Cleveland Scene - April 10, 2024

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| | April 10 - 23, 2024 4 COVER PHOTO BY MARK OPREA Dedicated to Free Times founder Richard H. Siegel (1935-1993) and Scene founder Richard Kabat Publisher Denise Polverine Editor Vince Grzegorek Editorial Music Editor Jeff Niesel Staff Writer Mark Oprea Dining Editor Douglas Trattner Stage Editor Christine Howey Advertising Sales Inquiries (216) 505-8199, Senior Multimedia Account Executive Shayne Rose Creative Services Creative Services Manager Samantha Serna Creative Team Ana Paula Gutierrez Staff Photographer Emanuel Wallace Business Business & Sales Support Specialist Megan Stimac Traffic Manager Kristen Brickner Circulation Circulation Director Burt Sender ...The story continues at Take SCENE with you with the Issuu app! “Cleveland Scene Magazine” Upfront ....................................... 6 Feature ....................................... 8 Get Out ..................................... 12 Eat ............................................ 15 Music ........................................ 31 Livewire .................................... 33 Savage Love.............................. 34 Cleveland Scene is published every other week by Omit the Magazine. Cleveland Scene is a Verified Audit Member Great Lakes Publishing President Lute Harmon Jr. Finance Director Perry Zohos Operations Manager Corey Galloway Cleveland Distribution Scene is available free of charge, limited to one copy per reader Subscriptions - $170 (1 yr); $85 (6 mos.) Email Megan - - to subscribe. Cleveland Scene 1422 Euclid Ave. STE 730 Cleveland, OH 44115 CONTENTS Copyright The entire contents of Cleveland Scene Magazine are copyright 2024 by Great Lakes Publishing. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher is prohibited. Publisher does not assume any liability for unsolicited manuscripts, materials, or other content. Any submission must include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. All editorial, advertising, and business correspondence should be mailed to the address listed above. Subscriptions $170 (1 yr); $85 (6 mos.) Send name, address and zip code with check or money order to the address listed above with the title ‘Attn: Subscription Department’ APRIL 10 - 23, 2024 • VOL. 54 No 20 REWIND 1997: Is there ever a bad time to remember some Meatloaf coverage? We think not. 1970-2024

















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IN THE LOCAL TRANSIT authority’s pursuit of more convenient, regular service to outer areas and development of housing along high-frequency corridors, the RTA last week announced it has received a $700,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

That check, a part of $17.6 million of grants heading to some 20 cities, comes from the FTA’s largest payout from its pilot program for TransitOriented Development, a Biden administration bid to “encourage ridership,” a release read, “by developing housing and businesses near transit corridors.”

RTA’s corridor of question is a 16-mile stretch of Lorain Avenue, running from West 25th Street to a run-in with Great Northern Boulevard. RTA plans to use the funds to study both bus rapid transit line improvements, along with apartments and retail, along such a line.

A plan would look at possible bike lanes, pedestrian access (new stops), and links to existing business hubs in Ohio City and Fairview Park, Mike Schipper, RTA’s deputy general manager of engineering, told Scene on Wednesday. Really, anything a quarter of a mile north or south of the street.

“Part of the TOD pilot is to look at potential land uses, and enhancing the density along this corridor,” Schipper said. “It could be housing. It could be commercial. It could be roadway configuration.”

In 2020, RTA released a 10-Year Strategic Plan that eyed huge hopes for revitalizing its dipping ridership levels with the optimistic tinge of walkable development. Instead of marking large stretches to fringe cities, RTA shifted its focus to corridors, its 2020 plan reads, “where development could be emphasized in partnership with local stakeholders.”

The goals, though diverted by a global pandemic, were laid out: to have four transit corridor projects in the loop by 2026. Lorain Avenue, like many areas the City Planning Commission is eager to densify, was on its priority list.

A study of these 15 miles, currently host to the 22 and 55 bus lines, would dovetail with City Planning’s Lorain Midway study, which aims to repave the four-lane street, from West 25th to West 65th, with a cycle track, defined bus lanes and new bus stops. (And, as many businesses fear, possibly taking away a quarter to half of Lorain’s on-street parking.)

Making over a road that stretches through three very different cities, Schipper said, presents both challenges and some good timeline match-ups.

For one, North Olmsted’s Department of Economic Development is itching to replace a good chunk of the 75 acres of parking at the Great Northern Mall with apartments. And, Schipper added, in-progress housing near the Red Line’s 65th Street and 25th Street stations pair nicely with what a revamped Lorain Corridor can do to ridership.

Which has always been the rub for the RTA. Even reopening its Waterfront Line, which had been idled since 2021, for Browns home games led to about 2,400 riders on average every Sunday. That’s still about a fourth of what ridership averaged in the line’s infancy.

Schipper optimistically nodded to the RTA’s incoming new rail cars, 30 of which are slated to arrive on its Red Line tracks in the summer of 2026. Schipper said the RTA’s “just under” $30 million short of its $393 million bill.

“We’re trying to get that last bit,” he said. “And we will get it.”

A request for proposal for the Lorain Corridor study, Schipper said, should be made public in early 2025– Mark Oprea

Sal Russo Seeks Assistance From Cleveland Heights in Landing

Another Grocery Store in CedarFairmount

For nearly a century, the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood in Cleveland Heights had a grocery store to serve residents. That was until October of 2022, when Dave’s Market, once located in the CedarGrandview building, closed to relocate to a larger space.

After struggling in the ensuing years to draw a new grocery tenant to the space, the owner of the former Dave’s Market building, Sal Russo, is hoping to land a $1 million economic development grant from the city to renovate the vacant property with hopes of bringing a supermarket back to the neighborhood. Currently, Grocery Outlet, a discount California-based chain that’s recently expanded into the Ohio market, is interested in the space.

“We knew thirty months ago in the fall of 2021 that Dave’s Market would be closing its doors at Cedar-Fairmount,” Russo said in an open letter in March to the community, pleading for their support at city hall. “Immediately, we embarked on a comprehensive plan to replace Dave’s by hiring a well-credentialed, top-tier supermarket research consultant along with other professional marketing consultants.”

The Russo family has been in the grocery business since the 1940s, when Sal’s grandfather, Sam Russo, opened their family store in the Cedar-Grandview building. Over the years, it was a Giant Eagle, then a Dave’s Market. The structure of the building consists of a mezzanine level, and a basement, which is considered outdated due to many grocery stores no longer needing those

additions to function.

“Operators do not want a basement or a mezzanine,” Russo wrote, “they want higher ceilings, fewer columns and less constraints.”

Russo listed at least 20 supermarkets or drugstores— including Heinen’s, Trader Joe’s and Rite-Aid— that he has tried to draw to the bustling corner. Out of the 20 cited, 19 of them passed on the proposal due to the lack of access to customers, outdated infrastructure, and other regional opportunities.

