You may know it as the opening song from The Drew Carey Show, but an Englishman by the name of Ian Hunter belted this out way back in 1979, supposedly as a sign of affection for a city that was in need of a savior. Cleveland was long viewed as a dirty industrial town, home to a bunch of losing sports teams and not much else. Things got so bad that somewhere along the way, it earned the nickname, “the mistake on the lake”.
In the 80s it started a comeback of epic proportions and I’m here to tell you, that Cleveland does in fact rock. The downtown is clean, safe (in the manner that one can be called “safe” in a land of gun-toting civilians) and easily walkable. Within a small area is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Cavaliers arena, a theatre district and plenty of good restaurants and pubs in between.
Our party of six made the first stop at Flannery’s pub, because well… it has an Irish name and that means good beer. Fortunately for us, the namesake didn’t let us down, as it turns out they have a boat load of cool beers on tap and a pretty decent menu as well. In the spirit of diversity, Mrs. Rock and Roll Librarian enjoyed a martini with her Guinness. Flannery’s, much like other bars in the area generally has entertainment on weekends although we left before the band came on, as we had other fish to fry. Stop number two was the infamous Cleveland House of Blues, where we enjoyed some more beer and spent a few bucks at the on-site shop.(Apparently they also make decent martini’s, as Mrs. Librarian enjoyed one here as well.) There was a pretty good solo performer doing covers on the side stage which was nice background music.
When the waiter came back for the fifth time for our drink orders, my friend Minty thought it would be sensible to throw out one of John Candy’s famous lines from the Blues Brothers.
“Orange whip?” Orange whip?”, “Orange whip?” He asks, gesturing to us, and then signaling to the waitress, “Three orange whips”.
Apparently our waitress was unfamiliar with this particular gem from the Blues Brothers.
“What’s in an orange whip?”, she asked, to which we replied,
“We don’t know….it’s from a movie.”
I think the general consensus is that an orange whip is a fictitious drink or at the very least, something they stopped making in 1982. Suffice it to say, we sure as hell didn’t intend to order one. Our girl however, had other ideas.
“I’ll go ask the bartender.” She said, and was off. We were all intrigued at the possibility of actually seeing an orange whip in real life and thus curiosity combined with the general euphoric demeanor of our group cemented the deal.
And so it was, along with the next round of beer, came five orange whips (we did have one mother to be who was not indulging). In my best estimation, the recipe is one part melted creamsicle, two parts vodka and possibly some sort of cleaning product to give it a bit of a kick. Not bad if you wash it down with Thirsty Dog ale.
Sometime in later hours, en route back to the hotel, we passed a combination bar and ten pin bowling alley. The entire length of the lanes was visible for about a block down the sidewalk, as the building was framed in giant windows. We pressed our faces to the glass like orphans peering into the bakery on Christmas and saw all the happy people drinking $2 beer and bowling. It took all of three seconds to decide that ten pin bowling in Cleveland on a Friday was just what the doctor ordered, and if you think you can’t get a martini at the bowling alley you are sorely mistaken. Suffice it to say, Mrs. Librarian was not entirely steady on the walk home.
The next day of course, was devoted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which for me is the real attraction to the Cleve. I have completed two tours of this facility and the memorabilia is stunning to say the least. For anyone who considers themselves even slightly more than a casual fan of music, there is enough loot here to make you lose your mind. Like any world class museum, there is simply not enough time to take it all in in a day. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this facility is top notch. Neil Young’s scrawling handwritten lyrics for Heart of Gold are mere steps from Michael Jackson’s worn out penny loafers from the Thriller Tour. Step to your left and it might be Joey Ramone’s leather jacket , the torn awning from CBGB’s or John Lennon’s ancient Rickenbacker guitar from the early days of the Beatles. Exhibits run from the earliest Blues that gave birth to rock and roll, right up to gold albums from the Black Keys . Buts it’s so very much more than just stuff formerly owned by musicians.
Janis Joplin’s hand-painted psychedelic Porsche is not, in my opinion, mere memorabilia. It is art, and history and a piece of musical culture that is surely more than just a pop footnote. The same goes for Elvis’ 1975 purple Lincoln Continental that sits regally amidst a slew of other Elvis goodies. And the guitars… my God the guitars. There are those of the Kurt Cobain and Pete Townshend smashed variety, early prototype homemade ones by Les Paul himself, and some that display such fine craftsmanship that they should be in the Luthier’s hall of fame, if such a thing exists. There are oddball shaped ones custom built for Bo Diddley, and the steam punk meets junkyard wars pair that Z.Z. Top displayed in the Rough Boys Video. It goes on and on until your head spins with an overdose of facts from the placards. Last but not least, the Grateful Dead exhibit was in its final days and that was a must see for me, as I seem to have a bit of a problem in that area of obsessiveness.
There are not enough words to describe even a fraction of the all the cool stuff in the Hall of Fame, so my advice is to get there yourself and check it out.
Your homework if you choose to accept it: