Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don't Mess With Cleveland

Photo AP

As each day goes by, I realize that there is no other place like it. Actually Cleveland is like family. Specifically, it is like my cousin that thinks she is a Klingon. Yes, she does, but that is for another time.

I can say all sorts of things about my Klingon cousin, but I assure you, if you say the same, you had better prepare to defend yourself.

Cleveland sports teams are a part of the city's identity, like it or not. The teams create a community, even if it is to console one another after yet another soul crushing defeat.  We whine and cry and cuss and cheer and shout and cuss about our teams. But, they are our teams.

We can say they could get annihilated by the t-ball team. You can not.

The young man that wore a LeBron James Miami Heat jersey to the Indians game tonight is in a word, mindboggling. I'm quite sure he was pumped full of youthful bravado with a dash of stupidity when he marched to his seat in the bleachers. He thought, maybe like his hero, that he can do whatever he wants with out consequence. By accounts, he and his girlfriend were yelled at and taunted all night, until things escalated to the couple being escorted out by police. I'm sure that his girlfriend had a few choice words with him on the ride home.

Call it a mob, or call it fans that are tired of being ridiculed and abused. Please don't mistake me, I am not condoning violence and I certainly don't want to see anyone hurt. But, the situation was like the drunk guy that hops the fence at the zoo to snuggle with the pretty kitties, only to have a lion use him for a chew toy.

We all have choices, and there are consequences to those choices. We covered for LeBron and his boorish behavior for years. Now? Now maybe we need to rethink Papa Johns. We owe them some pizza.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Customer service? Get it yourself.


 My friends either love going out with me or they hate it. They usually love it because I tend to get great service...but when I don't it isn't a pretty sight to see. 

I have spent more years being a server/bartender/restaurant manager/event manager/caterer than I will ever admit. All of that time taught me several things. First, hospitality, is hard. Rock hard. It's a tough business and you are relying on the good graces and social intelligence of perfect strangers (or strange strangers) to make your rent. Every time I read an article about how 10% is an acceptable tip I want to make the author wait tables on a Saturday night, so far in the weeds that a weed whacker would be useless.  Second, as a server, some people see me as entertainment. Sometimes that may be me telling jokes or being quick and witty. But other times, there are those "guests" that want to see how many times they can run you. Those are the folks that have lost all control in their daily life and by controlling you, they are getting a little of their life back.  I learned that you can't judge anyone. Yes, sometimes your spidey sense is correct and the table is going to leave you a crummy tip, but sometimes you are wrong. Most importantly, I have learned that in a restaurant or bar, you have your own business. Every moment you are "on" and making money. As much as I hated selling coffee, I would because by the end of the night, that extra money the guest spent would boost my check average, raise my tips and cover the busser tip out. Almost 3/4 of my tables would have an appetizer *and* dinner *and* dessert. Now I wasn't perfect, having those days where the 12 top was 12 ladies all splitting 6 side dishes. The point is, I had control over my section. If I wanted to make money, it was up to me to get my tables having a great time and buying lots of food and drink. More tip for me. 

With that little bit of history about me, it shouldn't surprise me that I am a stickler about service. I expect and demand good service when I go out. I know I am paying extra for someone else to wait on me and get my ketchup and refill my soda. Repeatedly. I tip well and I'm friendly.  If my dinner is taking a long time I don't freak out on my server, which I know they appreciate. I know that they have no control over how quickly my burger is taking to cook. I get it. I've been there. But when a server hides out away from me or is goofing off while my beer is going flat I start to get a little cranky. With most people if you keep them informed, don't ignore them and always fill their glass,  they are understanding.

Anytime I have bad service in a restaurant, I want to take the server aside and tell them what they are doing wrong. I want to explain why they are getting sub par tips. Not everyone can be a bartender or a server. It's OK if you can't hack it. There is no blacklist you'll be put on if you say it isn't for you. 

