People ask me about Cleveland because I’m from Ohio and I say unequivocally, Cleveland sucks. I say it to my sister who went to college in Cleveland. I say it to my parents who for some reason feel an allegiance to the Cleveland sports franchises, all except the Browns because who cares. I say it to my aunt who lives there. I would say it to Drew Carey, not Price Is Right attractive older Drew Carey but anti-hero fatboy early 90s Drew Carey. I would say it to Grover Cleveland, and to LeBron James, and to General Moses Cleaveland who himself never returned to the place after it was named for him.

What did Cleveland ever do to you, they ask.

On Friday the 15th of June, 2007, Casey Blake of the Cleveland Indians made a promise. He didn’t know he was making a promise, but he was, he did, and he failed to uphold his end of the bargain. We were there, my sister and my brother-in-law and his sister and brother, to watch the Indians (gaahhh that name it’s just cringgggee) play the Braves (ditto). I spent most of the game yelling from our seats in the right field bleachers at douchey Jeff Francouer who is a douche, but in the later innings in a tight game my sister silently asked the cosmos for Casey Blake to hit a home run.

No, wait. It starts earlier.

My sister graduated from Case Western and she was dating this guy I’d only ever really hung out with at her previous graduation from undergrad. By hang out with, I mean without a bunch of family around, mandating a certain personality presenting itself, on his part and mine. But we hung out during her first college graduation a small bit, with a bunch of her college friends milling about, mostly I stayed quiet, I was like seventeen or something and surrounded by beer and young adult womenfolk. My sister didn’t have near the clique capacity in grad school, and so at that second graduation mostly it was family and Ben, chilling in her second floor Cleveland apartment with a balcony. Before we were there even a half an hour, something was required from the corner store, and Ben asked if I wanted to go with him, because he knew I wanted a cigarette. He let me smoke in his car. If you’ve ever had a secret nicotine addiction of your own, you are surely aware what a blessing this was. It occurred to me that of all the people there, he was the only one I was willing to trust entirely. It was a depressing bit of self-analysis that stuck with me.

So then, Casey Blake, with his home run that put my sister into tears because she had told herself just before the pitch that if he hit that home run, Ben would live another ten years. We were all surprised at the sudden outpouring of tears, until she told us. “I mean, at least another ten years,” she quickly amended. I wrote to Blake to tell him about this. Never heard back. He got traded to the Dodgers later on, and he sucked out loud and his career ended soon after that, and if your math is as on point as mine, you’ll know that we haven’t yet hit that ten year mark, so fuck Casey Blake and fuck Cleveland, amen.

And that was the bright moment of the trip, for me. This was the first I’d spent time with Ben after the diagnosis, and the difference between Ben normal and Ben prime was staggering. Like, they’d privately seen enough between the two of them to make his big proud ass actually go to the doctor, but most of the initial clumsiness and loss in strength was privy to no one else. After the diagnosis, they immediately planned the trip to Cleveland. I had spoken with him on the phone once or twice since. His speech seemed about 80% the speed of its usual rapid clip the first conversation, about 60% the second, but on this trip you couldn’t blame it on any possible ordinary factor, like not enough caffeine, or a bad hangover, or a mouth full of illicit taffy you were trying to keep on the down-low. The words were… slurring, now. His personality had not conceded much territory, though. He kept trying to talk, to say everything he normally would have. We went to one of their favorite cafes the morning after the game, big cartoonish painted cutouts of fruit and vegetables all over the place with their weird eyes and expressions, not quick enough on the coffee refills but fairly decent omelets, and I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying over the din of coffeespoons and cutlery, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about it without like calling attention to what nobody was really talking about, but I knew he was making jokes, I could read it in his expression, trying to bear the burden of lightening the mood, except I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what he’d just said. This was my own personal awakening, and it was miserable, and it happened in Cleveland, so there.

Of course, there are many lesser examples, but now I get to add another one. Cleveland is where I had to send my wife off to the military. And here we are now, three days in, and I reiterate to you, with as much muster and sincerity as I can manage, Cleveland can go eat just the biggest pile of dicks.

I mean, don’t take it personally, Cleveland, I hated Columbus for years, too. You guys were like neck-and-neck there for a while.

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