The Flats is (and notice this word, though plural, is really singular) an area formed by the natural dividing line between East Side and West Side...the flaming Cuyahoga River. If you are from Cleveland, you know the name is not pronounced Kwee-HO-gah. You will not get me to tell you how to pronounce the name of this river, either, or we have lost all defenses against outsiders! Only a native Clevelander knows the secret pronunciation of Cuyahoga, Solon, Medina, Geauga, Akron, Elyria, Lima, Lodi, and Mantua. It is how we know each other. We West Siders also know the secret pronunciation of Broadview, an important way to distinguish fake West Siders from real ones. This I can tell you, because even if you try, you will never get it just right. East siders say Broad -Vyoo, with a little pause between the syllables, each syllable given equal weight. Real West Siders say broadvYOO, with no pause, and a peculiar inflection of the "YOO" upwards which is unmistakabley West Side. Kind of like rhyming with the obsequious service person, who, when thanked, says "No...thank you!".
The Flats have only two remaining purposes: one, to provide a maze of curly-q streets as complicated as London's, which are faster in rush hour than any competing freeway. And two, to house the local night/weekend entertainment industry. Oh, at one time, every man Jack was employed in some gritty job down by the river, burning something, cooking it, forging it, dredging it, or preparing it to be shipped out up the St. Lawrence. However, the vast improvements in the American Economy which result in 75% of the current workforce cooking/pouring/serving something for the other 25%, have eliminated that outmoded purpose! And here is where that meal is prepared, now, often in the company of proprietresses of the oldest profession (so those who never come down to the Flats might say).
Looking up at the Terminal Tower from Scranton in the Flats
The Vestigial Railroad Lift Bridges (no trains any more)...this is looking southwest at the High Level Bridge (Detroit Superior), the official dividing structure between the East Side and the West Side. Technically, downtown is on the East Side, and therefore foreign soil to us West Siders. However, in a form of graciousness and compromise the likes of which are seldom seen elsewhere on this planet, We West Siders agree that downtown is officially neutral territory all the way up to about E. 18th street. However, be advised that the Flats has a west side and east side, too, and a West Sider will do what he can to prevent himself from being caught passed out in an East Bank Flats Bar.
The Powerhouse, a West Bank attraction, plus a view of the river exposing the mouth of the Cuyahoga and the soaring Main Avenue bridge. Next to the Powerhouse is the Nautica Stage, where in the all-too-brief summer, outdoor concerts are held of famous musicians such as Phish, Reggae Sunsplash, and the occasional country-western twanger. On the boardwalk is perhaps the most imaginative TGIF restaurant in the world, where you can enjoy a nosh whilst watching various ejectae float by on the surface of the river (some stemming from TGIF's failure to reach above a certain cullinary level; others making gruesome headlines the next day). Nevertheless quite pleasant, beer in hand, or wine; potato skins, buffalo wings, nachos; and of course, Fajitas...the lake air piques the appetite; free entertainment as a stream of elegantly dressed sophisticates boards the tour boat for candlelit lake tours; too bad summer could not go on forever...
And to be absolutely fair, the East Bank of the Flats. More bars per square foot; a Max and Erma's to counterpoint the TGIF's; the Watermark for the gourmet; and of course, Hooters. The rail line you see is the new North Coast Express, which runs from the base of the Terminal Tower, through the Flats, and along the shoreline for about two hundred million dollars (oh excuse me, two miles). But you see, this town will be 200 years old soon, and the Pharaohs that run the scummy bus line in these parts have decreed a festival commuter line be laid at any expense. You know, so it is written; so it shall be done. But naturally it will be quickly paid off as almost a dozen people a week will probably ride it! Think of the money that will roll in! And just to protect their investment, they lay the track right where the only parking used to be. How clever.
But being in the Flats at all means we are just moments from our destination...Downtown...
(to Journey's End)
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