The last few times I have been out, for some reason I have had God awful service and not just from restaurants. I stayed at a hotel in Cleveland recently and for a period of time, I actually thought I was on some sort of hidden camera reality show, someone timing how long until I jumped over the counter and started screeching like a howler monkey.

I called and confirmed my room, 2 double beds, since several friends were going to stay over after the Indians game. A great girls night out. I arrived at the hotel early hoping to check in. I should have known then, with the angry people in the lobby that I was in trouble. I was told that the hotel was sold out and I couldn't check in until 3. Since I was going to the Indians double header, I confirmed again that even if I arrived late in the evening my room would be there. Absolutely ma'am. Yes ma'am.

Cut to later that evening and I am trying to check in. More people cursing at the desk clerk, the lobby was full of anger. Earlier that night, it had rained Matrix style, so I was wet and tired and I just wanted to go to my room. The desk clerk told me that I could have a single because everything else was gone. I went into the tale of my room confirmations and she tried to talk to her manager...whose response was "I don't care." Cut to my chin hitting the floor and the little vein in my forehead leaping out. 

My friends went home and I stayed trying to get in my room that I paid for. After about an hour I was given a upgrade they said. My room was a lake view and at the end of the hall, a nice little quiet oasis. When I reach the room, the door is ajar, with the hotel lock holding the door open like the occupant had gone down to get a bin of ice. I felt like I was on CSI, inspecting the room to make sure that it was really mine and there was no one hiding in it. 

The next morning as I went to check out, I spoke to a manager and told her of my woes. She was omg shocked! omg appalled! Since I already paid for the room on a travel site, she offered me another night, plus parking and breakfast. Awesome idea. Let someone give your business a second chance. The manager asked if I had my parking ticket and she would validate it (I did not...the machine was broke anyway when I arrived). Never fear! She told me to inform the parking attendant that my parking was comped and to call if there was a question. 

I told the attendant exactly that, I told the parking attendant that Manager lady with the weird name had it taken care of. The woman growled...sneered..."What for? Why shouldn't you have to pay?" I politely informed her it was because I had a crappy experience in the hotel and to please make the call, because I am not going anywhere until it is taken care of. 

No matter how incredible the decor or business plan or food  the success of the business comes down to one or two employees.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Cleveland Chick?

Photo: AFP
 When I decided to start a blog and my twitter page, the first major barrier was coming up with a name. Trying to come up with something eye catching and witty title is not as easy as one might think. Then came a much more difficult decision - should I use my real name or work on the web under a pseudonym?

There are clear advantages and disadvantages of "keeping it real" vs. going anonymous. If I decided to use my real name, it would be a billboard to the world declaring loud and clear that I had nothing to hide. I rarely talk about work and I am not very controversial, so in theory, this would be the choice. 


One of the things that makes the internet and social media incredibly cool is the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world. With a few clicks you can find someone hundreds of miles away to share your love of "Pawn Stars." You have insomnia and can't sleep late at night? That's great because your buddy in LA just got home.


This is also what makes the internet dangerous. I mean dangerous on a serious level, like a stalker showing up at work in addition to dangerous on a far scarier level...people finding you that you don't want to talk to. There are numerous horror stories of people being fired from their jobs for posting on twitter, facebook or a blog because of the content. These folks have lost their employment because of topics that they discuss with the world on their own private time, even if there is no connection to the company. There are those at my workplace that immediately look for people to follow on facebook and the like. I didn't grow up with the internet, so I am not used to sharing all of my life details with the world.

I admit, there are days I feel left out at work, with everyone chatting about facebook status updates, but that makes me uncomfortable. People are now making major announcements on the web for events ranging from wedding announcements to the adoption of a new puppy.  I happily enjoy a line between work and play. I don't need Barb in Accounting commenting on my love of  pierogies and Christmas Ale. Bill Lumbergh pointing out to me that I am too obsessed with reality tv and Cleveland sports is not something I want to discuss in the office. Most importantly though, I don't think my co-workers knowing how homesick I am for Cleveland would do anything positive for me. 

