Although the concept of sending a cockroach to Youngstown lends itself to an easy cheap shot, I shall refrain.
In fact, in this case — and this case only — losing a cockroach to Youngstown qualifies as a sad development.
This, my friends, was no ordinary cockroach.
He was a genetic mutation, a 10-foot beast made of brown metal.
With menacing silver eyes.
And long, creepy feelers.
And grotesque arms and legs.
He won a permanent place in Akron lore the instant he mounted that wall at TNT Exterminating on North Main Street, right across from Luigi’s.
His reign of terror lasted 15 years. But now he has been reduced to living in Youngstown under an assumed name.
Physically, there’s nothing wrong with him. To the contrary. He has defied the blazing summers and frigid winters and everything in between.
And he didn’t call a news conference to announce he was taking his talents to the South Bank of the Mahoning River.
So what happened? The gigantic insect was a victim of his own success.
The company that commissioned him grew so large it needed a much bigger building. Owner Michael Grace couldn’t find a suitable location for the right price in Akron, so he moved his operation to Macedonia, where he has tripled his square footage and enjoys easy freeway access.
If Grace moved to Macedonia, why did his big bug move to Youngstown? Because Macedonia has absolutely no sense of humor.
Macedonia must think it has turned into Hudson. The city flatly refused to allow the quirky sculpture to besmirch its pristine environs.
“One planning commission guy said, ‘Oh, that thing’s a landmark. There’s no problem,’ ” Grace says. “The mayor said, ‘Nope.’ ”
We’re talking about an endearing piece of art created by noted Akron sculptor John Comunale — same guy who has been creating high-profile public art for decades.
Comunale’s string of Akron hits includes the stainless steel catfish at Furnace and Howard streets, the clock on the Everett Building, Zippy at the McDonald’s restaurant near the university and the First Night sculpture at Lock 3 Park.
When he is informed Macedonia exterminated his bug, Comunale replies, “They’re a little too touchy up there.”
It’s also obvious Grace didn’t learn the lesson Comunale tried to teach him 15 years ago, when the duo slapped their bug on the wall without mentioning their plans to anyone in power.
“I told Michael it’s a lot easier to get forgiveness than permission,” jokes the sculptor.
Fortunately, Grace’s brother is also in the cockroach biz. So our mighty bug has settled in at Grace Services on Meridian Road, just off Interstate 680. At night, dark blue lights trained on him from below make him look even more menacing. (The bug, not Grace’s brother.)
Grace says his bro encountered absolutely no resistance from Youngstown government. “If you’re a taxpayer there,” he notes with a laugh, “they’re just happy you’re in business.”
As the third generation of his family to make a living by maiming Akron’s bugs, Grace did not exit our fair city cavalierly.
“We looked all around,” he says. “You don’t leave Akron after 75 years [without good reason].
“First, I had to be able to afford it. Second, it had to be somewhere that had good freeway access.
“There were [decent] places, but if you’re [a long way] from the freeway, that defeats the purpose for us because everything we do we go somewhere.”
Grace’s 15 employees wage insect wars not only in Cleveland and Akron but as far away as Vermilion and Wooster.
Meanwhile, Comunale, whose Comunale Sculptural Creations operates out of Canal Place, is on to other things, notably a set of gates for a garden at First Congregational Church on the edge of the University of Akron campus.
In yet another noteworthy development, the cockroach’s former home on North Main has been taken over by the Akron Symphony.
Am I the only one picturing a 20-foot violin with a telephone pole for the bow?
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.