Part One: In which we discuss the future of geek culture, a guy who really hates puppies, magical friendships, the 3 Brian’s and all while we crush a whole lot of Chinese food and get to know the co-founders of GeekCLE, Angela and Rashad.
It’s noisy: a train is rolling by outside, the whistle blowing, and it’s clear I’ve missed something. Angela is talking about a guy she knew in high school who had puppies, and Rashad interjects to ask, “Like gave birth to puppies?” Angela shakes her head no, “they got wet somehow, maybe rained on and he put them in the dryer.” Now it’s my turn to interject, “on purpose?” and Angela shakes her head yes. Apparently, he just wanted to dry them quickly and didn’t realize the dryer would kill them. We all take a moment to marvel at the wonder of his stupidity before we move onto more practical matters like just who are GeekCLE and what do they want with Cleveland?
How do you two know each other? How did you meet?
Angela: Mary, the woman who is everywhere and nowhere…
Rashad: The uniter of people.
A: Remember that one night when we realized we were going to be best friends? We were at ABC and I don’t know what we were talking about but Mary was like, “Hey guys, did you realize that tonight you’re going to make a new best friend”?
R: Yeah, and we were already talking about something, and at that point we had already broken off from the group. We were talking about comics, maybe Dr. Who?
A: Maybe Dr. Who or maybe Sea Lab?
R: Yeah, we met and instantly became best friends.
A: Basically, because we have the same thoughts.
So you guys had the same thought at the same time that you were going to be best friends? That’s impressive or creepy depending on your viewpoint. When was this magical moment? How long ago did you meet?
R: Two years ago?
R: Like a year ago?
A: No! Like 9 months ago…before your birthday and then we had birthday fort because everyone has a birthday fort on their 29th birthday!
Did you guys both grow up in Cleveland? Are you born and raised Clevelanders?
A: No, I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and when I was 6 we moved up to Chardon, where I graduated high school. About 4 or 5 years ago I moved to the Westside where I met all the kids.
R: I was born in Euclid and have lived here all my life.
So, there’s this rumor that’s going around that Cleveland is making a comeback. What say you about this rumor going around?
R: Yeah, I just read an article on the Huffington Post about how Cleveland is a great cultural city.
A: It’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this, there’s a huge subculture for nerdy things like comic and games but it’s so sectioned off. First, there’s the whole East Side/ West Side divide and then huge rivalries between shops. We’re just hoping to get everyone to hang out.
R: It’s interesting when you meet people on the 101 level, they’re super friendly. They wanna play.
It’s the Dungeon Masters that are like f*** you newbie!
R: Right, exactly. It’s like when the new kid wants to play tag with the other kids, and then the whole dynamic gets changed and people start acting weird.
Okay, I think we’re all in agreement, we love Cleveland and that we want to see Cleveland succeed, right? So, what is it about geek culture or nerd culture, gaming culture comic culture, all that good stuff, that appeals to you what aspects of it are you drawn to?
R: I think part of it is the outsider culture, it’s the reason a lot of people get into it, they feel like they don’t fit anywhere else. Or it’s that they’re interested in things that not a lot of other people are interested in.
A: I think it also plays into being super obsessed with one thing and it being ok to be super nerdy about it, like quoting it all the time.
R: A lot of this stuff, like reading comic books, video games, etc. you can do on your own. But when you do find someone who gets it, it’s a great feeling.
A: Yeah, and you get to bond and be best friends!
So, that’s how it happened, this magical friendship. What do you think geek culture can offer to Cleveland?
A: Well, I feel like it’s what Cleveland can offer to geek culture.
R: There’s a lot of people doing a lot of things and for us we feel if we can just bring these people together maybe other people will be interested. I think there’s a lot of people out there who are curious about the various aspects of geek culture but don’t know where to start. So, we’re trying to bring people together since a lot of geek culture can be intimidating.
A: There’s a ton of events coming up, and a lot of them are to encourage people to come out and try something different, like our monthly Show and Tell events. We also have some events that have or will take place in local shops, but most are in more neutral settings like bars or cafès, so people won’t feel intimidated.
R: Going back to your previous question, I think a lot of people don’t realize how much geek history and geek culture is already here. Cleveland gets the whole rock’n’roll thing with the Hall of Fame, but Superman was created here! Harvey Pekar is from Cleveland and Howard the Duck took place here! There is culture here and a lot of famous comic writers are from this area, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian K. Vaughan, Brian Azzarello…
A: The three Brians!
R: There are so many shops scattered throughout the city although, I do have to say there’s a strange concentration of shops in Parma. I really don’t think a lot of towns have all these different shops; you have options on where to go which may play into why people are so fiercely loyal.
A: There are still areas that could still use a shop, especially downtown Cleveland. In the beginning we kicked around the idea of opening our own shop. We knew what we liked and what we didn’t and even had some locations staked out. It just kind of worked out that we were looking for a way to include all the things we love, not just comics. And the business aspect was overwhelming. So, we thought about it and were like oh! We can create a website! We can create events and promote other people’s events which was what was so exciting about owning a shop, all those extra things.
R: We had had the idea what if we just make a thing for all the things we enjoy? We were driving somewhere, to pick up lunch probably, and she was like how do we do this and I was like I don’t know, it’s just an idea! Two days later Angela was like I figured it out!
A: And that weekend we had our first meeting, on Cinco de Mayo! We sat on the porch and drank orange vodka and within 3 weeks we had a site up and running, live, with our first post up there. And people were into it so, we were like, we’re on to something! And it’s been steadily growing ever since.
Join us next week for Part Two in which Rashad and Angela reveal the superpowers they wish they had, share memories of middle school presentations, and the last board games they bought but haven’t yet played. We’ll also discover why author Willliam Slater is a jerk.