Sideways – through the Santa Ynez Valley

santaynezvineyardsTraditionally Mr. Black and I have had the good fortune of traveling somewhere to celebrate our annual Birthdays. I suppose we like to wake up somewhere new, to help ring in the spirit of adventure each year. My Birthday month is November; his in February. Later this week to celebrate the day of my birth, we’re making the Sideways journey through the Santa Ynez Valley just north of Los Angeles.

road-trip-sideways

We’re renting a car, not sure if it’s a Saab, like the one Miles drove – and I hoping we both come back unscathed from our trip, unlike Jack did upon his return from vino country.

 

Sideways to adventure into another year ~
Neve Black

Dia de Los Muertos, aka, The Morning After Halloween

We had  bought enough treats to hand out to a hefty army of dressed-up Walking Dead tricksters (hipsters?), but sadly, we only had a total of about eight. And there were no Zombie, Elsa or kids performing a trick sightings either. We did have a My Little Pony, complete with rainbow-fashioned hair, which I thought was fantastic. As she trotted off into the night, reliable sources said this was Rainbow Dash.

After gleaning the impressive hair-do of Rainbow Dash last night, I looked this psychedelic character up on the internet. I found her, along with all her other flamboyant, equine friends. And holy Bronies, Batman… there’s quite a few of them, isn’t there…? Princess Celestial, Princess Luna, Pinkie Pie, Apple Jack, Twilight Sparkle, to name a few. How fun would it be to dress-up like the entire equestrian group?

mylittleponies

Back in the day, a group of friends used to hostess the annual Halloween party of the century. We all picked a group theme to dress-up as. Examples were, Robert Palmer girls one year. Seven Dwarfs (with a twist) another year, and  we were Charlie’s Angels one year too -upon retrospect our version looked more like Charlie’s lil’ Devils than his Angels though.

Are your cogs turning for a group theme costume idea for next year? A friend from Cleveland’s daughter traditionally group-theme dresses-up every year with her friends in high school. This year they were the characters from the Netflick’s show, Orange is the New Black – I thought this was just brilliant:

newblack

 

Hoping your Halloween was full of tricks and treats ~

Neve Black

Spring is in the Air

springbird

For some of you out there that have been living in the winter tundra, the thought of Spring probably doesn’t seem possible, but I’m here to tell you, I’m starting to see signs of it.

I swear.

For example, I saw, or heard a dozen or so bright green, parrots perched above me earlier today. Only in Spring and summer do you see such a thing as tropical parrots flying around here, as if it were the Amazon jungle. Flocks of varied types of parrots band together after they’ve all learned how to escape from the confines of their indoor cages – and you don’t see this type of prison break during the more cooler months. It’s as if they somehow know they have to wait until Spring to escape. And for the record, the birds I saw and heard today all seemed to be quite happy in screeching harmony.

On a more personal and perhaps even more vibrant example of Spring and coincidentally birds, is my cat, Tilde: he’s caught more birds in the past few weeks than I think he ever dreamed of catching while living in Cleveland. And for me, this cat-and-bird behavior Springtime offers is bitter sweet for me, even though I know in my heart it’s natural behavior. I’ve watched him boastfully parade expired birds through the house, as their bodies dangle awkwardly from his whiskered jaw-line. I’m secretly proud of his bird catching ways with his large, bare paws, but natural or not, the other side of me can’t help but feel sorry for all these defenseless fowl he’s so gallantly murdering.

Admittedly, because I feel sorry for them, I’ve tried to intervene with nature. Fairly recently, while Tilde pranced through the house with one of the feathered creatures locked into his death-grip, I quickly realized the poor thing was still alive. It’s little beak squawked loudly, as if it was pleading mercifully with me, while also grasping at the minuscule chance Tilde would somehow loosen the death-hold grasp on its body. I leaped into bird saving action! I tried coaxing my orange-haired bird murderer into a counter-offer with one of his most favorite desires – moist and smelly delicious, tuna fish:

Me: T, you know you love tuna. Give me the bird, and I’ll give you an extra heaping of this delicious, flaky white meat. What do you say, buddy?