By now you are reading this wondering what on earth the picture has to do with anything. I briefly set up a facebook page under my real name and I was bombarded by not only old friends (which was great) but co-workers and family. The above picture could very easily have been of photos of some family members. Yes, I have trekkies in the family, and the usual debate at the holiday dinner table is which was the better Starfleet Captain. Family members, as much as you love them, are not always the people you want to have follow you all over the place. I can see it now, my mom getting on facebook to yell at my boss, sending an email in all CAPITAL BOLD letters "PLEASE LET MY DAUGHTER TAKE MONDAY OFF TO VISIT!!!!!!!!!!!"

The internet is like my phone...I only talk to people that I want to talk to and the only way to do that was to become ClevelandChick.

Friday, July 9, 2010


By now, everyone knows LeBron James has taken his talent and left Cleveland for fun in the sun in Miami.

His departure has sent me through a wide range of emotions; disbelief, sadness, anger, disappointment, you name it. Well, any emotion that doesn't convey happiness.

This was about more than basketball. More than sports. This felt personal.

Akron was LeBron's home. He grew up there. He grew up around Cleveland sports and he had to see the heartbreak of The Drive, The Fumble...for crying out loud...The Shot. Granted, it was with his Yankees cap and Cowboys sweatshirt, but he had to see it. So to call last night's infomercial, The Decision is mind boggling.

I can hear the conversation now...

LeBron:     "Hey, this is going to be HUGE and since I am the King, we need to give this thing a name"

Posse #1:    "Well, everything that was big in Cleveland sports has a name. THE Shot, THE Drive"

Posse#2:     "Yeah, something with THE in front of it!"

LeBron:     "Now we're on to something! THE DECISION" *holds his arms out like the now famous Nike pose*

Posse#1:     "I'll bet it will be on t-shirts all over Cleveland by morning!"

Posse#2:    "YEAH! We can get Nike on the phone and get a new banner."

LeBron:    "I can't wait to see the parade I get in Cleveland. They worship me"

According to the Cavs, LeBron personally didn't call to say he would not return. He said he gave his heart and soul to Cleveland for 7 years, but he still couldn't be an adult - a man - and call the team?

I honestly don't think that LeBron thought that the city would do anything but support him and run out and buy his Heat jersey.

The ESPN commercial was the start of LeBron trying to start over and  expand his brand, launching a website, twitter, etc. But paying for the questions asked? Sending all the fees to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters? That is great, but what would have been impressive is if he would have matched it. Parading a bunch of kids in to the announcement was hollow and insincere. 

It's hard explaining to someone not from Cleveland how hard of a punch to the gut LeBron's infomercial was. We supported him in ways that no other city will. I would tear up watching Nike commercials, with the entire city rallying behind him and the Cavs.

It infuriates me that he watched the city beg, yes beg him to stay. Fans gathered in the hundreds to an appreciate day that he could barely be bothered with to attend. Fans lining the street cheering and holding up signs with words like "Home" and "Loyalty" hoping to impress the King.

LeBron was adored by the cities of Cleveland and Akron because he was one of us. Sadly, we found out too late that we were not one of him.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Is it Friday Yet?

Every Sunday the same several thoughts roll through my brain. How long until the weekend? Do I really have to go to work? What would I do if I won the lottery?

Every weekend, I am working towards the next one. For the past year or so I have been trying to get back to Cleveland. All it would take for me to leave would be a job.

I'm starting to think winning the lottery has better odds.

Since the economy tanked, jobs are scarce. This certainly wouldn't be the climate to just quit your job on a whim in hopes of finding something when you get to a new city. The days of packing up your old like to exchange it for something new and shiny are over.

While I am grateful that I still have a job, I wish I could trade it in for something else. Just like when we were kids...I'll trade you my snack pack pudding for your jello cup.

