Sunday, March 15, 2020

The historic route Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel ran in 1933 (time-lapse)

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman came out in 2008. The year before, I had made my first trip to Cleveland (where Superman was born) for a four-day research binge. That publication year and the next, I made several trips to Cleveland to speak at schools, museums, community gatherings, and other venues. The last was in 2010—until last week, when I returned for a school visit in Warren, OH, about an hour’s drive from Cleveland.

If you told me then that nine years would pass between visits, I would have found that hard to believe, given how often I was in Cleveland from 2007-2010.

The biggest change since then was not unique to Cleveland: this trip will end up being my last by plane for at least a month, if not more, as communities nationwide accept the severity of COVID-19, the coronavirus, and begin self-quarantining. The mood at the school and the few other places I went (namely restaurants) seemed status quo, at times even upbeat, but I was sensing an underlying societal anxiety everywhere I went (even though I was keeping my distance!). Even in rural Warren, store shelves that once displayed disinfectants were barren.

Special thanks to the school, Champion Middle, and especially Andrea Baer and Sandy Amoline, for being such gracious hosts under these uneasy, ever-changing circumstances. Years ago I switched from high-fives to fist bumps, and now it’s elbow bumps, or sometimes no bumps. Everyone understands. Same camaraderie with none of the contact. 

Sandy and her crew went all out decorating to welcome a Superman and Batman junior ambassador. A glimpse:

The other highlight of this short, strange trip was returning to the historic neighborhood of Superman’s genesis, specifically the former house of writer Jerry Siegel and the site where artist Joe Shuster’s apartment stood when these two teens dreamed up the world’s first superhero in 1933. 

Both locations have had a new sheen put on since I was last there, thanks to money raised largely by fans in 2009. Jerry’s house got a major renovation (restoring it to how it may have looked when Jerry lived there) plus a couple of spiffy signs on a front fence. The site of Joe’s apartment is now commemorated by a blown-up version of the first Superman story placed along a corner fence. Both addresses are in the Glenville neighborhood, which used to be predominantly Jewish and is now predominantly black.

 10622 Kimberley Avenue,
where Jerry lived in 1933

 10905 Amor Avenue (AKA 998 Parkwood Avenue),
where Joe lived in 1933

 less angled view of the beginning of the first Superman story,
from Action Comics #1 (1938),
as exhibited at the site of Joes former apartment

 street signs on one side of Jerry’s street

  street signs on other side of Jerry’s street

  street signs on one side of Joe’s street

 street signs on other side of Joe’s street

 950 Parkwood Avenue, which is a few doors down
from Joes former building (immediately below); both were
clearly built by the same developer (note the white squares)

 former synagogue that is now a church

 note the Hebrew on right

 In January, I had a layover in Cleveland, where I saw for 
the first time this Superman mini-museum in baggage claim.
(It was installed in 2012.)

Jerry and Joe...thanks for the hospitality.
And, you know, for Superman.

Now for the best part.

The legend goes that Jerry was up most of a summer night documenting visions of the character who would become Superman; the morning after, hyped up, he ran from his house to Joes apartment to ask his artist friend to draw what Jerry saw.

He would have taken one of two routes: Parkwood Avenue (9.5 blocks, which is about a sixth or a mile) or East 105th Street (eighth of a mile).

Because the Parkwood route is slightly shorter, I suspect he went that way.

And so did I, taking what is probably the first-ever time-lapse of the Jerry Siegel Run.

At the Cleveland airport, I asked the gate agent for my inbound flight if I could get a seat with no one next to it. She said “You already have one”—without asking for my seat number or looking at a screen.

The new abnormal.

Truth, justice, and the worldwide way…

Stay safe, all.

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