Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Of Trains and Newspapers and Cancer
This morning I did something I've not done in a long time--I took the Rapid from Green Road down to Tower City, where the Cleveland Plain Dealer now has (the remains of) its editorial offices.
I'm pretty sure the Rapid was the first train I ever rode on, back in the late 1950s, not long after we'd moved to (Hiram) Ohio. My dad took my brother Dave and me down to the old Cleveland Stadium to see the Tribe play the Tigers. My first Major League (live) game. I was in junior high. And that ride--from Green Road in Shaker Heights through Cleveland's impoverished East Side and on into the Terminal Tower (no Tower City development yet) was a graduate course in urban economy and sociology.
When the train glides down that hill on the west side of Shaker Square, living accommodations along the tracks change quickly--and dramatically. I was entering a cityscape I knew nothing about.
Later, I rode the train a lot to go to ball games (Browns and Indians), and in the early 1990s, on a sabbatical leave from the Aurora City Schools, I rode that train every day for a while, one leg in my journey from Aurora to the wonderful Cleveland Public Library downtown, where I was doing some of my research on Jack London, the Klondike Gold Rush, the geography of the North--all in preparation for the publication of my annotated editions of London's The Call of the Wild (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1995, 1997). I was, for a time, a commuter. And many of the passengers on that train--especially heading west toward Cleveland--were reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Ohio's Largest Newspaper," standard reading for anyone in the area, really. Everyone read newspapers.
Today, I didn't see a single soul with a paper. Lots of smart phones and staring. Though, waiting at Green Road, I did overhear a great bit of "news." There was an RTA worker there, doing something near the tracks, and I heard his intercom crackle--and a voice saying something like this: "There's a wolf on the tracks down here at Tower City."
I looked at the guy: "If there's a wolf down there, I'm going home right now." And sort of laughed.
"Hey," he replied, "there are lots of weird animals down there. And he knows the difference between a wolf and a German shepherd."
I heard the call of the wild.
But--intrepid, resolute--I headed into the West.
Where I saw no wolves but did see the decline of Tower City--the food court, the businesses (restaurants, shops) down there; nothing looks as healthy as it did back in the 1990s. But then again, neither do I.
With a little bit of a problem, I found the Plain Dealer offices and located the book assignment editor, Joanna Connors, who was expecting me. I routinely go to the PD to pick out books to review for the paper. But I'd not been down in quite a while--only once since their move from their former vast facility over on Superior Ave. Their quarters are tiny now. So much has changed ... All quiet on the journalism front ...
We chatted a bit, and I picked out a few titles for the upcoming months before heading back down to the RTA to catch my noon train back to Green Road. I noticed that the trains coming through the station now are all color-coded--color-coded only, I should say. No words. So the Green Line train I was looking for had only green lights across the front. I saw a Red Line come through, as well--a Blue, too.
On the way back, I continued memorizing Robert Frost's "Provide, Provide," and by the time I got to my car, I had it pretty well caged in my head, though every now and then a word or phrase winged away. (Link to poem.)
I had only a short drive now, from the Green Road parking lot to the parking lot at the Seidman Cancer Center, where I was going because I'd made a decision--and had to act on it.
Last week I wrote about my regular quarterly visit to Seidman, where they are monitoring my prostate cancer (which has come and gone and come and gone and come again) in various years. Last Monday, my oncologist offered me the option of going off Lupron, the drug that has kept me in remission for two years. (Link to earlier post.)
Of course I wanted to stop the drug (I receive quarterly injections). It saps my energy, makes me highly emotional and depressive, kills my libido (the drug works by zapping my testosterone, the food of prostate cancer), and has some other deleterious effects. And so I'd told him last Monday, "Let's try it."
But then--after some long conversations with Joyce, after some wrenching and emotional wars in my head--I changed my mind. I would take the injection.
And so--today--after a ride on the Rapid, after a visit to what remains of the Plain Dealer's book room, after another ride on the Rapid, after memorizing "Provide, Provide"--I drove to Seidman Cancer Center, dropped trou, waited for that sharp lupine bite that I hope will keep me here a bit longer.