Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Even movie stars, they come to Cleveland to get away

Filed under : America,Travel
On July 6, 2012
At 8:00 am
Comments : 5

That line is from 30 Rock. I’m working my way through the episodes (which is my chief goal of the summer) and just happened to see the Cleveland episode tonight. How cool is that?

Here’s the complete Skitch for my trip. Those fancy arrows only go straight so you’re stuck with this disaster, sorry! I wanted a little more accuracy. The train trips were both cool except I have realized that my limit in a non-sleeper car type of journey is somewhere between 8 and 12 hours, eight being what it took to get to Pittsburgh, which was fine, and 12 being what it took from Cleveland to NY, which was too much. But I did see a lot of wonderful country.

I did not like Cleveland as much as Pittsburgh, even though it sits on beautiful water (which I could see out my hotel window, YaY!), although people from the area tell me I am mistaken so maybe I didn’t get to see it in its true glory. Basically, I was there on a weekend and it was empty and lifeless. All the stores were closed and there were no people except tourists like myself going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or Science Center. There were no amenities to cater to us. Nowhere to eat. Nowhere to shop. There were no coffee places. I wandered all over the downtown and then the Warehouse District which was said to be up and coming but I think it hasn’t upped or came yet. There were some restaurants open there (and a Starbucks, God bless them) but very few people.

It’s interesting that in this week in which I’m writing about American cities, I happened to see the documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, which is about a failed and demolished housing project in St. Louis (it’s always St. Louis around here, isn’t it?) The movie posits that part of the reason it was such a disaster is that it was a complex of high-density, high-volume residences at the exact moment when people were leaving cities to head to the suburbs. Population seemed to peak in these cities at about 1950ish. Urban areas have never really recovered and I think Cleveland is among them. So there is this beautiful downtown centered around an area called Public Square (which I kept reading wrong because I’m 12) and there’s no one there on the weekend. It was like an office park at 5pm. I felt sad about that. But I did take some pictures of some classic pieces.

This is the war memorial in Public Square. It’s really ornate and beautiful and has smaller statues on each side (you can just see them). It’s hard to tell from this picture, but it’s jaw-droppingly lovely.

(Notice the last man left in Cleveland on a Friday afternoon is running to the bus to escape.)

Oh yeah, this is the kind of building I drool over. This was the headquarters of the May Company Ohio department stores and dates from 1914. When I look at a building like this, I think of department stores like in The Women (the original… please) and the sort of profits they once made. I don’t know what it’s used for now (your local May’s is now a Macy’s, I’m pretty sure).

I took about 4,000 pictures of this but it was just too hard to capture it. It’s called the Arcade and words can’t really describe it. It’s like a mall from 1890 but a thousand times more beautiful. They were getting it ready for a wedding while I was there.

So you can see, Cleveland had a glorious industrial and commercial past. It’s the present that isn’t as awesome.

Speaking of, what I didn’t take any pictures of was the thing I had come to see, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The outside is cool but there are pictures of that everywhere, and the inside, you aren’t allowed to take any pictures of! Really sad. Honestly, I was pretty unimpressed with the place. It doesn’t tell a good story. That is, if you didn’t know the history of Rock music, you probably wouldn’t have learned a lot more here. The exhibits were really piecemeal and not always what was important, I thought. There’s also the much argued about aspect of “is Rock & Roll the kind of art that belongs in a museum, that can be formalized in this way?” My feeling after seeing it is, no. It feels weird and ill-fitting and… not very rock & roll. I liked the Experience Music Project in Seattle better. It seemed to take the whole thing less seriously.

The thing that meant the most to me, that was worth the entire trip plus my $22(!) admission fee was in the actual last thing you see in the Exhibit Hall. As a seeming “hey, we’re in Cleveland!” sort of gesture, there is a small section devoted to Rock from the Midwest and in it, just at the beginning, are Matthew Sweet’s handwritten lyrics to three of his songs: I’ve Been Waiting, Winona (originally called “Alone in This World”), and Sick of Myself. One is on an anime themed notepad and another is in a hardbound notebook. I really almost cried. It’s amazing to see these things.

If you are interested, which you are not, in knowing what the 80’s Alternative presence is in the HOF, it’s a Joy Division/New Order exhibit and the handwritten lyrics to A Little Respect (I dare you not to have that in your head right now). But I didn’t expect a lot and that wasn’t really what I wanted to see, either. I think hearing “My Woman From Tokyo” as I walked in reminded me of how long I’ve loved music. And seeing displays of many of the bands I’ve been involved with over the years made me, for the first time in a long time, miss what I used to do. Getting to be involved with music has been one of the great blessings of my life.

So I’m glad I went but I doubt I’d ever go back. If you want proof of my “meh” feelings, I didn’t buy anything at the gift shop! So unlike me!

In sum, even though I did get to see some lovely things, I kind of understand why Liz Lemon stayed here. But still, love ya, USA! Happy birthday!

REM – Cuyahoga