“Heinen’s was at the very top of our list, and since our families have a long-standing relationship and mutual respect, we were able to quickly begin constructive negotiations to bring Heinen’s to Cleveland Heights,” he said in the letter. Russo offered Heinen’s a $3 million incentive in cash and free rent after a $2 million Vibrant Community grant was withdrawn. In that proposal, Rite Aid had offered to put a 2,000-square-foot pharmacy inside Heinen’s. But, despite “intense negotiations” and efforts, Heinen’s passed on the proposal because the cost it would have taken to modify the small building would be similar to them building a larger store in Chicago.

Trader Joe’s was the second operation on their list. In early 2023, Russo stated that the company wanted to make Cleveland Heights a priority, with hopes to “take pressure off their Woodmere location.” Due to poor access in the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood, Trader Joe’s passed on the proposal and decided to focus on locations closer to Shaker Heights or University Heights.

Grocery Outlet has now offered to potentially put another $5 million towards the property for electric, plumbing, heatingventilation and air conditioning. But plans to move forward with

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Credit: RTA
A rendering recently released by the RTA shows how West 25th Street could be redone to better service transit riders and pedestrians. A similar approach, the RTA said, could come to its Lorain Corridor.

the offer are not set in stone and, Russo said, rest on what he would be able to offer only with assistance from Cleveland Heights.

At this time, city officials have acknowledged the request from Russo but there is lack of clarity on participation and how the grant will be allocated, according to Brian Anderson, the Assistant Director of Economic Development for the city of Cleveland Heights.

“It’s too early in the process to say with any specificity that it will end up being a million dollars,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of information that we’re in the process of reviewing or haven’t received yet to be able to come to any decision as far as participation [and what would be] appropriate and what that looks like in terms of structure.”

Russo said he remains committed to the location and hopes that with resident support, doors will one day open to another grocery store in the building. But options are dwindling.

“At this critical juncture, we are indeed at the 11th hour,” he wrote. “We’ve exhausted every possibility to find a full-service grocery store for this location – and we implore you to lend your help and support by contacting City Hall to tell them of your support and urging them to reconsider their stance and allocate a $1 million subsidy to support this endeavor. Your voices carry immense weight in shaping the decisions of our city leaders.”

Hough to Get First New Public Park

Since 1950s

As the emphasis on green spaces has grown in recent years,

especially in areas that have historically lacked them, Hough is set to see development in that arena.

And the project will be the neighborhood’s first new public park in about three generations.

“I don’t believe there’s been one built since World War II,” Matt Zone, senior vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said.

Zone and the WRLC have been championing, and leading progress on, a 2.6-acre community green space a block west of the Thurgood Marshall Rec Center off East 86th St. and Hough Ave since mid-2021. The site of the old John W. Raper School was being sold by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for $50,000, just as a community survey by the Famicos Foundation showed desire for more park space.

Zone, who helps WRLC take on some 30 or so land acquisition projects a year, felt propelled by Hough’s assets and its scars.

“It’s great Cleveland made a $7 million investment in League Park, but it’s not always open to the community,” Zone told Scene in a Zoom call. “There’s the Fannie Lewis Park contiguous to it, but residents don’t get the opportunity to really interact there.”

“That orchard is wonderful,” he added. “But again, it’s not a very public space.”

The conservancy’s pursuit of what will be a $2.2 million park, tentatively-titled Hough Community Green Space, carries promising undertones for a neighborhood known for both its local gems—the local baseball team’s first home, and Cleveland’s largest urban vineyard—and for lingering effects

of 20th century redlining and Civil Rights-era unrest.

With $500,000 of American Rescue Plan Act dollars committed from the city, Hough’s first public park in decades also acts as a remedy for the critical feedback seen throughout Mayor Justin Bibb’s Parks and Recreation Plan survey. Some 47 percent of respondents said they did not feel safe in them, or didn’t find the city’s current parks appealing.

It’s what Zone and team said they had in mind as preliminary designs were made: to draw both on design principles that led to positive park usage and to lean on Hough residents’ yearnings for how their park should function.

“We had some folks just afraid of the high deer population,” Khalid Ali, WRLC’s urban greenspace coordinator, said, who led engagement meetups in and around Thurgood Recreation Center. “Some felt spaces weren’t safe, and more lighting needed to be provided.”

Others, namely the elder, longtime Hough residents, sought treepocketed places where they could just be outside. Where they could, Ali said, “walk, get exercise, get peace of mind, have something to do—maybe host a yoga club? Stuff like that.”

Zone agreed. “What seniors told us is, ‘There’s no place where we can have intergenerational gathering, with the great grandma and the grandchild, or a playground for those grandchildren,” he said. “So, our design is actually what the community’s wishes are.”

That design will incorporate a kidney-shaped, oval pathway that

surrounds an open-air pavilion, along with playgrounds for toddlers and preschoolers. There will be picnic tables, benches, walkway connections to East 85th and 86th streets and the tennis courts at Thurgood.

Such an amenity, which could break ground later this year, would fulfill a two-birds-one-stone pact: both deter juvenile antics— residents complain often about dirt bike riders, Zone said—and fortify the area as a healthier place to live. Especially as doctors and researchers for the growing hospital district on Euclid Avenue look further west to buy homes.

But don’t tell longtime Hough residents. “They felt a strong sense of being kind of encroached upon by Cleveland Clinic buying up more property,” he recalled, “and a lot of new people coming into the area.”

“They wanted to really have a voice in the process,” Ali added. “And we feel that the park is going to show that.”

WRLC is about $500,000 short of its $2.2 million funding goal, Zone said. Congresswoman Shontel Brown just earmarked $500,000 of federal funds for the project, her office reported on Wednesday.

After WRLC finishes development on the currently unnamed space, they’ll transfer ownership over to the city of Cleveland, which will be in charge indefinitely of maintaining it.

April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 7 Photo by Mark Oprea t@clevelandscene
The site of the former John W. Raper School, on Friday.



North Olmsted blooms as a hub for Cleveland’s Palestinian diaspora

IF ONE WERE TO DRIVE west on Lorain Road in North Olmsted, past Great Northern Blvd., you would encounter most, if not all, of the commercial attributes of Suburban America. The Wendy’s and the Chipotle. Speedway and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Mattress Firm and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Yet, head a block north onto Brookpark Extension Road, about a stone’s throw from North Olmsted’s red-and-white-checkered water tower, sandwiched in between Guitar Center and an Ohio BMV, and you would find one of the quickestgrowing Palestinian small business hubs in Northeast Ohio.

Here, nestled in and around two tiny retail plazas, are 20 shops owned by Arab-Americans, half of them of the Palestinian diaspora, that have opened on Brookpark Extension this decade. If you wanted to, you could run a day’s worth of errands here: get your hair cut, nails done, pick up chocolates, order your meds, get a coffee, grab the dress for the cousin’s wedding.

“I’ve been here two years and have gone to six ribbon cuttings

on that street,” Max Upton, the head of North Olmsted’s Economic & Community Development Department, told Scene recently. “I think that they found community here, a good quality of life. A welcoming city.”

Upton’s recollection, and this Palestinian Town Square tucked in North Olmsted’s commercial recesses, is a great reflection of changing demographics in the past few years.