Tilde: Uh..hell no. That tuna is from a can. That fish isn’t wiggling, whereas I can feel this bird’s heart beat in my mouth. It’s exhilarating! I’m not trading. Get out of my way.

Me: You know you’re not going to eat the bird. You’re just toying with the poor thing. It’s mean what you’re doing to it! Dammit!

Tilde: Say’s you. I’m out of here.

Me: Tilde! No!

Tilde: See ya.

Needless to say, my coaxing yielded no such luck for the bird. Tilde is fast and furious. He growled at me with disapproval, while his copper eyes glared at me with exasperation. I knew I’d lost the battle. Before I could take his name in vain, his orange fur brushed past me, and dashed out the sliding door. The bird was still secure in his mouth as he sprung madly across the grass, and finally leaped over the fence and into the oblivion of what I can only imagine must be his own private bird cemetery somewhere.

As I re-read over my thoughts above, my ode to Springtime does seem a bit morbid, doesn’t? Certainly for most of the birds in the neighborhood, but for one orange, cat… he is thrilled beyond belief that spring has sprung so many feathers, so I’m sharing his Springtime zeal news update with you.

 

Happy Spring

Neve Black

European Rode Trip through California

Slowly, but steadily, my Western world begins to eclipse my previous, Midwestern one. There are many advantageous to this new world – I’m always minutes away from the majestic ocean, with its crystal, white sandy beaches, healing waves, and the salty fresh air, which are all priceless jewels. But, even with the entire Pacific’s grandiose splendor, I sometimes find myself missing some of those gems my previous world offered me too, and in my melancholy mood, I search for their replacements while living here.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to grapple with is travel. The first and obvious difference for me is how quick it was to get from Ohio to Europe, when I was so inclined. Back in the day when Continental Airlines ruled the skies for air travel, some of us lucky ones traveled from Cleveland to London, non-stop. That flight took about seven hours, and was a do-able long weekend trip. If you had the good fortune of more time to explore other cities, you could easily choose one of the many European airlines, and be somewhere else, like Italy, faster than you could say, Limóncello.

Those were the good old days.

If you were feeling a bit less ambitious, you could skip going over the pond, and be in the United Sates’ version of Europe, New York City by taking a 1.5 hour puddle jump ride. Out here in the good old, Wild West, it takes about 5-6 hours via plane to get from here to The City That Never Sleeps, and another 6-7 hours to get over the pond. And instead of knowing some of my favorite European destinations are just six, short hours ahead of me, they are now clocking in at about nine hours, which is practically an entire day.

Le grumble.

Fortunately, I am a positive person, and there are two sides to every coin: living here, I’m traveling distance via automobile, train or plane to some of the most wonderful places on earth, like Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Mammoth Mountain/Yosemite, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Carmel, San Francisco, California’s wine country and Viva Las Vegas, baby.

It almost makes up for the longer time travel trip to Europe.

Almost.

So I ask you dear reader, what’s a girl to do who lives out west that possesses a European craving so fierce, even Sees’ dark chocolate isn’t satiating her craving? Does she splurge and buy a round trip ticket to some fascinating place in Europe, along with a 30-day Metro pass, so she can be sure and work-out her European fixation? Well, yes of course she does!

So, what’s the second best thing a girl can do to quench her European thirst if she’s tied to the California shore for a bit? I’m going to tell you! She discovers slices of Europe  in her own back yard. Here are just a few examples of European-influenced places I’ve found, thus far:

 

Oceanside, California – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia has Mosque-influenced architecture:

Old Mission San Luis Rey

You don’t think the Moors would have ever reached California, especially after the  Reconquista of Spain in 1492, when the Islamic Kingdom of Granada fell to the forces of  Christianity, but the architecture found in this mission say’s they did. Founded in 1798 by  Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, successor to Padre Junipero Serra, the Mission was named  after St. Louis IX, King of France, who lived during the 13th century. The church is recognized  as the most unique and one of the most beautiful in the mission chain. It is the largest of the 21  California missions and the only one adorned with a wooden dome and cupola. Unique also to  San Luis Rey are the side altars and the Madonna Chapel which originally served as a  mortuary chapel. This mission was built in the San Luis Rey (Spanish), or Saint Louis the King, was taught by the early Franciscans and is the patron of their 3rd order. He also was of Spanish blood on his mother’s side and died fighting in the Crusades. He was canonized in 1297.  4050 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA  92057 (760) 757-3651

A French Barn resides in Glendale, California:

French Connection

 According to an article I read in an on-line Magazine called, Westways,  in 1827, a man named Bauchet, who was a former officer of Napoleon  Bonaparte’s Old Guard, moved to Los Angeles, where he bought a  vineyard along present-day Bauchet Street. Later, a man named,  Vignes followed in 1831; he planted 104 acres of Bordeaux grapevines  on the current Union Station site, becoming one of California’s first  commercial winemakers. Vignes ushered in the first wave of French  immigrants, who were lured by California’s Mediterranean climate and  the promise of cheap land.

Note: so much has changed regarding those last two words around these parts.

Le Mesnager Barn offers visitors the closest thing in Southern California to an authentic French farmhouse. Using local river rock, the French Le Mesnager family built the barn in 1914 and used it to store grapes for their downtown Los Angeles winery. Today, the City of Glendale has restored the barn as part of Deukmejian Wilderness Park. Visitors can enjoy a short loop trail, picnic area, and spectacular views of the Crescenta Valley and Verdugo Mountains. A modest vineyard tended by the Stonebarn Vineyard Conservancy still produces a small amount of wine yearly.  3429 Markridge Road,  La Crescenta, CA.  1-818-548-3795

 Denmark has been relocated to Santa Barbara, California:

Solvang

Solvang (Danish for ‘sunny field’) is a beautiful little city nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish teachers, Solvang now is a diverse, modern city, with fine restaurants, lovely shops and outstanding activities to enchant young and old alike. There are Danish festivals, quiet tree lined streets, horse drawn wagons, Hans Christian Andersen Park, windmills, Danish pastries and dozens of quaint shops to explore. Solvang was incorporated as a city on May 1, 1985 and now has a population of approximately 5,283. Solvang Chamber of Commerce | 805-688-0701 | P.O. Box 465, Solvang, CA 93464.

 
Happy Traveling!
Neve Black

Transporting in SoCal

coaster_coast

The saga of my move back to San Diego after living in Cleveland, Ohio for over 12 years’ continues. When I left Southern California I knew I was in for quite a shock, culturally speaking. Now that I’ve returned there are times that think I might need shock treatment therapy. Okay, not really, but candidly speaking, there’s some blinding differences between the two places. I could spend a lot of your time citing examples of these differences, but I won’t do that.

Is it redundant that I mention driving in the mid-west is less congested, thus easier to navigate then it is in SoCal? If you nodded in agreement then you understand why I joked about needing shock therapy treatment.

Conversely speaking, there are almost as many similarities between the two cities as there are differences. Sticking with our transportation theme here, one similarity that can’t be denied is both Clevelanders and San Diegans need wheels to get in, around, and out-of-town town. Although both cities do offer public transportation options versus car exclusivity, neither place is equipped with convenient public transportation options that are within walking distance from where most people do the majority of their living. This means people have to some form of adjunct transportation, like a bus or trolley to get to a train that will take them home, to the grocery, to an airport, or their favorite watering hole. All this boils down to time that’s needed to get from point A to point B, which is precisely why the people that live in both Cleveland and in SoCal love driving their cars.

When I moved back, I said, “bye-bye” to my practical Jeep Cherokee. I took good care of her. She had 4X4 super powers, an excellent-working heater that help me navigate through all kinds of snowy situations, while keeping my butt warm. I was ready for a change though. I had visions of something sporty, kind of fast, but not too fast – and of course I wanted to be topless while getting around town. And if my memory served me correctly, Californians (I’m including myself here) have/had love affairs with their cars for quite some time.

