Sarah Palin just might be Mayor Maverick after all. Not only did she connect with all the Joe the Plumbers out there with those rootsy aphorisms highlighting her plucky backwoods beginnings, but she did it all decked out in Fifth Avenue's best with $150,000 from the Republican National Committee. That's like bringing a boxed lunch from Lolita's for your volunteer stint at the soup kitchen.
But she had to have pouted when Sen. McTaint, after the media pounced, pledged to donate all the fancy threads to charity. That's when Earl Pike, head of the nonpartisan AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland, decided to write his letter to RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, asking for a place at the front of the line. And now's the time: Off with the duds … dud.
"If granted, these items would then be auctioned off by us at the ATGC, and all proceeds will be allocated toward the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS," wrote Pike, masking well the derision that would be apparent if he'd spoken those words.
About 5,000 people are infected with HIV/AIDS in Greater Cleveland, Pike says; about 90 percent of them live below the poverty line, with 60 percent earning less than $6,000 a year.
"That's not just poor," notes Pike. "That's dirt poor."
He insists this isn't an attack on Republicans, though, despite having seen his federal funding for essential services drop as much as 3 percent a year for almost all of Baby Bush's two terms. And don't even get him started on all that abstinence-only education that references life-preserving condoms as Baby Killers.
"If there's facetiousness here, it's nonpartisan," says Pike. "I'm thinking this is right up there with John Edwards' $400 hair cut. It's just that, all too often, our elected officials have no sense of reality about poor people's lives. This tells me that too many elected officials are out of touch with the average person's life." - Dan Harkins
PLEASE STOP MAKING SENSE
Talking Heads frontman David Byrne brought his solo tour to PlayhouseSquare's Allen Theatre on October 23, and the multimedia dabbler later wrote about C-Town at his blog, journal.davidbyrne.com. He didn't stop by the Rock Hall to try on his big suit, but he saw the sights and checked out the local characters. It wasn't the kind of insight you'd expect from the writer of "Psycho Killer," but hey, it's a blog, and it's free.
"When encountering a place like Euclid Avenue, one thinks of the Mayan temples that were already being abandoned before Cortés even arrived," wrote Byrne, reflecting on an afternoon bike ride. "What kind of people lived here? What did they make? Why did they leave?"
The frontman wrapped his Cleveland experience with a famous local musician who really knows how to stop making sense: Glenn Schwartz, the semi-legendary former guitarist of the James Gang and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., whom a friend of Byrne's had recommended - with the proviso that the axeman had long ago gone around the bend. For Byrne, it was a trip worth taking.
"Sure enough, between amazing and inventive Hendrix-like solos, he would admonish the audience and prophesize 'blood on the moon and War in America,'" blogged Byrne. "He may have lost his mind but his fingers are firing on all cylinders … Only in Cleveland." - D.X. Ferris
WHAT WOULD FANNIE DO?
Cynthia Black, one of the daughters of the late Ward 7 Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, was quoted in The Plain Dealer saying what some of us who knew Mrs. Lewis have privately thought: that it's doubtful she had chosen anyone to succeed her. I was not present at the private meeting Lewis allegedly had with Council President Martin J. Sweeney and others when she named Stephanie Howse. I did not talk with her about a successor prior to her death. However, I was with her over many weeks during the 2005 election when she was challenged by Howse. At that time, she called Howse a nice young woman who needed more experience to be of value to the ward. Then Mrs. Lewis went out, faced all challengers, including Howse, and whipped their butts.
Black contends that her mother wanted those who live in Ward 7 to choose the successor, not be told a name after a secret session. This is almost certainly accurate. While observing and interviewing Lewis over many months, would-be developers, business owners and other entrepreneurs made their way to her door to ask her support for one endeavor or another. She had three concerns: 1) No one name anything after her, because then she would be succumbing to pride, the sin she feared most; 2) No one do anything that might, in any way, be illegal or create an environment for crime; and 3) The residents who might be affected had to approve the business. It did not matter what Lewis thought about a legal enterprise. The people opening a business had to meet with residents on all sides and as far in all directions that they would impact. If the residents approved, the business was allowed. If the residents disapproved, the business would not come into the ward. It was their choice. Other than the initial vetting, Lewis felt her opinion did not matter as much as the residents'. So did Howse get prior approval? Had Fannie Lewis been watching her gain experience? Or is this the first of the scams that will be tried by invoking the name of Fannie Lewis? And more important, will Howse develop the passion, compassion and vision that Fannie Lewis literally lived and died for? This is all to be seen. - Ted Schwarz
CROOKED RIVER LEARNING
A couple years ago, three local filmmakers did what no one should ever do: They traveled up the Cuyahoga River from Lake Erie all the way to its headwaters. The adventure took them by Rust Belt factories and past pools of polluted water that smell like nail polish, where only retarded carp can live. Eventually, though, they discover the upper reaches of the Crooked River, where clean water still meanders through untouched back country, much as it did before White Man came to Ohio. Their resulting documentary, Walking the River, is a Gen-X tribute to the river and how it represents the community surrounding it today. Catch the doc at 10 p.m. Thursday, November 6, on WVIZ/PBS. - James Renner
BIG FEET, BIG HEART
Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie, directed by Ohio native Jay Delaney, is a short documentary that follows two poverty-stricken Bigfoot hunters from southern Ohio as they track down the elusive missing link in the woods around Portsmouth. Critics from papers like The New York Times and the Boston Globe are comparing it to American Movie, and credit the filmmakers with revealing the friendship and hope that are at the heart of the hunters' explorations. For more info, visit NotYourTypicalBigfootMovie.com.
COCOON, MINUS STEVE GUTTENBERG
Trucker Tim Comstock reported a strange encounter near the small town of Empire on October 24. As he was driving along his normal route down Route 7 at about 3:45 a.m., Comstock noticed a couple cars parked to the side of the road. The passengers were outside their vehicles, staring into the night sky. Looking up, Comstock saw a triangular craft the size of a shopping mall hovering silently above the trees. He stopped his truck and watched as a second object, which he described as a glowing orange cocoon, was pulled up toward the UFO. "It seemed self-luminescent," said Comstock when interviewed by a local UFO hunter. "It was about the size of a large pickup truck, and it was very bright." Comstock's photos can be viewed at Earthfiles.com.
Drive down Gore Orphanage Road in Vermillion after sunset and you may hear the screams of children, say ghost hunters who dare not make the trip alone. One hundred years ago, a religious zealot named Johann Sprunger moved here from Indiana with a woman who may have been both his sister and lover, and created a large orphanage in a mansion, which he called Light of Hope. Not long after, children began to escape the orphanage. When captured, they told authorities horrific tales of abuse and claimed they had been forced to eat cow lungs and hog heads. In 1909, Sprunger pleaded guilty to many charges of abuse. According to legend, a fire at the orphanage killed several children, but there is no proof this ever occurred. Still, it was once a very evil place. Do not go into the light - contact us first, at firstname.lastname@example.org.