I was a 15 year-old wannabe hippie rebel trapped in uptight, English-speaking Shaker Heights, where vegetable gardens and clotheslines were illegal and my parents were so formal with each other they barely said a word. Luckily, only a three-block walk away on Buckeye Road, tomatoes grew from the cracks in the sidewalks, neighbors flung Hungarian out their windows at each other, and for Mardi Gras, the parishioners at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church dressed like gypsies and took nips from flasks while the mock bishop used a toilet plunger to bless the corpse of a bass fiddle along with the chortling congregants. It wasn’t Haight Ashbury or even Coventry, but the floors at Buckeye’s Elegant Hog Saloon were three inches deep with peanut shells, and the bartender serenely poured us pitchers of mind-altering Guinness despite our tender age. One night he actually paid my brother to sing and play on their piano, which is when I decided to become a troubadour instead of a Vice President of Sales like my father, who gave up everything for Lent except his secret mistresses. At least the parishioners at St. Elizabeth’s didn’t hold back about having fun in public, and neither did the pastry chefs at Nagy’s Bakery whenever they made Dobos tortas, seven stories high of sponge cake and chocolate butter cream topped with caramel burnt clear and hard as a window pane. I could always see what I was getting on Buckeye, including my own woozy reflection in that Dobos glaze and whoever else it was possible to become, maybe a piano player, maybe a storyteller, maybe a gypsy who knows all the laws worth breaking and lives to drink deep from the unruly fruit that grows up in the cracks of the world.
Katie Daley is a poet and memoirist who’s lived in several paradises around the globe, and she keeps coming back to Cleveland, the most unpretentious and nitty-gritty Eden of them all. To get the best of CLE distilled into an afternoon, she hangs out at Dewey’s Café on Shaker Square.
Visit Literary Cleveland's Who We Are, Where We Live online anthology for more from the Buckeye/Shaker community.
Community Anthology Table of Contents
About the program
Who We Are, Where We Live is a free community writing program giving voice to people who live and work in the Buckeye/Shaker community. Participants write stories, learn about their neighborhood, and share with their neighbors. Annually, selected writings are published here in an online anthology and presented at a final reading and celebration.