With the Republican Convention due in town the following week, we made a trip up to Cleveland to check out the scene. Imagine our surprise as we made our way up the freeway on this warm July morning to see ODOT trucks with snowplows attached, something that turned out to be a theme for the day. It turns out that was just a part of the security effort.
We met friends at the West 150th Street Rapid Station, where we took a Red Line train towards downtown, getting off at West 25th Street. As we came up the steps we were stunned to see virtually vacant streets as far as you could see down Lorain Avenue and 25th Street, as well as the entire area around the West Side Market. We could see police cars and a blockade at the west end of the Lorain-Carnegie (aka – Hope) Bridge.
We made our way towards the bridge, stopping to take pictures every once in a while. At one stop I was interviewed by a videographer from the Washington Post on what I thought of the setting. Reaching the police blockade they said that we were welcome to cross the bridge, but they were unsure if we could get through the other side. Good enough for us – onward. We stopped midway across, standing in the middle of the street until we moved over for a black SUV (FBI or Secret Service) to come by. It was all a very Twilight Zone feeling, but one that gave me photo opportunities I would never have otherwise, standing in the middle of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge on a bright sunny day with nobody around.
We reached the other side and found the first of it – a 12′ fence completely around Progressive Field, the arena and a the surrounding blocks with one of those retractable gates in the ground to allow cars to pass. We finally figured out we could go around the perimeter of the fence to the south, underneath the Innerbelt, back up the other side, and through some shrubs to come out on Carnegie Avenue across the street from the stadium. From there we made it to East 9th Street.
As we continued along the 12′ fence, admiring the ‘NO DRONE’ signs every 5 feet we finally saw some activity, a police escort and a shuttle bus, apparently bringing in some delegates. After making it to Prospect Avenue, we stopped in the surprisingly quiet Winking Lizard for lunch. As we had lunch we had our first ‘celebrity’ encounter, the 80 year old CBS news person Bob Schieffer. But our tour had to continue so we were back on the street – past another ‘Checkpoint Charlie‘.
As we made our way to East 4th Street we found people, lots of people, in what was essentially the news set for all of the networks. As someone who lived in Cleveland in the 1980s I recalled this as ‘Wig Alley‘, so named because of all the wig shops, and the place that the same guy tried to sell me cocaine every day on my way to lunch (I passed on his offer every day). Now it is the hipster restaurant row, but for this week it was home to MSNBC, the Washington Post and others.
After a stop at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, we checked out the refurbished Public Square where we met a nice group of Cleveland Bicycle Police. Public Square itself was closed off with yet more snowplows. After a brief visit to the Mall to find even more 12′ fencing we passed through the Arcade (amusing ourselves with the $50 parking fees) and back to Tower City for the Rapid back out of town.
All in all it was a very surreal day, setting up for our surreal world we now have with our Reality TV President.