It took me some time before finally deciding on my fun, but reasonable two-seater, sports car. I was without my own set of wheels for nearly a month – yes, a month!

Gasp!

This wasn’t as horrific for me as it might be for some car junkies. I am lucky enough to have a work office in my home. I’m also within walking distance from a grocery store, and a Target. I’m biking distance from a thrift store, as well as other city slicker essentials. The only problem is my honey lives about 25-40 minutes (depending on traffic) of freeway driving miles north from where I live. This was of course problematic. Everyone knows relationships can’t sustain for very long if only one of the persons in the relationship is doing all the driving – especially in heavy congested geographical locations, like well, San Diego.  With that being said, it didn’t take me long to quickly discover San Diego’s colorful, public transportation system.

Similar to Cleveland, there are several different options to choose from when it comes to public transporting out here. The best option that I found going to North County from South County was the Coaster. I found the Coaster to be a quick and stress-free way to travel. The train runs along the gorgeous Pacific coast; offering stunning views. The train is fully air conditioned, clean, has bathrooms and provides free WiFi. The train is also filled with lots of vivid travelers. The vivid traveler piece for some might be unappealing, whereas I found this to be extraordinary and good reason to write this article.

My first commute on the Coaster was a Friday afternoon sometime close to 5:00 p.m. The platform was filled with people that were excited to start their weekend. The work week was behind me as well, and I was heading into the arms of my honey, so admittedly, I was excited too. The train pulled into the station right on time, and all the boarding passengers waited patiently for those exiting to hurry off the train. Once I boarded, I headed up the two flights to the upper deck with my over-night bag in tow, purse on my arm and my train ticket in my front pocket. There was a skip in my step.

The train was packed with travelers, but I found an empty spot. I settled into a seat across from a man that was dozing off. My eyes smiled at him behind my sunglasses. He returned with a warm, “hola,” moments before his eyelids became increasingly heavy and he was back to dozing again. As the train pulled away from the station, I glanced around at my surroundings. I couldn’t help but notice that more than a few of the travelers were sitting at four-top tables. They were talking and laughing. And when I took a closer view of my fellow travelers with my watchful lens of my eyes, I noticed they were all drinking beer.

Investigating this further, it was immediately deduced that nearly everyone on the train was drinking beer, with the exception of me, and the man sitting across from that had fallen asleep.

I’m not non-train savvy either. I’ve traveled in subways in various locations around the world, rode the Metro in Europe, and traveled the train system in Boston, Chicago and Cleveland to name a few. I have never experienced this type of mass beer drinking on a commuter train in my life. Ever.

Over-night bags were replaced with 12-packs. As the train chug-chug-chugged along its tracks, both conversations and beer flowed freely; sometimes loudly. I didn’t know about the bring-your-own-beer-while-train-riding policy. I have to admit, I felt a bit out-of-the-Coaster-loop, and wished I’d read the fine print on my ticket, until someone must have noticed my feelings of abandonment, and asked if I’d like one of his beers. I kindly declined. Not because I don’t drink beer, or that I’m un-friendly, nor did I have anything against this beer-drinking phenomenon. Quite the contrary, as awestruck as I may have appeared, inside I applauded this joyous behavior. There weren’t too many places in the United States where you can board a train, crack open a cold one, and sit back and gaze out upon the ocean. It was remarkable, really.

I declined this fellow travelers offer only because I’m somewhat of a beer snob. I had my heart set on a specific IPA once I’d reached my final destination. In other words, I was holding out for the really good stuff.

As the train continued to move up the coastline, the man sitting across from me had awoken. He rubbed his eyes a bit, before he reached into his refrigerated lunch bag and pulled out two cans of, “Cerveza?” He offered one of the cold cans to me, while smiling. “Uh…no gracias, but gracias,” I replied with a smile.

I’m now convinced I was the only person on the entire train that wasn’t drinking beer.

