By CCF Staff writer Jeremy Herbert
Stop Calling Cleveland #TheLand. That’s all I ask. Well that’s not true. I’d also appreciate it if we all left #CLE to the luggage tags at Hopkins and #ThisIsCLE to an android achieving sentience by spelling its model designation. But mainly #TheLand. You can find these all over whichever social media you find the most enabling. Usually attached to a photo of a t-shirt bearing the red, rictus grin of Chief Wahoo or someone sitting on the big basketball outside The Q. Now I’m not here to tell anyone their pride is invalid or to maybe not wear clothes with racial caricatures on them. I can certainly suggest as much, the latter especially, but I can’t be mad about happiness. My problem is with the nicknames themselves. Frankly, they’re just too cool for Cleveland.
If you’re mad, understand that uncool does not equal bad. Except in any movie set in a high school. But usually the lesson of those ends up being that uncool is cool in its own way, which then equals good. So even by John Hughes rules you’ve got no reason to be angry. If you still are, I’m sorry. Go get an ice cream from the Honey Hut and tell ‘em I sent you. You won’t get a discount but hey – it’s an icebreaker.
It probably is heresy to call this place uncool in this, the year of the Cleveland renaissance. The Cavs did good. We welcomed that presidential hopeful who threatened to kill the other presidential hopeful and may also be a double agent for the Russians. I found reruns of The Drew Carey Show on cable. It’s probably been the best year for us since the Injuns won the World Series in 1997. And that was four Batman movies ago. It is a time of joyous harvest in #TheLand.
We just need to work on the branding. So let’s walk through our candidates.
CLE is a luggage tag. Next.
ThisIsCLE, derived from the Latin/slogan “This Is Cleveland,” is a nice, stern declaration, android aside. It says you might think this is Pittsburgh with a lake, or Chicago with a smaller lake, but you’re wrong – this. is. Cleveland. I can get behind that. But ThisIsCLE is just a lost tourist desperately checking luggage tags to figure out which nondescript black suitcase is theirs. It exists for social media usage, but that’s only ever been a good excuse for Kardashian children and I’d like to think Cleveland deserves better.
ThisIsCleveland is better and it even doubles as the website for Destination Cleveland, the thankless few forever cursed to sell this town as that most unbuyable thing – a vacation hotspot. But as a combination slogan-nickname, it reads like a mall directory. ThisIsCleveland, across from the Wet Seal and within smelling distance of Auntie Anne’s. Which I hear has pretzel dog samples today, but don’t quote me on that. ThisIsCleveland won’t do.
TheLand has been the most popular, at least in my social media feeds. It sounds like a big-budget Mad Max rip-off starring Jeremy Renner as one of the last Landers immune to the apocalyptic virus known cryptically as “Big Chuck.” Once his daughter comes down with it, he must fight through the roving gangs of mutants, like the Tribe and the Dawg Pound, in a desperate bid to find the fabled cure, “Little John,” somewhere in the ruins of The Land. Coming Summer 2022. Preorder your tickets now through Fandango.
Despite the franchise potential, The Land rings hollow. It’s dramatic in the way Top 40 lyrics sung by artists too young to loiter at the Casino Formerly Known as Horseshoe are dramatic. It sounds like Instagram filters and rooftop parties some quirky bastard thought it’d be safe to light with Sparklers. It skews toward the “kids” and while that’s certainly to whom Cleveland ought be skewing to ensure it doesn’t collapse within the decade, it’s chintzy. And if there’s one thing this town ain’t, it’s chintzy. Cleveland is durable. Almost stupidly so. We’ve survived burning rivers, Donald Trump and the Mean Streak. And at least two of those are Biblical plagues. The Land is on the right track, its heart is in the right (commercialized) place. But no dice.
Now we get into some of the nittier, grittier business. These aren’t as widely used as the others, but I’ve seen them at least twice and that’s good enough for me.
#Clevelandgram is supposed to be a catch-all for any local Instagram pictures but instead sounds like the worst way to wish a friend happy birthday. A construction worker shows up to their house, sings a Michael Stanley song, dumps a bucket of sauerkraut pierogis at the feet of the plastic goose on the porch, blasts them in the face with a snowball then fills their shoes with road salt. Happy Birthday from the Land.
#ClevelandOverEverything is what the city would scratch into a bathroom stall if it was a bully who substitutes fists for feelings in the aforementioned John Hughes high school movie. It’s hard for me to hear it any other way than in the squeaky shout of a six-year-old walking into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Adorable, to be sure, but little nuance. It makes Cleveland sound like the muscle of the Great Lakes, and that’s just nonsense. Chicago would kick our ass and Milwaukee would loot the body. If we’re anybody in that John Hughes analogy, we’re the kid who gets bullied all the time, but takes the pounding without making a sound, thus impressing the bully enough to leave them alone entirely. Even in an abstract sense, Cleveland Over Everything is absurd. Is Cleveland really over banana splits? Over truth? Justice? The American Way? That’s a bottomless can of worms we don’t need to open with a reckless hashtag.
#Clevelander doesn’t really mean much for this exploration, but I like it because it reminds me of the Highlander. When they reboot that movie, they should shoot here. I mean still set it in New York City, but shoot it on Euclid.
#CityOfChampions exploded when the Cavs won, but that makes Cleveland the City of Champions in the same way Detroit is the City of RoboCops.
#ClevelandThatILove implies there is another Cleveland that the user does not love. Which is rude. I mean hate a city if you want, but to use that hate to compare another entirely unrelated city? That’s unnecessary. This is the #LakewoodThatILove, not to be confused with Lakewood, Texas. That place can burn for all I care. At the end of the day it’s clunky syntax. There’s no way that can be used in an ordinary sentence. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here, the Cleveland That I Love.” That’s bad Shakespeare. Why not just #ILoveCleveland? Take out the conjunction and let the verb do the work. Not only does it express the affection faster, it’s a free writing lesson. And people love those as much as Cleveland. So this won’t do, even with the improvement.
So what does that leave us? Cleveland isn’t the Nike ad-ready “The Land.” It’s not luggage or a mall directory. I am pursuing a start-up Clevelandgram business, so please contact me if you own or know someone who owns a pierogi and/or road salt wholesale company. All the others are too dramatic.
Let’s think about Cleveland as a person. A neighbor, let’s say. We need a neighborly name for a city whose film industry is based on it having three blocks that look like another city if lit properly. The first major city, in fact, to default on federal loans since the Great Depression. A city that needed to spruce up its theater district and decided the best way to do that was to hang a chandelier outside over traffic.
The best name I can think of for that neighbor is Cleve. Clumsy, a bit misguided, but tough as nails. Always complains about the weather but never moves. Lives in a restored house and quickly reminds visitors how bad it used to be, how much better it is now and how many paychecks and paint chips made the difference. Leaves a game on the TV, doesn’t matter which. Works in a mill, never mentions what kind, but always wears a mascot t-shirt when he isn’t in uniform. He’s a busy guy but sometimes he’ll cut your grass for you if he’s already out there. Or bring over a beer if you’re not doing anything later. He’s not the best neighbor – he’s sometimes loud, a bit too proud and brings up his brush with rock and roll fame entirely too often – but he is your neighbor, and you could do a lot worse than Cleve.
I like #Cleve.
For more articles like this, visit Jeremy’s film blog at whospilledmypopcorn.wordpress.com