The Best of Cleveland 2007 Health & Happiness

Irish barber, trail run, beer swami, rainy day activity, free play, puppy party, pet jewelry, bargain massage, retro bowling, Jibbitz and bike shop
There’s something about an accent that makes any topic more interesting. The touches of Irish in Sean Gormley’s voice will make conversations about sports, Ireland, New York City and just about any other topic seem on point. A good barber has an editor’s eye for news and a columnist’s tongue. Gormley’s got both. During our July trim, we debated why folks are still struggling with flooding in Lake County, while another customer — hoping for a quick cut-and-run — continually glanced at his watch as Gormly paused for comment as often as he clipped. (Yes, it can be hard to grab a seat at The Irish Barber — it seems like he always has a line — but you won’t be rushed once you’re in the chair.) Gormley knows how to wield a straight razor, mixes his own shave cream and lathers it on with a brush so the back of your neck will stay clean-shaven for days. The haircuts are pretty darn good, too. 19500 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River; (440) 333-4418

A little cake in the face on your wedding night? Please. Try a flop from a 25-foot hill into a pit of frothy mud. Amy Frank and Sean Hensley, dressed in a white wedding dress and a tux, took the plunge in the face-plant contest at this year’s Mud March benefit and sealed their wedded mess with a grimy kiss. Obviously, the annual summer race is not your run-of-the-mill 5K. It traverses trails on Jay and Beth Schabel’s Auburn farm to benefit ATO Charities, a group they founded to support charitable endeavors in Northeast Ohio. Duct tape stations saved all but 16 shoes from being lost in the muck. (But there was no saving Amy’s dress!) Mud-topped trophies go the fastest runner, most creative costume and best face plant.

Readers Poll: Best Local TV Weatherperson
Dick Goddard

During four decades of predicting the weather, Fox 8 meteorologist Dick Goddard has come across a few rainy days. “We get plenty of them here,” he says. When the storm rolls in, Goddard can be found on his couch with his four cats (Blueberry, Sky, Autumn and Doppler Dot Com), reading one of the 1,000 books in his library. “I read everything from novels to subjects on animals and nature,” he says. His favorite spots for browsing are the Borders locations in Medina and Fairlawn. Look for him perusing the Mark Twain shelf. “I read a lot of his stuff,” he says. “His sense of humor is really incredible.”

Rattle off a dish, and he’ll find the perfect pairing. Crab cakes. “Spicy or not?” Not. He thinks for just a second before leading you to the cooler and pointing out amber ales from Bell’s, Otter Creek and Rogue breweries — a trio of options you’re not likely to find at the supermarket. Chuck’s Fine Wines in Chagrin Falls offers a bevy of brews in a compact corner of the store that forces you to weave through wooden crates in order to ogle the wall of Belgian beers or inspect that odd Japanese microbrew. It’s overwhelming, but Mike “The Swami of Suds” Howson will gladly answer all your questions. His monthly beer tastings (for a fee) are full of surprises as well. During our late-August visit, the white-bearded Buddha of brew doubled as a Santa of suds, cracking out aged winter and Christmas beers for shoppers to sip.; 23 Bell St., Chagrin Falls; (440) 247-7534

At Medina’s Rockin’ Robin’s Amazone, a jungle-themed playland ideal for the Pull-Ups and Underoos set, parents get to relax while their tykes frolic among lions and alligators and chicken nuggets. Here, the focus is on play. Amazone does house laser tag and an arcade, but the main attraction is a humongous indoor play structure with slides, obstacle courses, Tarzan-style swamp swings, endless climbing tunnels and a special toddler zone for your tiniest tots. Admission is only $6, and for that we got a preschooler to play happily for an entire afternoon. While the kids are romping and squawking, parents can enjoy the only jungle in these parts customized with plush, come-hither-and-read-the-newspaper couches.; 2789 Medina Road, Medina; (330) 764-4237

Etched inscriptions from the ’70s and ’80s are scattered across the massive boulders that make up Whipp’s Ledges. These faded scrawls of adventures had, love made public and friendships immortalized lie next to sharp, fresh names and hearts, the symbols of a new generation of explorers. This southern part of the Hinckley Reservation, just off route 303, takes nothing more than a tank of gas and a free afternoon to enjoy with whoever’s handy. Kids can play fairy and elf amid the Sharon Conglomerate rocks, hardier than their shale counterparts, while teenagers and couples young and old can climb onto rocky, moss- and fern-covered outcroppings that mingle with the tops of the trees. In the heat of summer, a dip in the Spillway Pool at Hinckley Lake, right around the corner, is in order; during winter, the Coasting Hill
just down the road provides restrooms and a lighted slope for endless sledding. And yes, it’s all free.

