“Oh my God, we’re in Hough,” my mom said.
I was a teenager at the time, sitting in the front passenger seat beside my mom, who was driving, her nose just inches from the windshield, as she strained (pre-GPS) to find her bearing–inspecting road signs, as we passed boarded-up houses and sketchy markets we viewed out of our periphery. (One of inner city Cleveland’s most notorious neighborhoods, Hough wasn’t the sort of place you looked at head on.)
And then she did it:
She locked the car doors with a resounding “click” I was sure could be heard by all in a mile radius.
“Oh my God.” A devout Catholic, my mom wasn’t one to take the Lord’s name in vain. So I knew this was serious–being lost in Hough–but I also felt shame. Here we had been in Cleveland, taking in the sights at the art museum, grabbing a bagel or bialy in University Circle, maybe? I don’t remember if we were heading back home from a theater performance at Playhouse Square–or maybe I had had a ballet rehearsal.
Anyway, a few wrong turns and we were in Hough, the site of riots during my mom’s years as a student at nearby (Case) Western Reserve.
We got out of Hough; my mom found her way back through the parts of the city she’d known as a student and young married woman, and we made it back to our house in the country.
It wasn’t until later that I contemplated those who never got out of neighborhoods like Hough; and much later that I contemplated those who didn’t want to.
Reading The Cleveland Anthology, I came across a piece by Mansfield Frazier called “A Vineyard In Hough.” Yep, a vineyard.
Here’s how it started: Frazier, who writes about “the problems of the underclass” and his wife, who holds a master’s degree in social work, didn’t want to be “arm’s length liberals,” so they moved to inner city Hough in 2000 in an attempt to “recreate a vibrant middle class neighborhood.”
There, they created a vineyard, a sustainable green project that encourages neighbors–including recent parolees–to work together on a project that creates “a much stronger social fabric.”
My mom passed away almost 12 years ago now, and in that time Cleveland–and Hough–has changed. I like to imagine how a trip to Hough might go now.
If you can’t pick up a copy of The Cleveland Anthology, here is a great article by David Sax on Chateau Hough, which uncorked its first bottles in June 2014.
What does urban revitalization look like where you live?
Cheers to the weekend! ~ Rebecca