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


Blue skies come down on me

Filed under : America,Travel
On July 4, 2012
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 5

(For picture/space purposes, Pittsburgh and Cleveland will be split into separate posts. If you have something important to do, or anything to do, you may want to skip tomorrow. I kid!)

More of our beautiful country this holiday week! I went to Pittsburgh “on business” (I used the quoteys because I don’t really know what an all expense paid trip for professional development is called) and spent six days there. Surprise! I really liked it. I am only sorry that Pittsburgh has such a poor reputation that I was forced to use the word surprise. Here’s what I liked about Pittsburgh:
1. It’s near water – I like that in any place.
2. It was a city of neighborhoods. And people actually lived in them, rather than just running home at night to the suburbs.
3. It had glorious, glorious houses. Oh my God, the houses.

Like this one. I really could have taken pictures of almost any house near where I was staying, but this one was a great example. You can imagine some turn of the century family living there with their servants, eating dinner together after Pa got home from running the steel mill. They all had double doors and bay windows and huge porches. Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, meet me at the fair…..

I think part of what made it a fun city was all the schools there. This is the “Cathedral of Learning” at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s not really a cathedral, but there is learning, I’m told. I was actually told this by Dr. Toad, who took me there, and I believed her. I had not seen Dr. Toad since we met in Baltimore many years ago and it was an utter delight to see her again. She is one of the best people in the universe and another reason why I wouldn’t mind living in Pittsburgh.

I did quite a bit of walking around in the afterhours (my day went till 5) and I made it downtown via the busway which is a railroad for buses. Or something. There I bought chocolate caramel popcorn and walked along the river where I saw PNC Park, the stadium that Elena (and her sister via email) suggested I see. I hope they meant across a river with a bridge in front.

There were lots of things I didn’t get to see, including museums, which closed at 5, and the Inclines which are these funiculurs (like a railway that goes up a cliff). I didn’t do the Inclines because there was no easy way to get there from where I was by public transport and taking a cab is against my religion. Well, I could have split with these two women from my program who were going but I’ll just say that they would have sucked all the fun out of the funicular.

Speaking of public transport, this is the entrance to the Amtrak station. How cool is that? Once upon a time, this is how the people who lived in that house up top traveled in style. I took this on the way out because the train station is across from the bus station which, let me tell you, is one of the best things I can say about a city. It isn’t even true in New York. Pittsburgh – me likey!

OK, so the post title. This is one of those things that if other people told me they did, I would think it idiotic or pretentious, but since I already told you that I only listen to Disintegration when it rains, I suppose I can cringe and say I only listen to Cerulean when I’m on the train. I spent 21 hours on the train this week, so I got to listen to it a lot. And there were a lot of blue skies, too. But as I sat for 8 hours on the Pennsylvanian (see route a couple of posts down), I remembered that The Ocean Blue are from Pennsylvania! Woo, I finally got it right. So, lyric is from the song Cerulean from the self-titled record.
The Ocean Blue – Cerulean


Westward, ho!

Filed under : America,Travel
On July 3, 2012
At 5:00 pm
Comments : 6

In honor of our nation’s birthday, I’m going to finally write about all my domestic travels over the last month. This is really the first week of vacation I’m getting (I hear your tiny violins) in the sense that I can get up whenever and just slack around the house. Apartment. Whatever. Soon I’ll have to start the many projects for school that I have to accomplish over the summer, so it’s not like I will be spending the next seven weeks sitting on the sofa eating potato chips.*

*There may be some of this.

So! The first place I went was to visit my dear friend, Tami, in Provo, Utah. I had intended to travel to Utah for a long, long time both because Tami lived there and because it is one of those increasingly rare places in America that has a distinct culture. Also, because I didn’t want to be one of those people who get their main knowledge of the LDS church from Big Love. But then Tami’s beloved husband passed away suddenly and I knew that this was the year.

Utah is a lot like Tami. It’s beautiful and is also wholesome yet full of rugged character. Tami was kind enough to tour me all around in her DietCokeMobile and we visited Park City, Provo, and Salt Lake City with various stops in between. We even ate across the street from where they found Elizabeth Smart, but that was accidental, plus Tami forgot to tell me till two days later. Oops.

I took this picture out the window of the DietCokeMobile. Seriously, is our country beautiful or what?

And this one. So gorgeous.

This is in Park City. I can’t believe those guys wouldn’t get out of my shot.

This is Brigham Young’s house in Salt Lake City. It’s called the Lion House. I wanted to tour it but there was no time to do both that and the Nordstrom so we went to Nordstrom. This is kind of the story of our time together. We did a lot of shopping and eating. Personally, I did it all so that my tax money could go to better pay teachers like Tami in Utah. I am THAT selfless.

It was a totally lovely trip and I had an utter blast. Tami is the kind of person who has a million interesting stories but also listens to your dull ones. She even has fun friends. And her daughters were awesome, too. I am not sure if I am more jealous of her to have such great kids or of them to have such a great mom. In conclusion, we live in a beautiful country with amazing people, and all you can eat pancakes with buttermilk-maple syrup are the greatest invention ever. God bless America.

Tomorrow, two more cities I visited for the first time. Also, sorry there were no actual ho’s in this post.

Edited to add this song, which is Tami’s new favorite after she kindly set up the Depeche Mode Pandora station just for me and then proceeded to spend eleventy billion hours in the car with me. We sang the alternate lyrics, though, if you must know.
Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough


And now, for the next eight hours, Pennsylvania

Filed under : Travel
On June 24, 2012
At 12:31 pm
Comments :1

I’m sitting here on the train at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia as we change engines for the rest of the trip. I’ll be spending the next week in Pittsburgh, all expenses paid, playing with robots. It is really tough to be me right now, lemme tell you. If you know anything fun to see in Pittsburgh, lay it on me! I have no idea if I’ll have time to do anything non-robot related but maybe!



I’m on a plane, I can’t complain

Filed under : America,Travel
On June 15, 2012
At 8:00 am
Comments : 2

… hopefully. I had to post this in advance and who wants to jinx things when airlines are involved?

First stop on the American Cities I Have Not Visited Tour 2012:

Title from Nirvana. Yes, I know I used the homophone. School’s out!

Edited to add: this didn’t post on time, obviously. But I made it!