Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drop Everything and Go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

This is a truly wretched picture of me, staring into the sun with the wind blowing me like crazy and (of course) I'm being crazy and throwing the devil horns to show how truly rock and roll I am. Matt and I were looking through our pictures taken through the years last night and noticed that we are giving devil horns in an inordinate number of them, so much so that we have created an album called "Devil Horns Across America." Klassy.

This past weekend, my husband and I went to Cleveland. When I first told my mom we were going, she cracked up, so maligned is Cleveland in the general thoughts and minds of us non-Clevelandites. She still thinks it is pretty damn funny, asking me jauntily if I enjoyed my trip to the "mistake on the lake". To be completely honest, we didn't actively choose to go there. We basically wrote down every baseball stadium that is within driving distance of our house (including a few minor league teams) and threw them in my straw fedora and said we'd visit whichever one we pulled out. Progressive Field won, so we went, feeling doubly excited with the thought of the Hall of Fame looming as well.

My husband and I are both huge rock fans. He very much enjoys classic rock--I don't think he listens to really anything made after 1985 or so except for the White Stripes and maybe Muse. Matt grew up in a very, very religious household and only really started listening to popular music at all after he left home for college--before that it was all classical stuff and a little bit of oldies. His favorite song when I met him was "The House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals, which he listened to on an old stereo, turned down low to avoid his mom overhearing a song about a whorehouse. I, however, was very different. My parents loved rock, and I grew up on a steady diet of Neil Young, The Who, and Springsteen. When I was in kindergarten, the first thing I ever took for show and tell was a "My First Walkman" that my dad had bought me and my mom's tape of Tina Turner singing "Proud Mary," which was my favorite song at the time. Some of my best memories are riding around with my mom in her little two seater Mazda RX7 on Saturday nights, listening to our local rock station. My mom is a classically trained pianist, and at night after I had gone to bed, she would play Carole King's Tapestry from some old sheet music that was yellowed and falling apart. As I got older, I became very much enamored with Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth and Radiohead, while still listening to my mom's stuff--I wore out Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" at about 14 and developed a long-standing tradition of listening to Zeppelin whilst bathing. "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac IS my 18th year. In fact, when Matt and I met, I once heard him refer to me as "that girl with the big eyes that likes history and listens to weird music."

So, given all that, I guess you can take all this with a grain of salt. We are predisposed to like this stuff, just as we would be predisposed to like the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Cheese Hall of Fame. That said, I would dare mention that anyone would really enjoy this museum. There is truly something for everyone.

Some things to know if you plan to go:

  1. Allow all day for your visit. Unless you plan on sprinting through it, there is plenty there to keep you all day. It opens at 10 and closes at 5 (on every day but Saturday and Wednesday when it closes at 9). We got there and bought our tickets at 9:50, and we were the last people through the gate and into the gift shop at 5:05. Granted, we have a tendency to be big readers, and have quite the intestinal fortitude it requires to read all of the stuff in there AND we watched about an hour of the concert downstairs (which is streaming on Netflix if you are interested--we watched the rest last night) AND watched the inductees video upstairs, which took about an hour. If you don't want to do those things, you can take less time. But know that they are definitely worth it and add to the place, even if Matt wants me to add that the production values on the video (showing the first inductees in 1986) are similar to something one could make "with the software that came on my first computer, right beside of the Grollier's Encylopedia and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing". You can't win em all, I guess.

  2. Load up on food beforehand. We ate a pretty big breakfast at our hotel before leaving, and I'm glad for that because we simply did not have time to eat! The HoF has a cafe, but Matt, always the consummate budget traveler, told me to stear clear because he had read it was expensive and not delicious. I am a person who normally eats lunch right at 12, but I did not get hungry, perhaps from all the excitement and the walking. You are not supposed to eat in the museum, but I think you would be well-served to put some peanut butter and crackers or an apple in your bag and nosh on that in the cafe area. If we visit again, that is what I'll do. But to be honest, I didn't really need it, although I realized I was starved when we left and we had to make a beeline for something to eat.

  3. You can't take pictures, so know that going in. Listen folks. I like taking pictures as much as the next person. It was so, so fun to sit back and look at the ones we took of our trip when we got home and compare them to pictures of other road trips we have taken. But. You can't take pictures of everything, so get used to that fact. There were people getting visibly pissed when told they couldn't use their cameras in the building. And really, it is much more fun to go around and see the stuff instead of having to worry about getting the perfect picture. There is a coat and camera check downstairs, so take advantage of it, and try not to be so grumpy when someone tells you that you can't use your camera. Geez Louise, people. The world is a cruel place; let's all get used to not getting our way all the time.

