There's No Place Like Home

What makes us Clevelanders?

It’s certainly more than just being born and raised here. I’m frequently asked if I grew up in Cleveland, and technically the answer is “no.” (I spent my first two decades in Youngstown.)

But psychologically, the answer is “absolutely.” I was reared on Red Right 88, a work ethic built on steel girders, Bat Day and doubleheaders at the Stadium, deep ties to family and place and a resilience that comes from being the butt of jokes that are more sad than funny.

As a town, we’re hopelessly insecure about who we are and how we stack up — which isn’t surprising when you were the fifth largest city in America in 1920 and are now not even in the top 25. (See what I mean?) We struggle to overcome what divides us — which we’ll blame on a river whose name we can’t even agree how to pronounce. Yet, we have a fierce sense of devotion, which is why we stick with our teams even when they disappoint us and why Cleveland is never really too far from our hearts, no matter how far away we are.

But just how much of Cleveland’s psychosis, mythology and charm have rubbed off on you?

Well, as a point of reference, I took our “How Cleveland Are You?” quiz:

I’ve have never driven past the house in “A Christmas Story,” but I do own a replica leg-lamp, which was a major award.

I survived all the blizzards in the past 25 years, but cannot explain the lake effect.

My knowledge of the history of Short Vincent Avenue (and a lot more of the city) comes from reading Mark Winegardner’s novel “Crooked River Burning.” (I probably should get a bonus point for taking a class from Winegardner at John Carroll.)

Even though my kids attend St. Patrick’s School in West Park and get March 17 off, I’ve never attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade. (I can see it from my office window, though, so I’ll take half a point.)

In the past 12 months, I have spotted Dennis Kucinich and his new bride at a rec baseball game in Strongsville.

My relatives have worked in the steel mills and I was once a card-carrying member of the United Auto Workers. (Still, I was pretty happy about the recent “friends and family” discounts on cars since it meant we could afford a new minivan.)

I introduced my kids to both the West Side Market and Little Italy, though I have never attended the Feast of the Assumption. (But I have judged homemade wines for the Taste of Little Italy at Holy Rosary Church.)

When I was a 10-year-old, Red Right 88 might have been my first real experience with a deeply emotional loss. Let’s just say there were lots of tears, maybe a tantrum, maybe something broken. (Years later when the Indians lost in the playoffs, I really hadn’t learned much: There were no tears, only a minor tantrum and a broken hand.)

I have eaten the corned beef at Slyman’s and Otto Moser’s, and while Otto’s has been doing it longer, give me a Slyman’s sandwich any day.

I was never much of a music buff, so I have never been pulled over on the way to Blossom and don’t own an MSB album. I have, however, been to the Rock Hall — but only once — and griped about the induction ceremony. (I have also seen Donny Iris and The Cruisers in concert, which is probably worth subtracting another point.)

Pittspuke is our greatest rivalry. Then the Yanks (I own a Beat the Yankee Hankee), Wolverines, Bengals and Ravens follow.

I didn’t realize Sweetest Day wasn’t a real holiday. (But then again, I didn’t get my wife anything for it either and should probably subtract five points for that.)

My father-in-law was an extra in “The Deer Hunter,” though I’ve never actually seen the entire movie.

We have had two company outings on the Nautica Queen, but I’ve never attended a bachelor party at Put-In-Bay.

My 8-year-old and his friends are already arguing over the Ed’s-Ignatius rivalry.

I know the difference between an accordion and a button box, and several polkas were played at my wedding.

And I’ve officially stopped asking newcomers, “Why Cleveland?” because I know the answer (even if I only scored in the mid-30s on this test).

Ready to find out how you stack up? Turn to page 120 and discover “How Cleveland Are You?”

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