Tomorrow will be filled with more resumes and the hope for something better.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

On the day that we all tend to stuff ourselves full of beer and hot dogs, I can't help thinking about a story I heard on NPR. It was one of those day in the life sort of pieces. Someone writes in and reads about a piece of their day.

I wish I could find the link, because everyone needs to hear it. The reader was, with the permission of her patient, discussing her work with an Marine that had returned from Iraq. The young soldier had suffered through numerous attacks by the insurgency and one day her luck had finally run out.

The soldier was severely wounded in a car bomb attack. After much painfully rehabilitation, the Marine was able to walk again and physically, short of a few scars, she looked ready to fight again.

But she wasn't. She started to have flashbacks and anxiety attacks anytime she was in a public place. In Iraq, small children are used by the Taliban to lob grenades at soldiers. Nothing is safe or as it seems. Around every corner is a potential life threatening situation.

The doctor continued to work with the soldier, gradually getting her to the point that she could go out into public places. But, after all of her work,  she had been unable to walk past a row of cars. Physically, she would walk, but the visions of car bombs were still fresh in her mind and her anxiety went through the roof.  The doctor gave the soldier the medical paperwork to allow the Marine to park in handicapped parking. The Marine was torn, did she use the pass, and have to deal with the glares of disapproval, a seemingly able bodied young woman walking from her vehicle?

After hearing that story, I have learned to keep my judging stares to myself.

I hope everyone can come home

Saturday, July 3, 2010

King James For Sale

I am torn about my feelings for LeBron James right now. Let me be perfectly clear, I hope he stays in Cleveland. But with the LeBron James Free Agency Circus, I am starting to wonder is it worth it for the cost. Is Cleveland selling its soul for a shot at a championship?

As ESPN and the other sports reporters will tell you, it has been awhile since Cleveland had a championship. The city is desperate for a champion. Right now, and for the future, the Cavaliers are it. The Browns are once again rebuilding and the Indians...I don't know what they are doing right now. The Cavs keep coming *this* close. Cleveland is waiting to be witness to a winner.

The city of Cleveland loves LeBron James. I can't think of another city that has gone to the lengths that Cleveland has for one of its athletes.  What other city has a Nike ad as a tourist photo stop? Hundreds of fans have lined street corners with signs encouraging LeBron to stay. Every city official it seems has been in a "We Are the World" type video begging the King to stay. The Cavs spent 6 months working on a cartoon to present to him.

Fans have joined together to pay for billboards and have held rallies.

I can't help but wonder if he cares. Does he even notice it anymore? 

For years, LeBron has been King of Cleveland/Akron/Ohio. A 10 story billboard of yourself outside of your office has to take getting used to. Maybe that is what he expects now. Maybe he expects everyone to jump through fiery hoops on one leg. 

Originally, I thought it was a point in Cleveland's favor with all of the team meetings happening in his office. But then I heard that LeBron was showing up to meetings in shorts and a t-shirt, 40 minutes late. That behavior is a mixture of arrogance and entitlement. Maybe someone should have showed him a clip of game 5. The game that he gave up.

He will never be as big and as large in any other city as he is in Cleveland. In NY/NJ he is just another big fish in a sea of big fish. Miami? Maybe. Chicago? No way. Chicago is the home of Michael Jordan. If LeBron goes to Chicago, he will forever be in the shadow of Michael. There will never be a LBJ statue in Chicago. No matter how great he becomes, I am sure Jordan will not want to share the stage.

All this makes me think of Peyton Manning.

Hear me out for a second.  

I lived in Tennessee when Peyton was a Volunteer. The entire state revolved around UT football. If UT were playing, you could walk naked down the street and no one would see you. If UT played 'Bama, you could walk down the street with a parade of baby elephants in tutus and no one would see. Peyton was a big deal. When he decided to stay at UT for one more year, it was on the cover of every paper, front page - above the fold. Peyton was a hero and already a legend in Tennessee.

