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Issue Date: October 2013

Best of Cleveland 2013: Oddities

Public Awareness Campaign

We can get behind — or safely ride alongside — this kind of bus advertising. The Bike Transportation Safety ordinance passed last year was a big deal, but thanks to Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Ride Together campaign two bright yellow and blue buses are helping to get the word out. Murals of local cyclists wrap around the buses, while the backs state the new safety rule: "Allow bikes at least 3 feet when passing" and tells cars to "Keep your distance." Photographer Frank J. Lanza snapped pictures of the riders and artist Len Peralta helped with the design, which estimates say will get 1 million monthly views. "There's definitely a lack of knowledge," says Jacob VanSickle, executive director of Bike Cleveland. "Through this campaign, we are communicating to the general public that bikes are a viable form of transportation, not just toys that belong on the sidewalk."

Superhero Endorsement

There are fans and then there are superfans. John Dudas is the latter. The owner of Carol & John's Comic Book Shop obviously loves comic books and superheroes (he has two prized replicas of Captain America's shield in his Kamm's Plaza shop). But his fandom reached new heights when Captain America: The Winter Soldier began filming in the area this summer. While a Hollywood film crew set up around the shopping center on Flag Day, Dudas handed out hundreds of "Made in Cleveland" Cap shield pins, comics and graphic novels. While Dudas got to meet the star-spangled super soldier on set and enjoyed three times his usual business, he says the best part was letting kids take pictures while holding one of his prized shields. "When the kids are on board like that, and now that I have a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, stuff like that does mean a lot to me," the 40-year-old says. "It chokes me up." 17462 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-252-0606,

Zombie Paintball

If too many episodes of The Walking Dead have made you feel the need to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, Mapleside Farms is here to help. Become a member of their Zombie Resistance Force by riding on a tractor through the 100-acre apple farm and clearing out 55 lurching flesh-eaters with Light Up the Living Dead paintball. Mapleside puts its own spin on the horror and sci-fi trend with a two-week training program that teaches actors how to walk and talk like the living dead. "Our take is that zombies are man-made by accident, and here's what can happen if all hell breaks loose," says owner Greg Clement. A successful first season in 2012 (more than 20,000 participated) prompted Mapleside to expand its war zones and add two more weekends. "Most people can relate to zombies — something going on in the human brain triggering this catatoniclike state," says Clement. "Plus, I just think zombies are cool." 294 Pearl Road, Brunswick, 330-225-5577,

Taxidermy Crafts

Chances are you probably haven't dissected an animal since biology class. But Mickey Alice Kwapis' sellout taxidermy workshops at Ohio City boutique Salty Not Sweet can teach you to slice open and stuff rabbits like you're back in high school. During the workshops, students skin the critter, replace its skeleton with wire and its organs with cotton batting, and sew it back up before taking their project home to proudly display (and horrify their friends). "My foundation is based on traditional taxidermy techniques," says Kwapis. Her four-hour, $150 workshops, scheduled next for Nov. 9 and 10, show how to easily do taxidermy at home using supplies purchased at craft and hardware stores. And vegans can rest easy because the animals used in her classes are ethically sourced from a farm in Sullivan, Ohio. 2074 W. 25th St., Cleveland,

Historic Restoration

Who knew soot has a silver lining? The Jan. 30 electrical fire at the West Side Market closed the historic landmark for 19 days, its longest shutdown ever, and some vendors didn't have enough insurance to cover all their losses. But the cleanup became the public market's most complete scrub down in a century. "I don't think the market has looked as good as it does today since it was first built," says city councilman Joe Cimperman. "It really shows the architectural attention paid 100 years ago." The building's details shine like they did in 1912, from the many shades of orange and brown in the vaulted ceiling's tiles to the ceramic animal and vegetable sculptures that decorate the archways. The reopening, months after last year's centennial celebrations, inspired a surge in enthusiasm and business. Michael Symon kicked off a fundraising campaign to help vendors, while $50 gift certificates called Market Bonds were available to aid those who lost inventory and sales. "People realized, when the market was closed, how important it was to the city and the region," says Cimperman. 1979 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-664-3387,


"You have got to go downstairs!" Stone Mad Pub co-owner Eileen Sammon often overhears customers saying to their friends after they visit the lower-level bathrooms. Local artist Colleen Fraser spent seven years cutting 8-by-8-inch colored tiles into tiny pieces for the mural masterpiece that spans the entirety of each wall and floor of both men's and women's bathrooms. Fraser was given free rein to design the whimsical-themed murals, where longhaired fairies soar, unicorns and ponies graze, and even the teeniest three-leaf clovers peek out. The men's bathroom has racehorses dashing through the landscape. (They had to go really bad!) The kaleidoscope design will eventually make its way up onto the hallway walls, which Sammon says will feature "a history of Ireland, and of our parents coming over to this country." 1306 W. 65th St., Cleveland, 216-281-6500