  4. If you like the Beatles, get in line. Matt has a guiding principle for life, he says, and that is that there are two types of people in the world--Beatles people and Stones people. We are Stones people, as you may or may not have guessed. Most of the people who were visiting the day we were there were Beatles people. The Beatles have quite a large display of their own at the HoF, but you can barely get over to it for all the people just sitting there. Quite the clusterfuck, if I do say so myself. Matt said it reminded him of the line to see Lenin in Moscow, which made me laugh, because Lennon/Lenin. GET IT? We ended up kind of skipping it because the Stones were in the same room, and well you know. But just know that if you want to see Beatles stuff, you might have to throw an elbow to get your wish. (Interestingly, the Stones section was totally quiet, except for a teenage punkish looking band who were touring the section with security in tow. I have no idea who they were, but Gabby probably would. Matt made the comment that if any of them had farted, they would have blown their shoes clean off, so tight were their pants.)

  5. Bring a pencil and a notepad to write down acts you might want to look up after your visit. Some of the more awesome things that the HoF offers are kiosks where you can, among other things, see songs or bands that defined rock and roll and find out more information about them. A lot of this information is given in the form of acts that predated and inspired the work or the creator. By the time we got to the second round of these kiosks, I had located a free W&M pad they sent us in one of their 5 billion monthly requests for alumni donations and a pen and we took the time to write down a lot of blues acts and specific songs we wanted to download upon going home. This is a great way to extend the fun, and I'm really digging all this new Billie Holliday stuff I downloaded last night.

  6. If you can, try to get there before February 26, 2012. This is the last day to see the exhibit of Women Who Rock, which is there for a limited time exhibition. I liked this exhibit for obvious reasons. Was it perfect? No. The top floor was a lot of outfits worn by female rock acts. I loved this because I love clothes, but then again, it kind of had a "Dresses of the First Ladies" feel and I would have liked to see more information about women, sexuality, and music, not just a bunch of pretty dresses. The best part? Joan Jett's leather jacket, with its "Pro FUCKING Choice" button and of course, the Marianne Faithful and Patti Smith stuff, which were conveniently located right next to each other for maximum drooling effect for me (Matt saw them together, looked at me, and goes, "Well, I guess I'll see you in an hour or so...."). The other problem? They soiled the whole thing with a Taylor Swift dress! I hate to be all boo-boo kitty about stuff, but Taylor Swift just brings out the anger in me. I told Gabby about it and she rolled her eyes and goes, "I thought it was Women Who Rock and not Little Girls Who Sob." And with that, I present my daughter who truly, truly rocks. Of note, however, is a photograph display downstairs (near the Elvis stuff) all of women, with a bit of commentary on each one. They have a wide breadth of people from Gwen Stefani to Whitney Houston to Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics to Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads. Matt and I both felt that it was a better homage to the women of rock (albeit smaller) than the upstairs exhibit.

This is long, and well, to be honest, there's probably only a handful of you people that actually care. I do encourage you to go, if for no other reason than to really feel the way that music affects us all. I do not consider myself to be a hokey person, and to be honest, that is something that I pride myself on. I hate faux sympathy, I hate anything I consider to be emotionally fraught. But I am not kidding--I straight up teared up in front of the Seattle/Grunge display. Something about knowing how that stuff had affected me as a kid, and seeing it all there, in front of me, knowing that I am now a year older than Kurt Cobain was when he died. It really affected me. And the best thing about music is that it is like that. No matter how far removed you consider yourself to be, there is something there that will move you, that will take you away to a simpler time and place or to a place where the music was all that you had.

I told Matt that I planned to write this and he wanted to add two things: 1) You can get cheaper parking (I think it is $6 as compared to $10, which is a big deal to Matt) is you park at the little airport down the street. It is not a much farther walk than the $10 lot. And 2) (this is a direct quote): "The only thing that place needed was more Charlie FUCKING Watts."

Ok, then.


  1. Justin and I fall along similar musical backgrounds as you and your husband... I was memorizing the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven" and Jethro Tull's EPIC "Thick as a Brick" on my Walkman in elementary school, while his parents fed him a steady diet of Abba, Motown and praise music. As an adult, I can appreciate how very cool it was that my parents exposed me to amazing music at an extremely early age (one of my earliest memories is referring to "Won't Get Fooled Again" as "The Circle Song").

  2. It is funny about kids. We have never been the type to play "kid's music" for our progeny. Gabby, when she was about 2, developed an outstanding affinity for New Wave, notably The Buggle's "Video Killed the Radio Star" which I once listened to all the way to Knoxville, TN becase she deemed it so. Now, she has the most horrible taste in music you can imagine--lots of Bieber and his ilk. Sam, on the other hand, has such an ear--his favorite performers are Rage Against the Machine and Scott Joplin. I really hope that they remember and enjoy what we've tried to give them and appreciate it like you and I both do.