Even though I now own cool wheels by both Ohio and California standards, I’m still taking the Coaster when it’s convenient to do so. I’m not sure why I do, other than the fact that driving the highways out here still stresses me out. And I think I enjoy the people-watching experience riding the train offers over the white-knuckled, “Oh gods, I’m going to die!” mode of traveling to my honey’s house. Call me crazy.

And sure, I’ve run across some non-beer drinkers on other 40 minute rides up to North County, but not many. As my Coaster commute has broadened, I’ve also noticed people are cracking open beers at all hours and days of the week too.

This still astounds me.

Maybe California just has a large population of beer drinking train riders? I’m not sure. I do think at some point I will have to join in with the majority, and that might mean I’ll have to give up my snobby beer drinking ways. It’s in the name of the commuting spirit though, so I think the beer god snobs will forgive me.

 

Happy Commuting – and beer consuming,

Neve Black

 

Every Cat has its Day

I was moving across the country, and after much deliberation, sleepless nights, and more than one failed attempt at finding a home for one of my precious five mew-meows – specifically the rambunctious and orange, trouble-maker, Tilde, the decision was made – The Fabulous Five felines were all moving with me. After accepting the reality of this decision, regardless of how preposterous it might have seemed to some people, the next profound dilemma came screeching at me ferociously — how the hell was I going to move five cats across the country?

A genius idea was born

After giving this task considerable contemplation, and scouring the internet for ideas, I considered myself a damn genius with my first plan: rent a motor home. I thought I’d had the whole thing figured out too. I was going to enlist a couple able bodies, one of them being my boyfriend, who by the way is quite allergic to felines, pack-up our suitcases and hit the road for four blissful nights, and five nothinglessthananadventure days on the road, while making our way out west. Can you hear the theme song to Rawhide playing in your head right now? We’d save money on lodging because we could sleep in our moving pussy mobile. Doesn’t that sound fun? Who wouldn’t want to sign-up for that type of adventure? So I sold the pussy mobile novelty when tossing out my proposal, and before too long, both my boyfriend and another great friend of mine were jumping onto the pussy mobile-band wagon faster than Sylvester could take a swipe of Tweedy Bird. In my mind, this would give my felines free-range of the moving motel as we trekked through river valleys, chugged up mountain peaks until finally reaching the glorious Pacific Ocean.

Okay, so maybe the term, genius was a bit too boastful?

I quickly had to scratch my genius plan after realizing how much the pussy mobile adventure would end up costing me in rental fees, gasoline, restaurants and cat food – not to mention the time it would take, which would cause undue stress and fatigue on The Fabulous Five and their faithful travel companions. Those four nights on the road started to seem more dismal than blissful.

I was on a budget

I thought about packing them all up into their special, soft carrying cases and loading them into my somewhat unreliable 1999, red Jeep Cherokee, and travel across the country that way – it would be the least expensive option too. The unreliability piece of transporting two adults and five mew-meows 2500 miles gnawed at me so badly, it kept me up at night. I decided to sell my Jeep. It was staying in Cleveland without me.

A slice of logic, please

Running into moving option road blocks was making me cranky, so thankfully my number-crunching boyfriend had me revisit the idea of flying. I had initially thought this approach was going to be the most costly way to travel, but after adding the numbers up, and comparing all the costs, plus adding in the benefit of having the entire move done in less than one day was huge for me. I was soon organizing four travelers to each take a pussy on a flight as a carry-on – the type of carry-on that fits below the seat in front of you, but makes small sounds and might feel a bit overwhelmed and scared.

Four victims are found in and around Cleveland

I think I’ve missed my calling as a marketing/sales guru, because I was able to convince my boyfriend, my mom, both who flew to Cleveland from San Diego, and two of my girlfriends that live in Cleveland to help me escort The Fabulous Five across the USofA.

Flights are booked; we are headed west!

Que the Rawhide music again, please. The comedy that ensued from this adventure will live with me forever. When I look back at that day, I can now laugh and I know in my heart I made the right choice. Albeit, I was stressed-out about the move, but the stress has since diluted, and I’m left with both fondness and affection from the experience. I like to think that strangers that didn’t know our story and saw us all walking briskly through the airport would remember the scene in Tarrantino’s Reservoir Dogs, when six criminals are all walking down the street together, wearing black suits, white shirts and skinny ties. As the five of us all walked through the airport together, we each walked with conviction and courage; we were on a mission as we each carried our small, black satchels – because inside each satchel held one of The Fabulous Five.

