Harvey Pekar with the poster of the "American Splendor" film with Paul Giamatti playing him.
“Harvey was one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I’ve ever met. He had a huge brain and an even bigger soul. And he was hilarious. He was a great artist, a true American poet and there is no one to replace him.”
— Paul Giamatti, to PopEater
How many more psychic blows can the city of Cleveland take?
First, the ongoing economic mess — the steady departure of businesses from the Rust Belt over the decades and the accompanying population decline, to the point where the city on the lake now has fewer people than Fresno.
Then, there’s the sports world. The Indians, whose resurgence in the mid-’90s was a major source of civic pride, have returned to suckdom. The Browns 2.0 have been mired in a sewage plant-deep pile of shit since they were formed 11 years ago, while the original Browns have won a Super Bowl and seem to contend every year.
And, of course, this past Thursday’s “Decision” by Akron product LeBron to bolt the cold of Cleveland, and the possibility of Cavs’ management never, ever being able to put together a winning team around him, for the Heat and the booty calls of Miami and the siren song of a possible championship.
(Every stud athlete has an ego monster inside — that’s part of the package — but I never had him pegged for a raging, 100-foot, ego-tripping ‘Zilla until now. There was no problem with him actually leaving Cleveland; athletes leave cities all the time — it’s the way he did it, and to a down-on-its-luck city that revered him, that was so, so wrong.)
And now, a blow just as cruel, if not crueler: word of the loss of a native son whose very existence screamed CLEVELAND through and through.
Harvey Pekar, creator and star of the greatest underground comic of them all, “American Splendor,” subject of one of my all-time favorite films — a man who achieved greatness through just plain living an everyday life — was found dead by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights bedroom early Monday morning at the age of 70.
Again, how much more can the city take?