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Goodbye Cleveland, Hello Washington

In case you've missed the chatter over at my Twitter feed during the past few weeks, the news is in: I have accepted a job in the Washington DC area which I will be starting in June. More precisely, I'll both be living and working in Arlington, Virginia.

As far as this blog goes, I plan to continue to write here at Extraordinary Observations with roughly the same frequency and on mostly the same topics. That said, the blog will become more DC-centric and I probably will have few, if any, posts about Cleveland. Frankly, I feel like there is some intellectual dishonesty to writing authoritatively about a place from a thousand miles away.

As most readers know, I'm a big fan of cities, density, urbanism, and everything that goes along with it. For as much as I talk about it, I haven't yet had a good chance to completely experience it. This seems like it should be as good an opportunity as any to do that. Both Arlington and Washington look like excellent cities for bicycling, and I can't wait to hit some of the area trails and check out some of the weekly group rides.

I'm not going to be that person that says I couldn't wait to get out of Cleveland or that I couldn't stand anything about the city. At the same time, I'm not going to be that person who moves to Washington and then writes an op-ed about how much I wish DC were more like Cleveland. Indeed, Cleveland is a city of gems. I know for a fact there are things I am going to miss. Among them...

The best coffee. Ever.
I started regularly going to Phoenix Coffee when I got a part-time job downtown about two years ago. Every morning before work I would run in and buy a cup of the good stuff before heading up to my office. It wasn't long before I was hooked. There is simply no better coffee in Cleveland. When I moved to the Heights, I started frequenting the Phoenix locations in that part of town.

After I met Carl and Sarah Jones, the masterminds behind the company, my loyalty was forever sealed. One of my biggest fears is that I won't be able to find coffee as good or cafes and friendly as I've gotten used to at Phoenix. I'm willing to admit that I've been ridiculously spoiled when it comes to coffee for these past two years, and the hundreds of dollars I've spent there has been well worth it.

The best libraries. Ever.
I read a lot of books, but I buy very few of them. That's been possible because Cleveland has awesome public libraries. The main downtown Cleveland Public Library, aside from being literally a stone's throw from my office, also owns an incredible collection of books, and if another library in the system has a book that I want, it usually only takes a few days to have it delivered to any other library within the system.

(from Flickr user LouisL)

That's not even saying anything about the Heights library near my home, which has the best A/V department I've ever seen, very reasonable hours, a "quiet room" that actually lives up to its name, and is a great place to work. These libraries consistently win national awards because they really are the best of the best. I'm really going to miss these them.

The best microbrewery. Ever.
There are a lot of craft breweries across America, but there's something about the Great Lakes Brewing Company that stands out in my mind. Not only do they make a product that's typically better than most of the competition, they are located in Cleveland's urban core and essentially function as the central destination in what has become one of the best neighborhoods in the city.

(from Flickr user potatoknish)

Of course, like anything that's truly good, distribution of GLBC products has grown immensely over the past few years. They now distribute in the Washington, DC market, as luck would have it; but there's something about it that just won't be the same. Not knowing that the source of Christmas Ale is just around the corner in November and December. Being able to order a Black and Gold without people asking, "what's that?" The Great Lakes Brewery is truly a gem.

Casual dress codes.
This is a point of contention. Some people don't like that Cleveland has such a casual attitude toward its social gathering places. Some people believe there is a time and place to be casual, but when out in public people should dress and act formally if they want to be taken seriously. Some people believe the casual attitude that exists suggests an "I don't care" attitude in the city. I couldn't disagree more; and I have a feeling it will be a challenge to adjust to DC-culture in this respect.

Cheap. Everything.
My rent is only $400 per month. I can see awesome movies (independent or mainstream) for only 5 bucks on Mondays or 6 bucks on Thursdays. Every night of the week there is a sweet nighly special happening somewhere in town. I can eat 40-cent wings on Monday, $4 personal pizza on Tuesday, 10-cent tacos on Thursday, and very tasty sushi rolls for $3 every day of the week. Even the fancy restaurants (of which I've visited too few) have prices that I could probably afford on an entry-level salary.

Ultimately, the reality is that Cleveland still has many a lot of issues and problems that need to be dealt with. The metro area is badly sprawling, the public transit system is crumbling, and brain drain is undoubtedly occurring (and yes, a finger can be pointed at me). There are still a lot of self-defeating attitudes that are far too mainstream.

Some people have already assured me that I will be back when I'm looking to buy a home or start a family. Perhaps... but it's hardly guaranteed. I just hope that if I ever return to Cleveland, I return to a better Cleveland than the one that I'm leaving.


Michael said…
You'll be glad to hear that Arlington, VA has an excellent library system, and you'll be about a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute bike ride from the central branch.
AndrewBW said…
Congratulations and good luck Rob!
John Morris said…
Pittsburgh has the casual dress thing down--although it only goes so far in that there's an old money very conservative side to the city.

Still hope very much you might consider doing a post or two on my blog which I hope will be some kind of forum where people can compare and contrast things they like about cities and what can be improved.

D.C. so happens to be at the other end of Pittsburgh's social and mental map, with one of the biggest pools of ex Pittsburghers and a growing connection between it's research universities and D.C.

I can't help feeling that pro urban ideas might filter up the old B&O rail links.

My guess is you will still visit Cleveland.
Kristen said…
Congrats!, I love Arlington and I hope to join you once grad school ends in about a couple of years. You should join up with the GGW guys officially now. Also, this is a great post about Cleveland and small/medium/rusting cities period, there are so many things we take for granted in them.
B. P. Beckley said…
Well, Arlington's pretty cool. I never lived there myself, but I know many people that do/did and loved it. There are lots of bike trails. I think commuting by bike is workable there. In fact, commuting by bike all the way into district is pretty viable...I have a friend out in Vienna who was doing that commute pretty regularly.

One thing I truly miss about Washington is the Mount Vernon bike trail. If you look at the view across the Potomac to the Lincoln Memorial often enough, you may understand why I never really liked the idea of allowing taller buildings in downtown Washington.

Hm, and Texas chili @ Hard Times Cafe.

I'll also repeat the rec. for Arlington Central Library.

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