According to the American Community Survey, the number of Palestinians in the U.S. jumped from 72,112 in 2000 to 85,186 in 2013. Today, as per the latest U.S. Census count by ancestry, that number’s pushing 140,000. (Cleveland has the country’s seventh largest Palestinian community, a recent count by ZIPAtlas found.)

And that population trend is definitely noticeable in North Olmsted, which, according to Upton, is about 12 percent ArabAmerican—a near doubling since the 2010 Census. That growth, seen in its high schools and housing developments, has coupled with

affordable rents and a pressing yearning for community, that happened to find its outlet on a throughway, near two outlet stores and an Ollie’s.

That need has only grown more dire in the midst of war between Israel and Hamas, when dangers have grown near for far-off family members, and news comes swift and negative, often through the precarious lens of TikTok or a WhatsApp thread.

“We [weren’t] in the mood to buy,”

Eman Muontaser, the owner of Iman Le Elegance, a clothing boutique that specializes in wedding gowns, said in her shop. “People canceled their weddings. Everybody’s stressed out. Everybody’s depressed—they come to me, they start talking about the war.”

Muontaser, who started selling Moroccan kaftans and Palestinian thoubs in 2009, opened up her boutique on the western edge of Brookpark Extension about a year and a half ago. She felt urged

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Mohammad Wishah opened his Nut Shop in 2022| Photo by Mark Oprea The Olive Tree Middle East Food & Meat, located on the western edge of Brookpark Extension| Photo by Mark Oprea

Everyone deserves a chance to own their first home.

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to by two unrelated forces: her children were aging, and a growing Palestinian community around her. Palestinian community around her. “I studied the demographic,” Muontaser said, smiling. “After I understood the community, I expanded.”

A sizable influence for Iman Le Elegance, a purposeful amalgation of Arabic and French, is a forthcoming expansion of the Palestinian Beit Hanina Community Center, which will be situated across Brookpark Extension, and is currently in the fundraising process.

to keep Northeast Ohioan Arabs from the hike to similar centers in Michigan and Illinois.

“Seriously, do you know why we go to Michigan?” Wahdan, a gentleman in his fifties, told Scene said walking along the plaza on Brookpark Extension. “We go to the nutshop. We go eat. We hookah. We go to the barbershop. Then we drive all the way home.”

Wahdan along with his friend Talal Hamed, duck into The Nut Shop, where 39-year-old owner Mohammad Wishah is bagging smoked Palestinian nuts and dried watermelon seeds. Over there,

And not just because of the center’s promise to host Arabic courses for kids. Beit Hanina vows, its directors said, to host about “two to three” Palestinian engagement celebrations a week.

Muontaser said she’ll cover the dresses. “Anything that’s related to weddings, I do,” she said. “We try to work on lifting the load from the parents, especially the mother.”

To Beit Hanina director Nassr Wahdan, that starts with a huge curtailing of time and gas expenditures. For Wahdan, who was born in Chicago to Palestinian parents escaping the 1967 Six-Day War, a diaspora town square with a banquet room close by is bound

That need to bring Palestine goods and culture closer to home also led siblings Aisha and Mahmoud Sulieman to open dessert shop Oh, Crepe! in September. Mahmoud had often driven around on weekdays to find dessert foods he admired, yet came up short. “So he decided,” Aisha recalled, “’I’m gonna make my own.’”

Last week, with the beginning of the Ramadan holiday, that dessert gap only became a lot more intriguing. The Suliemans put katayef, a stuffed pancake, and booza, Palestinian pistachio ice cream, on the menu. Having both speciality items, along with a war going on overseas, led to a particular instance of good and bad for Aisha, as it has for others on the road.

Scene spoke with reported anything similar. “It’s a scary situation. You just don’t know how people look at you,” Aisha said. “Like, ‘Are you the enemy or are you not?’”

As for the new Beit Hanina across the street, Mahdar and Hamed said that the social club has wrapped up the construction bid process, and should be finished with its renovation by the end of 2024.

It will, as the idea goes, replace the Beit Hanina further east on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland, which Mahdar framed as aging and inconvenient for, ironically, the Palestinian diaspora in the suburbs.

“We were only, what, like 6,000 square feet?” he speculated. He looked across Brookpark Extension to the building. “Here we have

near the candy aisle, are bowls of nougats. In the back, behind the counter, are gold Islamic dishes on display.

Like neighbor Muontaser, Wishah opened his Nut Shop in 2022 bolstered by both the market need and a pressing itch for community. He also witnessed friends drive to New Jersey or New York to buy the celebratory foods the coffee beans — the chocolates and the nuts — to take home to Cleveland.

Which gives Wishah a glowing sense of personal pride for what he’s built: “Like in Northeast Ohio?” he said.

“I don’t think there’s another one.”

Wahdan confirmed it. “No, it’s the first of its kind here,” he said.

People will “call and ask, ‘Is this Palestinian owned?’ ‘Are you Palestinian?’” she said. “People called and said, I just want to confirm it’s Palestinian-owned. And then they would come and want to support us, and that’s what they would tell us why.”

Although Upton said there’s been three instances of “accosting” since October 7, none of the businesses

22,000 square feet.” (And parking, Mahdar was sure to point out.)

He turned around to the plaza itself. “Oh, and in five years?” he said. “This will probably be all Palestinian.”

April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 11
Obai Abu Farha cooking at Fire and Dough| Photo by Mark Oprea Eman Muontaser, owner of Iman Le Elegance| Photo by Mark Oprea t@clevelandscene
Beit Hanina’s Nassr Wahdan and Talal Hamed outside the plaza| Photo by Mark Oprea

GET OUT Everything to do in Cleveland for the next two weeks

WED 04/10

Cavaliers vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies, one of the weaker teams in the NBA’s Western Conference thanks to a slew of injuries, make their one-and-only regular season visit to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse tonight at 7 to take on the Cavs. One Center Court, 216-420-2000,

Midnight Rental presents Secret Movie Night

Hosted by Lenora from the internet hit-series Midnight Rental, this movie night features what it deems to be the best in VHS horror, thriller and campy classics. The event begins tonight at 8 at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, and the club will feature a special movie night menu for the event.

2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588,

THU 04/11

The Aliens

Two New England thirty-somethings who regularly meet at a coffee shop to

discuss poetry and music in this play, one of Annie Baker’s three Vermont Plays. Tonight’s performance takes place at 7 at the Helen, where performances continue through April 14. 1407 Euclid Ave, 216-241-6000,

Elgar’s Cello Concerto

Conductor Klaus Mäkelä leads the Cleveland Orchestra as it takes on pieces by Jimmy López Bellido, Elgar and Walton. Tonight’s performance takes place at 7:30 at Mandel Concert Hall, where performances continue through Saturday.

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

FRI 04/12

Broadway Rocks

Cleveland Pops Orchestra performs music from popular Broadway musicals such as Wicked, Book of Mormon, MJ the Musical, Hairspray, The Lion King, Mamma Mia, Rent, The Wiz and Phantom of the Opera. The concert takes place tonight at 8 at Mandel Concert Hall.

