Thursday, October 02, 2003

Hall of Fame blog, part 1.

It's well below average early October temperatures in northern Illinois this week, nearly freezing even in the morning. On Wednesday morning, the day after I returned from Ohio, it was cold enough to make me break out my trench coat. In one of its pockets, I discovered some folded newspaper I'd put there the last time I'd worn the coat. It was dated May 22. Warm weather doesn't last long up here.

It was about a 15-minute walk from my hotel to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, through nearly empty Sunday streets. The Hall of Fame is on the waterfront, which unfortunately is separated from the rest of downtown Cleveland by a highway and a rail line. This is now regarded as a planning mistake, the sort of urban planning done 40 years ago by traffic engineers for whom pedestrians were obstacles to the free flow of cars. According to members of the Grow Cleveland Association, whom I met the next day, parts of the highway and rail line will eventually be buried or diverted, to make a more seamless connection between downtown and Lake Erie.

For now, you have to cross an entrance/exit ramp at a light, and then a pedestrian bridge to reach the entryway plaza of the Hall of Fame. When taking this walk, I looked beyond the Hall of Fame -- which I'd seen before from this vantage -- to the stadium just beyond it. "That," I thought, "wasn’t there before." I was sure of it. It was an odd feeling. Completely irrational, since five and a half years is plenty of time to build a stadium. It was full of people: the Cleveland Browns, the home team, was playing Cincinnati. It was sea of orange: the stadium seats are painted orange, and a lot of people were wearing orange, one of the colors of the Browns. (Brown is the other, I think.)

Every now and then the roar of the crowd would lift itself from the stadium like water rising from a fountain. It reminded me of those fall Saturday nights in Nashville when I lived near enough to Vanderbilt stadium to hear the crowds responding to events on the field. There's no other sound quite like it.

I took another long look at the Hall of Fame while waiting to cross one of the streets. A couple was behind me, perhaps in their 50s, and all at once the woman said, "It looks like the Louvre. You know, the pyramid in front of the Louvre, in Paris." Her husband (I presume) grunted. Maybe he had played golf that day, instead of going to the Louvre.

Of course it does. (I didn't say that.) Same architect, I.M. Pei. And remarkable works they both are. The Hall of Fame is a glass pyramid in front, but in back the building turns rectangular and meanders off in several directions. Very interesting, without being Frank Gehry-like bizarre for the sake of bizarreness.

At the plaza in front of the Hall of Fame, hidden loudspeakers play rock and roll. That seemed fitting. To greet me, and everyone else who came at about 3 p.m. on Sunday, the museum was playing "Centerfold" (J. Geils Band). For those of you who have forgotten -- it's over 20 years old now -- part of it goes like this:

"She was pure like snowflakes
No one could ever stain
The memory of my angel
Could never cause me pain
Years go by I'm lookin' through a girly magazine
And there's my homeroom angel on the pages in-between

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
Angel is the centerfold."


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