism of his book from Dominican Americans and Dominicans: “What cultures, groups, enclaves want is cruise directors and heads of tourism boards. But they’re not artists. They’re boosters. Artists put fingers in the wounds, and in the silences. If the culture is not used to that discussion … people get riled up. That’s OK. We go places people don’t want us to. If you look back three, four generations later, maybe you’ll think that this was useful.”

I’m not comparing myself to Diaz (OK, maybe I am), but in researching my latest story for Scene about Global Cleveland, it was at times hard to get people to talk to me on the record. I was turned down for interviews by people close to the organization. Why is Cleveland so averse to controversy, to taking a long honest look at itself? And if the opinions represented in this story, that Global Cleveland perhaps squandered millions of dollars, are accurate, how did this happen without earlier community dialogue? How is this different than the county corruption scandal / bad stadium deals / all the other ways our city’s been fleeced over the years?

When R.A. Washington appeared at the Happy Dog as part of Lit Cleveland’s Between the Lines series, he said, “This city is corrupt, but its people are pure.” Don’t know if I agree wholeheartedly or not, but I think it’s an interesting way to look at Cleveland and its travails. Reminds me of the Wire, that great series by David Simon, perhaps the best thing that ran on television ever.

This happened, too: Cleveland Leadership Center asked me to have a Lit Cleveland table at Accelerate NEO this week, and also connected me to a reporter at WOIO 19 who highlighted us as one of last year’s successful finalists.

guvLast night, we made it out of town to Chautauqua with some other folks for a weekend away. It feels good to get away and reconnect. Here’s a shot of McGovern playing outside with the kids. A fair amount of snow up here. Highlights for me so far have been sitting around the fire drinking beer and talking after the kids went to bed, watching the kids play together in instant fraternity, and throwing snowballs and falling through the ice to the (one foot deep) water below.


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