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

FAN EXPO Cleveland

It’s been more than 20 years since Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan first took the film world by storm as the “four hobbits” in the original The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. Now the four will get together to greet fans, pose for photo ops and sign autographs in a rare full reunion at FAN EXPO Cleveland, which takes place today through Sunday at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. They will also conduct a special exclusive premium live show, during which fans will have the opportunity for further interaction with the stars, with details on that event to follow. The lineup also includes Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn) and Charlie Cox (Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire). 500 Lakeside Ave., 216-928-1600,

Guardians vs. New York Yankees

The hated New York Yankees arrive in town this weekend for a three-game series against the Guardians. Laden with all-stars, the Yankees look to be one of the better teams in the league this year. Tonight’s first pitch is at 7:10, and the series continues through Sunday.

2401 Ontario St., 216-420-4487, mlb. com/guardians.

SAT 04/13

They Have Risen

Cemetery Man, Bride of Chucky, Overlord and Return of the Living Dead screen today at 4 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre as part of this special mini-marathon. The event will also include door prizes, classic trailers and “other big-screen horror surprises.” 1390 West 65th St., 216-651-7295,

SUN 04/14

Cavaliers vs. Charlotte Hornets

The Cavaliers get a break tonight as they face off against the lowly Charlotte Hornets, one of the NBA’s worst teams. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

One Center Court, 216-420-2000,

Kissin & Goerne in Recital: Schumann & Brahms

Pianist Evgeny Kissin and baritone Matthias Goerne perform pieces by

| | April 10 - 23, 2024 12
FAN EXPO Cleveland returns to the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. See: Friday, April 12. | Emanuel Wallace

Schumann and Brahms in this special concert that takes place today at 3 p.m. at Mandel Concert Hall.

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

TUE 04/16

Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra Concert

Expect to hear pieces by Boulanger, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff when Sergei Babayan joins guest conductor Sarah Hicks and the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra for their final Severance Music Center concert of the 2023-2024 season. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at Mandel Concert Hall. 11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

WED 04/17


An eight-member troupe uses matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and hubcaps as this traveling show returns to Playhouse Square for performances at Connor Palace. Tonight’s performance takes place at 7:30, and shows continue through Sunday. 1615 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

THU 04/18

Yuja Wang Plays Ravel & Stravinsky

Acclaimed pianist Yuja Wang joins the Cleveland Orchestra tonight at Mandel Concert Hall to perform pieces by Stravinsky and Ravel. The concert begins at 7:30, and performances take place tomorrow and Saturday as well. 11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

FRI 04/19

CSU Spring Dance Concert 2024

Tonight’s concert will include works by CSU dance faculty, featuring performances by the CSU Dance Company, Dance Group and special guests. It starts at 7:30 at the Allen Theatre, where performances take place tomorrow and Sunday as well. 1407 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

Guardians vs. Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics were one of MLB’s worst teams last year, and there is little evidence to suggest they’ve improved during the off-season. They come to Progressive Field today for a three-game series that concludes on Sunday. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.

2401 Ontario St., 216-420-4487, mlb. com/guardians.

Third Friday

From 5 to 9 p.m., many of the 78th Street Studios resident artist studios and galleries will be open as part of this monthly event. There will be live music, and Local West, a Gordon Square sandwich shop, will serve food. BARneo will have a selection of adult beverages as well. Admission is free. 1300 West 78th St.,

SAT 04/20

Daniel Sloss: Can’t

Young comedian Daniel Sloss sounds like he has had years of experience, and he looks and feels more comfortable on stage than some comedians who have been in the game for twice as long. With three performances on Conan already under his belt, Sloss has a bright and hilarious future ahead of him. He brings his latest tour, dubbed Can’t, to the Mimi Ohio Theatre tonight at 7:30. 1501 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

SUN 04/21

Batman Live in Concert

Tonight at 7 at the State Theatre, a live orchestra, conducted by James Olmstead will perform while the 1989 film Batman screens.

1519 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

TUE 04/23


The play based on a popular Hasbro board game and 1985 movie comes to E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron for a threenight stand. Tonight’s performance takes place at 7:30.

198 Hill St., Akron, 330-972-7570,

Guardians vs. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox looked to improve their pitching rotation during the offseason by adding former Guardians starter Lucas Giolito. Whether that will be a big enough improvement to get them back into the playoffs remains to be seen. The Red Sox play the Guards today at Progressive Field as part of a three-game series.

2401 Ontario St., 216-420-4487, mlb. com/guardians.

April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 13



1956 Carter Rd., Cleveland (216)367-2494


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The new Old Brooklyn joint brings a high-low joy to the cocktail and dining experience

MANY PEG THE EARLY aughts as the golden era of cocktails, but I would argue that there’s no better time to be into libations than right now. Sure, credit goes out to those serious-minded craft cocktail lounges, where we learned to ditch the sticky-sweet swigs in favor of proper Prohibitionera classics, but, man, were those places a snooze.

At bars like LBM, Porco Lounge and, now, Never Say Dive, those wellbuilt adult beverages come with a heaping side of fun. If ever there was a time when people needed places to blow off a little steam, it’s 2024. Never Say Dive, which opened in Old Brooklyn back in January, is the type of place where a group of mates can get a little rowdy without offending the fragile sensibilities of those around them – including the owners.

From the outside, Never Say Dive looks like every other workingman’s tavern from back in the day. But step inside and you land in a playful escape from the real world, where theatrical touches like bright neon, marquee-style menu boards and campy art combine to create a vibe best described as “revived dive.” Underneath it all, though, is a handsome 1920s-era saloon that features chestnut-paneled walls, tin ceilings, checkerboard linoleum flooring, stationary stools and rebuilt booths.

No self-respecting local doesn’t offer a cheap beer option and here, drafts can be had for as little as $3. If you want to step up from the lawnmower beer that is Narragansett, you can snag cans and drafts ranging from $4 for the curiously named Montucky Cold Snack on up to $8 for a 14-ounce Milk Stout from Left Hand. The wine quality is a step up from most bars, but the selection is meager, with just one by-the-glass choice for white, red, pink and bubbles.

The drinks program is right on trend with housemade seltzers, draft cocktails and bespoke bevvies. Clever names like Metallicus, Flux Capacitor and Non-Alignment Pact belie the thought and labor that goes into these balanced blends. Barbados rum and falernum star in a stellar daiquiri called Royal Bermuda Yacht Club ($13). If a Long Island Iced Tea and a Ramos Gin Fizz had a lovechild, it might taste like the Escape from Long Island ($15) thanks to its boozy base, velvety texture and poofy egg-white cap. The refreshing seltzers ($6) come in flavors like strawberry, peach and smoky soursop.

Unlike most dive bars – old or reimagined – this one keeps drinkers from walking out the door thanks to a food program that goes well beyond wings and a burger. The owners – Eric Ho, Dan Watson and Tommy Shaffner – installed an open kitchen in the adjacent room and recruited chef John Hagerty, who also runs the vegan Green Kitchen in Clark-Fulton.