Are we there yet?

With the exception of one pre-boarding up-chuck, a peeing accident, and a bachelor party that had gone haywire, The Fabulous Five, their five travel companions and the balance of passengers, and crew aboard flight 866 all landed successfully and thank goodness safely in San Diego.

Note: there was a short stop in Las Vegas to change planes and one unknowing passenger’s meet and greet with three Federal Marshalls once we landed. It appears the bachelor party that had gone awry was running neck and neck with the five pussies on a plane story. In my opinion, the bachelor party attendee arrest pushed the story competition over the finish line though. The bachelor party story will have to be saved for another time though.

Fabulous Five To Date

I’m happy to report Fabulous Five are all doing very well. They’ve adapted to their new surroundings beautifully. They have full access to frolicking outside in the green, grass, vegetable gardens and fruit trees, while the palm trees sway gently with the cool ocean breeze. Well, four out of five have those outdoor privileges. There’s always an exception. We have one rule breaker in the group. He is an orange-furry, fence-jumper who will go unnamed. They all seem endlessly thrilled to be living in paradise with me, and thank me each day for not leaving them behind, or for staying in Las Vegas.

 

Neve Black
Rawhide!

rawhide

A few of My Favorite CLE Things

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I suppose I’ve been a bit busy. Consumed with taking inventory of various big and small miscellaneous items, editing furniture, while getting lost in endless moving boxes and bubble wrap.

As I go through my moving list, scratching one thing off my long list at a time, this morning I woke up to the sound of a baritone ship’s horn a few miles away; alerting the bridge operator of its departure or arrival from the Cuyahoga river. This isn’t an unfamiliar sound to me, but it did stop me for a moment as I thought to myself, “I’m going to miss that sound when I’m gone.”

There are so many things I’m going to miss about Cleveland that it’s difficult to put them all into words, or build a list and rank each one of them. I have had countless revelations, life changing events and great writing experiences while living here. Leaving Cleveland feels like a small death in some ways. So writing this post is somewhat eulogistic. My eulogy will mostly be  about all the incredible people I’ve met and become friends with while spending time here. I wish I could pick up everything I love and care about and transplant it to where I’m going. It’s a double-edge sword really – excited about a new adventure, but also sad to be moving on. What’s so ironic is that I’m moving home to my family and friends that I’ve known forever.

At the risk of sounding hokey, Cleveland has touched me deeply; leaving a footprint on my soul. I like to think that I’ve also left a positive impression on this city too. I think of all the ways Cleveland has unselfishly given to me. One of the greatest gifts has been participating in the TNR rescue program. Helping to stop the over-population of mew-meows, while also finding some of them great, forever homes. It’s been rewarding and as much as this has been a gift, I feel that I’ve also given something back too. As much as I lament sometimes about my own fabulous five, I love each fur ball, and I’m excited for them to travel across the country and live in a new, no-snow-on-the-ground-evah place.

After much thought,  I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least try and list some of my most favorite places of the CLE that fall into the I Will Miss You A lot Category. Some of these places will not come as a surprise for some of you readers who call Cleveland home, as I’m sure many people feel the same way I do:

The Cleveland Metroparks:

metroparks

What more can I say other than the brilliant Emerald Necklace shines like a rare gem through every season, offering mile after mile of wandering paths through all things healing found in nature. For me, I worked out many heart aches, and job woes over the 12 years I’ve lived in the city. I think in some ways this park system makes up for all the bad weather Clevelanders suffer through, because it offers everyone free therapy to walk, run or bike off all that pent-up weather aggression. I ran my first 1/2 marathon through the Rocky River Reservation and discovered the true meaning of the phrase, “It’s always better to be on the road than to reach the Inn.” In other words, it’s the process of getting there, not the goal that matters most. I still frequent the park system on a regular basis and plan to do so up until I head west permanently.