In a town where the Dawg Pound reigns supreme, our pampered pooches deserve a place to party too. We’re taking ours to Grateful Dog Bakery in North Ridgeville, where you can fete your birthday pup and a handful of doggie pals in the “paw”-ty room. Tie on some pooch-size party hats and treat the crew to one of the shop’s cele“bark”tion cakes, topped with a bone candle and Haagen Paws ice cream. Afterward, let the gang sniff through an assortment of daily-made treats, from poochie’s personal pan pizzas to Nutter Butter Bones dipped in yogurt coating. The Bow-wow Buckeyes are an animal-friendly version of the real confection. And since they taste like dark chocolate, humans are free to sample the goodies.; 31966 Center Ridge Road, North Ridgeville; (440) 353-1990

We are becoming a couture culture. But what of our pets? Until Katie Marks’ return from New York, Northeast Ohio was barren of the sort of bling that today’s animals, um, require. The Lyndhurst native honed her craft in the Big Apple and now she’s back in town, selling her handcrafted wares: dog tags and leashes swathed in Swarovski crystals. Sure, she makes other stuff (she did cell phones and iPods for celebs including Britney Spears and J.Lo), but it’s her attention to the pet world’s needs that has everyone clamoring. She recently created a flower-print dog tag for Robin Swoboda’s pooch. Look for her Burberry-inspired designs (for the conservative set) and flashier pieces at Kilgore Trout and the Barkley Pet Hotel. At $90 for a bone-shaped dog tag and $225 for a retractable leash, Marks’ creations are a bit pricey, but of course, Fifi is so worth it.

Massages are good for mind, body and soul, and, at The Cleveland Institute of Medical Massage (CIMM), they’re good for your wallet too. The student clinic offers a 50-minute relaxation massage for only — wait for it — $33! Atop crisp white sheets, surrounded by tranquil music, it doesn’t feel anything like school. Feel free to inform the massage therapist (in training) of the desired pressure and areas of tenderness. As part of the program, the catch — there’s always a catch, but this one’s minor — is that each client is asked to fill out a one-page student evaluation form after receiving a treatment. Not too shabby for 50 minutes of bliss. 18334-D E. Bagley Road, Middleburg Heights; (440) 243-8610

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might miss it. Even a few residents who work at the Walgreens up the street don’t know it exists. Only a solitary, brightly lit yellow sign provides a clue to the existence of Parma’s Browns Grill and Bowling. But trust us, you’ll like what you find. Browns is home to six lanes with the distinction of being the second-oldest sanctioned bowling lanes in the country (they were added in 1912). This is a regular ol’ hometown bar (23-ounce pours of Genesee are $1.75). Step into the bowling alley for a 30-year time warp: Wood-paneled walls backdrop retro cream-and-silver equipment. And don’t expect fancy strobe lights or the ever-popular “cosmic bowling” gimmicks. Owner Vickie Thompson says keeping the atmosphere legit is important. “We get a lot of older people who’ve come for years to bowl — a lot of neighborhood people,” she says. “These regulars are like family.” 3857 Pearl Road, Cleveland; (216) 741-9726

Toward the back of Nicky Nicole’s Hudson store, past the pink-and-purple clothes and across from a mountain of stuffed animals, Molly Orlando, 11, considers adding a little monkey to the four colorful aliens and the one band-aid already peeking out of her Crocs. It seems the 3-to-14-year-old set has realized something: good to have Crocs, even better to have Jibbitz charms to decorate them. Nicky Nicole readily obliges, offering around 40 varieties, including Disney’s Ariel, Belle and Cinderella, along with giraffes, ice cream cones, teeth with braces and the store’s own signature pink-and-green-flower Jibbitz, a Nicky Nicole exclusive. Don’t even get us (or Molly) started on the Webkinz selection.; 99 First St., Hudson and 28601 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere; (216) 464-4411

LeBron James loves bicycles. He cross-trains on one, hosts an annual charity ride in Akron and even owns part of Cannondale, which manufactures the bikes that James and his NBA buddies ride during the benefit. Afterward, the 50 black and gold cycles produced for the event are sold through select dealers (for $599). The only place to find the “King James” bike in Cleveland is at Bike Authority in Broadview Heights. (They were allocated six, but you’ll have to wait till next year — they’re already gone.) Yeah, this is the shop where the serious bikers hang out. It hosts its own races, has its own team, and helps sponsor just about every bike event in town. But best of all? The knowledgeable staff treats even novices like, ahem, royalty.; 7979 Broadview Road, Broadview Heights; (440) 546-9966
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