If you live anywhere in the central or eastern parts of the U.S., you’ve probably been wondering lately when exactly your hometown decided to relocate to Death Valley. I stumbled outside yesterday and my body just said, “no.” If this heat wave continues as predicted over the weekend, I will be forced to conclude that the world is actually a giant crock pot and God is cooking up a giant batch of Tamale Human Casserole.
OK, my stand-up routine practice aside, I don’t think it’s been this hot in Cleveland since the river here caught on fire in 1969. No, really, this happened:
I sought refuge yesterday at the Cleveland Cinematheque, my go-to stop for air-conditioned cinematic nostalgia. The program for the day was designed to re-create a typical 1940’s playbill, complete with an animated Looney Tunes short, antiquated newsreel and feature film. See, in the days before home AC units became available, sitting in really uncomfortable chairs in a darkened theater for two, three, four hours was pretty much the only way of avoiding the summer heat.
However, if you so chose to take this route Thursday at the cinematheque, it turned out you had better value baseball as much as not collapsing from heat exhaustion. Everything started out fine, with an admittedly classic Bugs Bunny cartoon:
Things started to go downhill with a 40-minute newsreel recapping every detail of the 1948 World Series between the Boston Braves and the Cleveland Indians; or, as I like to call it, the All-Racist All-Star Game.
Now, I’m a regular “SportsCenter” viewer myself, but somewhere around the 20th time the homer newscaster enthused “Let’s see that incredible play by the Indians again…IN STOP-MOTION!!”, I found myself wondering how much higher the suicide rate was in 1948. Of course, things were just beginning, as our feature for the day was “The Kid from Cleveland,” a curious little melodrama about a juvenile delinquent who finds moral, ethical and (I assume) spiritual guidance from a baseball broadcaster and the 1948 Cleveland Indians.
“The Kid from Cleveland” is a real cultural gem, as I’m pretty sure it still holds the record for most awkwardly wooden lines delivered by a professional athlete forced to be an actor in a 2-hour span. Roughly a third of the movie consists of game film, which of course turned out to be the exact same footage from that interminable newsreel. And all that’s before we even get to the terrifying throwback gender politics, including a mother lamenting with the utmost sincerity that her youngest daughter “should have been a BOY!! *choked sob*.”
Now, I must mention that Clevelanders have the most astounding collective inferiority complex of any city I’ve ever been to. If you are moderately famous and spent 2 weeks here with your weird great uncle Eugene when you were 4 years old, the local newspapers will refer to you as a “Cleveland native” for the rest of your goddamn life. So every time an Indians player or Cleveland landmark appeared on screen, my fellow audience members whooped and clapped like the debt crisis had been suddenly resolved and as part of the package Congress had decided to give everyone a free puppy. A tip for Cleveland: if you really aspire to be a major American destination like Boston or New York, you might want to cut this habit.
Tomorrow, I think I’ll take in “Captain America.” All of the idealized historical yearning, and delightful AC relief…plus a cushioned chair!