The West Side Market:

marketceiling

I’m not going to regurgitate all the things that have already been printed about this incredible place. I do want to say that the market has been a go to place for me long before I even moved here. I used to come to Cleveland for business and friends took me there nearly 15 years’ ago now. I fell in love with the market and all its glory way back then. The market has evolved as I have, I suppose. There’s some new players doing business there, mixed in with the old schoolers too, which for me epitomizing Cleveland: the old is the constant backdrop against the newness and, albeit slow evolution of the city. A great example of that is John Black’s great grandfather was Guastavino, the architect that designed the beautiful tile that covers the ceiling and walls of the market. I remember telling John’s mom that her grandfather would be so proud to know the market is still a vibrant and much loved, viable place for many Clevelanders and tourists visiting the city. I think that made her smile. Today, I live within 1/2 mile from the market and sneak in and out there periodically during the early hours of the week. This magnificent  place will continue to live in my heart.

The Literary Cafe:

literarycafe

I remember when I first moved to Tremont I thought the Literary Cafe was only for artists and long-standing locals. In other words, you had to know the secret password to gain admittance, or know someone that knew someone, kind of deal. My friend Melodie laughed at me when I told her this and said, “well, consider yourself invited and I know someone that knows someone.” Come to find out, Melodie went to drama college with Linda. Andy and Linda are two of my most favorite people on the planet. They’ve played host and hostess to the Pretentious Artists every Friday night,  our well-attended Oscar parties on several frigid evenings in January and helped me with my Neve Black video series. They’ve also continued to inspire others with their amazing love for one another. What they’ve created and continue to create is a unique, and fun urban vibe that attracts interesting people, dynamic conversations that range in varied topics, and great drinks. Always entertaining and welcoming. If you’ve never been, you need to go and guess what? There is no secret password. Just tip your bartender well.

The Tremont Taphouse:

xmasalephoto

I moved to the other side of Tremont in the past year, and am exactly 1,000 steps (yes, I’ve counted) from my back slider to the front steps of this wondrous place. The food is amazing, the beer choices are incredible and the vibe is groovy and fun. The music is a little loud for my old-ass sometimes, but I’ve grown to appreciate it and find myself singing to the tunes most of the time – yeah, that’s the beer doing its thing. If you want a quieter setting, in the summertime one can meander outside to the patio and enjoy a cool sip and conversation with your fellow beer snob companions. I told John Black yesterday that I think we should open Tremont Taphouse West in North County SD. Sure, I’m headed into one of the largest micro-brew capitals of the world, but I’ve yet to find anything that’s like Tremont Taphouse, with the exception to a couple places in Europe. I will miss you IPA’s on tap within walking distance from home, and the many silly, rambunctious conversations had with great friends. You all know who you are.

The Velvet Tango Room:

I don’t visit the Tango Room as much as I’d like to. I will stop in for one last Lady In Red before I depart though. I think it’s a one-of-kind, special place that has provided me terrific characters for stories, many delightful cocktails and colorful, conversations. The service is impeccable and I feel like a movie star whenever I go in there.

Pier W:

melandkel

I used to go here a lot early Sunday evenings for happy hour when I was working in  real estate. I’d meet Melodie and we’d slowly ascend from the upper floor down two flights, until we were at Lake Erie level. The bar rotates soft  lights of blue, green and gold. It’s lovely and comforting. There’s often a jazz pianist playing and it sets the mood from go, go, go to cool, cool, chill. I love this place because it reminds me of being in a submarine. Maribeth managers this fine establishment and she is top-notch. The food is outstanding. The service is wonderful. And oh yes…the view. There’s a full panoramic and breathtaking view of the lake from nearly every seat in the house.

L’Albatros:

What is about spending a day at the Cleveland Museum of Art, or coming from a great film and then slipping off to a gorgeous patio, where classic jazz fills my ears and the smell of cheese and wine fills my nostrils that’s so damned appealing to me? They actually have a Maitre Fromager – be still my heart. I think this place must speak to my French ancestry. The ambiance is wonderful. The food is supreme and the service is fantastic. Je t’aime, French Bistro.

