The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – that is what drew us to Cleveland. It didn’t take much research, though, to find enough to keep a visitor to this appealing city busy for at least a week!
Since we got a late start on our day yesterday, we chose another attraction as our first destination, the West Side Market, Cleveland’s oldest public market, housed in the same location for almost a century. As soon as we entered, we both immediately thought of the mercado in Mazatlan, though the vendors at the West Side Market are limited to selling only food – and abide by considerably stricter sanitation standards.
Although the adjacent produce arcade was appealing, the older, central marketplace was absolutely eye-popping! The building itself is spectacular, a huge, well lit space with an arched ceiling made of brick. In its shelter, dozens of small stalls sold an amazing variety of foodstuffs: coffee, herbs and spices, fresh and smoked meats, cheeses, fish, fresh pasta. Several stalls sold only poultry. Bakery stalls specialized either in bread or desserts. Salads. One of the cheese stalls sold peanut butter – nothing but ground peanuts, no sugar, no salt. Of course, we came home with (too) many purchases!
Today was reserved for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where we spent five hours. Photo opportunities are limited, as photographs are not allowed in any of the exhibit halls. We walked through the Science Museum on the way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the parking garage – it was a swirl of kids, and noise… which made it even more noticeable that most of the patrons of the Rock and Roll museum had gray hair and sensible shoes!
It’s hard to put into words how this museum touched me, but the exhibits brought back – with feeling – many experiences that rarely seem like part of my life any longer. For me, the “rock and roll” years described here were a time of great freedom, much experimentation, and general tumult. I enjoyed those years – not as the best times of my life, but as good times, interesting times, and what we saw and heard today awakened many of those feelings.
We began by watching the hour long “multi-media presentation” introducing all of the Hall of Fame inductees. As Odel and I sat side by side watching and listening, we exchanged frequent elbow jabs as the opening notes of favorite songs played. We laughed at some of the costumes and dance moves… then listened and ached for those talented, creative musicians who left us way before their time.
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Mama Cass… Jim Morrison was born the same year as Odel, Jimi Hendrix was a year older! It’s hard to imagine them on Medicare, that’s for certain. It probably would have been equally difficult for them to imagine us, their contemporaries - marked by several decades of experience - movin’, groovin’, and tapping our feet to the sounds of classic rock and roll coming through the headphones we donned at various exhibits in the museum. :)
The permanent exhibits, 60% of what there is to see in the museum, are located in a giant space on the bottom floor. Some of the area is devoted to a timeline of the development of Rock and Roll, with sections for each of the geographic centers and the different musical styles produced in each: London, Detroit, Memphis, San Francisco, L.A... Other areas are devoted to specific musicians or musical groups. Personal letters, photographs, costumes, sketches, handwritten lyrics, contracts – its all there, in bold colors and musical accompaniment.
Given the pyramidal shape of the museum, the upper floors are successively smaller. We had a sandwich at the cafe – and suggest you eat elsewhere first, or just bring your own sandwich from home… the food is best described as forgettable, but the view from the cafe’s tables is interesting and appealing.
Another of my favorite exhibits is on the third floor (I think) - a wall display of covers of Rolling Stone magazine, along with letters from well-known names: an argumentative exchange between Annie Leibovitz and Jann Wenner concerning the terms of her contact, a letter from Charles Manson responding to the cover story about him featured in the magazine (offering a written interview in return for a free subscription), correspondence with John Lennon.
Our energy ran out before we saw everything, or maybe we were simply overwhelmed by reviewing so much of our history and so many memories. Stepping back outside, we admired the skyline of Cleveland, the design of the museum, and the beautiful setting on the shoreline of Lake Erie… then hit the road just at what would seem to be the peak of rush hour, 5 pm.
Well, surprise! We drove right through downtown Cleveland, back to our campground at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, in 20 minutes – the same amount of time it took us to navigate the distance at 11 am. What a difference from our daunting experience in Pittsburgh!
Tomorrow we’ve lined up a visit from a mobile RV repair service to replace the electric heating element in our water heater, burned out when our water pump malfunctioned last week, then we’re off to Detroit for a visit with our friend Gloria, last seen in Kerrville, TX. Safe travels, all.