We did not have high expectations of Pittsburgh, so we were not disappointed. We had low expectations for Cleveland, so we were presently surprised. Cleveland has been the butt of scores of jokes over the years. A polyester leisure suit with white patent belt and matching shoes was, at one time, referred to as the "Full Cleveland". Then there's that river that runs through the city, so polluted that it used to catch on fire.
We arrive early in the afternoon so decide to while away some time in the National Park just outside the city. When we first enter the park we encounter a tranquil forest where the afternoon sun filters down through the trees. We also encounter a small antique shop so we park and shop.
Continuing on, we come upon a path which winds through massive, moss dappled stones. The path leads us to a high meadow, a large field of wild green grass with spring wildflowers adding patches of color. As we make our return to the car we stop at an information board where a small waterfall is pictured. We take notes of it's location and head towards it.
When we get to the falls we find a torrent of raging water, quite unlike the gentle stream in the photo that enticed us here. The concrete observation platform vibrates under our feet from the force of the water pouring over the ledge. Locals informed us that Ohio had been receiving record rains resulting in flooding, as well as the ferocious nature of the falls that day. We stayed awhile becoming mesmerized by the power of the frothing water.
As we drive into Cleveland proper, my traveling partner explains his method for discovering gay hot spots in any given city. Stop at the first gay, or gay appearing establishment you come to, preferably retail or restaurant. Chatting up the people within will inform you of the other gay life in town. We find a shop selling leather clothes and "sexual aides" flying a rainbow flag from a staff on the front of the building. This strikes us both as a promising place to begin our inquiries.
We score! The proprietor gives us much information and a magazine with names and addresses of the gay bars in town as well as a description, of sorts, for each We locate a motel, the chain with the bear in the nightshirt and cap as it's trademark, in an area called Edgewater.
To this day, I do not know if Edgewater is a suburb of Cleveland or a neighborhood in it. Even people I have since encountered from Cleveland seem uncertain. The area is a pleasant, welcoming mixture of mid century homes and modest two story apartment buildings sporting small tidy lawns. The "main drag" in the area is a short stroll away from the motel. It is a broad street lined with funky vintage shops, oddball boutiques and an assortment of bars, some of which are mentioned in the magazine we were given, and restaurants. We spend time shopping and stop for dinner at a Greek restaurant on the strip.
After stopping by our room we pick up the car and head to one of the leather bars in the city. We pass through an area next to the river where the late 19th century warehouses have been reinvented as apartments and chic upscale eating and drinking establishments. The concept well realized but has an elitist edge I find off putting.
We get to our destination and enter the bar. Going through a hallway we find ourselves in the backyard portion of the bar. It is a pleasant spring evening so the outdoor portion of this particular establishment is open. The indoor portion appears not to be. An exceedingly average shirtless bartender serves drinks. We sit off to the side and observe the fetishwear parade as it passes to and fro in the yard. My friend mentions that one man's codpiece sells for $400. I don't pay that for a suit, and that covers a lot more than the leather and metal contraption which holds this man's genitals.
After a time we decide to press on. We return to the motel, drop off the car and return to the street where we had dinner. Earlier we had spotted a bar there. It had been implied that it was the place to go before heading to dance clubs, etc. for the night. It is a large two story place, and, it being Saturday night. is packed. A handsome bartender, whose massive rippling arms and huge defined pectorals are clad in a skin tight tee shirt bearing the bars name serves us. His broad chest makes him resemble a billboard for the bar.
Once again, we become aware that we were the new meat in town due to the excessive amount of attention being paid to us. However, this crowd is quite a bit more attractive the what we encountered in Pittsburgh so the experience is not at all unpleasant.
We cruised, we flirted, we drank and then we returned to the motel and went to bed.