Thursday, August 28, 2014

Still a Gem

Three days. I had three days to take in the great city of Cleveland. And let me tell you- it was a lot to take in. Before arriving in Cleveland, I had no idea what to expect. I had no expectations, only the hopes that I would get to meet new people, eat yummy food and try new things. When I arrived in Cleveland and checked into my hotel, the woman at the front desk asked me where I was from. I told her I was visiting from Kentucky, and she paused, looked at me and grinned. It was the kind of grin that said, "Welcome to my city" and also, "I hope you're ready to have a good time". That was comforting, because again, I had no idea what to expect of this city. About an hour after I checked in, I met up with Ryan, a local Cleveland blogger who would be the Clyde to my Bonnie all weekend. Ryan and I had been paired up by Positively Cleveland, who asked us to support them with their outreach to the LGBTQ community. Fun, right? Right! Shortly after meeting up, Ryan and I were on our way to dinner when Beyonce came on the radio, and an impromptu mini-concert ensued. I'm pretty sure that moment set precedence for the entire weekend. I mean, doesn't every great weekend start off that way?

Cleveland is a city that has created a very rich culture of it's own. It has a special kind of pride and valor about it. I met people who'd lived there all their lives, and the stories that they shared with me were stories of evolution and growth. Cleveland is one of those cities that has a certain kind of charm about it- it's like a hidden gem. Just because a gem is hidden doesn't make it any less of a gem. Cleveland is one of those cities that is great for almost any occasion-  family vacation, weekend with friends or a get-away with your lover. If you love to eat- they've got you covered. If you love the arts- they've got that too. If you're into the local scene- you're going to love it. If you like the city scene- there's plenty of that. If you like to party- bring it on. Cleveland has some of everything for everyone. But of course... I can show you better than I can tell you :)

We had a blast. The weekend moved at a very fast pace because we were trying to do a lot in just a little bit of time, but that didn't matter. We were having such a good time, time was going to fly regardless. There was just one thing though...with our itinerary being so full and the time flying by so quickly, it was easy to forget to pay special attention to LGBTQ community and the city's embrace of it. However, I believe that worked in my favor, for one simple reason: it didn't need special attention. Sometimes, you go places and you have to pay special attention to things, because if you don't, you'll miss it. But in Cleveland, it wasn't like that. In Cleveland, the LGBTQ community was so widely accepted and included in the culture of the city. So, it wasn't this "special" thing. Actually, I take that back- it was special. Anytime you go some place, and the LGBTQ community and support of it, are not an isolated or rare thing, it's special. It's special, because it is not yet the norm. In fact, that was one of the best parts of my experience in Cleveland- seeing how to the city embraced the LGBTQ community.
On this particular weekend, the Gay Games were taking place. There were rainbows everywhere- I mean, EVERYWHERE. You couldn't walk half a block and not see a rainbow flag in someone's window or streamers on an awning. It was beautiful. It warmed my heart. I saw couples walking down the street and holding hands, and no one was staring or giving them the side eye. I love that. There were people from all over the world- California, France, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Colorado and the list goes on. Ryan and I attended the closing ceremonies of the Gay Games which was followed by a big dance party on the mall. It felt like a hug house party on a perfect summer's eve. Everyone was spreading love in the air and receiving love back, from the city. And after the dance party, it was time for a night out on the town! The people were ready for the city and the city was ready for the people! It was an almost too perfect Saturday night.

I have to give a special thank you to Ryan for being such a great host all weekend. Ryan loves Cleveland and that was made very apparent to me with the pride that he took in showing me around and the warmth in his voice when he talked about it. When you visit a place and the residents love it just as much as the visitors, you know you're someplace amazing. Cleveland is a place for everyone. And I can't wait to visit again.

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