If you’re looking for an edible example of the high-low concept being bandied about order the Dive Dog ($16). A weighty Kobe-beef dog

is tucked into a poppy seed brioche bun and gilded with dollops of briny caviar. Potato chips add crunch while mayo greases the wheels. A great place to start is with a snack platter, a choice of three for $13. Ours was equipped with pork rinds with whipped blue cheese, housemade chips and Lawson’s style dip, and powder-pink pickled eggs with a texture best described as “bouncy.”

I did expect to find a killer smash burger ($14) here – a perfectly built, immensely enjoyable stack – but I did not expect to unearth one of the most rewarding bowls of udon ($14). A tangle of thick, chewy noodles arrives in a savory bone marrowkissed broth. Meaty, golden-brown oyster mushrooms add some woodsy umami. Another pleasant surprise, the kohlrabi Caesar ($15) blends ribbons of cool, crunchy and slightly sweet kohlrabi with bits of smoked trout in a bright, citrusy vinaigrette. After a lively initial visit, we were eager to schedule a return

trip to Old Brooklyn. Our sign arrived via social media in the form a Ghoulardi-adorned poster advertising Never Say Dive’s “Famous Fried Chicken and Bubbly” night. For the low, low price of $40, tables receive a bucket of fried chicken and a bottle of cava. We upgraded the house bubbles to a bottle of blanc de blancs ($20 add on) and tacked on tequila service ($12) to boot. The dark-meat chicken, lightly breaded and drippy with honey, was finger-licking good indeed.

Far from the work of cynical carpetbaggers, Never Say Dive is a bar built by and for residents of Old Brooklyn. It fits the neighborhood like a well-worn glove – albeit a neatly tailored one – and is run with the sort of “Midwest professionalism” that has become our stock in trade.

April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 15
DIVE 4497 Broadview Rd., Cleveland,
Photo by Doug Trattner
@dougtrattner t
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Braised chicken thighs, garlic, jalapeno, guajillo chili peppers, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and cumin served with a cilantrolime crema made with

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April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 26 Hours: Tue-Th 11-10 Fri & Sat 11-11 13321 Madison Ave. Lakewood 216-221-4479 HOME OF THE ORIGINAL BAKED BURRITO! JUMBO TACOS & CRAFT COCKTAILS. BEST MARGARITA IN TOWN! LAKEWOOD, OH


Sneak Peek: The Astro at Tower City, opening April 23rd

AFTER SITTING EMPTY FOR the past seven years, the former Hard Rock Cafe location in Tower City will soon welcome guests once again. On Tuesday, April 23rd, The Astro (230 W. Huron Rd.) will open in that space, and Scene has an exclusive sneak peek.

The Astro comes from the collective minds of Andre Scott, Ryan Gullatt, Christopher Thomas and Jeremiah Burks – the team behind the Haunted House restaurant in Cleveland Heights. If you’ve visited that restaurant since it opened in 2021, then you know you can expect over-the-top energy, artwork and creativity.

As the owners explain it, they were approached by Bedrock, who asked them if they could duplicate the success of Haunted House downtown at Tower City.

“They said they liked what we were doing at the Haunted House restaurant and asked if we’d do it down there,” Gullatt told Scene. “We were never going to do another Haunted House in the state, though we’re opening one in Atlanta. We want to try and keep it a tourist attraction.”

Lucky for the Bedrock folks, they had another idea up their sleeves.

“I’m a fan of sci-fi movies, so just imagine any movie or cartoon that has to do with space and all that nostalgia,” Gullatt adds. “We want people to be surprised and blown away. If you love sci-fi movies, this experience will do the same thing we do with horror movies at the Haunted House.”

There still is a little bit of work left to do, but already mural artists Isaiah Williams and Derek Walker have brightened up the property with iconic imagery. There is room for nearly 200 guests on two levels, including a 30-seat “Men in Black” bar featuring bartenders dressed as characters from that movie.

“At The Astro, every bite and sip is a nod to the classics that shaped our imaginations – from Star Wars to Star Trek, and beyond,” says Scott. “Our menu is a galaxy of flavors, each dish ingeniously

named after beloved characters, ships, and planets from the cinematic universe we cherish.”

Like its spooky sibling in the Heights, The Astro sports a menu filled with nods to cinema. There’s the Stranger Things (mini lobster rolls), T-1000 (loaded tots), Blue Beetle (blue cheese burger), Spacley’s Seafood Pie (seafood pot pie), and the signature Astro Alfredo.

The restaurant will serve dinner and weekend brunch.

Cozumel Plans Summer Opening in Cleveland Heights

Last week, Scene broke the news that Cozumel had signed a lease for the Mojo property in Cleveland Heights (2196 Lee Rd.). Now we have more information regarding that restaurant’s plans and its estimated grand opening.

With eight locations across Northeast Ohio, Cozumel is one of the largest local Mexican restaurant chains – and arguably the best known. Partners Ramon Aguirre, Jaime Delapaz and Martin Soto opened their first store in Broadview Heights back in 2001. They have gone on to open seven more locations, with the newest one landing in Parma earlier this year.

When the family learned of the property in Cleveland Heights, they didn’t hesitate to make the move.

“We’re primarily on the west side and we’ve always kind of been eyeing something on the east side,” explains Andres Aguirre. “We tried with a few other locations, but the deals always fell through. We visited this building once and were like, yeah, this is perfect.”

Aguirre describes the Mojo property as essentially turnkey, which will allow them to open the doors very quickly – as soon as July. Prior to opening day, they will redo the restrooms and the bar, swap out all the furniture, paint the walls and a few more cosmetic tweaks. Down the road they will undertake some more major renovations, says Aguirre.

“We want to give the restaurant a little bit more of a modern twist, similar to what we did in Parma,” he adds. “That’s kind of the direction that we are headed.”

Cozumel offers approachable, affordable and delicious Mexican and Tex-Mex-style foods. The menus are nearly identical from place to place, with a wide assortment of appetizers, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and combination platters. Larger plates such as carne asada, crab and shrimp stuffed chimichangas, and camarones al mojo de ajo (garlic shrimp) are also on offer. There’s a full bar with beer, wine, margaritas and top-shelf spirits.

With all of their restaurants west and south of the area, management saw an opportunity to expand the brand in an underserved market. There are no full-service Mexican restaurants in the immediate area except for Barrio, which offers a limited menu. Aguirre is confident that the brand’s reputation and consistency will serve them well.

“We’ve been doing this for so long that we have a product that we know people enjoy and that works,” he notes. “The neighborhood is getting younger and younger, there’s great walkability and it’s super-diverse, which we feel will help us be successful.”

Hola Tacos on Larchmere to Switch Back to Barroco, New Bar Taking Shape Next Door

A couple months back, the Vergara family announced that it was completely rethinking its Willoughby property by streamlining the former home of Hola Tacos, Barroco Arepa Bar and Pulpo Beer Co. into, simply, Pulpo Beer Co.

