Trip To Cleveland
…and the one and only Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame
Susan and I had to take her son James to Meadville (a Dr. Seuss sounding place that lies next to Erie Pennsylvania). It was a four o’clock in the morning drop off at a deserted Pizza Hut parking lot. The reason? Father’s day. James was gonna see his dad. It was a grueling three hour long car trip from Honesdale PA that was peppered with stimulating talk about Star Wars, pin point accurate shout outs of "There’s a Toys R Us Mom!", the existence of God, the importance of having Winterfresh gum at all times and Beatle worship. I dosed off once or twice. Nonetheless, the father and son transaction worked out smoothly and Susan and I ended up at a nice hotel right in Lake Erie. Well, not actually in the lake of course (insert wet dream joke here) but near by. The bed in our room was by far the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept in. Seriously. I was so comfortable I almost cried. Any position you slept in was equally as comfortable as the next. And when I woke up my muscles didn’t hurt, make back felt great, I didn’t feel nauseous nor did I have one of those terrible migraines. In other words, I did not feel normal. Good points so early in the trip. Cool.
Slowly a wave of depression fell upon us but we figured that would change once we reached our hotel on the outskirts of Cleveland and had a bite to eat. We cruised around quite a bit looking for a hospitable dining venue but all we came across were dubious greasy fast food joints and closed "cash your paycheck here" places. By 9:30pm on a slightly damp Saturday evening we eventually found an Italian restaurant that was on the verge of closing for the night. Our New York accents convinced them other wise and we were served a nice –a- Italiano meal. Well, I thought it was good. I think I was just so hungry a bag of fried cigarette buts would have been a blessing at that point.
We scarfed down our meal and headed back to the hotel complaining about how we did not take advantage of the last room we stayed in with it’s comfy bed and Jacuzzi. This time around the bed was uncomfortable, the scenery drab and we woke up feeling miserable (in other words normal). Our continental breakfast was top notch. McDonalds. I’ll say no more. With a coffee in hand, Susan behind the wheel, we headed toward the actual city of Cleveland again, this time listening to Paul McCartney’s latest CD, "Memory Almost Full", (perfect optimistic music to set the day off).
We navigated our way to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame with ease. No need for a GPS. It’s a uniquely odd shaped building with various sides jutting out over Lake Erie. Ya can’t miss it. All Susan and I kept thinking was "God, it must get nasty here in the winter time when the lake effect snow hits". Fortunately, the weather was a seasonable 74 degrees Fahrenheit with just a speck of clouds to ornate the cities small skyline. Parking was a breeze. Eight bucks for the day. We sauntered in through the big glass doors and were immediately greeted by personnel who quickly forced us to have our picture taken for security reasons. I suspected they were just hoping we’d buy the photos on our way out but no matter; we paid our twenty - dollar a pop tickets and proceeded to the lower level where apparently all the cool stuff was. And cool it was. The first point of interest was a slew of well-worn guitars in glass cases. Some played by Jerry Garcia, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix etc… I could still hear them ringing. Then as we entered into the main room, we were confronted by a myriad of psychedelic rock and roll fashion, rare 45s, collectible LP sleeves and various musical paraphernalia. Susan realized that she had the same taste in clothes as Hendrix and that both of us could only find ourselves wearing outfits more geared towards heavier gospel singers. The rock and roll dudes like Jagger and Richards and Bowie were skinny beyond belief. I guess a diet of heroin and more heroin will do that to you. Our eyes were quickly mesmerized on Michael Jackson’s sparkling glove spinning around in a glass box. That was rock and roll? Ok. I guess it depend on how one would use such a glove. Then there was John Lennon’s faded yellow Sgt. Pepper suit. It looked rather surreal without the Beatle filling it out. I wondered what it smelled like? We came across a revealing college letter Madonna wrote to her friend just before she ventured off to New York City. I doubt she ever thought her scribblings would be scrutinized so many years later under glass. It would have been more interesting if it was written on toilet paper in blood. Nonetheless, Susan found it intriguing and somewhat inspiring but I kept wondering what Madonna had to do with Rock and Roll. Well, she was skinny. Meanwhile, I dug the red ZZ Top car used in their videos and the actual drafts of Beatle lyrics were fascinating as well as some of the old school report cards. Apparently Jim Morrison was an A student who eventually veered off into wise-ass land. The progression was interesting. If only the lighting in the room was brighter it would have been easier to read these historic documents, but I guess that shadowy atmosphere is what hides all the stains.
We buzzed right through the first floor in an hour and covered most of the rest of the Hall in another two. Somewhere around the top floor we came upon a large three screen viewing theater. They were showing footage of all the inductees from the Hall’s inception to the present. To get there though you have to travel down a dark hallway and on the right side of the wall are gold etchings of all your musical heroes signatures. I found that fascinating. You can surmise a lot about a person’s personality by the way they sign their John Hancock. Some signatures even looked like logos. Nice penmanship Jackie Wilson!
As Susan and I left the building (without Elvis) I could not help but feel sad that I was and never will be part of this musical history. Rock and Roll was a thing of the 20th century. That’s it. It’s over. Never again will you see that type of talent and excitement grace the stages. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame basically tells you from the start that this is it! From here on in the music world is all myspace, iTunes, Spotify, guitar hero video games and 100% disposable. No more mystique. But perhaps it’s always been that way. I just didn’t notice it because it was new at the time and I was young and impressionable or just plain stupid! But man, did I look forward to that next Zappa or Paul Simon or Elton John or Stevie Wonder record. It was worth every saved, lawn-cutting dollar. Every anxious second, dreaming, waiting for it to arrive at the local record store, (even that a thing of the past now). The smell of a vinyl record can still bring a tear to my eyes. Those pieces of cardboard and plastic were my salvation. And if I were lucky maybe one of my heroes would show up on a talk show while I was crying my way through dinner, tackling the awkwardness of high school! Back then in the 70’s just to get a glimpse into the workings of some magical, musical genius was a rare gift indeed, (nothing like today’s in your face immediacy of youtube). The playing field has been leveled. All you can eat 24/ 7. I miss that earlier time. The rock and roll illusion was special. Real special. It was something to worship and be in awe of. It gave me a reason to live. But as the Steely Dan song "Pretzel Logic" goes: "Those days are gone forever – over a long time ago". "Oh yeah"!