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Cleveland Mini Vacation 
6th-Jun-2011 05:45 pm
I'm back from my mini-vacation in Cleveland! I know it doesn't sound too exciting, but after the term I've had and the work I'll be doing this summer, I really needed the break. Cleveland is actually not a bad city ... there's just not a whole lot going on there. What IS there is good, and we fully took advantage of that. There were some truly unforgettable moments this weekend.

Day 1: Sushi Rock; First Impressions of Cleveland
We got into town a little late, checked into the Crown Plaza, and went for dinner at Sushi Rock. They're an upscale sushi place, and had a lot of crazy rolls featuring fillet and lobster. Whatevs. When I go to a sushi place, I order fish. It was actually quite good, so I'm sure none of it came from Lake Erie :D For seafood lovers, I highly recommend their signature Sushi Rock roll. After dinner, we just hung out in our air-conditioned hotel room. Every time we stay in a Crown Plaza, there are random fireworks visible from our hotel room, and this night was no exception. (There was a baseball game going on downtown.) Glad we didn't try to stay on the lake side of the hotel!

My first impression of Cleveland was ... where the hell is everyone? You have this huge downtown with double-wide sidewalks, sculptures and courtyards everywhere, stone office buildings back-to-back and no one's here. It was built on the scale of Chicago, but is probably about 10% of Chicago's downtown, in terms of people (a guesstimation). Don't ever rely on Google Maps to inform you of what's around Cleveland, because half of the businesses have closed or are only open to support downtown workers on weekdays. It was just very sad to me. There's a great deal of beauty, most of it is not very run down at all, it's just depressingly vacant.

My second impression of Cleveland was ... OMG I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS MANY MOSQUITOES IN MY LIFE. Not deep in an Appalachian summer. Not sitting in Tampa Bay. Not in the dead of summer in Washington, D.C. Not on the beach on Long Island. Millions. Of. Mosquitoes. Everywhere. Buildings of glass and steel were literally crawling with them -- every surface, as far up as the eye can see, was a writhing curtain of bugs. Surprisingly, I managed to remain fairly unbit, which is a blessing, because I am more allergic than most and they adore me for my porcelain skin and complete lack of spicy food in my diet.

Day 2: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Melt, Lola, barhopping
I got up much earlier than Sam did and ventured into the downtown to find coffee and breakfast. I spent about half an hour being mislead by Google maps. See above for reasons, but also, I didn't realize that many of the businesses it directed me to are inside of giant, unlabeled office buildings.

Once Sam got up, we toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's right on the lake and next to a rather busy highway, and we saw TWO DEER running around in broad daylight, among all those cars and tourists. One of the biggest WTF moments I've had with wildlife. The museum had an exhibit going on: "Women Who Rock." What a wonderful time for me to be there, yeah? Most of the exhibit was womens' stage costumes, which was a little disappointing (because you know, women are just beautiful anomalies), but they had great bios of everyone, a few of which even had some surprising facts.

Throughout the rest of the museum, I really enjoyed the video exhibits, particularly the music video compilation. Sam wasn't quite as enthused, since he's only ever seen about ... FIVE music videos. I told him it was like marrying someone and then finding out that they can't read. This problem must be remedied. Music videos are my peanut butter and chocolate.

The museum is mostly rock memorabilia. They had pieces of the fatal Otis Redding plane crash, which was very moving but possibly tacky. I liked Iggy Pop's stage outfit: duct tape shorts and a leather jacket that looks like it was drawn on with silver paint pen (I'm pretty sure I had a getup like this when I was 13). There was also a very, very fuzzy drum kit from ZZ Top and a freaky carved, wooden, 8-string bass from Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. (Unfortunately for me, Led Zep is very underrepresented at the RRHF, probably because the surviving members are control freaks about their brand, which I understand, but it makes it hard to be a fan sometimes.) Sam enjoyed seeing all the famous cars, teasing me each time he saw a pair of David Bowie's pants on display, and watching the Paul Simon concert with a huge laundry list of guest appearances, including Art Garfunkel.

After the RRHF, we went to a restaurant called Melt, whose specialty is grilled cheese. I still think Skillet has a lock on my favorite grilled cheese ever, but Melt is a close second. You can order any kind of cheese you want, lots of different protein options, and lots of different sauces for dipping. They have some other pub fare, too, and everything was huge, natural, but very bad for you. I had a grilled cheddar cheese with *pierogies* stuffed inside of it, which sounds disgusting but is actually godly. There are TVs playing all sorts of cartoons and the place is decorated with strange assortments of holiday decorations. We also randomly met another couple staying at the Crown Plaza from Columbus. The guy was a drummer and singer, and their weekend plans read strangely like ours. Good times just chatting with random strangers and stuffing our faces.