Today, that same family is announcing plans to shake up another of its properties. Next month, Hola Tacos on Larchmere will be switched back to Barroco Arepa Bar. Juan Vergara, who originally opened Barroco at that address in 2017, says he always considered the switch to Hola as a temporary one. He says that when the original Hola Tacos opened in Lakewood in 2019, it didn’t have a liquor license, which prompted the initial changeover.

“The intention was to see what an Hola Tacos would look like with a liquor license, but we told our fans that it wouldn’t be the last of Barroco on Larchmere,” Vergara explains.

After the switch, diners will enjoy the same Barroco classics found at Crocker Park and Lakewood but also some items unique to this location. Also, the Larchmere spot won’t open for lunch, but it will stay open later.

“We own the property and I pretty much get to do whatever I want,” jokes Vergara. “I like to keep things fun and change. I think it was a great run, but I feel that the community needs and wants Barroco back and now is the right time to do it.”

The move is prompted to coincide with the opening of a new cocktail lounge in an adjoining space. Long home to Dancing Sheep, the property is being renovated into a speakeasy-type club that will offer cocktails, small plates, and woodfired pies. The as-yet-unnamed club will be accessible from either the street or inside Barroco. Vergara estimates a fall opening.

April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 28
Photo by Doug Trattner

Gregorian: Pure Chants

April 16 – 7:00 PM

Eight classically trained English vocalists have never failed to bring their audiences to their feet… multiple times… at every show!

Robin Spielberg

April 25 – 7:00 PM

Hailed as one of America’s most popular contemporary female pianists/composers and one of the most expressive pianists of our time.

Dave Banks Big Band and USO Variety Show

May 7 – 7:00 PM

With live music spanning seven decades, ranging from 1940s swing, to the ABBA, this show will be something everyone will enjoy!

April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 29


Alvvays draws from ’90s indie rock for its latest effort, ‘Blue Rev’

GROWING UP IN THE VERY Scottish Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island, Alvvays singerguitarist Molly Rankin naturally gravitated to Celtic music. Her father played Celtic violin and piano in a group he started with his siblings. He traveled and toured for much of her childhood.

“Celtic music is a big part of the culture in Cape Breton,” says Rankin via phone from her Toronto home. The group performs on Thursday, April 18, at the Agora Theatre. “Kerri [MacLellan], who plays keyboards in Alvvays, was my neighbor. We played a lot of Celtic fiddle together during our childhood.”

But Rankin simultaneously listened to pop-rock hits on the radio and had an older brother who loaned her his Neil Young and Bob Dylan albums. Then, hearing the indie rock of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s would lead her in an entirely different musical direction and wind up influencing Alvvays.

“I probably got into Sonic Youth when I was 19,” she says. “In my twenties, I got into Teenage Fanclub and the Replacements. I’m still finding out about bands that were huge and cornerstones of genres I didn’t know existed. We didn’t have any cool record stores. If you wanted a CD, you had to drive to Walmart. I met [Alvvays guitarist] Alec [O’Hanley] in my early twenties. He had a local record store in his city and showed me so many different bands. It was fun to learn and listen and shape what I eventually wanted to try to emulate in my band.”

Alvvays formed in 2011 in Prince Edward Island where Rankin had moved for a couple of years to work and write music.

“There was an exciting group

of local bands there at the time,” she says. “At some point, because we hated the winters, we moved to Toronto and made our first record.”

The move to Toronto, a town with a very active and competitive independent music scene, wasn’t without its hurdles.

“We didn’t know anyone, and no one wanted to book us on any shows,” says Rankin of the initial experience after moving. “We had to fight our way into the scene here. I don’t mean that in the wrong way. It’s hard when you’re first starting. It was a struggle. I felt like we were outsiders at that time. I think I had three jobs as we were mastering our first few albums. No Canadian label wanted to release our music. We thought we could only find a label in the U.S., which is what happened.”

The band persevered, however, and received its due. Released in 2014 on Polyvinyl, the group’s debut album was shortlisted for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize and created a buzz in both Canada and the U.S. The sophomore effort, Antisocialites, followed as did extensive touring.

When it came time to start on the third album, 2022’s Blue Rev, Rankin retreated to the Toronto Islands to focus on songwriting.

“I started writing songs at this little place that artists can rent,” she says. “I would take the ferry there and bring my minimalist PA and make noise for a week by myself and cook up ideas. We then went into the studio, but the pandemic happened, and we had to fly home. That put everything on hold for a year-and-a-half. I’m grateful for having more time. The more recent additions to the album ended up being the things I liked the most.”

A song like “After the Earthquake” bristles and recalls Sleater-Kinney and Throwing Muses, groups that mix pop sensibilities with punk impulses.

“That track is a combination of so many different storylines,” she says. “I was reading Haruki

Murakami’s collection of short stories called After the Quake. It’s a bunch of different people going through different situations. The stories have a link, which is this huge earthquake. I was inspired by the fragmented nature of that song, which was chaotic in nature. I was trying to channel those stories and that band the dBs.”

The new songs should work well live since many possess dynamic guitar riffs as slanted and enchanted as anything Pavement released in the early ‘90s.

“We take the show very seriously and try to make the songs sound like the recordings do,” says Rankin. “We have a lot of fun with ‘After the Earthquake,’ and we have a lot of fast tunes on the album, actually.”

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@jniesel t
ALVVAYS.| Norman Wong
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LIVEWIRE Real music in the real world

FRI 04/12

In the Pines

This psych rock band from Cincinnati brings its tour in support of its latest record, Painting by Numbers, to the Beachland Tavern. Cleveland’s the Vumms, Columbus-based Super Sport (featuring Evan Westfall of CAAMP) and Zack Keim open.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Mannequin Pussy

Thanks to their new John Congletonproduced album, this indie rock act has caught fire. The careening single “I Got Heaven,” probably the band’s best-known tune, even made a few Top 10 lists last year. The group performs tonight at 8:30 at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights. 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588,

Real Estate

Indie rockers Real Estate recorded their latest album, Daniel, with Daniel Tashian at RCA Studio A in Nashville, and Tashian, who’s previously worked with country superstar Kacey Musgraves, brings out the band’s pop impulses. A track such as “Water Underground” features harmony vocals and has an Everly Brothers vibe to it. The band performs tonight at the Roxy at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood. Singer-songwriter Marina Allen opens. 13200 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216521-3280,

VNV Nation

Almost every record that this Londonbased electronic dance and rock duo has released sounds epic. The enormous scope of the music has earned the group a loyal following among a cross-section of industrial rockers, black-clad Goth kids and electronic enthusiasts. The group performs tonight at 7 at House of Blues. 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

SAT 04/13

Carl Baldassarre Rock Orchestra

The talented local guitarist presents his rock orchestra, a new project that features a special light show and wardrobe as well as the accompaniment of Opus 216, a local string quartet, tonight at 6:30 at the Agora Theatre. 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221,

Heart by Heart

Founding Heart bassist Steve Fossen and original Heart drummer Michael DeRosier, both of whom were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 as members of Heart, bring their group dubbed Heart to Heart to the Hoke Theatre on the Lorain Community College campus in Elyria. The band aims to “honor the magic and power of the music of Heart,” so expect to hear hits such as “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You” and “Dog & Butterfly.” The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. 1005 North Abbe Rd., Elyria, 440-3664040,

Guy Snowdon & the Citizens

This local rock group celebrates the release of its new album, Two, with tonight’s show at Treelawn Social Club. Snowdon, who draws from pop, jazz, rock and world music, made its local debut back in 2019 when it participated in a John Lennon tribute. The music begins at 8, and Bessemer Saints open. 15335 Waterloo Rd, 216-677-8733,

Suzanne Vega

The veteran singer-songwriter who released several big hits in the late ‘80s when she was part of folk revival comes to the Kent Stage tonight at 6:30 as part of a tour dubbed Old Songs, New Songs and Other Songs. Longtime guitarist Gerry Leonard will accompany the singersongwriter known for hits such as “Luka,” “Marlene on the Wall” and “Tom’s Diner.”

