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Gary: Cleveland
Cleveland: The Cycles of Demolition and Construction
Story and Photos by Gary Singh

new building project site at Cleveland, Ohio
The current cycle in Cleveland.

s I prowl around Cleveland, Ohio, I find myself amid what seems like a brand new cycle of simultaneous demolition and construction. Urban projects appear and disappear, as if the cosmic Mahavishnu is inhaling and exhaling across Cleveland. Everything is in constant flux.

Such are my thoughts as I experience the International Exposition Center (I-X Center), spitting distance from Cleveland Hopkins Airport. At two million square feet, the facility previously existed as a manufacturer of destruction machines, that is, a place to produce bombers and tanks. Now it functions as a trade-show facility, one of the hugest in the whole wide world. Gargantuan shows unfold here: The Piston Power Show. The Rubber Expo. The International Tire Exhibition & Conference. Dog shows, boat shows, bridal shows, home & garden shows, plus an infinite amount of configurations for just about anything else. The address is One I-X Center Drive and there are 10,000 parking spaces.

tanks under production at the old I-X Center, Cleveland

the present I-X Center is a privately owned and successful trade show facility
Formerly, the I-X Center was used to manufacture tanks (top picture), but now it's a privately owned and very successful trade show facility (bottom picture).

But perhaps nothing more illustrates Cleveland's endless cycles of creation and destruction than the Cleveland Convention Center. The old facility-an underground behemoth with no wired internet access and barely any cell phone reception-has been gutted, exposing its entrails to the skies above.

the new Cleveland Convention Center under construction
Currently, the Cleveland Convention Center is entering a new cycle of life.

Upon my visit, a replacement convention center is being constructed, along with a medical mart-together targeted primarily for trade shows related to the medical and health care industries. The new center will even use some of the same pillars that still remain from the former facility. Out with the old, in with the new, as the saying goes. Exhale, inhale.

new structure for the Cleveland Convention Center being erected
From deep within the construction/demolition zone.

And then there's the Cleveland Powerhouse, an old brick building in the West Bank of the Flats. Pieces of the inside are being demolished so that the Greater Cleveland Aquarium can be created. The Powerhouse originally provided power to run the city's trolleys in the nineteenth century, but in recent years it housed a comedy club, a bar and a few other retail units. A registered historic landmark, most of the outside façade of the place remains intact as crews install cement foundations for the innards of the new aquarium.

foundation for a Greater Cleveland Aquarium fish tank under construction
Foundation for a future fish tank at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

As I skulk through the nether regions of the Powerhouse, scoping out the scene, I gaze at cement foundations of what will soon be tanks and walkways surrounded by water. Everything is under reconstruction. I am reminded of why I travel in the first place. Something about being inside the guts of a destination intrigues me, especially a structure that's just now being re-sculpted from the inside out. I feel an intuitive awareness that everything is in constant flux. Nothing is permanent. A new entity emerges where an old one still remains. Quite inspiring, I say.

construction of facilities for the new Greater Cleveland Aquarium at the site of the old Cleveland Powerhouse
Cycles of demolition and construction inside the Powerhouse, where the aquarium shall be born

Back on the other side of the river, in downtown Cleveland, near the public square and the Ritz-Carlton, sits the city's cherished Higbee Building, which will soon morph into a brand new casino-both above ground and below ground. As a result, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau had to be relocated-yet more examples of the constantly shifting urban landscape.

The Higbee Building itself is the stuff of legend, having been through many reincarnations over the years. It was Cleveland's first department store beginning in 1931, but was most recently an office complex. In fact, parts of the film, A Christmas Story, were filmed at the Higbee's building, in particular, the Santa Claus scene. What would Santa have thought, had he known that decades later a casino would replace his memory?

rendering of the planned Horseshoe Casino at the Higbee Building
Santa will be replaced by a casino.

The new casino will feature 2000 slot machines, 60 tables and even a World Series of Poker room. The next phase of construction will see the casino evolving all the way down to the river itself.

Nothing is permanent. Everything is in continuous flux, a refreshing indication. Exhale. Inhale. Out with the old, in with the new.

But before I split town this time, the Cleveland Museum of Art beckons me over for a cosmic experience, since an exhibit of Indian Kalighat paintings concludes the very weekend I am here. Kali, of course, is the Hindu goddess of time and change, as well as a deity of creation and destruction, or in other words, the patron saint of Cleveland's construction and demolition. As the cosmology says, Kali rids us of the past and brings forth a more glorious future.

a poster for an exhibit of Indian Kalighat paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art showing a painting of the Hindu goddess Kali
Kali, the Hindu goddess of demolition and construction, graces the wall in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

19th century painting of the Indian goddess Kali at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Kali, 1800s. India, Calcutta. Black ink, color and silver paint on paper; 49.9 x 28 cm (painting). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of William E. Ward in memory of his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward

The Kalighat Paintings are anonymous watercolors painted by Indian street artists during the nineteenth century. At that time, Kali's devotees were experts at circumventing the authority imposed on them by the British occupiers and willfully disrupting the apparatus of colonialism. In this particular instance, these painters took paper the British had intended for Bibles and used it to paint imagery that promoted Hinduism and simultaneously ridiculed everything the British stood for. One perceives this in many of the paintings, but I am merely inspired by the sheer imagery of Kali herself-the patron saint of construction and demolition. She is all.

It seems a touching finale that Kali's personage graces an entire wall here in the museum, which just happens to be immersed in its own never-ending phase of renovations and upgrades. As I depart for the airport-also undergoing renovation-the endless cycles of creation and destruction remain with me. Forever. There is no end and no beginning. Inhale. Exhale.

construction facilities, equipment and materials on a barge, Cleveland
Cleveland, a truly rocking place.

Related articles:
Cleveland and the Worst Baseball Player; Thailand: From the Wreckage, a Lotus Blooms, St. Louis & Kansas City

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Let Gary know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Your tea adventures are especially interesting because I've always associated tea with British etiquette or a bevy of women wearing dainty victorian costumes and sipping tea with their little pinky sticking out. To see Tea from a man's perspective brings new light in a man's psyche. I've been among the many silent admirers of your writings for a long time here at Traveling Boy. Thanks for your very interesting perspectives about your travels. Keep it up! --- Rodger, B. of Whittier, CA, USA

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

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