During the summer, Oberlin slows down. There's still a few amazing festivals, like Juneteenth and the Chalk Walk, as well as free concerts and theater... but the fast-paced vibe of campus eases. It becomes a small town in rural Ohio.
After a long, stressful semester, I love that.
For a day or two.
But with a full week with nothing to do? Cleveland.
Until this summer, I'd never spent a full day in Cleveland. I'd gone to Cleveland a few times for a few hours to see... West Side Market! Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Contra dancing! Industrial music clubs! Meeting awesome alumni!
I'd drive in, go to the event, then go home. I didn't linger.
It was time to change that. It was time to get to know Cleveland, to see if I wanted to deepen our relationship. Cleveland and I needed to go on a date.
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Great Lakes Science Center + Cleveland.
When I was in elementary school, one of the best field trips ever was to Liberty Science Center. The next year, my middle school went to DC, setting me loose in the Smithsonian for a full day. Being at the Great Lakes Science Center brought me back to that feeling of childhood joy. Though we didn't get a chance to explore the whole museum, what we saw was awesome.
The main floor was bioengineering. There was a section on virtual reality, file compression, synthesizer music, and alternative interfaces. The exhibits on material science was excellent, with smart windows with LED sensors responding to changes in light and sound.
There were some things that confused me. When you have interactive displays about communicable diseases... why don't you have hand sanitizer nearby? Especially as the exhibit is child-friendly and children are the cutest little disease vectors... I'd love some sanitizer. Though generally, I love hand sanitizer. My immune system is a little like the shields on Star Trek. They can take a lot of small damage but if something massive hits the Aries Enterprise, the ship goes down. When H1N1 broke, Health Services put up enormous bottles of hand sanitizer at every major hub on campus. Bliss became me.
Besides that, there was a section on addiction. Most of Yoshi's neuroscience research experience involves addiction, especially as it intersects with memory. From time to time, he would yell at the machine that supports a "hedonistic model."
The second floor was play-land. Physics is the best. There were all sorts of lovely games that showed how sound and light can be manipulated. Each exhibit had a purpose, explaining the physics behind funhouse mirrors and giant bubbles. While I tried to be a good adult and read about the thing I was playing with, the museum was closing soon. So, I played. There were lasers and musical PVC pipes, smoke holes, plasma balls, an Oscilloscope... Lots of stuff.
At a display on Salmonella, there was a board for visitors to write the remaining questions they had after viewing information. While waiting for Yoshi, I added these questions:
"Will Salmonella help me lose weight?"
"Is Salmonella sexually transmitted?"
"When was Salmonella invented?"
"Can I buy Salmonella at Target?"
"Is Salmonella biodegradable?"
The second we left the building, we were on Lake Erie, next to a maritime museum. We held hands and watched the seagulls chase some fish.
From there, we headed to University Circle... And promptly got lost. The map indicated a park bordering the road to University Circle, but it didn't say what that street was called, nor did it have any nearby streets labeled. So, when we left the road to find a place to park, we got really lost, driving up and down residential roads. Mercifully, the park hugging the road was lovely. It hosted a row of "culture gardens": statues and altars with fountains.
Meanwhile, the collective blood sugar in the car was sinking, making navigating and communicating more complex. Yoshi's voice gets flatter when he's tired, while I start to make less and less sense. We go to our poles. I become Delirium from The Sandman, while Yoshi becomes Squall, from Final Fantasy 7. [image no longer available]
Aries: "Germany, Estonia, India, Ireland. The world is so big in Cleeeeeveland. The grass is just so super-green. I could wrap a tree in it and call it good."
Aries: "Can we stop now and walk through the cultures? I want to see Latvia. Anna's from Latvia. I hope they have bears."
Aries: "What time is it? I can't find my cell. I hope I didn't drop it in the lake. Let's go swimming with the duckies..."
Given our hunger, we decided to pass on the culture gardens for a bit and try to find some food in University Circle. Despite staring at a map for a few minutes, we walked the wrong way for a bit too long. Then we trailed up Euclid and got to Case Western Reserve. Despite having been to Case twice, I had no idea what I was looking for. There seemed to be no food despite the collection of awesome buildings, museums and hospitals. It was a cool campus - I loved the buildings and all the modern sculptures.
We finally found a strip of restaurants. There was a pizza place, a Chinese restaurant, a deli, a Starbucks... our pickings were slim. We looked across the street and in the same breath said, "Falafel Café?"
Mediterranean food is a rarity in my life and, as a long-time vegetarian, hummus is a joy I cannot eat enough of. That said, I didn't have high expectations. The place itself was not so gorgeous, filled with plenty of plastic tables. The ketchup packets stuck to each other. There were only a few people in the restaurant.
Yoshi got a lamb kebab; I got the cabbage stew. Both dishes were amazing. The soup was flavorful without being too rich, the vegetable delicious. Yoshi's kebab was excellent; the pitas offered were light and tangy. Later, we discovered that we stumbled into one of the best restaurants in Cleveland; Falafel Café was rated in the top five restaurants in the city for the past few years.
While I went to the bathroom, Yoshi spoke with the owner-chef who was from Beirut. "Of course Lebanese food is great!" he announced. "Why else would you go to Lebanon?"
Hunger eased, we walked through Case, past the museums, and to the Culture Gardens, where we wandered around for over two hours.
India! Gandhi looked awesome, with a quote about tolerance on the podium. There were little stones with information on Indian cultural advances.
Germany! The centerpiece was an enormous statue of Schiller and Goethe, looking like old-school fraternity brothers. I tried to read the inscription from Faust aloud, but failed. The statue was so huge that trying to see over the terrible two's bellies was tricky. The other German who earned a statue was Bach, who did not look too happy.
Finland! Nothing could seem sad next to the Finnish. The poets and statesmen represented looked like sailors trapped within the doldrums, their wind gone, sitting in a ship of fools and eagerly anticipating starving to death. These were sad, sad men.
We didn't realize the sun had set until the park was dark and the moon was high. Tired out, we strolled back to the car and drove back to Oberlin.
You showed me a nice time. I'll call you soon, okay?
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April 26, 2022