And why not the point of view of
an eleven-year-old, I remember wondering. An eleven-year-old who’d just moved from a housing project on the West Side of Cleveland to a strip of apartments on Overlook Road in Cleveland Heights?
Me, in other words.
Why not my point of view?
It was 1967, I was starting graduate school, and no doubt I was homesick. But even so, 1967 wasn’t the first time I’d thought about this. Back in 1956 when we’d moved to Cleveland Heights, we kids rode in the closed-in back of the moving van, for the thrill of it. When they opened the doors and let us out it was almost like, I don’t know, being born again. There was light snow on the ground. Everything else was new.
And then, little by little, it wasn’t.
What was that about?
Early in 2012, Cara Bertron wrote to ask if I’d be interested in contributing to a creative mapping project she was working on, a hard-copy zine she and her fellow editor were calling Pocket Guide. Pocket Guide was going to be a single, well-folded sheet mailed to subscribers’ doorsteps. The theme for the inaugural issue was The Known World. “Lists,” it said on their website, “poems, prose of all kinds, photographs, sketches, maps, and diagrams are welcome.” Pocket Guide was intended to be “a new, more intimate way to map the world.” “We are not able to pay contributors,” they noted. “You will, however, become small-time famous by getting your name in print. You will also receive five (5) free copies of Pocket Guide to distribute to admiring friends and family.” It sounded ridiculous. Naturally I responded positively. What I ended up submitting was a map that I’d made in 1976, recalling maps I’d made in 1967, of paper routes I’d carried on Overlook Road as a kid in the early-1960s and late-1950s. I submitted the map and 1,500 words of text about the map and the routes.
The routes? Well, we hadn’t lived on Overlook long when the Plain Dealer’s District 9 manager offered me and my brother Chris a paper route. I think it was Route 11, but I had a lot of routes over the years. In any case it was just one building, 2489 Overlook, across the street from us and four buildings to the south. I say “south” pretty casually today – with Google Earth up on the screen in front of me – but it wasn’t anything I knew back in 1956.
After a while, Chris got another route and I took over 2489 myself. The building had just shy of 60 units and more than half of them took the paper. So, though it was a decent size route, I could deliver it in no time and when my manager offered me a second route I took it. And when he offered me a third, I took that too. Pretty soon I had a paper route empire. And if, like most empires, its borders shifted with time and circumstances, for a good many years – through my second year at Western Reserve University – I had well over 200 customers.
That’s what I said in the Pocket Guide anyway.
When my five free copies of Pocket Guide arrived I sent one each to my brother, Chris, with whom I’d started delivering papers; to another carrier, John Bellamy, whom I’d mentioned in my text; and to a friend, Mouse (better known as Mark Salling), who used to carry my routes for me whenever I couldn’t. Chris characterized my memories as “completely crazy,” and so dragged memory into the foreground. This was was something I’d evaded in my 1,500 words, but which I’d depended on at every step in the project, a project I’d begun, in fact, back in 1967.
You see, 1967 was when I started graduate school. This was at the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. New worlds of thinking opened up for me then, one of which I started playing around in by thinking about the neighborhood I’d just left behind in Cleveland Heights. What set me off was J. K. Wright’s idea of geosophy: “the study of geographical knowledge from any and all points of view.” “It covers,” Wright wrote, “the geographical ideas, both true and false, of all manner of people – not only geographers, but farmers and fishermen, business executives and poets, novelists and painters, Bedouins and Hottentots – and for this reason it necessarily has to do in large degree with subjective conceptions. Indeed, even those parts of it that deal with scientific geography must reckon with human desires, motives, and prejudices.”
And so obviously, “Why not my point of view?”
Sitting there in Clark’s geography workroom I made a bunch of maps. Really they were maps of memories. The first three were attempts to map the memories of my earliest impressions: the apartment building, its driveway, the garage and backyard, the walk to the sidewalk and street, the façades of the apartment buildings we could see, a playground. There are notes like, “I knew the street continued but no more,” and “discriminate between areas known and noticed/known: my apartment, sidewalk to playground, playground/noticed: the rest.” Another three maps explored the memories of my gradually increasing awareness of the walk to school, this variation, that. Next came a couple that tried to recall our explorations : mine, my brothers (we were inveterate explorers). And then I made a map to update the map of my first impressions . I called this “Second State Overlook” because, of course, Overlook was the name of the road our apartment was on, though I guess it was the name of the neighborhood too. This map tried to discriminate places where I felt really at ease from those where I didn’t, either because we could be hassled by janitors or because I was plain intimidated. I was mapping a bigger area now. This was no longer the space in front of my apartment, but some four or five blocks.