175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,

SUN 04/14

Jesse Dayton

This Austin-based renegade rocker draws from East Texas/Louisiana Blues, old-school country and punk rock. Shooter Jennings helmed his latest recording, the forthcoming The Hard Way Blues. Expect to hear songs from it as well as tracks from Dayton’s extensive catalog when he performs tonight at the Kent Stage.

175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,

Caroline Rose

Layers of vocal arrangements from Balkaninfluenced yawps to Gregorian autoTune choirs distinguish this singer-songwriter’s latest album, The Art of Forgetting, giving it a dreamlike quality. Rose performs tonight at 8 at the Beachland Ballroom. La Force opens the show.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

THU 04/18

The Skatalites

The current tour from this terrific old school reggae act celebrates the band’s 60th anniversary. While the group only officially existed for a short time in the ‘60s (It would reunite in the 1980s), it influenced acts such as the Specials, the English Beat, Madness, the Selecter and Bad Manners. The latest incarnation of the group performs tonight at 6:30 at the Kent Stage. 175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,


The classic rock act has a long history with Cleveland. It played the Agora on its very first U.S. tour. The Agora show took place in February of 1979. It was broadcast on both radio and television locally and eventually was broadcast overseas as well on Japanese television. The group returns to MGM Northfield Park — Center Stage. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. 10705 Northfield Rd., Northfield, 330-908-7793, mgmnorthfieldpark.

FRI 04/19

Emo Orchestra

Backed by a full orchestra, Escape The Fate will perform its own hits as well as emo anthems by My Chemical Romance, New Found Glory and Panic! At the Disco. The show begins at 8 p.m. at TempleLive at the Cleveland Masonic. 3615 Euclid Ave., 216-881-6350,

RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles

This popular Beatles tribute act will play tunes from the era of Sgt. Pepper and the Magical Mystery Tour as well as some of the Fab Four’s biggest hits at this concert that begins at 8 tonight at the State Theatre. 1519 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000,

Benjamin Todd & the Lost Dog Street Band

Lost Dog Street Band comes to the Agora tonight as part of a tour in support its new album, Survived, which features songs it recorded live. Led by singer-songwriter Benjamin Tod Flipp, the band plays alt-country steeped in bluegrass, as the album’s first two singles, “Brighter Shade” and “If You Leave Me Now,” demonstrate. 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221,

Suzanne Vega comes to the Kent Stage.

See: Saturday, April 13.

SAT 04/20

Carbon Leaf

This Celtic/alt-country/folk-rock group that formed in 1993 caught a big break in 2001 when the catchy single “The Boxer,” a song that draws from the band’s Celtic roots, became a big hit. The group has kept at it over the decades, and it performs tonight at 6:30 at the Kent Stage.

175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,


Straddling the line between the more traditional jam band ethos and the burgeoning world of electronic dance music, Lotus finds itself in a unique position with respect to its fan bases: They’re introducing one side to the other, and the blend has proven to be pretty effective. The group performs at 8 tonight and tomorrow night at the Beachland Ballroom.

Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

SUN 04/21


On tour to support his latest album, Pinball, underground rapper MIKE brings his Somebody Fine Me Trouble tour to town tonight. The tour will also feature songs from last year’s ambitious 24-track album Burning Desire. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights. 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588,

John R. Miller

John R. Miller’s 2021 single “Lookin’ Over My Shoulder” puts Miller’s droll vocals and witty lyrics on full display. It was a big enough success that it gave the singer-songwriter’s career a bit of a boost. On tour to support his latest effort, Heat Comes Down, Miller performs tonight at 7 at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood. The Deslondes share the bill.

13200 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216521-3280,


April 10 - 23, 2024 | | 33
George Holz



1. I’m a single cis gay man and I’ve been going back and forth between wanting an open relationship or a throuple/quad when I start dating again. Do you have any advice or recommendations for finding out more about gay throuple/quad relationship structures? I’ve talked about open relationships and relationship anarchy with my peers and therapist, but no one seems to know a lot about throuples/quads.

I don’t think there’s a lot of research into gay throuples and quads. (Hell, there isn’t that much research into gay couples.) But most successful gay throuples and quads started out as couples so instead of seeking a throuple or a quad, your best bet may be fucking with single men who are open to relationships and fucking with couples — as a single person or once you’re coupled — who are open to regular thirds and/ or fourths.

2. Why is it hard to get a relationship partner to confirm you’re in a relationship or define the relationship?

Most likely because your partner benefits somehow from the relationship remaining undefined — they feel freed from certain obligations — and they sense you aren’t willing to call their bluff. Meaning, they sense you won’t break up with them if they refuse to define the relationship. You can’t call the question if you aren’t willing to call it off unless you get an answer.

3. My lover is in town for business, but he has an impossible work schedule. The only way I can probably see him is if I crash one of his work events. I’m tempted, but it probably means I’d just see him for a moment, say hi, and have to leave. How important is it for us to have in-person time? If we haven’t seen each other in months, shouldn’t I make the effort, even if it’s just for a moment together?

Being in the same room with your lover and having to play it cool and not being able to touch them sounds like torture. It also sounds incredibly hot. So, if you’re sure your lover wants to see you under those circumstances and isn’t just telling you what you wanna hear — if seeing you and not being able to touch you would drive you both wild in a good way and make your next actual meeting even hotter — make the effort.

4. Do I play with cut [eggplant emoji] and uncut [eggplant emoji] the same way or do I treat them differently?

An uncut [eggplant emoji] essentially comes with its own built-in masturbation sleeve — you can roll the foreskin up and down the shaft and over the head. You can’t do that with most cut [eggplant emoji], as there’s not a lot of loose skin to work with/manipulate/roll up and over on most circumcised men. So, uncut [eggplant emoji] typically doesn’t need lube while cut [eggplant emoji] typically do need some sort of lube. But cut or uncut [eggplant emoji], don’t make assumptions. Ask for direction.

5. I met a gay couple in my building. One half of the couple — the not-that-hot half — told me they “only play together” while the other half of the couple — the hotter-than-fuck half told me hooking up one-on-one was possible so long as his husband never found out. What should I do?

