As a kid I was fascinated with “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
The Eric Carle classic was one of the first books I can remember reading.
You know the tale: The little caterpillar begins life as a “little egg on a leaf” and proceeds to gorge his way through one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday and so on. All the while, the very hungry caterpillar is “still hungry.” When the caterpillar has finally eaten so much that he is big, fat and full — hefty portions of cherry pie and sausage will do that to you — our bloated hero has a tummyache. So he builds a cocoon, sleeps it off and … poof, emerges as a beautiful butterfly.
What’s not to love? It’s a coming-of-age story with all the bases covered: a quest for meaning, heartache (or heartburn in this case) and ultimately, redemption. Along the way, kids can learn the days of the week. Plus, it’s really cool how the caterpillar actually eats through each page of the book.
Now with kids of my own, I’m rediscovering the magic of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” As any parent knows, seeing the world anew through the eyes of your child is one of life’s greatest joys.
But Carle’s work was far from my mind as my 7-year-old son and I spent an afternoon at the city’s Ingenuity Festival in early September. The brainchild of Thomas Mulready (who runs CoolCleveland.com and writes the CoolCleveland column for the magazine) and James Levin (founder of the Cleveland Public Theatre), the four-day festival brought together a Jackson Pollock-like blend of Cleveland’s art and technology communities.
The early crowd was still small and easily navigable as we wandered along East Fourth Street, listened to music and participated in the family activities at the Colonial Arcade. We were two guys on our own. We were explorers. And we were getting hungry.
We watched a magic show and touched a black rat snake and a soft gray chinchilla (which my son is convinced would make a great pet). And we were still hungry.
We donned 3-D glasses for the Cleveland Museum of Art’s “The French Secretary,” a film by videographer Kasumi of an 18th century French writing desk from the CMA collection. And we were still hungry.
We passed two ice-cream trucks and we were really hungry. So we left our names with the hostess at House of Blues (somehow they didn’t expect to be this busy, she told us) and got lost in the art installation across the street. As I paused over what caught my eye — etchings of the Guardians of Traffic from the Hope Memorial Bridge and small paintings that looked like framed squares of slate — my son had found something he liked, too. “Dad, come look at these,” he said excitedly, pointing to three large wire sculptures of people with large heads and simple features. “They’re … naked,” he said astonished, realizing it for the first time, and a bit embarrassed because that’s not why he’d called me over.
“Yeah, they are,” I offered, trying not to make a big deal about it. “Cool, aren’t they? I like the way the wires look like eyelashes.”
“Yeah,” was about all he could muster.
We ate outside with blues music flavoring our late lunch, then headed for our dessert: the Cleveland National Air Show and the Air Force Thunderbirds.
By the time they’d made their last spectacular pass, we were two very full caterpillars. And at least for me, the afternoon reawakened a sense of wonder and excitement for all that our city has to offer.
I hope that’s how you’ll feel about our Best of Cleveland issue, in which you can find two-for-one tickets to the House of Blues, a new nightclub with its own mechanical bull, six truffles that Carle’s caterpillar would kill for and so much more.
So take a bite out of the city and discover the butterfly that awaits.