Needless to say I made a map of the paper routestoo, and some others; and when I was home for Christmas break I took some photos and tried some writing. But graduate school proved distracting and in the end I put the sketchbook with the maps and the writing and the photos away and forgot about it.
In 1974 I started teaching in the landscape architecture program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and in 1976, casting around for a project to sink my teeth into, the sketchbook popped into my head. I took a look at the maps I’d made in 1967 and found them less interesting than I’d remembered; and one day, doodling during a lecture Gary Gumz was giving in a class we co-taught – I’d heard the lecture before – I sketched another map. It was about my paper route empire too and, when I started it, all I intended was to sort of reproduce one of the maps I’d made in 1967 – I was still thinking that maybe there was a project there – so in a way this map was a memory of my earlier map as much as it was a memory of my routes. It was also a doodle. Ignore the manic arrows. They don’t mean anything. They’re me mimicking the landscape architecture arrows Gary was drawing on the blackboard. Landscape architecture arrows weren’t anything like the arrows I’d grown up with – you can see those shooting from that tube thing in the upper left – and Gary’s arrows fascinated me. The hatching on the other hand, well, that’s what the map’s about: they’re the routes. I numbered them left to right on the east side of Overlook and then started again on the west side. I never finished the map: there should be another route south of Kenilworth but west of Overlook (where the arrow pointing to Overlook is).
So from left to right: number I, a bunch of apartments – more than shown here – that my brother Peter had carried for a little while and that later Chris Bellamy did; II, double hatched with a star, 2489, to which for a while Lewis Manor was added (to lessen the burden on the kid handling the rest of the route north of it); III, a really strange route that looks sensible on the map but less so on the ground that my friend Stuart Schaffner had carried; IV, my second route, which for some reason I drew smaller than it was (it actually went all the way to Hampshire). I never knew who had it before me. Finally, west of Overlook, there was V, Stuart’s core route, one he had for years with adoring customers who took a while to warm to me. The route I left off? I never had it for long anyway, though like many of the routes I had it more than once. It made my empire too hard to deliver and, frankly, I never cared for the buildings or the people who lived in them. (Though Robert Crumb may have lived in one for a while during the years I had the route. Or maybe he lived around the corner on Hampshire where Harvey Pekar lived.)
It would be cool if the map displayed the sequence in which I added and subtracted routes or the sequences in which the routes gained or lost territory, to say nothing of customers; for none of the routes were givens, but evolving, just as my grasp of Cleveland Heights was.
If the maps I’d drawn back in 1967 had been about how the Cleveland Heights I knew was growing larger and larger, this 1976 map of my routes was more about how it was getting deeper and deeper. I didn’t just know where these buildings were, I knew in my feet the number of steps in each flight of stairs, the handholds, where I’d have to stand to toss the paper onto a door mat without leaving the stair, the smells of the hallways, how to get a locked lobby door to open by yanking hard on the outer door and getting across the lobby fast enough to grab the inner door before it clicked shut again after it popped.
But history too, not only of the buildings, but of the routes, the carriers. For example Chris Bellamy – and his brother John, who carried the route for a while too – it wasn’t just that his father wrote for the very paper we delivered but that his grandfather had edited it for 26 years. I mean…
And when I understood that that grandfather was the son of the Edward Bellamy who’d written Looking Backward – that utopian socialist novel! – it just picked the whole paper route thing up and whirled it into, I don’t know, into world history.
I loved delivering the paper, the city with no people, the dawn, getting it done efficiently, the intimacy of the knowledge. But this historical dimension, it put a patina on the shine.
And with a little of the freshness rubbed off it was suddenly obvious that every bit of it was caught up in world history, in the history of the world: the newspapers to begin with, and child labor, newsboys, routes, the asphalt, the bricks in the walls and the idea of apartment buildings, central heat, streetcar suburbs… The road was called Overlook because from it you could look out of the Heights to the lake, to downtown Cleveland; and you could stand there when you’d finished your route on a driveway that was cantilevered out along the side of the northernmost building of route No. I and watch the rising sun light up the Terminal Tower six miles away. The spreading light connected everything, not just in space but in time.