Peyton later followed me to Indiana. And what he did when he arrived, stuck with me as a testament to his character. The Colts were looking for a quarterback at the NFL Combine, and it was between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. When Peyton arrived to talk with the team, he showed up in a suit and tie. He also came prepared with a notebook full of questions. When the Colts asked Peyton what he would do if he were selected as the first round pick, he said he would request a playbook to start studying the Colts offense.

Ryan Leaf on the other hand said he wanted to take his buddies to Vegas for one last hurrah.

What's my point? It seems like LeBron is playing with the city of Cleveland because he can. He wants to be a billionaire business man. He needs to start acting like it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Songs

A great way to judge people is by what they have on their iPod. Few things are more revealing than checking the iPod of someone that is a music snob and finding it is full of Justin Bieber.

So, being the nice person I am, I will save you the trouble. Here are my 10 favorite songs of all time, in no particular order:

 Bruce Springsteen - Glory Days

Yes, I know, the picture doesn't match the song. I first remember listening to Springsteen in elementary school, exposed to the live tracks on WMMS with the urging of Kid Leo. The songs of the Boss were lyrical stories. I didn't always understand them, but I always felt like I was on to something special. As I have gotten older, Glory Days makes a lot of sense to me. I guess because I like telling boring stories... 

Joe Walsh - Life's Been Good 
I'm not sure how much there is to add to this other than it is a great song. No real story other than I can't resist singing along and blaring it on the stereo. 

Lady GaGa - Bad Romance

I'm not made of stone people. I defy anyone to sit through this song and not tap along or at least sing the "Rah Rah ah ah ah" part.  It is a great song with great beat that you can dance to. Which is the criteria that Dick Clark taught me on American Bandstand to judge music. As I typed that sentence, it occurred to me that there are people that may read this blog and have no idea what American Bandstand is.

Whitney Houston - It's Not Right, But It's OK

Oh Whitney. How I loved you before you became the catch phrase "BOBBBBAYYY." This song is one of those anthems that fills the dance floor with women pointing at whatever hapless man is still out there. The song though reminds me of a good friend of mine, we would go out and well, we weren't quite Will and Grace. We were Jack and Karen.  When Whitney would come booming out of the speakers, we hit the floor. 

Vaughan Brothers - Tick Tock

I had never heard of Stevie Ray Vaughan until my freshman year at the University of Akron. I was hanging out with a guy from my psych class and his room mate went on and on about Stevie Ray Vaughan this and that. I mistakenly said, "Who?" I thought the guy's head was going to explode like something from Bugs Bunny. He quickly schooled me on the stylings of Mr. Stevie Ray and the rest is history. Every party the guys had, Tick Tock would come on and everyone would sing along before we stumbled out onto the Zip strip.

I am a fan of all things Irish. I always have been. I love the jigs and the melodies. Even the dancers, but somehow I draw a line at Michael Flatley. Flogging Molly is the best of all worlds to me. They have traditional Irish melodies that they twist and infuse with a punk vibe. Their shows are full of energy and are just plain fun. Flogging Molly makes me want to grab a Guinness and sing along.

Social Distortion - Ball and Chain

Social Distortion came out of the Orange County Music scene (which of course later gave us one of my favorite bands, No Doubt) with a mixture of punk and rock. One of the best hard luck story songs ever in my opinion. You think you had a bad day? This guy has had it a little worse.

Michael Stanley Band - He Can't Love You

When I hear Michael Stanley, I think back to Blossom Music Center and cool summer nights. Being cooler than anyone else with my black MSB tshirt. With all this talk of LeBron being a hometown guy, this band is the real hometown story. They were so close to cracking the video world into stardom. So close.

Sheryl Crow - My Favorite Mistake

We all have had a favorite among our many mistakes.
Like all of Sheryl's other songs, the lyrical story is a powerful one that everyone can relate to. Knowing and seeing that your relationship is starting to crumble, ignoring all the warning signs.