After lunch, we waited a few hours before our late dinner reservation at Lola, flagship restaurant of Iron Chef Michael Symon. I didn't try any of the several organ meat options he had on his menu, but I had some lovely scallops. It wasn't crazy memorable, but it was very good fine dining and great service. After dinner, we decided to hop around the pedestrian mall that connects downtown to the baseball stadium. Wonderbar sucked because the bartenders were nearly misanthropic. Chocolate Bar was a little girly, but the service was genuinely friendly. Everything is completely covered in chocolate, as advertised, so we couldn't indulge there too long. Not after a day filled with grilled cheese, wine, fish and cocktails. That night, food coma.

Day 3: Art, Failed Shopping and an Idyllic Jazz Club Experience
On Sunday, we woke up to a flat tire. Sam ran over an industrial screw, probably on the way back from Melt the night before. Sunday is always the best day for car troubles. Luckily, he had a working spare, so we just put that on and decided to drive on it until we could get the tire repaired on Monday. Arguments over what the best course of action on Monday would be. After that, we tried to go to a shopping center, but all the stores were closed. A very frustrating morning.

That disaster partially dealt with, we went to the Cleveland Museum of Art. In their contemporary exhibit, they had three panes of giant stained glass windows ... made completely of butterfly wings. I love pieces that are obviously very time-intensive and require a delicate hand -- to me, they signify the highest level of dedication (and absolute, balls-out craziness). They also had a great exhibit on optical illusion art. Cleveland is actually home to the only collection of Op Art, which I did not know! We also enjoyed the museum's display of Tiffany, Fabrege, Impressionists, and their Asian art exhibit. Again, a perfect time for us to be there, since Sam and I both adore ink paintings. I also fell in love with this portrait and decided that if I could choose anyone to paint my portrait, alive or dead, Besnard would get the job. There's something about it that's still very modern. I find it luminous, and I think it captures certain eccentric qualities of the subject.

After the museum, we tried to go shopping, but failed completely. The big shopping mall inside the renovated office building near our hotel was really quite a sad place, filled with low-quality boutiques and dollar stores -- no department stores of any kind. We watched Kung Fu Panda 2 instead (which was actually really cute) and killed time waiting for our dinner reservation. We also saw a crazy car that looked like a shiny silver rocket with about 18 people sitting in it. I love random moments like that.

Our night at Nighttown made up for the mediocrity of the non-museum portion of the day. Nighttown is one of the country's best jazz clubs and is also one of Cleveland's favorite restaurants and bars, so we had a pretty good idea that the evening would be fantastic. We saw Bobby Sanabria, a Latin jazz percussionist and band leader. Sanabria and his crew were insanely good, and perfectly suited to my jazz tastes. The food was excellent, the drinks were excellent, and we spent the evening snapping, clapping and eventually, dancing. There was another couple there, sitting one table in front of us, who were texting on their phones the whole time they were there. Who pays a $20 per-person cover charge to sit and do that in a club? At first, I was angry. Then, I just felt SORRY for them. The rest of us had a great time and some people even stayed through both sets, swaying and bopping all the while.

I got to talk with the club manager and Sanabria for a bit. Sanabria invited me to his concert, which headlines the Apollo on June 18. I have a press contact for that, too, which is pretty sexy but very unfortunate in that I will be at my internship and probably not able to attend. The club manager was exceptionally nice and encouraged me to apply for jobs at the Plain Dealer. It's not a half-bad idea, and I respect the Plain Dealer quite a bit, so maybe I will!

When we got back to the hotel and gazed out at the city skyline, we noticed BATS -- hundreds of them -- swooping around the tallest building in town, at least 50 stories up. Go get those mosquitoes, guys!

In all, we had a solid vacation. I'm going to spend this week catching up with my friends and finishing my final paper before I leave for my summer adventure.

...Bonus videos, because I just CAN'T RESIST:
Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video, take 2 (the best one, IMO)
Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video, take 1
sam and lauren
8th-Jun-2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
Sadly I felt the same vacancy when I was in Cleveland a month ago. I thought it was just me getting used to the crowds in the previous city, Philadelphia. What's most interesting to me about Cleveland are the nooks and crannies holding art galleries and the almost decaying beauty of the city.

I was impressed with the butterfly mock-stain glass windows too. It was phenomenal. The museum has a surprisingly wonderful contemporary art collection.
8th-Jun-2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Regarding the texting fools in the jazz club, I find this behavior disrespectful to the band and a distraction from my own enjoyment. It's not clear to me how intimate the setting was, but I often find myself annoyed when people sit in an area clearly designated for engagement with the band/music but instead choose to talk loudly or engage in some antisocial activity. If they didn't come to enjoy the music, they should go sit at the bar.

Downtown Cleveland sounds interesting. I bet I'd dig wandering around there checking out architecture etc. The museums sound great. I <3 both stained glass & Op Art.

8th-Jun-2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
They were about one table away from the band in a room of around 20 tables, so yeah, pretty rude to the band, even if the other patrons could ignore what was going on. They seemed to be friends of the manager and some other people there -- possibly regulars -- which makes their behavior even more mystifying to me. Especially with a 20$ a head cover charge.

You should come visit Ohio :( We have a spare room.
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