We got there Friday evening (it's about a 5 hour drive sans baby, a 6 hour drive avec - so the equivalent of going to Montreal, but I would say more fun than Montreal). We had dinner at Otani's, which is this Japanese restaurant owned by my friend H and his mom, Auntie J - who is my mom's childhood friend from school. Otani's is AMAZING. I'm sure rolling up with the owners helps - but we had beef tataki, their famous volcano roll, big slices of hamachi and salmon, delicious scallops and shrimp from their teppanyaki side, uni with quail egg yolks, this Hawaiian roll with macadamia nuts and this jalapeno roll which was straight incendiary.
That night we went to this speakeasy fundraising night held by Ingenuity Cleveland - a non profit organization that funds the arts in Cleveland. It takes place on a bridge that spans the Cuyahoga river, on the part where their now-defunct subway trains used to run - so cool! The night was fun - they had drinks and people dressed up in period garb, a photo booth, a dj, some art installations....and black jack tables. Me: "How much is the table minimum?" Random dude giving me a bewildered look: "Uhhh...a dollar?" Dotytron and I bought chips ($5 for 6!) and went to town. By the end of the evening, the Dotytron was up like, $40 after a $10 investment, so we decided to "cash out". The Dotytron goes to the table where we purchased chips and watching from afar, I can see his growing confusion as the woman manning the table, instead of giving him money, starts counting out raffle tickets. When the Dotytron asked for clarification, she pointed to the SMALLEST SIGN IMAGINABLE that said "chips can be cashed for raffle tickets to be entered to win a $100 gift certificate to the Greenhouse Tavern." The Dotytron was none too pleased to say the least and H & A were cackling about how we got "Clevelanded." LOL! I have to say, it IS a very unorthodox way to run a charity casino. As we left, I pointed over to a dude playing at the table I had been at, who was playing 3 black jack hands at once and had amassed a stack of about $100 in chips, "should we tell him?" We decided that we didn't want to be responsible for his disillusionment and the recipients of his (justified, probable) ire so we slinked off into the night.
Saturday morning we checked out The West Side Market, which is their equivalent to St. Lawrence Market. Unlike St. Lawrence market, the West Side Market is much more representative of Cleveland and has a sense of place. The vendors lean towards the Eastern European side, reflecting the Polish and Slavic immigrants in the area. We picked up crepes, cupcakes, double smoked bacon, sausages, beef jerky, and pepperoni sticks galore. So good. Then we had a little driving tour of Cleveland and checked out their wee little Chinatown and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. For dinner that night, we went to this Polish placed called Sokolowskis - which has been in business for the past 88 years. It's the kind of place where everything is served cafeteria style, which might be repugnant for those of you unfamiliar with the charms of the old style American cafeteria-style restaurant, but is manna from heaven for anyone who loves to eat real, home cooking. In true style, you grab a tray, and make your way down the line (desserts are served first, natch). I had a slice of coconut cream pie, picked my main (breaded pork chops) which came with 2 sides (beans and perogies), unlimited trips to the salad bar, and the best bowl of beef barley soup I've ever tasted, the flavour goosed by liberal lashings of thick cream. It was delicious. Found out later that this Cleveland institution has been visited by no less than Anthony Bourdain and John Oates of Hall and Oates fame. So good.
That night we watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. First, the theatre where we watched it was initially having major problems with the sound - the commercials and previews all sounded like it was happening under water. Not good. The Dotytron, H, and I all went up individually and spoke with the useless tits at the theatre to complain and were assured that it was only the commercials and previews and that once the film started, it would be fine. Guess what? It wasn't fine. You couldn't hear the dialogue over a weird grinding/whirring noise and when we were whispering to each other about who would go up and complain next, we were actually SHUSHED by other people in the theatre! What freakin' idiots. We're trying to fix the problem here, you nincompoops!!! I couldn't believe those tits were shushing US. I was livid and of course I get all irate and in my head I'm all like - this complacency is how you end up going to war, blah blah blah. Anyway, they subbed the celluloid print for the digital one and then it was fine.
What wasn't fine, however, is the movie. I'm going to be liberal with my review so if for some reason you haven't read the books and don't know what to expect, then go someplace else. Also: you've had like, 10+ years to get this shiz done...so really? This film was a disappointing conclusion to the series, especially after the highs of Deathly Hallows Part 1. My principle critique is that moments of emotional impact weren't given the proper treatment, so you lost your investment in the events transpiring. What you have instead is a wooden race to the finish, where significant moments weren't highlighted. For example:
1) the battle of Hogwarts should be epic. The culminating battle is a well-worn cinematic trope, so there's no excuse for one done poorly (ie. see The Two Towers' battle at Helm's Deep for reference of a culminating battle done well). When the staff at Hogwart's first raise their wands into the sky to conjure the force field I was so adrenalized my blood was singing in my veins and I get goosebumps remembering it even now. Unfortunately, that initial excitement is soon quashed by the lack of attention paid to the battle. In the book, the battle sequence is when all these characters that you've grown to love over 7 hefty tomes all come out and mobilize together. Professors Trelawney, the creatures of the Forbidden Forest, the ghosts, the people in the paintings...anyone connected to Hogwarts both great and small come together to fight for this central symbol of the world of Harry Potter. What we got instead was a barely-there fight focusing too much on Neville Longbottom. It was such a let down.
