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Flick It Old-School
What's a movie fan to do during these earliest weeks of the new year, when the multiplexes are stockpiled with the government cheese of Hollywood cinema? Check out the Hollywood your great-grandfather grew up on: The Cinematheque's two-month Artists of the Silent Screen series fondly recalls cinema's first couple of decades, back when men were men — wildly gesticulating, voiceless men who woke each morning shrouded in the unyielding terror that talking films would be the death of them someday. But hey, that's not your problem! With The Artist (a contemporary spin on classic silent films) earning audience raves and Academy Award buzz, there's no better time to get to know the great movies that inspired it. We're now just one weekend into the Cinematheque's series, and upcoming screenings feature more than a dozen old-school classics like The Big Parade, Queen Kelly, Faust, and The Gold Rush. Visit cia.edu for a complete schedule, and get your conversations out of the way in the lobby.
Catch Some Grassroots Basketball
Former Cleveland State star Norris Cole might have taken his talents to South Beach, but Viking basketball is still well worth your dollars and an evening spent awash in college spirit. Especially because it takes so few dollars to enjoy Viking hoops. Coach Gary Waters doesn't have a single star this year, but he's got a team that's playing like it anyway, including last week's dismantling of mighty Butler on the road. There's no reason not to believe the Vikes can roll through the Horizon League tournament to earn its customary lone spot in the March Madness field. And from there, anything can happen. Secure a ridiculously affordable ticket to the Wolstein Center, and catch them on the road to madness. Better yet: Every weekday home game features "Hoopy Hour" — that's code for $2 draft beers for two solid hours prior to game time; come tipoff, you too will feel like a burly Viking. The regular season runs through February 25; get tickets online at wolsteincenter.com.
Go Snow Schlepping
Sometimes all it takes to best Old Man Winter is a willingness to laugh in his face. Bonus points for giggles that erupt as you ka-lumph around on snowshoes in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Turns out, nature looks lovely with a layer of snow, and modern, lightweight snowshoes give you easy access to places that would defeat even the sturdiest of boots. As long as the snow is at least four inches deep, you can rent a pair at two Peninsula park locations: The Winter Sports Center — where you'll also find a 1930s-era stone shelter with a warming hearth — is at 1000 Truxell Road; and the Boston Store Visitors Center is at 1548 Boston Mills Road. Rental cost is an affordable $5, but bring a driver's license or credit card as a deposit. For operating hours, dates, and snow-depth reports, call 800-257-9477 or visit nps.gov/cuv. If sledding or cross-country skiing is your preferred means of cold-weather commuting, the golf courses and other wide-open spaces of the Cleveland Metroparks offer all the free fresh air you can breathe — and they go so far as to point you to the best inclines they have to offer: clemetparks.com/visit/index.asp?action=featurelist&featuretype_id=1021. Of course, all of this assumes that your idea of cold-weather frolicking includes seasonal-appropriate attire. For the rest of us, it's time to skip straight to ...
Be a Polar Bear
Indeed, there may be no finer way to give Old Man Winter a wedgie than to brazenly plop your carcass into his waters. Polar bear plunges — those refreshing group dips into welcoming, 35-degree Lake Erie — deliver a big middle finger (and very shriveled other body parts) to the elements, and they do it for the most righteous of causes: Special Olympics. You've missed the big New Year's Day Polar Bear festivities, but the weather that day was so warm that even toddlers were joining in. Real polar bearers wait for winter's worst punch. And luckily, the coming months are littered with Polar Bear days across Ohio. Your two closest options are in Sandusky on January 28 and Geneva on February 26. So jump in, get out, revel in a job well done, and then get a damn towel. A big-ass, thick as hell towel. Check polarbearplunge.org for more info.
Chase the White Ball
Yeah, you can practice your swing at indoor golf clinics all over town, but why not best your summer buds and get out on a real course. "If you can see grass, there's a good chance we're open," says Lloyd Smith, clubhouse manager at Big Met in Fairview Park. In fact, each of the Metroparks' five 18-hole courses average 10 to 20 playable days during the winter — maybe more, the way this season's going. Expect to see a crowd on 45-degree days, but even when temperatures dip to the lower 30s, a few dozen golfers show up. "They get cabin fever," Smith says. Other options include Emerald Woods in Columbia Station, which unleashes arctic duffers on its 36 holes whenever weather permits. If it's a more carbohydrate-intensive round of golf you seek, don't forget Strongsville Rotary's annual Chili Open fund-raiser (chiliopen.com/). It's slated for February 25 at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds and offers a full day of raffles, contests, gobs of chili and beer — plus, the most charmingly makeshift round of golf you're ever likely to play.
Find a New Sport
We're in the doldrums of the Cleveland sports calendar: The Browns? Turning last year's "not good enough" into this year's even worse. The Cavs? Perfecting the art of the rebuilding year. The Indians? Hope springs eternal, but not for another two months. Happily, there are sporting options beyond the flat screen. For a longer time than most folks know, Northeast Ohio has been a hotbed of high school hockey. There are, of course, the private-school powerhouses such as St. Edward and Ignatius and University and Gilmour. But more and more public schools from east to west to south have developed strong squads of their own over the past decade. As a result, Cleveland teams make up the bulk of the competition in March's state tournament, and this year looks no different: According to the latest state polls, 6 of Ohio's top 10 teams hail from the righteous corner of the state. Games are played every week at local rinks on both sides of town, and the price of admission is small change compared to what it costs to get into any of our big-league factories of sadness. Never thought you were a hockey fan? Maybe it's time you should be.