Spynga Flows Cleveland:

LambertSping

Two of my dearest east side friends, Leanne and Lambert introduced me to Spynga Flows a few years ago, because I enjoy Spin and Yoga. Not too many places offer both, and it’s a fantastic method of exercise. I checked it out and fell in love with the place the very second I walked through the front door – you can feel the positive energy swirling around you, like angels of love and light. Carina, the owner has made this space and place nothing less than phenomenal. Many of the patrons have now become teachers, which keeps that positive energy flowing. I’m more of Spinner during the winter months, because while the summer months are here, I tend to grab my running shoes and go outside to get my sweat on, or jump on my bike and head to the WSM or the metro parks. Heh. I’m fortunate to call these Yogis my friends, so I get to spend time with them and experience all that positive goodness even if I can’t get to the studio.

The CIA’s Cinematheque:

Without question, this is one of the best film art houses I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ve had tears of happiness, joy and pain watching films here. I’ve learned so much about other cultures, while also learning a lot about myself. What a treat it is having this amazing place in the city and available to everyone.

I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention a place or two on my listed favorites above, but I think what I want to stress from this post eulogy is that what I’ll remember and will miss the most is each of you, and how you’ve touched and changed my life forever.

 

Saying Goodbye to Cleveland,
Neve Black

Someone To Watch Over Me

This week terror struck the Boston Marathon and my niece, Colleen was running in it. It’s very difficult to describe the panic one feels in your heart when you learn that someone you love might be in danger and there’s nothing you can do. It’s a feeling of uttter helplessness. I’m not writing this to make any  non-believers into believers, but somewhere, someone was watching over my family.

This a letter is from her dad, my brother-in-law after Collen and her husband, Brian arrived safely back in San Diego:

“Colleen just got home.  She ran 25 1/2 miles of the 26 mile marathon before race officials told them the marathon was cancelled.  She walked the 1/2 mile back to the hotel, thinking Brian was in danger there at the Finish Line waiting for her.  Once they were back in the hotel, it was locked down for security.  Another bomb was found in the outside corridor by the hotel.  Brian had received a text stating that Colleen was running a 3 min mile and had already finished, and that’s why he left the finish line before the bomb went off. He thought he had missed her. He then proceeded to the meeting spot they had decided upon. The person watching her time, didn’t know that she had slowed down and was no longer making that kind of time. Thank God they are home and safe!”

I am not much of religious type of person. I moved passed my religious up-bringing a long time ago. I deeply respect those that find peace and strength in their religious credo. And even though I don’t find solace in religion per se, I am a very spirtual person. I suppose I’m more like some of the writer’s that lived before me, like William Wordsworth, or Emily Dickenson, who both found God in nature, natural things.

Part of my spirtual belief comes from an innate feeling in my gut that I just know there is a benevolent force that surrounds me all the time.

This force is intangible in its nature, so I’m unable to wrap my arms around it, but I still can feel its presence. I know its watching over me and protecting me. Why do I know this to be true? Because there have been too many times in my life when something greater than me has intervened and pulled me from out of harms way. I don’t think that’s because I’m just lucky either. I like to think that we all have spirits that watch over us. These spirtual directors in our lives throw subtle and sometimes not so subtle signs our way to try and push us all towards taking a differnt path, making a better, healthier choice, or providing us with a sign when we need it the most.

None of us get out out of here alive. Destiny awaits all of us, and I don’t think its been my destined time, or my niece and her husband’s time either to leave this life yet. And like so many times before, the spirtual force stepped in and protected when we walked to close to the edge.

Neve Black

California

I‘m starting to review and edit furniture, clothes and books that I own as my time living here in Cleveland comes to an end and I head west permantly this summer. One thing I’m not leaving behind are the felines I’ve collected while living here. Before too long, I suspect five pussies will lose their native NEO tongues and begin speaking a whole new lingo. Gods help us.

Neve Black