2) The deaths. The death of Fred (or George) and Lupin and Tonks is a BIG DEAL. I cried in the books. What do we get instead? A glimpse of their dead bodies and a 10 second reaction shot of Ron Weasley. LAME!!! SO LAME! Lupin and Tonks I can kinda understand because their relationship isn't super-developed, but Fred (or George)?!!!???? Come ON! Their sacrifice is just as big of a deal as Harry's. Also - how the crap are we supposed to know that Lupin and Tonks already had their kid? Why bother mentioning it at all?
3) In the service of more emotional impact, I would have cut back on the scene with the whole Rowena Ravenclaw's daughter's interview on the location of the diadem. Seriously. We've SEEN ghosts do that whole, evasive-and-then-suddenly-shriekingly-angry thing before (see Moaning Myrtle). Why was that episode so long? Why was the sequence with Crab (or Goyle) burning down the Room of Requirement so long? Instead of that - how about more Battle of Hogwart's????
4) The epilogue. Worst. Hated it in the book. Hated it in the movie. So awkward. Don't need to see it. And you're telling me they STILL haven't gotten rid of Slytherin House?
5) Snape's memories in the pensieve bring me to TEARS every. single. time. I read it in the book. To tears. This is a character who's been with us from day 1 and this is how you do him in the end? By making him look like a fat, pasty drag queen with too much pancake makeup and eyeliner? By glossing over the importance of his patronus being the same as Lily's? By making his sacrifice for Harry (and really Lily) a rushed montage afterthought? SERIOUSLY?!!!???
6) Anyone who cares about Ginny and Harry's relationship raise your hand. *sound of crickets* Exactly.
Anyway, I was disappointed. These were things that could have easily been fixed to give us the movie that us Potterites deserve.
We left the Big Yam with A's mom, who provides babysitting services as part of her retirement. The text message we got from her at 9:10pm (about an hour past T's bedtime) showed a photo of a beamingly happy Big Yam climbing the couch and giggling a gap-toothed smile. When we got home, we found out why, as A's mom reported that she gave him THREE BOTTLES of milk and let him finish all the Cheerios (about a cup's worth). LOL! The Dotytron was a little concerned about the fact that he had quadrupled his before-bed intake and I was a little concerned about my breast milk surplus being wiped out, but as I told the Dotytron: when someone else is watching your kids for you, you kind of have to let that shiz go and let them do whatever keeps them and the baby happy. Just gotta go with the flow.
Sunday morning H & A cooked breakfast and then we napped and then headed to Michael Symon's burger bar, B Spot. Delicious. We split an order of amazing onion rings (so crispy!), twice fried skinny frites, their namesake Lola burger, a fried bologna sandwich, and some beers (they had a beer called Brother Thelonious!) I had a vanilla-apple-pie-bacon shake. So good. Thick vanilla ice cream with apple pie blended in and topped with crispy bacon bits. B Spot also has a full service pickle bar and a suite of homemade sauces for topping your burgers. It was really good. Then we walked around this quaint little town called Chagrin, which is where all the Cleveland rich folk live. Lots of pokey antique stores and high end boutiques. We sampled ice cream from Jeni's which serves bougie ice cream flavours like goat cheese & cherries (so good!) and brown butter almond brittle (also really good!). As we were backing out of our parking spot, H's car got honked at, and he wigged out. He was all like, looking back, and opening his car door to lay some smack down, until we looked back and realized it was an OLD LADY - like giant polarized shades, dyed hair, barely could see over the steering wheel, rich, leaving her inheritance to her cats old lady. So the running joke became about how H almost fought an old lady.
We ate our last meal at Skyline Chili - an Ohio institution that started in Cincinnati. Basically it's variations on chili, served either with cheese, with onions (3 way) and with beans (4 way) on a limited number of bases: coneys (hot dogs), spaghetti, baked potatoes, fries. The log type thing in the second photo is a burrito (filled with spaghetti) and topped with the chili, cheese, etc. It's kind of trashy but also hella delicious. It's also a quasi-fast food joint with table service. Keeping it classy, Cleve.
We spent our last night in H & A's backyard, with a fire going, playing games and with the boys smoking cigars and shooting the shiz with the sparking light of fireflies in the dusk. We also had a cupcake tasting and a Handel's ice cream tasting.
These guys are totally our doppelgangers. H's scotch and cigar collection is insane, he's a chowhound like we both are, we travel the same way, AND H just sent me his excel spreadsheet bugout bag list for emergency preparedness. LIKE IN CASE OF THE APOCALYPSE. It's serious and insane and I was thrilled (thrilled!) to find a kindred emergency preparedness spirit. The Dotytron (on the drive home, of which bugout bag/emergency preparedness talk make up 95% of all conversation): "I wasn't sure whether the bugout bag talk was scaring you or motivating you" (it did BOTH, people!) A believes in the power of vinegar as the solution (double entendre) for all things AND is notable for her dogged determination to always do what's right. Not what's easy. Not what's quick. What's right. Love that. They're total nerds like we are.
Can't wait to go back to the Cleve. I'd love to do a Harvey Pekar tour and not go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame again. Plus, there's still so much to eat!
Massive heatwave in the Tdot right now. Staying cool is the name of the game.