In one of the great 30 Rock episodes, Liz Lemon considers moving to Cleveland with her boyfriend, Floyd, and Jack says to her, “We’d all like to flee to the Cleve and club-hop down at the Flats and have lunch with Little Richard, but we fight those urges because we have responsibilities.” I tend to agree with Lemon on most things, so I figured if she was into Cleveland, I would be too. We didn’t spend much time in the Cleve, but it did win our hearts for one major reason: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
David and I are both very, very into music, and we’re both fascinated by the history of contemporary music, so this place was right up our allies. David had been there before, but he was a kid and didn’t, in his words, appreciate it nearly enough.
The Hall of Fame is set up so that you walk through the history of rock & roll, from early influences to today’s (literally, that day’s) top ten hits. There are videos, listening booths and, primarily, lots and lots of memorabilia.
Which is an odd thing: that an object could be imbued with a certain magic because its owner had some combination of talent and striving and connection and dumb luck. I mean, I suppose it’s pretty basic to our society that we set some people apart, above, and that when those people are famous they become so unwittingly a part of our lives that they are fundamentally objectified. We somehow own pieces of them or memories with them or opinions of them, even while not actually knowing them at all. And even more so for musicians, whose works become our anthems or our background noise or the songs we danced to at our first junior high dance or the albums we listened to on repeat senior year. So seeing all this memorabilia and hearing all this music in one place was, for me, sort of an odd confrontation with my unconscious belief that these people are basically just the sparkly suits they wear and the songs they sing. Because seeing the sparkly suit I think, That is a pretty tiny suit. Elvis was sort of a scrawny guy. And: oh, I guess Elvis was an actual guy who actually wore this thing and had actual dimensions and probably also an inner life.
And while I was realizing that Elvis was real, David was thinking about the building that houses the museum, and laughing to himself over an I.M. Pei design being used to represent a genre of music that has traditionally been associated with rebellion. “Nothing says ‘stick it to the man’ like a giant glass pyramid,” said David over an eight dollar snack cup of cut fruit from the museum’s cafe.
Obviously, while David and I were getting all metaphysical with our Hall of Fame experience, the kids were just sort of bored-ly jogging around the exhibits and wondering aloud where the drinking fountains were, so we didn’t stay forever. More of a hit with them was the Long Live Rock sign outside the museum, where Margi found a little step to sit quietly and suck her thumb and Graham crawled through the letter K twelve hundred times.
Before we got back on the road, we hit the West Side Market for baked goods and falafels, all of which I’d describe with as moderately solid. The market is the oldest one in Cleveland and is housed in a gorgeous building. On the way there I almost ran into a used book shop to look for a copy of “Walk Two Moons” so I could re-read it while we crossed South Dakota. Then I realized the book shop was really a novelty shop specializing in, according to the sign, vintage pornography and pin-up posters from the 1970s. If they did have a book called “Walk Two Moons”, I assume the subject matter would have been a bit different from the YA novel, but I didn’t go in to look.