You should move.

P.S. Look, some marriages need to end. So, if the worst happens and not-that-hot catches you with hotter-than-fuck, you could wind up putting a highly dysfunctional marriage out of its misery. Some marriages, on the other hand, thrive on chaos and drama [shrug emoji] and you could wind up bringing them closer together. But if they are chaos and drama types, they will blame you — both of them — for the chaos and drama.

6. My husband and I — an opposite-sex married couple — are talking about embracing a more monogamish lifestyle. We’ve written each other letters about what we are open to, what our limits are, and we feel good about where we’ve landed, which is out-of-town play for now. Do you have any suggestions on how we can gently start? A slower pace would work for us. Any advice would be lovely.

Find an out-of-town sex club, become members, and stick to soft swap for now — soft swap means only oral sex and non-penetrative sex play with others until you’re both ready to have PIV with other people. And there’s no rush and no requirement to do PIV with other people if it never feels right.

7. Familial loves feels icky. Romantic love does not. Newest RAD AF girlfriend occasionally gives me feelings of ick. Why?

It’s too soon for this romantic relationship to have succumbed to the kind of siblingification that can de-eroticize a long-term relationship you haven’t lived with each other long enough (you presumably haven’t lived with your new girlfriend at all) — which has me wondering if your dad might’ve been a sperm donor back in the day. Just a thought.

8. Perving to an OnlyFans account that’s the spitting image of my sister-in-law. Okay to do that if I tell no one? I will allow it.

9. Why does everyone treat HSV2 like it’s worse than HIV?

Because most people aren’t that bright, first and foremost, and HSV2 — sometimes referred to as genital herpes (which isn’t entirely accurate) creates physical discomfort, can be seen, and takes a person out of the action until the sores heal. HIV, assuming someone has access to treatment (which is a huge assumption), is invisible to the eye and doesn’t take someone out of the action. So, some people may legitimately experience HSV2 as worse — again, if they have access to the treatments that have made being HIV+ a non-issue for some.

10. Any advice for a man who has a hard time getting out of his head during sex?

A little pot, a little wine, and maybe some CBT — CBT here referring to “cognitive behavioral therapy” and not “cock and ball torture.” Although… letting someone put your nuts in a bull crusher is a pretty effective way to get out of your head.

11. Arguing with queer friends about

what’s worse: compulsory heterosexuality or compulsory homonormativity. Your thoughts?

Compulsory heterosexuality exists and is still enforced in many parts of the world with deadly violence. Compulsory homonormativity, on the other hand, only exists in the imaginations of queer people lucky enough to live where they’re free to make their own choices thanks to LGBT activists who fought real and not imaginary oppressions. And since bad things that exist are always worse than imaginary things that do not, compulsory heterosexuality is infinitely worse than compulsory homonormativity.

12. I can’t suck cock because I gag and will vomit. Sensitive to smells and I have a shit gag reflex. Any tips?

Don’t suck cock.

P.S. You can do a little oral without puking. Ask your sex partners to shower right before sex with heavily scented soap. Then instead of putting his cock in your mouth, put your mouth on his cock — lick the shaft, wrap your lips around the head without it going past your teeth, swirl your tongue around, work the shaft and head with your spit-covered hands, etc.

13. Is rendering a real kink? I can’t find anything about it anywhere.

I’m happy to report that boiling down sex partners and using their rendered fat as lube is not a real kink with its own play parties, munches, deep fried twinkies, etc.

14. I am suddenly reading a lot about saline douches. So, is anal douching with tap water considered unsafe now?

My first thought was… if douching with tap water was dangerous… bottoms would’ve gone extinct by now. But I went ahead and googled that for you and, according to the SF AIDS Foundation, douching with tap water on a daily basis — which some elite-level/always-prepared bottoms are doing these days — can result in a potentially dangerous electrolyte imbalance. “One of the safer liquids to put up your butt is called ‘normal saline,’” says list of anal douching safety tips on the SF AIDS Foundation’s website. “You can get this stuff in a saline Fleet enema, or you can also make normal saline at home by combining a half teaspoon of salt with a cup of water.”

15. Can men orgasm if they are not hard? Yes.

16. SF or Seattle? Chicago.

17. City or suburb?

You can’t be serious.


Only if you’re Dr. Jen Gunter and Mr. David Simon — and even then, remember you’re not arguing with the idiot. You’re arguing for the benefit of gullible people who might be following that idiot. The point of arguing with idiots online is peeling low-information non-idiots away from them, not bringing malevolent idiots to their senses.

19. Is having ongoing health issues (otherwise fit) a legitimate reason to remain solo or am I avoiding relationships because I don’t want to make myself vulnerable?

We all have health issues — ongoing or incoming — which is why every love story is a tragedy in disguise. The play doesn’t end until the lovers are dead.

20. Did you get the sense that Molly Roden Winter’s was pressured by her husband into polyamory?

I got that impression from reading the reviews of More: AMemoirofOpen Marriage, but I didn’t get the impression when I read the actual book.

21. How do I help a friend who is in a dysfunctional relationship without isolating them?

You keep showing up, you keep listening unless the relationship is so chaotic you feel unsafe and/or you begin to feel like showing up is enabling your friend to stay the relationship. Then you tell your friend, “Look, I can’t be around you right now — but I will be there for you when you’re ready to get out of this. And I’ll show up with a moving van full of empty boxes, not ‘I told you sos.’”

22. This is not a relationship question, but as a musical theater gay, I’m wondering if you’ve watched Dicks: The Musical yet? If not, please watch it and let the people know what you think. It is truly unlike anything else I’ve seen in my life. Watched it, loved it, I’ve been singing “Don’t Give Up! (When People Tell You No)” to myself for weeks — a very problematic song! — and I’m crushing so hard on Aaron Jackson that he should probably take a preemptive restraining order out against me.

24. On the verge of having a love affair, but the guy I’m involved with is having cold feet. He tells me all the time about how much he loves me, but when I try to get physical, he recoils from my touch. I’ve tried a lot of very innocent and gentle (G-rated) touching, to get him used to it — touch his hair, scratch his back, hold his hand — and he can tolerate that. How can I ease him into touching past the G-rated level? What can I do to put him at ease?

When someone recoils from your touch… you should stop touching them.

25. I could have sworn that I read somewhere that there are rules regarding the allowable number of consecutive spanks and the minimum time between sets of spanks in adult movies, but I can’t find any documentation about this online.

You can’t find anything about that because that is not a thing.

26. I am a woman dating a man. The sex is the best we’ve had in years — we’re both recently divorced — but we need you to settle this issue for us. I enjoy giving blowjobs, but my guy needs stimulation at a certain tempo. I told him that one or the other of us will have to do the work. I can’t stroke, cover my teeth, and breath while he thrusts at his preferred tempo. So, he’s either going have to sit still and allow me to do the work or allow me to get myself in the right position and let me sit still while he fucks my mouth. What say you?

I say any man who won’t take “go ahead and fuck my face” for an answer doesn’t deserve the blowjob you’re trying to give him.

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