Since the announcement of the Republican National Convention coming to Cleveland, there has been a feeling of intensified excitement because our city is getting long deserved positive recognition.  Cleveland is coming of age.Gay Games 9

Last year we had the National Senior Games and this year it is the Gay Games 9. Naturally, being a snoop, I volunteered to help out.

On Tuesday I donned my Cuyahoga Valley National Park Volunteer uniform and hat and headed down to Mall C that covers the roof of the lower part of the new Convention Center. Four of us squeezed into a little booth to show visitors literature and pelts. The National Park was also hosting several events in the Park designed to entertain the GG9 participants and visitors.

It was a good place to view the passing parade of people.

Dave and I had visited on Friday night to view the Ahh Cleveland Light Show. There were laser lights projected over the Convention Center and Malls. They formed a rainbow. There were lights to step on and lights projected against the Public Auditorium. Meanwhile, about 500 people were doing a yoga routine on the grass as twilight then dark descended.

But on Tuesday it was full daylight and easy to talk with people who came up and asked us about the Park. It was clear that locals didn’t know the difference between the Cleveland MetroParks and their National Park. Never mind. We understood each other.

It was great fun to ask were people were from and what sport they were participating in. We talked at length to two men who had done goat dressing at the rodeo. (This means running up to a tethered goat and putting  underpants on the astonished animal). In the next several days I talked with people who had competed in ice skating events, basketball, and ballroom dancing. There are 35 events in lots of venues in the region.

All of us were impressed with the organization. There were tons of volunteers, police were evident everywhere. Welcoming flags and signs were in most restaurants and neighborhoods. Just as impressive is the estimation at each visitor spent approximately $1500.

The next day I had volunteered to meet the bus that was going to take GG9 guests from Cleveland to the Park for a free concert.  Outside the Horseshoe Casino Gift Shop sat a full sized Lakefront coach. Only 6 people had registered and only 3 of them showed up. It was a gorgeous day and, after two days of rain, I think people blew off the bus ride to explore our city.Gay Games 9

As I walked back home, I overheard one participant complain that the venues were far apart and there were few spectators. That was the only complaint I heard. The overwhelming response I got was that people were impressed with our city and all there is to do. But even more so about how friendly and welcoming people are. There were many people who came from overseas. Two of the women on the bus were from Russia and spoke no English. Imagine coming from Croatia or France by yourself to participate.

Personally, I was very pleased with how organized everything was. There were staff, volunteers, medical personnel, and security aplenty. The schedule of options for visitors was crammed with many tempting options. People were happy with all the pleasing options and the availability of things to do and places to eat downtown. I saw participants using our free trolley and other modes of transportation to get around.

Our city is clearly ready to host big conventions and lots of people, including you.

 

My Freshman Dorm (foreground)

My Freshman Dorm (foreground)

I’ve attended two class reunions: my high school’s 25th and 50th. I’m done with them. By my 50th reunion my class of 500 had already lost 70 classmates. Gloomy. Plus I didn’t remember almost everyone who was there and they didn’t remember me.

When it came time for my college reunion I debated going just to see the campus, but decided against it. I’ve stayed in touch with the 6 women I cared about and I pretty much don’t remember the rest.

I went to Heidelberg College (now University) in Tiffin, Ohio for two years. I had a typical small college experience and made some very close and long lasting friendships. When I transferred to the University of Akron and later to Kent State, my experiences were not nearly as meaningful.

I’ve been back to Heidelberg a few times since I graduated. About 10 years ago I went with 2 sorority sisters. We toured the campus and remembered events that happened in each place we visited. It was a bitter sweet time. We’d heard the “The Berg” had some financial troubles and nearly closed its doors. Our sorority mirrored the campus’s decline.

But last weekend Dave and I drove over to look over the place and I was very glad we did. The campus has been given a new life. Buildings were remodeled and additions had been made. There was a new student union and a newer gym. Gardens and sculptures and enhanced open spaces with new landscaping gave the whole place an updated feel.

Even though we couldn’t get in any of the buildings on a Saturday in August, I still could reminisce about the chapel, my dorm, and the girl’s gym, “kissing bridge,” and downtown. Memories came to me that I thought I had long forgotten: boys serenading their girlfriends, me waking up my friends more than an hour too early to go to breakfast in our hair curlers, writing letters during chapel, playing bridge in “the castle,” picking up my mail at University Hall, and sharing a room with Sue Gordon my freshman year.

Some buildings were gone which was disorienting and some places were not where I thought they should be. The President’s home is now an honor’s house.  The skating rink is now a tanning salon. None of the downtown restaurants remained. We left town to find lunch.

Nevertheless, the visit was just right. I didn’t need to get inside the buildings to have vivid pictures of leaving my Spanish class, or playing tricks on my pledge boss, or singing in the chorus “On the Street Where You Live.” The diners are gone but I still remember the “deep” conversations- and the silly ones too- we all had while waiting for meals we paid for (instead of our parents).

Those years were pivotal for me because I learned to overcome being homesick; get myself up and to all my classes, and to start afresh with no lingering past history. It all was exciting and slightly adventuresome for a gal raised in the 50s. There was a life that couldn’t be extended at a larger commuter school or in graduate school.  Yet, I will never be the person who says they were the best years of my life.  I don’t miss studying for exams, worrying about getting a date for the dance, or trying to stay awake during my class right after lunch.

Memories are grand but not nearly as good as you can make life in the here and now.