The first time I ever met Lawrence Daniel Caswell, he was DJing a soul music night in the Beachland Tavern. He permanently made my cool list when he agreed to play a Teddy Pendergrass jam.
Some time later, I saw him DJ there again, and he again agreed to play some Teddy P. We spoke at length about the old Philly soul scene and he told me about the soul show he hosts on WCSB (89.3 on Monday mornings from 9 AM to 11 AM). Over time, as I got to know Lawrence, I realized this dude is into just about everything that is cool in Cleveland. He co-hosts monthly crazy film nights, works at one of the two best bookstores in the city (Visible Voice in Tremont), plays in who knows how many bands, including the awesomely loud heavy punk band This Moment in Black History, and is perhaps the single greatest ambassador of my new neighborhood, his beloved Sausage District, Collinwood. If indeed there is or ever will be a Cleveland renaissance, Caswell is our da Vinci.
(Photo by Bridget Caswell)
1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?
I’ve lived in the Greater Cleveland area all my life. 34 years. I was born at the now demolished Mt. Sinai Hospital in University Circle. I’ve lived in the city proper for 7 years, but I grew up in Bedford Heights and Warrensville Heights. I’ve also lived in Cleveland Heights (Coventry, Cedar-Fairmount), on St. Clair (on E. 61st, E.72nd Streets), and I did a brief stint in Ohio City (at Bridge & W.28th, before the Dave’s went up). I’m an Eastsider though, and that’s real life. Currently, I live with my wife on the shores of the Sausage District in the Beulah Park neighborhood of Collinwood, where I plan to stay for as long as I am in this city. It’s the best neighborhood in my favorite city.
2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?
This question is difficult, as I have both innumerable fantastic memories of this city and a chronically shitty memory. And, I’ve never been good at playing favorites. Can I pass on this one for the moment? In exchange, I promise to list some significant Cleveland memories in the comments of this post? Might even be good for me.
3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?
Cleveland is a city of indeterminate and unabated potential manifested intermittently in brief, but intense bursts. When you love such a city, as I do, the promise of that potential sits at the heart of your attraction. Relationships based on a one-sided attraction to intense, but infrequently manifested potential must surely tend towards the passionate, painful and demoralizing. Long term devotion to such a relationship might even produce a kind of bitter resolve that stubbornly agitates for realized potential, accepting enough brief manifestations to get through the day, while ultimately suspecting that all is lost. It might also make you a bit of an asshole.
Maybe this what non-Clevelanders mean when they talk about a “Cleveland attitude.” If it is, then I’ve got one.
4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?
I’m not one for idealized fantasies, and I don’t celebrate my birthday. A peaceful day in the city, spent well-fed and in good company, is all I could wish for. It happens often enough that I don’t need to wish. I just wait.
5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?
When friends come into town I always suggest driving around the city aimlessly. Next to riding the RTA all day (which I advise!), it’s the best way to see and understand the city.
6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?
An economy, preferably with another major university in tow and a rewarding, fair-salaried job just for me.
7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?
Increase immigration to the city, domestic and foreign. Stop with the giant development projects and create ways for small businesses, artists and other motivated people to affordably and creatively utilize the empty and abandoned real estate in key neighborhoods throughout the city. We are makers in this city - we have ideas. We just need the opportunity to manifest them.
Oh, and keep your fucking hands off our money.
That’s more than one thing. But then, undivided attention ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
To meet Lawrence and treat your ears to some top-shelf vintage soul music, check out Saturday night's Wiley & the Checkmates show at the Beachland. That's right, Halloween night will be the first-ever incarnation of what will hopefully become a new Waterloo tradition, the Halloween BOO-ga-loo. (Get it?) Lawrence will be running the wheels of steel along with his partner in spinning, DJ Mr Fishtruck, after Wiley & co get done with their portion of the show. Doors are at 8:30, show starts at 9, tickets are $8, but if you don a costume, you'll only have to cough up $5. See you there.
And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co, and Paulius Nasvytis.
2 years ago