People of Cleveland

Progressive Field Credits: Samantha Gier
Naomi at Lakewood Park Credits: Samantha Gier
Madonna’s letter at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Credits: Samantha Gier

Most people spend days, weeks or even months planning their ideal road trip. They pick the perfect destination, the perfect sights to see and make perfect Instagram posts.

I, on the other hand, spent two hours planning mine and picked my destination out of a cup.

Let me explain.

Sign Up for E-News

As part of a journalism course at St. Bonaventure University this spring, I was asked to pick the name of a Major League Baseball team out of a cup. That was the team that I was tasked to cover on a blog for the rest of the semester. My fateful pick – the Cleveland Indians.

I spent the rest of the semester attempting to keep up with a sport that always failed to entertain me. Long innings and long seasons had kept me away, but this time I was forced to stay with it.

I managed to keep up with The Tribe through spring training. The Indians’ World Series run last season did help my cause. But the last post assignment had me stuck. All I had to do was wrap up the past few months in one simple post. And I couldn’t.

My solution?

On a Tuesday morning, I woke up, I booked an Airbnb, I bought an Indians’ ticket, I did my laundry – and I started driving to Cleveland.

If the story couldn’t come to me – I was going to go to the story.

Looking back on the trip, I see that I still didn’t find a baseball story. I ate peanuts, sang “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” and exchanged high fives. I wore an Indians’ jersey and spit out stats when appropriate, and I did have a much better time than expected. But the game wasn’t the story I found in Cleveland. The people were.

Three people caught my attention in The Land. One didn’t speak English, one spoke football and the other I simply met through a letter.

The first person I had a conversation with in Cleveland was a Puerto Rican immigrant named Naomi. I found her at Lakewood Park, a quaint public ground with a mesmerizing, hidden view of the Cleveland skyline. She was looking at the view of the city across the water and exclaiming loudly in a mix of Spanish and English in her excitement.

“Magnifico, Encantar, look look! It’s so beautiful,” she screamed over and over. She didn’t care who was listening – and in this case, it was only me.

She asked me to sit on a bench with her, and I listened to her story.

“I sit on my computer every night typing into Google translate. I type a sentence in Spanish and translate it to English and read it over and over again,” Naomi said.

After an accident in her hometown, Naomi received enough money to move to Cleveland. The world can bring you to your knees, especially in a country that is making it harder and harder for immigrants to find happiness, but Naomi still found a reason to smile.

“My sister called to me because of my depression. Go to the Lakewood, go to the lake, try going, use the bus 26, go to the park in Lakewood,” she said, with a beaming smile. “It is beautiful, it’s too beautiful. I can’t believe it, we are so blessed.”

The second person I learned a lesson from was my Uber driver, Rod. I was a little nervous to take a 20-minute ride alone to a place I had never been with a person I had never met. Rod made it easy.

We started talking about Buffalo, and he told me that he was Darryl Talley’s best friend. Darryl Talley played for the Buffalo Bills for 14 seasons. He never missed a game. Jim Kelly said in an interview that Talley should be in the Hall of Fame right now. Dan Marino said that Talley was one of the best players he ever played against.

Rod? Rod said Talley is a fighter.

In a Buffalo News piece covering Talley, Tim Graham said Talley had learned after he retired that he’d played with a broken neck. He also suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. And, from what I heard, Rod has been with him every step of the way.

In our 20-minute ride, Rod must have mentioned five separate times how much his best friend belongs in the Pro Hall of Fame. The power of friendship and love seeped through in our conversation. The world needs more Rods.

The last person I met was in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The last time I was in the museum I was 8, uncultured, and I cried uncontrollably. This time I was still uncultured, but I didn’t shed a tear.

Tucked in a corner I found a letter that Madonna wrote to her friend when she was in college in Maryland. Before she made it big she was nervous about the future just like the rest of us. The letter contained many sentences of uncertainty and doubt.

“I also realize that chances of me making it dancing are extremely slight, but you know I gotta’ prove something to myself and I’m pretty strong,” wrote Madonna. “I’ll probably be shoveling sh*t off of sidewalks, but I can’t take this easy slow-paced living.”

According to CNN, Madonna, now 58, has a net worth of $800 million. The girl that was doubting her existence, much like most college students these days (including me), is now on the Top-10 list of the richest singers in the world. I think that means I can make it too.

I found so much hope in humanity when I started listening to other people’s stories and stopped worrying about my own. Every person in Cleveland, not just the three I chose to write about, taught me this lesson.

