Saturday, January 1, 2011

Heights Arts: New Years Day Brunch

For the past 10 years Tommy's on Coventry has hosted a New Years Day brunch to with all proceeds and tips benefiting Heights Arts. For the past two or three years I've been peripherally aware of the brunch but in the past that awareness didn't come until January 2nd or so.

This year I the Heights Arts newsletter in mid December and promptly marked my calendar. Despite being generally neither a morning nor breakfast person* and last night being, obviously, a late night I was awake bright and early this morning.

Not sure what to expect and with temperatures in the mid-50s and a a light rain I decided to take advantage of the wonderful day and I took the 10-minute walk to Tommy's shortly after the 10am start time... [two of the things I love about Cleveland Heights are Heights Arts and the walkability] when I arrived, I found a line that already stretched out the door and down the sidewalk with conversation buzzing up and down the line, spirits in no way diminished by the occasional droplets of water plopping down on the not-so-huddled masses.

Working that line, it was easy to spot Peggy Spaeth, Heights Arts' bubbly and tireless executive director -- this morning donning an apron and handing out numbers to those waiting. It seems groups of one weren't terribly common and the suggestion was made that I might join another Heights Arts supporter slightly further up the line who was dining also for one. Under the heading of "no harm in meeting new people", it was a suggestion I took up at once.

From that point we were seated relatively quickly -- the groups in front of us needing larger tables -- and our $10 per person admission was taken. The menu is simple: All you can eat pancakes, bacon, eggs, and sausage with coffee, orange juice or several other beverages [Tommy's trademark milkshakes were not, however, on the menu]. Service, by an entirely volunteer waitstaff, was exceedingly prompt, and the food -- my order consisting of pancakes and bacon -- was delightful.

Conversation with the random stranger I was paired with added an additional layer of interest and enjoyment to the meal; I've recently realized I enjoy learning about people and what brings them to where they are -- physically and metaphorically -- at that particular moment. In my case, the lady across the table was a recently retired school librarian and mother of two who relocated to Cleveland Heights in the mid 80s because of the great environment it offered her children, an environment she says has stayed pretty consistent over the past 25 years.

After our meal was over I caught Ms. Spaeth still working the ever-growing line of local arts supporters -- now stretching not only the length of Tommy's facade, but the entire length of Mac's Backs bookstore next next door. Mac's was also open and donating proceeds to Heights Arts, and while standing in front of that storefront my eye caught the cover of The Severances: An American Odyssey. Living in close proximity to the former Severance family estate (now Severance Town Center) and a frequent benefactor of the families philanthropy (The Cleveland Orchestra's Severance Hall home, and the Severance Purchase Fund at the Cleveland Museum of Art being the two most visible legs of that giving) I was curious, and purchased a copy

I realized walking home from that meal -- and after stopping by Phoenix Coffee for a latte to warm the hands -- that that would be a cool way to do a meal: Just get a random collection of single (not necessarily in the relationship sense -- in the sense of "not with anyone else at that particular meal") and seat them at tables of two for lunch or the like. Of course some conversations would be better than others, but it would be an interesting experiment, and better than passing a meal in silence.

*- When weighing the options between "more sleep" and "breakfast" sleep wins virtually every time.


  1. that sounds fun! I want to go to that next year.

  2. You absolutely should! I'm sure details will come out probably mid-December, but it's a pretty safe bet it will be 1/1/12 from about 10am-???