At times I feel displaced.  I spent my first 18 years in one town then I started my life as a ping pong ball.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved my life and wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. 

After high school it was 4 years in Ashland Ohio for college, a year and a half in the Bay Area (SF and Walnut Creek), New York for two and a half(Queens and Long Beach, LI), Orange County, CA for a couple (Anaheim,Huntington, Newport Beach) back to the Bay Area (Sunnyvale), a return to Orange County (Newport Beach, Tustin, Lake Forest).  Then a corporate move to Spartanburg SC, a brief stay in Greenville SC and after that my longest stint - 17 years in Lexington KY.  Finally in August of 2011 I relocated to Frisco Texas.  (pause to catch my breath…)

I provide this background to put my recent visit to Cleveland in perspective.  I have several very good friends who live in suburban Cleveland and quite honestly I’ve never understood why.  I get that you grow up in Cleveland but why would anyone stay there?  The weather is reason enough to “get out of Dodge”.  It’s usually cold and dreary from late October to early June.  The hometown teams never seem to win.  Most of their superstar athletes stay long enough for a cup of coffee then split for greener pastures.  To my knowledge there’s never been a song written about the place and it could be the most disrespected city in the U.S.  So why do people choose to live there and why would I take the time to blog about it?

I was on business there last week and met my friend Cathy for breakfast.  This wasn’t just any breakfast; according to my friend it was going to be THE BEST BREAKFAST IN CLEVELAND!  The restaurant is Lucky’s Café.  The food was amazingly homemade and delicious.  However it was the experience that blew me away!  Cathy was born and raised in Cleveland and I can’t imagine her living anywhere else.  She loves it.  Our breakfast together gave me a better understanding of why.

The moment we entered the restaurant I could feel the warmth of friends and family.  The waiter, Patrick and the Chef, Becky were Cathy's high school friends and Becky's Mom who was there, was her Girl Scout troop leader.  It was obvious Patrick and Cathy’s lives were on completely different tracks.  As they conversed it was like time had evaporated and they were having a hallway chat on their way from Biology to Math class. There was no pretense just realness.  Patrick and Cathy kept me in the conversation as if I had grown up with them. 

Then Mary Lou (Becky's Mom) came over to the table and gave Cathy a big hug.  Sadly Alzheimer’s has robbed her of complete recollection but there was no doubt she remembered Cathy.  They reminisced about the fun all the kids had at Lou Ann’s house. I Imagined her with all of her faculties and what a fun playful Mom she was back then.  After all the years their fondness for each other remains obvious and genuine. 

We spent our breakfast in and out of conversations with Patrick and Lou Ann.  I can’t remember a time that I felt more at home and just feeling good in the moment.  Part of me was in awe and I have to admit I felt a smidge jealous.  Cathy is Cleveland’s “Poster Child”.  A loving Mom and dedicated wife, she’s one of the warmest most genuine people I know.    It was obvious in those moments she has something money can’t buy and so many don’t have.  I get the sense that her life is built on a foundation of these types of relationships.

 Our breakfast at Lucky’s Café reminded me that life is all about relationships – the deeper and longer lasting the better!  In my opinion, everything else is secondary.  Cleveland’s a city of heart and soul where relationships are more important than glitz and glamor.  There are lots of places where the sun shines from the outside in.  Despite the typically gray skies in Cleveland, the sun shines 365 days a year from the inside out.  Now I know why I’ve always had this “closet attraction” to Cleveland! 

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Comment by Cathy McPhillips on March 29, 2012 at 5:06am

I love this Bill!! A few things: Hopefully by now you've downloaded "Cleveland Rocks." Next, the weather isn't that bad! (remind me I said this when it's snowing in April). It's most definitely a wonderful place to grow up, live, and raise a family. With our sports teams comes tough skin and resilience. With our crummy weather comes embracing the gorgeous weather and getting outside to enjoy it. The first sunny day in the spring? Lake Rd. in Lakewood is jammed with people running or on bikes.

I would pit our restaurants and museums against any in the country. But you are right, it's the people here. On the west side (where I grew up/live) there is no doubt a 6 degrees thing going on. It's a great and comforting thing.

Thanks for writing about this wonderful family. Not only was she my Girl Scout leader for years, she was also my softball coach...which was one of the biggest parts of my childhood. You should post the pic you took so everyone can see her!

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