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Hold Your Breath

A clang of bells jangle overhead as I walk in the door of The Copper Fox and offer a gentle “hey there” to the middle-aged keeper behind the bar. “Be with you in a moment” he mutters back in a lazy low voice, walking away as I sit down on the second stool. The brief interaction makes me smile because he just doesn’t care, in a charming ‘I’ve seen the world, and it can wait” kind of way. I have a good warm feeling about being here. 

The cafe is empty, as it should be on a Wednesday morning. There are no events or happenings in town beyond the usual as far as I know, but I’m just stopping through for a few days and not sure what’s “normal.” Maybe I’ll figure that out before I head back home. 

While I’m waiting for the man working the place to return, I notice a whimsical yet beautiful painting hanging behind the bar. The image is an oil-painted canvas, quite new in appearance, depicting two children sitting cross-legged underwater and pretending to be daintily sipping their respective cups of tea. Pinkies out with sophisticated pursed lips, the pair blow bubbles to the surface. A tea party, Ha! Wow, that’s something. 

Contemplating the scene, maybe a cup of tea could be nice. Nah, these two can have the tea and I’ll join them with coffee. 

Curious whether I could order a cup soon, I scan the room for more signs of life but only see the sun beaming through and splitting the floor with harsh shadows. I follow the line across the scattered tables and chairs and back to the far wall where the tea drinkers once again grab my attention. 

How long can you hold your breath, I wonder. One minute? Two minutes? When I was in my youth I could swim two whole pool lengths without breaching the surface for air. That coulda been a minute or two… If I sat stationary underwater, maybe longer. 

I close my eyes, and just for fun take a long deep inhale.  Plunging the energy from my shoulders through my spine toward the seat beneath me, I lean the weight from my head back to feel a sensation like sinking my whole body to the pool floor. Here we go. 

A lot can happen in this amount of time. What’s the most significant thing that could happen? For starters, you can say something stupid, like, I love you. You could have the chance, and not say it… or someone else could say I love you and you could turn and walk away. That's pretty big stuff.

It comes to mind that breathing is important and I am, in fact, currently without air, but I can’t help but push the present aside and think about each of these powerful moments one by one in my imaginary tea land. 

Memories of romantic love appear easily. My mind makes the jump and connections between those feelings, and then to other moments of friendship which pause in a cluttered mix before darting to a scene I hadn’t seen in some time. It’s my dad, and he’s sick… the moment I truly realized he will be gone, one day forever. 

A very small tear wells on the corner of each of my eyes and without realizing it - they’re peeked open and my breath has returned, my butt in the seat and body well intact inside this small cafe. How long's it been?

The glittering sunbeams still dancing across the room remind me of a moment in a cafe in Rome, another In New York, Tokyo, London… a thread between all of them feels palpable, and I’d just seen a lot of the faces I knew from these places flash before my closed eyes. Times that came and went so suddenly, and yet somehow, in a way, are with me forever.  

“Well then, sorry about the wait, It’s just me here today and we’re still getting ready - what’ll ya have?”  says the barkeep, who has reappeared in front of me,

“You know, I feel like I’ve had so much already… just a cup of coffee? Also what’s your name, and what can you tell me about this painting?” 


I wrote this fictional story today while considering the idea of what a MOMENT is for the December 2023 Greyt Big Talk. The purpose of all of these talks isn’t to offer thought leadership or give you some perfect advice, but rather let you get to know some interesting people practicing their crafts and bringing ideas out of their heads and into the world. This month’s speaker, Craig Hassall, is the new CEO of Playhouse Square and unfortunately, if you’re not already registered, we’re full. 

In 2023 we held 8 Greyt Big Talks and 4 Golden Hours including our first “festival edition” on the downtown Cleveland Lakefront. I don’t have an exact count but there have been dozens of new artists and entrepreneurs featured and a community of thousands coming in person to learn about each other. 

We welcomed some new team members like Rocky Nguyen, Korey Smerk, and Kim Sutton who have helped us get more talks recorded, edited, and shared on Youtube and digital platforms. 

All of the gatherings and shared inspiration this year wouldn’t have been possible without the support from our friends at Brite Energy Innovators. Next year we hope to visit more studios, offices, private residential spaces, parks, galleries, and other places where we find creative inspiration - But we need your help! Please encourage Cleveland employers to become Greyt members and continue connecting all of our city's beautiful creative communities. We’ll also seek new speakers, startups, artists, musicians, and more for the explorations in 24. Shoot me a note to schedule some time to chat. 

If I don't see you, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and those you love - all the best for a joyous and full 2024!

Yours Truly,

GREYT CULTURE // Greyt Letters Archive // About the Letter: This monthly(ish) email goes to GREYT event participants, partners, and others I would like to be aware of the contents of upcoming programs. Event details listed here are subject to change based on input from recipients. Confirmed event details will always be listed through event listings on - recipients are added and removed periodically at my discretion. If you would like to be a permanent recipient or removed from GREYT emails, reply and I will comply with kindness. Thanks for reading.

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