Sunday, May 28, 2006

'Cause this is my town

but love or hate it -- it don't matter
'cause this is my town

Michael Stanley Band's My Town

When Michael Stanley wrote that song, he of course was referring to Cleveland. Rumor has it that they recorded 200 or so different versions of the song, yelling various city names in place of the original Cleveland, including a version with Akron.

Today we went and put flowers on my grandfathers' graves, plus our mother and a couple of other non-veteran family members as is our tradition over the Memorial Day weekend. Maybe I was feeling a little nostalgic, maybe I just did not want to be around people (I had an invite to a neighbor's barbeque), but I spent a couple of hours driving around Akron today. This is not something I have done in many years, and boy have I missed a lot. I had heard about many of the projects around town - the new library (actually been in it), the new art museum (still in progress), and some other changes at the University of Akron, but to see some of the changes up close was something entirely different.

I drove by the big 4 rubber companies old plant ones: General (now an empty lot where they do cement recycling), Goodrich (Gojo and various other businesses), Firestone (no idea what they use it for now) and Goodyear (now their World Headquarters). So much has changed since the days when you got a good whiff of sulpher and knew another tire rolled off the lines.

As I drove around remembering the closed store that used to be a Lawsons, the chinese restaurant that used to be a Red Barn (where you could get burgers OR fried chicken) or the intersection that used to have 4 gas stations (now has 1, 2 empty lots and a car dealership) I got to wondering if I was not one of the people holding Akron back. Do I cling to tightly to the glory days? Maybe, like the phoenix of myth, we need to plow it all under to get something new to rise from the ashes, so to speak.

As much as I love Akron, it is never going to be a cool city. Sure, you might be able to pull the black-rimmed glasses off and dress her up in "cool" clothes, but at her core Akron is still in the AV club. If you get to know her, ignore the pocket protector and black socks, you find out she is a pretty interesting city. Maybe even cool it her own way. The rush to make Akron attractive to outsiders, I hope we do not loose what makes Akron, well, Akron.

There is one last bit that Michael Stanley left us with, which is a great reminder to all of us:

This town taught me...its never to late.

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