And then you’d go home and have breakfast.
A couple of days after Chris, John, and Mouse received their copies of the Pocket Guide, Chris sent me an email:
Memory is a funny thing. For example, I remember riding in the back of the moving van, but I don’t remember the dusting of snow or any details of how we actually moved our stuff into the apartment. Then you say “after a while Chris got another route and I took over 2489 by myself.” That’s completely crazy. I remember delivering Lewis Manor only a few times and have no memory of ever collecting it. I know I did 2489 without you. I remember the whole routine, picking up the bundle and carrying it to the side door, entering through the basement, sitting on the back stairs reading the comics and sports before delivering, running the stairs, and tossing the papers. You are nowhere in those memories. And I remember the misery of collecting by myself on a summer evening when the playground and courts were full of activity. What I don’t remember is how you collected all those routes for all those years. And did you have keys to those apartments on Overlook or did you deliver on the fire escapes? When Susan and I had the route on Euclid Heights Boulevard many years later, we had keys to all the apartments and delivered to the front doors. What amazes me is how little I know about what you and Peter [our younger brother] did during those years on Meadowbrook [where we’d moved after three years on Overlook]. We were close in age but we went our separate ways. We each had friends and particular interests which absorbed us. And then you had those paper routes…
I was sort of stunned by this. Mostly it was the way the certainty, the sharp clarity of my past was questioned – denied is how it felt – but it was also Chris’ interposition of memory as, I’m not quite sure what, an important term in the equation?
My response to Chris’ email was more definitive than I now feel I had a right to be. “Wonderful!” I wrote. “But I think you’re right and I think I know what happened. We originally carried the route together (we were too young to have a route alone?), but soon enough it was obvious that that was ridiculous. So you kept 2489 while I went on to the route Duncan lived on [No. IV on my 1976 map]. Then when you gave 2489 up, I carried both routes. You did carry 2489 by yourself, no question.”
I went on: “I had no keys. You could get into all the buildings without them. For example, 2489, you went down the driveway, raised the garage door (it wasn’t keyed in those days) and went down into the garage and so up. You opened the door outside of which you’d left your bundle. Or from the courtyard you could pop the inner lobby door by jerking on the outer lobby door. It would pop the lock. Later you could do that on the front door. But many apartments I did deliver on the fire escapes. Besides, everything wasn’t locked up then like it is now. It took me five hours Monday night, three on Tuesday, and some mop-up time on Wednesday to collect. Yeah, we didn’t do a lot together on Meadowbrook. I sent Mouse a copy of this too. He had a Press route so it was wholly different, but he subbed for me often enough. He remembered rushing through his route to get to the basketball games at the Courts. I’ve asked him to think about making a map. John Bellamy too. Maybe you’d like to. It could be interesting.”
An example of the definitiveness to which I had no right is my “You could get into all the buildings without them,” referring to keys. It’s true that some of the apartments locked today weren’t then, but every route I ever carried had buildings whose outer doors were locked. You not only left the papers at the kitchen door, that’s where you collected.
As I said, Mouse had a Press route. Growing up, I understood the Press to be more liberal than the Plain Dealer – one of my uncle’s, Julian Krawcheck, wrote a column for it – but the real difference was that the Press (and the News) came out weekday afternoons while the Plain Dealer came out every day in the morning. That every day included Sunday which was a huge paper you had to assemble (I got the parts for it on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays). Sunday accounted for two-fifths of my income. Not only did the Sunday paper make you $.06 a copy as opposed to $.02 for the daily paper, but more people took it. I’d guess a fifth of my customers were Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday only. So the thing was, since Mouse delivered his own route in the afternoon, he could sub for me in the mornings when I was sick or out of town:
When I subbed on your route I recall only the Lewis Manor. My map of the Overlook neighborhood would be a bit different of course. My Cleveland Press route covered much of the same territory, extending further west where side-by-side duplexes overlooked the city below and as far as the confluence of Overlook with Edgehill and Murray Hill. I would include the “wire tree” where I tossed the paper-bundle binding-wires from the driveway overhanging Little Italy. And instead of going home to breakfast, I would hurry to finish so I could get to the basketball courts.
