Wandering in Cleveland, Ohio …

Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

Let’s consider your voice again. This topic can be tricky, as you might not be sure what your voice sounds like — yet. But it’s not that it’s not there, as Chuck Wendig explains in his “Ten Things I’d Like to Say to Young Writers” post. It just takes time to hone it:

You will chase your voice like a dog chasing a car, but you’ll never catch it. Because you were your voice all along. You were never the dog. You were always the car.

Our favorite writers, from Jane Austen to Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Paul Auster, have distinct voices. You read their writing and hear their words in your head. From their word choices, to the rhythm of their sentences, to the intimate spaces they create — right there on the page — they sound like no one else but them.

Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.


Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1990’s was a town/city in flux. It was one of those American towns, that in 1980’s the city centres were generally dilapidated. Located on the Lake Erie and access to eastern Canada the Atlantic through St. Lawrence Seaway.  A city that had downtown streets of working class people. With poverty running close behind.

I was there in 1991 For about a week. The purpose was for the fourth quinquennial convention for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. One that saw the election of the Union President, that ran  the B.L.E. All delegates from the local unions, were there. I was the local chairman for BLE local 593 for which it was, traditionally, the role of Local Chairman to attend the convention.

At first I balked at the idea. Then my mind was changed and arrangements were made to attend.

This convention was held at the end of August and a hotel was set aside for members to attend. The meetings themselves were held in a convention hall a couple of blocks away.

The meetings themselves were a bit of an eye-opener, for sure. There were some powerful locals from Chicago and New York. That had hundreds of members. Their delegates speeches, were often not so much aimed at those gathered. Rather they were for the benefit of the rank and file, back home. For these union positions, were full-time jobs. Unlike myself, who was a working stiff. Their speeches were usually long and to be honest, a little tedious.

The first order of business was how much the delegates would be paid. These union leaders would grandstand over what the pay for this would be. They needed to show the workers back home that they had their backs, with keeping down expenses.

In the end, the majority held sway and my pay for attending was more than I could have earned over the same period at home. Then expenses were paid. The cost of travel to the city of Cleveland from Nelson B.C. My room and a per diem for meals. All told I made a month’s salary in six days.

Cleveland itself, was one of the first settlements and towns, in U.S. of A. Main Street toward the centre was full of soaring brownstone buildings and dilapidated housing. The wrecking balls were in full swing, bringing them down. Yessiree, Cleveland was becoming modernized. The Cop Shop or Police Station, was a huge eyesore. Built on a foundation set back from the street and looked like a fort, of green plastic siding. Nobody was getting in there, unlawfully. There were even slots, to poke out firearms.

In the evenings, when the work day was over. We would go to the ballpark. That was then, just a few blocks away. Home of the Cleveland Indians, a team that in 1990’s, was rock bottom of the standings. An hour before the game would see the working class people, walking to the park carrying coolers and some small deck chairs. It cost us just six dollars for a seat behind home plate. Three dollars for a seat in the left field. We would go, not so much for the home team but for the visiting team’s players. Nolan Ryan, Andre Dawson and Ricky Henderson, etc. After the game we went back to the hotel and then a couple of blocks walk, past demolished sites, toward a bar.  Set back a little from the street and the only building on the block. “The Crazy Horse”, that had strippers and loud music. Beer and shots.

During the four days of the convention, every evening, there were courtesy lounges in the hotel. Designed to, essentially, buy votes. You went in, they plied you with drinks and hors d’overs. Then tried to make sure your vote was headed in the right direction.

One of the Vice-Presidents hung around the front door, a cheerful fellow who handed out cigars. Cigars that he too continuously smoked. I was never to sure of his role? I suppose he was a low-key doorman, that kept an eye on everything? The four days of convention saw the delegates put forth their feelings on the various points of business. Always the grand-standing from the larger locals.

Since I was from Nelson B.C. I held two votes. One for our sister town of Cranbrook B.C. with whom the delegation went back and forth every five years. Each delegate went to the proceedings armed with these two votes. Which were a prize for those standing for office. My choice for president of the union, went to Ron Mclaughlin. He was elected and his supporters had worked hard to achieve this.

Unions can have a bad rap when it comes to politics. For the stakes are high. One only has to think of Jimmy Hoffa and links to organized crime. Overall my opinion is, where there’s smoke there’s fire.

I only wanted to be of service, to my constituents and fellow Engineers. I think that was not always the case, for others in similar roles. For ambitions went beyond the rank and file.  To Ottawa or Washington and a role of National Chairpersons. Expense sheets and organizational back rubbing. A good salary and perks.

With regard to the writing exercise here in Writing 101. I so enjoyed those six days. The petty intrigues and genuine affections with fellow delegates. We had a ball and I left with a small feeling, of accomplishment.