It seems the Blue Tip Ohio Girls are becoming a body of work. I’m kind of hypnotized by them. The more of them I make, the more Ohio stories I hear. For better or worse, almost all of the people I know from Ohio left there for a better job, or job opportunity. Akron, the Rubber City, is known for its production of tires and being tied like an umbilical chord to the auto industry like Lordstown and Youngstown, at one time both big GM towns.
A lot of Ohio folks have written me to admonish me about putting stink on the place, which I honestly don’t mean to do. What I know about Ohio comes from Ohio natives themselves; the people who’ve been hardest on the place are those who grew up there.
This morning my friend, Alex Kotlowitz, was here. Alex is the marvelous writer who gave us There Are No Children Here and Never a City So Real, an amazing collection of essays and meditations on what it means to be a Chicagoan. We were talking about Cleveland and its pugnacious will to change itself. He told me it was different than Detroit, which just kind of fell over with the death of the big American auto industry. At least with Cleveland, there is some push-back. Clevelanders don’t just let life happen to them. They fight back and don’t get fucked around willy-nilly like we do here in Chicago when the city’s powers that be decide they want something . . . like charging you for every fucking parking spot in town and every bullshit permit under the sun, not to mention the insanely high property taxes pounded up your hole like a jackhammer year after year.
Akron, of course, is the home of Devo and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. It is an amazing Rock and Roll town; the place from which Cleveland rockers, like the seminal punk band Pere Ubu, held sway over a new generation of art-school rock kids. Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of Devo, is also afirst-rate visual artist who makes collages, as well as really trippy drawings. I am a fan. I attribute his divine weirdness to Ohio.
I’ve been through Akron and, when I think of it, I think of stacks and stacks of tires, and the exact midpoint between Chicago and New York.