Like me, Mouse went on to get a doctorate in geography but he’s a GIS Professional (and the Director of the Northern Ohio Data and Information Service at Cleveland State University) and so the map he’s made of his routeis a little different from mine. While Chris raised memory as a term, Mouse raised the map as another. So did John Bellamy, John Stark Bellamy II, that is. John, who lives in Vermont these days, has been called “Cleveland’s literary dean of all things calamitous and macabre” thanks to the many books he’s written about Cleveland disasters. John wrote me:
I’m not a map maker but, as I recall, my first paper route, which I inherited from my brother Stephen, was on the north side of Euclid Heights Boulevard, from where the tot lot is at the corner of Euclid Heights and Hampshire (the adjoining apartment building is where Harvey Pekar lived for some time) up to about halfway up the block, which is where my brother’s subsequent route ran up to Lancashire. I later had a route which included Edgehill from Euclid Heights thru Kenilworth to Overlook, down Derbyshire and Kenilworth Lane and then back down Kenilworth to Edgehill, plus Euclid Heights from Edgehill to Derbyshire. Chris’s route on Overlook ran from somewhere across from the playground and took in Overlook all the way down to the top of Cedar Hill and then back up Euclid Heights to Derbyshire. It also included Carleton, at least until CWRU demolished it in the mid-60s. I could walk these routes in my sleep and probably did.
The Chris here is John’s brother Chris, not mine; while CWRU is Case-Western Reserve University, mostly down the hill in Cleveland. At the time it was two separate universities and I attended the latter.
I said that John’s maps& raise maps as a term, but in fact they raise maps as a problem. It’s not just that John has mapped his first and his brother Stephen’s last routes onto Edgehill Road instead of Euclid Heights Boulevard where he says they were. (To make the routes fall onto Euclid Heights Boulevard – Euclid Boulevard on the map – you have to rotate them left a street.) No, that merely illustrates his “I’m not a mapmaker.” The problem is the base map.
This 1903 map is a projection of a future that Patrick Calhoun, the subdivision’s developer, hoped to bring about, so it’s of potential lots, of a dream, not of an actual city. In 1903, few of the lots had been occupied and few of the roads improved.
Many were no more than intentions. As built, Surrey Road is barely in the vicinity of that given on the map and, as John’s caption points out, Kenilworth is shown slicing across William Lowe Rice’s Lowe Ridge estate, but Lowe Ridge had been completed six years earlier in 1897. And Carleton Road is not on the map not just because it’s in Cleveland, but because in 1903 it had yet to exist.
But then Mouse’s high-tech map also has an anachronous base, as indicated by its “Photogrammetry, land use, and building footprints from a later era.” Look at the playground: Chris and Mouse can’t wait to get to the courts, the basketball courts. But by the time Mouse’s underlying photo was taken the courts had been scraped bare and sodded with grass. There’d been two and a half courts there. Sometimes my dad played on them after dinner. I certainly did. There was a huge sandbox too. And a swing set. Without the basketball courts, “the courts” – which was what we mostly called the playground – is a wasteland.
My 1976 mapis little better. Yeah, it shows the courts (those five little circles are basketball hoops) and the sandbox (above them), but it’s missing five apartment buildings on what I’ve labeled route number I, the largest apartment building on route number IV (which goes in the blank space to the left of Hampshire), all the apartment buildings across Overlook from it, and… just look at the way Euclid Heights Boulevard turns into Edgehill instead of crossing it.
In case you needed reminding, the map ain’t the territory.
Shortly after these exchanges we made a long-planned trip to Cleveland to visit my brother and his family, a trip that turned out to coincide with a trip John was making back to Cleveland for a book signing, and we were able to meet one morning and walk his routes. John might not be a map maker but he has a prodigious memory, especially on site.
First we walked his first route, east on Euclid Heights Boulevard along the backs of the apartment buildings where the back stairs – the fire escapes – were and then, on the other side of the street, back west from the front of one house after another. This amounted to a third version of John’s route, since in his note he only mentions the north side of Euclid Heights Boulevard whereas in fact he had both north and south sides (which he locates on Edgehill on his map). And then we walked his last route, north on Edgehill from Euclid Heights to Derbyshire – or as Mouse described this intersection, “the confluence of Overlook with Edgehill and Murray Hill” – and so up Derbyshire and Kenilworth Lane to return back down Kenilworth to Edgehill.