Tunnel Vision

Since 1914, the West 76th Street tunnels have connected Detroit Shoreway residents to Edgewater Park. But until this year, the path under the Shoreway and nearby railroad tracks showed its age. Stairs led down a long, spooky corridor. "It was very dark and dreary, no lighting, almost pitch black," recalls Jeff Ramsey, executive director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. In July, the tunnels reopened as a bright, inviting bike and pedestrian path. A switchback ramp between the two tunnels gives cyclists a gentle grade. Cast-concrete artwork by Mark Riegelman, painted with vibrant blues and whites, recalls the glaciers that formed Lake Erie and the lakeshore bluff. "Hardly anybody used the tunnel," says city councilman Matt Zone says. "[Now,] it's odd if you don't run into five or six people as you're going through." West 76th Street at Father Frascati Avenue, Cleveland

Marble Museum

If you've lost your marbles, check Akron. At one time the city contained 33 marble factories, making it the marble capital of the country until 1950. The American Toy Marble Museum has marbles from each of them. Director Michael Cohill estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 clay, stone and glass specimens from the tens of thousands in the museum's collection are on display at any one time. Rarities include baseball-sized, hand-painted stoneware marbles children used for rolling games during the late 19th century. "Some of these are so rare that most collectors don't even know they exist," Cohill says. Other attractions include displays of vintage games that incorporate marbles — Cohill singles out a 1900 Milton Bradley-brand Down and Out — as well as new versions visitors can actually play. There are also outdoor marble pits for tournaments and indoor counterparts where people can join a game or learn how to play. 200 S. Main St., Akron,

Pin with Pride

We already thought The Republic of Cute's collection of hand-sculpted toy figurines and cake toppers were pretty cool, but owner Karly West's latest creation would please any Clevelander. She fashioned her first pierogi pin on a whim, after friend and Mason's Creamery co-owner Helen Qin — a recent Cleveland transplant — delighted in a birthday dinner of chicken paprikash and pierogies. "I presented the pin and told her she earned her pierogi badge of honor," says West. "She was officially a Clevelander." To make the accessory, she rolls out the clay shell, stuffs it with more clay, crimps the edges with a knitting needle, then stamps each with either "CLE," "216" or "440." The pierogies ($12) inherit an acrylic wash of tan or gold and a matte varnish seal. A Cleveland Flea event at Sterle's Country House inspired West to make more after the initial foray, and customers ate them up. "You don't see a lot of sculptured pins, and I've never seen anyone sporting a pierogi," she says. "People seemed to really identify with not only the Cleveland pride, but the ethnic pride."

Fan Uniform

Everyone's favorite bro, How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson, would be proud. Since July, we have been swept up in Indians outfielder and first baseman Nick Swisher's Brohio movement, and we haven't looked back. It all began when Swisher and his teammates started referring to home runs as "brome runs" and it morphed into Brohio. During every Friday home game, section 117 along the first baseline is transformed into the Brohio cheering section. For a bump in ticket price, fans sitting there receive a cornflower blue T-shirt with a Brohio logo on the front and the phrase, "Sup, Bro?" on the back. Swisher spearheaded the effort because he was looking to bring a new vibe to the Tribe for his first year with the club. "I'm from here. I was born here," Swisher says. "Ohio doesn't get much recognition at all unless it's electoral votes. This is a way for people to just wrap their arms around this team and the state."

Party on a Bike

Party buses are so 2012. For a night of hipster-level bar-hopping, we suggest Cleveland Cycle Tours' four-wheeled Viking ship of a bike. This 15-person contraption cruises through downtown, Ohio City or anywhere else you want to go, using the combined pedal power of its riders. "With the music blaring and all the people on the street taking pictures, you feel like a rock star up there," says owner Mike Stanek. "It's definitely an attention-getter." Up to five people on each side pedal, while three lucky passengers get to lounge in the backbench and two others can rest on regular stools under the canopied, 1,600-pound bike, which could be mistaken for a runaway patio bar — though you can't drink onboard. The company does provide a driver to steer for the $280-$300 two-hour tours, making it perfect for pub crawls. And the bike only goes about 4 mph, so crawl it does. 1932 W. 20th St., Cleveland, 440-532-9995,

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