A collection of love letters written to the town.
I value you, Toledo, more than ever.
As a young boy, I contracted a really bad case of wanderlust. A two-week cross country trip in my parents’ Clark Griswold-style station wagon to Seattle and back left me zealous for other places and envious of the kids who got to call those cool places home. I mean, who actually chooses Toledo? I was ten-years-old, coming of age, and I had been introduced to the mystery of the Black Hills, Roosevelt’s Yellowstone, Mark Twain’s Mississippi, and the Pacific Northwest that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark brought to life in my text books. But, the adventure ended, and like a cold shower, that 10-year-old version of me, was forced to return to you Toledo. Imagine my consternation!
Thirteen days after graduating from Bedford High School, I got out of Dodge-fast! My 18th summer was spent in Providence, Rhode Island, where I began my professional journey as a chef and restaurant manager at Johnson & Wales University. The hospitality industry, in turn, permitted me to spend time living in charming places like Charleston, South Carolina, Hilton Head, Miami, Kansas City, Boston, and ultimately Atlanta, Georgia, where I would settle for the better part of 14 years. As if that wasn’t enough, my love affair with travel also provided me with rendezvous to Spain, Honduras, England, and a magnificent two weeks traipsing the tropical paradise that is Costa Rica. Again, I always returned to you longing to be someplace else.
But, it was during one of those adventures-the one to England, I believe, when I began developing symptoms of yet another malady-symptoms in the form of desire-a desire to establish roots and legacy in the very community on this beautifully diverse planet that gave me life, gave me breath, gave me a passion to learn and explore all that our world has to offer.
And so it was, that in the summer of 2007- seventeen years after leaving you, Toledo-that my wife and I decided to return home, start a family of our own, and explore this wonderful community in Northwest Ohio that we barely knew. We barely knew you because we took you for granted, Toledo. In my first 18 years, I didn’t get to know your history, culture and natural wonders because I was too preoccupied with thoughts of where I’d rather be. Sure, I made the occasional trip to the zoo and museum and Promenade Park on the 4th of July, but I didn’t really get to know you intimately the way I have for the past 9 years since returning to you and your welcoming embrace.
Now, I make it a habit to stroll through your alleys and suburban small towns, memorizing your metro park trails, introducing you to my two boys and making adventures with them at Winter Fest, classes at the museum, concerts at the Peristyle, productions at the Rep, and cheering on our hometown teams at Fifth-Third and Huntington Arena. I no longer take you for granted, T-Town. I’ve learned I can explore right here in my own back yard.
Additionally, the dedicated community of runners and triathletes I have connected with the past 9 years have become some of my closest friends. From open water swims at Olander, long rides on the bike, and weekly group runs at one of the half-dozen metro parks, genuine community is created and authentic relationships cultivated far deeper than just competition and physical fitness.
I have come to realize that I can always explore and take adventures to exotic destinations. However, I value you, Toledo, more than ever. For you are the home of my parents, my grandparents, great-grandparents, and now my very own children. You, Toledo, have all four seasons. You have history, and culture, and green spaces and Great Lakes, and amusement parks, intriguing people, and top-notch minor league sports facilities. Essentially, Toledo, what I’m trying to say is: you have nearly everything I seek to find when I explore other destinations, and I always have the privilege of returning to you. I am proud to call you home.
We caught up with Michael as he was wrapping up the day at Whitmer Career and Technology Center, where he heads the Culinary Arts program. Balancing roles between chef, teacher, and mentor, Michael is driven by the success of his students. He balances his own interests as a runner and triathlete and life at home with two growing boys. Just yesterday, at the 2016 Glass City Marathon, Michael ran a Boston-qualifying time of 3:18:33.