Tuesday, September 6, 2011


On Friday I rode away from the mosquitos and skunks and flies of Marblehead and into Cleveland. As I traveled east the roads unflattened themselves and the farms morphed into suburbs. After fifty miles I stopped to do a quick painting of the Avon Lake Power Station, and then pedaled the rest of the way to Cleveland.

The next day, well-rested and well-caffeinated (thank you, Laura, for hosting me) I biked downtown to the 'Cleveland Flats', an industrial area (and increasingly an entertainment and residential area) along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. The streets adjacent the river were cartoonishly steep, and threatened to backflip me as I granny-geared my way up and pitch me over my handlebars when I zoomed back down. I rollercoastered around looking for a drawing venue, and found a shady park perched on the edge of the river. I sat down on a bench and surveyed my surroundings. Bridges zig-zagged overhead, lacing together the east and west banks of the Cuyahoga. Across the river an abandoned railroad bridge jutted into the sky like a steel skeleton. I sharpened my pencils and began sketching the railroad bridge. As I drew, more people wandered into the park, sitting on the other benches and leaning against the railing at the river's edge. They all seemed to know each other, and most drank beverages from brown paper bags (I considered putting my water bottle in a paper bag in order to better fit in with the crowd). A man leaning against a nearby tree watched me warily as he drank his paper-bag-cloaked beverage. After a while he un-leaned himself from the tree and shuffled over to check out what I was doing. Head cocked, he peered skeptically at my drawing. "Fuckin' Michelangelo cracker," he mumbled, and plodded off.

An hour or so later, as I was finishing my drawing, a fellow who introduced himself as "Zachariah the homeless man" plunked himself down on the bench beside me. "Hey!" he said, putting his face between me and my drawing, "you drawing that bridge! And it's good! You sure know how to work that pen, baby-doll." (After a ten-minute conversation with Zachariah, I had been called 'baby-doll' more times than ever before in my life.) "You should put me in the drawing," he suggested, and jumped up to stand in front of the bridge, arms raised overhead in a 'V'. "Draw me holdin' up the bridge," he instructed, "and if anyone asks 'Who is that in your drawing?' you will say 'That is Zachariah the homeless man.' And then you will sell the drawing for a million dollars." Zachariah held up the bridge for a few minutes, taking frequent breaks to nurse his paper-bag-wrapped drink. "Hey, you ain't put me in," he cried, sitting down beside me again.
"That's because you keep moving."
"So what?" He bent over to pick a 'Milwaukee's Best Ice' can from the sidewalk and gave it a shake. A few drops splashed in the bottom. He held it out to me: "You want a beer?"

(Side note: several people have emailed me to tell me that the 'Support' button wasn't working on this blog. Well, the problem has been solved and now it is!)

Mileage for Friday: 88
Total trip mileage: 951

Drawing of the railroad bridge (sans Zachariah the homeless man)

Painting of another railroad bridge

Painting with its subject

Painting of the Avon Lake Power Plant

The Cleveland Flats (seen looking down from a bridge)

Another railroad bridge