Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hot But Not Burning

One of the reasons Polis is on summer hiatus is because I'm actually not in New York, but in Cleveland. The above photo is where Moses Cleaveland* landed in 1796, taken from the Detroit Superior Bridge, which spans the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga -- an Indian word for crooked, the river does a loop-d-loop through downtown -- became infamous in 1969 for catching on fire. It actually had caught fire many times, but this particular fire was covered by Time magazine, which described the Cuyahoga as the river "that oozes rather than flows," in which a person "does not drown but decays." The Clean Water Act and other environmental laws were subsequently enacted, and it has been cleaned up considerably, as have many other urban waterways as a result. But the metaphor of a burning river lives on. There's the Burning River Fest, a music fest with an environmental awareness mission; a really good beer made by Great Lakes Brewery, Burning River Pale Ale; and a book entitled Crooked River Burning. Sadly, when a performance artist once proposed an event to recreate the river catching on fire, the city didn't see the humor in that and nixed the idea.

More Fun Facts: A few years after the river caught on fire, the mayor set his own hair on fire while attempting to use a welder's torch at a ribbon-cutting. As if that wasn't enough to make Cleveland a regular Johnny Carson joke, the mayor's wife declined an invitation to the White House because it was her bowling night.

Maybe I'll just blog about Cleveland for the next couple of weeks... plenty more where that came from.

*In 1830, the first newspaper was established, called the Cleveland Advertiser, which dropped the 'a' because it didn't fit in the masthead.