Cuyahoga Falls

Cuyahoga Falls: (n) a city in Northeast Ohio, near Akron

 The reason essays are often long is because the author feels compelled to place the reader in the exact moment and space of a given time.

Suffice it to say, today I am talking about a season in our history when boys were dying in Vietnam, hippies were walking the streets and young lads and lasses from the Midwest were desperately trying to be neither.

I grew up in Ohio.

Ohio insists it’s a single state, but anyone who lives there knows differently.

If you lived in Columbus, you might as well be from Iowa, or any other Midwest hold-out to social progress.

If you lived in Cincinnati, you were more like Dixie, with grits in your teeth.

And to the far north was Cleveland, which desperately tried to imitate New York City, complete with crime and a filthy Lake Erie to mirror the polluted Hudson.

I lived right in the center.

No, it’s true. My hometown was exactly ten miles from the geographical center of Ohio. That in itself should have afforded me great honor, but I was stuck, like everyone else, trying to prove myself and do the best with the talent shoveled in my direction.

Mine was music.

But my music was not quite suited to the genre that was rattling and reeling in the time capsule of hippies and soldiers.

So one day, I wiggled my way into scheduling a coffee house in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio—very near Akron. I didn’t know much about the place and they didn’t know much about me.

So my little band, excited about actually going somewhere to play a road gig, dressed up.

For the guys, that was pants and a long-sleeved shirt with a tie.

And for the ladies—well, they basically wore their prom dresses.

We arrived at the coffee house, which was called Avalon, and everybody there was in bell-bottom blue jeans, t-shirts, with long hair and sneers.

It was a long night.

Every song we tried was met with chuckles and everything we said was ignored, as they turned to one another and carried on conversations.

I became angry, mainly because I was young, foolish and felt it was my right to be offended.

I told them they were a bunch of snobs. I also told them they didn’t have the wardrobe for it.

This was my first and only laugh of the night.

The proprietor of the coffeehouse stood to his feet and said, “Be cool, fool. You just don’t fit in here.”

He was right—while simultaneously being wrong.

Because if we’re waiting for everyone to mature or expand to be welcomed into our little utopia, we’ve missed the whole point of having one.

A utopia is meant to be a place where anyone is welcome without fear.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Akron

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Akron: (n) a city in northeastern Ohio; population 217,074. Noted as a center for the rubber industry, the first rubber factory was established there in 1870 by B. F. Goodrich.

It was a process called “vulcanization,” which had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Spock or mind melding. I know very little about it–except that tires for cars are the blessed by-product.

But for me, Akron has a very different association.

On a Tuesday night, I drove the 116 miles from my home to a little coffeehouse in Akron called The Avalon. I was young, foolish, energetic and very viable, which was cancelled out by my penchant for stupid decisions.

I had just started a music group and we were looking for anywhere to perform, where people would listen for a few moments and hopefully praise us for our efforts instead of giving us the benefit of needful critique.

The Avalon coffeehouse agreed to let us come and sing a couple of songs, so we were ecstatic. I knew nothing about this venue. As it turned out, it was one of those spiritual youth hostels, where people under the age of thirty gathered to teeter in an existence in spirituality would not totally disrupt their carnal pursuits.

On the other hand, my little group consisted of small-town-America high school graduates who had all the travel sensibilities of Christopher Columbus heading for the West Indies but settling for the Caribbean.

So the first thing we did was dress up for the occasion. All I owned was a fancy dress coat with a shirt and tie. The two girls traveling with me had their prom dresses from the previous year, and felt they shouldn’t go to waste, so why not wear them to the Avalon?We also traveled with a young hobbit-looking oboe player, who wore glasses which resembled goggles from a steel mill.

So you can imagine the surprise of the young hippies at The Avalon, dressed in blue jeans and hemp blouses and shirts, with bare feet, when the prom king and his two queens showed up.

Even though there was a pending snicker in the air, to their credit, the patrons set aside their bigotry and gave an ear to “Goober and the two Gooberettes.”

We sang a song called Jesus Generation,” which was about the corniest thing I’ve ever written, and a rendition of the Beatitudes calledBlessed,” which had a prelude played on the oboe suitable for chamber orchestras in the Mozart era.

We survived.

Matter of fact, there was a level of appreciation–perhaps mainly for our courage in showing up–which warmed my heart.

And to top the evening off, for the first time in my life, the hat was passed and we left that small gathering with $33.25, believing we were successful prospectors from Sutter’s Mill.

I don’t know what they said about us after we left. It doesn’t matter. But for one night, cultures clashed without the need for violence, ridicule or debate.

It is how I will always remember Akron.

It is the blessing I received at The Avalon.