Cleveland Is Dying: Sketching a Town in Decline in Sometimes City


“It’s hard to believe you can buy a house for $1,900,” says one of the subjects of Tom Jarmusch’s documentary, Sometimes City, saying a lot about the state of their hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, where the skyline’s most notable feature is the aptly named Terminal Tower. Walking down mainline Euclid Avenue today, you almost expect tumbleweeds. No symphony of a singing metropolis, Sometimes City is more a spare-parts scavenging of stories. Jarmusch’s cross-section of interviewees from all walks of life are identified with name and location, giving a good idea of the racial division between East and West sides, though hard times seem widespread. Fragmented conversations all revolve around the subject’s relationship with the city. We hear from key voices in Cleveland’s Losertown mythology: The vernacular cartoonist Harvey Pekar comes back from the dead, and a transvestite reads a piece by beat poet d.a. levy, who snuffed himself in Clevo, 1968. From the unknowns, there’s both a lot of routine town-hall chat and some real discoveries, like the woman castigating her neighbors for their inability to appreciate industrial architecture (“It’s not wasted, it’s absolutely beautiful”) or the street preacher whose community-minded talk turns to end times along Lake Erie.