I’ve always loved the Arcade, even when it was a cold as hell place where maybe three or four people hung out, and had a bunch of off-kilter retail outlets that offered stuff you wouldn’t want to find anywhere else.
While the standard comments about attention to detail feel appropriate here, I thought more about the ways in which these spaces welcome people in, with thousands of details that very few folk will even notice. Those details combine to form this amazing space, sometimes encouraging us to stop and notice, other times sitting unremarked upon (except for us nerds).
And yet there’s a different feel here, one that I’m not all that proud of. It also reminds me (for obvious reasons) of the Crystal Palace built in London in 1851. The need for light in a city (especially those dirty, smoggy industrial hells) had to feel particularly acute, and these structures probably felt airy and open in ways that few folks in the city actually wanted to be. (If you doubt me, re-read the opening of Dickens’s Bleak House).
As much loathing as that imaginary acquisition of light makes me feel, though, I wonder at my own nostalgia for this Cleveland, one that seeks to capture lesser glories from a time that we shouldn’t view that fondly. Cleveland now has jobs, and a future, in ways that felt impossibly far away in the 1980s, when every car on the streets seemed to be held together by rustoleum and bondo, and the only lights in Cleveland on a cold winter day were of teevees tuned to the Cavs game (in Richfield), with folks drinking shots chased by bad domestic beers, wearing a raggedy coat that didn’t really keep out the cold and not having to worry about work because, as the Specials say, “there weren’t no work to do.” Where the heck does that nostalgia come from?
Perhaps it’s from the some place that I used to make a visit to a fabulously wealthy recluse’s private dungeon feel like a trip down some sort of American memory lane…