As we walked, John not only named – especially the girls – who lived in each house, but narrated one local horror story after another, especially murders; for example, the 1910 murder on Euclid Heights Boulevard of William Lowe Rice whose mansion, stables, and gardens – Lowe Ridge – lay between John’s route and his brother Chris’. On Mouse’s map you can find Waldorf Towers there, in the corner, lower left.
Lowe Ridge had been an estate whose ruins tantalized me and my brothers when we first stumbled onto them shortly after we moved to Overlook. This is me in 1967 recalling a walk we took in 1956:
We didn’t know it was the Rice Estate at the time. It was a Saturday. Most serious exploring does take place on Saturdays, it seems, and, as a matter of fact, we were out exploring. It was fall and we were collecting buckeyes and in our quest we wandered down Kenilworth Lane. At the end of the lane there was an old rusted wrought-iron gateway but minus a lot of the fence for which it had once been the gate. With some difficulty (and much heated discussion) we made out a rather ornate R above the gate. Beyond it lay an impenetrable gloom of trees. By this time all thought of buckeyes had vanished, replaced and chased away by the lure of exploring. The woods were filled with marvelous things like flights of stone steps that stopped in the air, like ornate garden plots, like lone pillars, like fallen capitals. For a brief second we entertained thoughts that we were the first to have discovered ruins of great antiquity, but we were too sophisticated to be able to believe that for long. Then we saw, in the middle of a woods on a gray fall day, a ruined gothic chapel with blood red floor tiles and fallen gargoyles and a sunken green leading away from it, terminating in a slight wall topped with a line of pillars standing out above the trees and then, down a gravel walk, the foundations of the old house, huge, and still further the old stables with real cock weathervanes turning with the wind.
I recalled this experience to John as we stood in front of what had once been the gate. He’d had a similar experience, even to the chapel. But though it did have stables, Lowe Ridge had boasted no chapel. Elaborate gardens had surrounded the mansion. Period photographs suggest that what we’d stumbled on had been a sweeping pergola.
John recounted Rice’s murder – he writes about it in They Died Crawling and Other Tales of Cleveland Woe – as we walked past Waldorf Towers and then past the architect Philip Johnson’s boyhood home and then past… but the reality was that in 1910 this hadn’t been Overlook Road but “The Overlook.” It was lined with the mansions of Cleveland’s gilded millionaires, a number of the old mansions still stand, I’d known them – without really knowing them – most of my youth, and in his youth John had actually delivered papers to a number of them. The apartment buildings of my Overlook came after the collapse of Patrick Calhoun’s fortunes and the transformation of Calhoun’s vision of a new “millionaires row” into one of lesser ambition, homes rather than mansions, and following World War I, ranks of apartment buildings.
Layers on top of layers…
The paper routes got entangled in our lives, in the emotional lives of who were, after all, almost invariably teenage boys, teenage boys growing up in the 1960s, if that matters. I think it does – it must – but how much of any of this can I squeeze onto a map? “Subjective conceptions”, Wright called the geographical ideas, true and false that geosophy was to study.
Recall too that for Wright even scientific geography had to reckon with desires, motives, and prejudices, and he was writing in 1947, well before the onslaught of the postmodern thinking that would render his distinctions overly nice, if not altogether meaningless. Mouse and his wife were to join us for dinner, four former carriers at the table – for Susan had helped Chris deliver later what years before had been John’s first route – and the brief time we spent talking about our routes was all about Lewis Manor.
Lewis Manor? The thing is, it wasn’t clear what we were referring to when using the name. It’s on my 1976 map, Chris mentions it as a building he delivered only a few times (but why does he say that?), and for Mouse it’s the only thing of mine he remembers delivering at all. I think Mouse is confusing it with 2489 and I think Chris delivered it subbing for our brother Peter. I mean, it was on one of my routes at the end, and the building is joined to 2489 at the back of a courtyard the two form.
But you can’t get from the one to the other without going outside. If a detail this small can be sliced so many ways, how many maps will it take to cover all our routes?