I’m starting to realize that maybe this assignment didn’t forge a newfound love for baseball, but it started a newfound love for this world.

And after weeks of searching for the perfect end to a less-than-perfect assignment and hundreds of not-good-enough drafts, Madonna said it best.

“Writing is very exhausting but satisfying. I’m glad I know people like you, who can make me feel satisfied just by writing.”

Thank you.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Greater Olean

Understanding the Tough Times at The Buffalo News Can Lead to Brighter Future for the Newspaper 

Given the fiscal state of the news industry, the changes underway at The Buffalo News are not unique. To offset revenue losses, newspapers across the nation have bid farewell to longtime reporters, eliminated once-popular sections and removed jobs that involved covering important beats, such as education, the environment and transportation. 

What makes the ...

Grandpa Practiced Sustainability

My grandpa was of the Depression Era. Sustainability wasn’t “a thing” back then — it was just the way you lived. Though he was raised in a time when you were thankful to be able to put a good meal on the table, he likely had a standard of life that we would consider average or middle class today. He didn’t grow up in a slum or shanty town, but he did understand the ...

'March for Our Lives' Started A Historic Movement

Shoes on the ground. People chanting. Signs held high. Music playing in the background.

It is the start of a historic movement. A moment when every race, gender and age came together as one. A movement that involved change and a March for Our Lives.

As a student journalist going out to the world, taking part in a national movement truly moved me. Reporting the significance of March for ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, June 21, 10:00 AM

front lawn, Olean General Hospital, Olean

Annual Strawberry Festival by Olean General ...

Health & Wellness

Sat, June 23, 10:00 AM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Local History Research Sessions


Mon, June 25, 6:00 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Braiding a Wrist Distaff

Home & Garden

Keenan Honored by Olean City School District Foundation

June 19, 2018

OLEAN, NY -- The name of Kevin A. Keenan, founding partner and president of Keenan Communications Group, was placed on the Olean City School District Foundation Wall of Honor on June 15 in a ceremony in Olean High School Auditorium.

According to the foundation, the Wall of Honor “recognizes individuals whose lives, accomplishments, and endeavors reflect the values and tradition of ...

'A Day in the Life': One Transportation Supervisor Serves Portville and Olean

PORTVILLE, NY – A whiteboard with dozens of destinations and vehicle numbers written in various colors sits inside the Portville bus garage, ready to be changed at any moment. David Youngs, the transportation supervisor of the Portville and Olean School Districts, knows that before 2 almost every afternoon, he is likely to receive an email changing the entire meticulously planned ...

'A Day in the Life' Follows Della Moore of the African American Center for Cultural Development

OLEAN, NY – When Della Moore walks down the street, she greets everyone she passes and makes sure to ask, “How are you doing?” 

From the moment I joined her at the 7-Eleven on a cloudy, cold December morning until we finished making our stops along State and North Union streets, she remained ...

'Day in the Life' Follows Warehouse Selector Justus Elliot

OLEAN, NY -- For Justus Elliot, time and pace are essential. As a warehouse selector for Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op, most of the 21-year-old’s job calls for efficiency.

“Everything is time-based," Elliot explained. "One hundred percent is the norm, and it’s what we work for every day. If our score is less, then we are moving too slow, and we kick it into ...

Happy Veterans Day, Mom

What began as an attempt to boost her GPA soon turned into a 22-year career for my mom, Ramona Lee Discavage.

On the first day of her freshman year at St. Bonaventure University in 1989, members of the Army ROTC Seneca Battalion helped incoming freshmen move their stuff into their dorm rooms.  Afterward, they invited all of the freshmen to a lunch.

“When they described the ...

Lynn Kemp: ‘Best Soldier I Could Be’

Lynn Kemp is nearing 95 and knows he has lived a good life.

“The good Lord has been awful good to me,” recalled the lifelong resident of Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. “I never refused an order. I tried to be the best soldier I could be. I don’t know what your relationship is with God, but mine is pretty close.”

Born Oct. 29, 1920, Lynn grew up in a home on Turkey ...

WW II museum provides role models for young people

When Steve Appleby asks area students if they know Snoop Dog, Eminem, Kanye West, the Kardashians, Parris Hilton or Miley Cyrus, they answer yes. Then Appleby will ask which of them knows Jason Dunham is, and the students will not have a clue.

Appleby will explain that Jason Dunham was a Marine from Scio, in Allegany County, New York, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 after jumping on a grenade ...