“It’s a Fender Standard Stratocaster. I have one of these. It is a perfect reproduction,” exclaimed John, our grandson. Walking from Embassy Suites to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum we stopped to examine the colorful guitars that are part of Cleveland’s street art project. That was when my husband and I knew we had picked the perfect high school graduation gift for John who will be a music major at Le Moyne College in the fall. The gift of travel is one that is never forgotten.
I pointed to the plaque, which explained the artwork. It is called “Singing Legacy” and was designed by the Hungarian Community. “I know you think your ancestry is half Irish and half Italian, but your great-grandmother is half Hungarian. Did you know that?”
Before entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, I asked, “Do you know who I. M. Pei is?” It was obvious from the look on John’s face that he had heard the name but it didn’t register. “Stop. Look at the building. I. M. Pei designed it. He is one of the world’s most famous architects. Many of his buildings incorporate a pyramid, including his famous pyramids at the Louvre Museum in Paris, which you probably saw in the movie “The DiVinci Code.”
In the lobby I pointed to a large hot dog artwork hanging from the ceiling. “I wonder what that has to do with Rock and Roll.”
“It is from a concert by the rock group Phish and those cars hanging over there are from a concert by the Irish rock band U2.”
I knew I had a lot to learn about rock and roll. We started our tour with a cinematic journey through rock and roll history. “Mystery Train” in Theater One, follows the evolution of rock and roll.
“Oh, no,” was the quiet sigh from John when he heard the narrator say, “there was a time when there was no rock and roll.” At the end of the second presentation, “Kick Out the Jams,” in Theater Two the musical journey from the music of the 1950s to today’s music had enlightened the three of us.
“John, look at these quotes. In 1985 a San Antonio Councilman said `The First Amendment should not apply to Rock and Roll’ and J. Edgar Hoover said, `Rock and Roll is repulsive to right-minded people and has a serious effect on our young people.’ Amazing. I find it interesting that when I. M. Pei designed the pyramids at the Louvre many people were just as outraged by his pyramid design as other people were about rock and roll. And, they are both here to stay.”
Most of the artifacts on display had little or no connection to my generation but articles like Jim Morrison’s Cub Scout shirt and Mick Jagger’s American/Union Jack Flag Cape fascinated John. Given the musical generation gap we split up and agreed to meet for lunch and then go to the Hall of Fame multi-media presentation together. My husband and I took a trip through our musical memory lane that included Elvis, Buddy Holly, Les Paul but didn’t progress beyond the Beatles.
Over lunch we discussed the evolution of music which seemed to be encapsulated in the phrase: “Elvis freed the body, the Beatles freed the music, and Bob Dylan freed the mind.” It was a learning experience for the three of us – bridging the generations through music. While John’s music may never be our favorite and our “old timers music” will not replace his favorites, we all learned about the evolution of music and wondered what music will be like when he has grandchildren. Interestingly, I thought CDs had replaced vinyl records but based on the number I saw for sale in the gift shop vinyls are having a resurgence in popularity.
John played in his high school jazz band, so dinner at Nighttown, Cleveland’s premiere jazz club, seemed appropriate. After dinner, the lights dimmed and the quintet jazzed up Nighttown. Led by keyboardist David Garfield, along with vocalist Alex Ligertwood who was the lead vocalist for Santana, Steve Ferrone on the drums; Kip Reed on the electric bass, and Tony Pulizzi, on the guitar, we listened to music that appealed to the three of us. “They are playing `Babylon Sister’” whispered John, “one of my favorites.”
The next day at breakfast, John’s grandfather asked, “Did you ever have a B-B gun?”
“No, my mom said I’d shoot my eye out! Do you know how many kids never got a BB gun for Christmas because of that line?”
“Do you know what movie that line comes from?”
“Of course! `Christmas Story.’ We watch it every Christmas. It’s my mom’s favorite.”
“Perfect. We are going to the `Christmas Story’ house today.”
“Do I get to buy a Red Ryder BB Gun?”
“No, and we are not going to buy a leg lamp either!”
“Oh, f…duge! to quote Ralphie.”
Even though Cleveland was not the setting for the Christmas Story it is where the house used in the classic movie based on Jean Shepard’s story was filmed. Our guide, Grace, explained, “The owner loved the movie and when he saw the house for sale on eBay he just had to have it. He bought it for about $150,000 and spent about $240,000 restoring it to look like it did in the movie.” My husband and I felt right at home in the 1940s house. Truly a place that spanned three generations. My husband and I lived the era; the movie was a Christmas favorite for our children and is now a classic for our grandchildren.
We also visited the Cleveland MetroPark Zoo, the Great Lakes Science Center, and cheered for the Cleveland Indians baseball team at Progressive Field. All are great multi-generation activities.
I knew the perfect place to end our fun-packed music-laced trip to Cleveland – The Hard Rock Café. As we sat down for lunch, John looked at the video, “That’s Eric Clapton playing `Layla,’ the same song they played at Nighttown.” When the waiter announced John’s upcoming 18th birthday, he exclaimed, “Cleveland rocks!”
My husband and I agreed – Cleveland definitely rocks! And, the best gift is the gift of travel.
If you go:
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum: www.rockhall.com, 216-781-ROCK
Nighttown: www.nighttowncleveland.com, 216-795-0550
Christmas Story House: www.achristmasstoryhouse.com, 216-298-4919
Cleveland: www.positivelycleveland.com, 800-321-1004