Moving is never easy. Aside from the physically taxing process of shifting all my worldly possessions, as trivial as they may be, there are great emotional attachments to break. For years, I had called a modest apartment in Cleveland Heights home. I moved there shortly after graduating college, and its proximity to Coventry (read: La Cave du Vin, the Grog Shop and B Side) was immensely appealing. I was a stone's throw from work, first in University Circle, then in Little Italy. I lived with a great friend who I had known since our first days as freshmen at St. Ignatius High School. I made loads of friends in the neighborhood, and navigated a lifetime of meaningful moments I'll never remember. It was ideal.
Then the walls came down.
As an optimistic twentysomething living in Coventry, it was easy to overlook the aging apartment's shortcomings: windows with unique draft features, heating elements that doubled as refrigeration units, a not-so character improving dearth of electrical outlets, a sad kitchen. However, as I aged, so did the apartment. While I did personal maintenance to insure I didn't fall apart, the owners of the apartment did not see fit to do the same with their property.
First, the little apartment that could was stricken with a plumbing problem that prevented my roommate and I from flushing anything. Not pleasant when you share one toilet. It took the landlord months to rectify the problem, and after the horrors I encountered during that time, I don't think I'll ever be the same. Around this time, I also lost my job. The proverbial excrement had really hit the fan. I fled to the Outer Banks for a week that summer, trying to enjoy a vacation that had been booked nearly a year prior. On a journalist's salary, I rarely vacationed.
As the harsh Cleveland winter took hold that year, and I was working from home, I became painfully aware of our landlord's policy of turning off the heat during the day, conveniently between "work hours." Having always been away during those hours, I never noticed. Combine that with poor insulation and the draft flow windows, and I was wearing winter woolies at my desk.
On January 15, the kitchen ceiling collapsed. It had happened for the third winter in a row, and despite repeated calls to the landlord alerting them of ever-increasing water damage. With sub-zero temperatures, the apartment was not livable. It took numerous calls to the City of Cleveland Heights housing department to get the ceiling fixed. That happened more than 10 days after the collapse. That week, I told my roommate I would not be renewing our lease. After a faulty gutter fell from a property owned by our landlord, causing thousands of dollars in damage to my roommate's car less than a month later, he decided that he would not be staying there either. It was the end of an era, but a change was overdue. The apartment was headed in the wrong direction, and my roommate and I were headed in different professional directions. Logistically, I was headed East.
Home is now in North Collinwood. When I tell people I live in North Collinwood, they often take on a blank expression, explaining that they're not familiar with the area. In most cases, they react as if I've just told them I have a terminal illness. In one rare case, my best friend visited and grew nostalgic, as he was raised in the area.
My new apartment represents a new lease on life. My girlfriend and I joke that it's like being on vacation. We have such capitalist extravagances as central air and 21st century windows, an ice maker and countertops. We even have fully functional plumbing and a ceiling. I'm a one-minute walk to Lake Erie, and the sunrises, midday reflections and sunsets make morning, day and night that much more dramatic. I've always been drawn to the siren song of the water's ebb and tide. Having lived in Ireland, Boston and Rocky River, it may be a deep-seated yearning. As a bonus, I'm very close to the Waterloo Arts District.
I still love Cleveland Heights, and I maintain that there are few places in our region so bursting at the seams with an amazing arts and culture scene, unique shopping and great dining options. Now, I have to drive a few extra minutes to get there, and, as was the case when I lived there, I still have to pay to park everywhere. Tax breaks are nice, though.
Sometimes it takes stepping outside your comfort zone to realize how uncomfortable it made you. Also, my landlord is currently showing my old apartment, if you're interested.