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Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

 

 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is Cleveland's sleek, glass monument to the soundtrack of our lives.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is Cleveland's sleek, glass monument to the soundtrack of our lives.

 

 

Yes, There’s a Rock and Roll Heaven…in Cleveland

You won’t even have stepped inside the sleek glass building, when the sound hits you.  The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, ZZ Top…the rhythms fill your chest and the harmonies roll over you in waves.  Almost unconsciously, you start to walk in time to the music.  How can you resist? 

This is the soundtrack of your life.

Call me sophomoric if you will, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is my hands-down favorite museum.  Yes, I’ve seen the Louvre and wandered through the British Museum – and yes, they were indisputably fascinating.  For all their treasures, however, none of the world’s famous galleries have the power to push my emotional buttons in quite the same way as Cleveland’s most famous landmark.  

Its floors are jam-packed with memorabilia from performers ranging from Sam Cooke to Bon Jovi.  You can gaze at Mick Jagger’s concert gear and wonder just how those thrusting hips of his could ever fit into such tiny pants, or view one of the 14 purple Cadillacs purchased by Elvis during a generous spending spree.  Concert photos, tickets, platform shoes, drum sticks, fur vests…you name it and you’ll find it showcased in a frame, draped in a glass case, or perched on a pedestal.  But that’s not where the real magic lies.

 

Star-studded memorabilia fills every corner at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Star-studded memorabilia fills every corner at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

 

It’s the music itself and the interactive audio and video displays that bring the power of rock and roll roaring to life.  Trust me.  Once you pop on the headphones and start to explore, you’ll find it nearly impossible to drag yourself away. 

Ever wondered how the Rolling Stones got their name?  It’s the title of a song written by their favorite R&B performer, Muddy Waters, a man who influenced much of their work.  The ‘Influences’ display at the Hall of Fame not only tells you about the relationship, but also plays a selection of Stone’s songs in conjunction with Waters’ works so you can hear the connections.  It’s fascinating, and that’s just the beginning.

Perhaps the most riveting area of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the Inductees floor.  There, you’ll see a year-by-year compilation of priceless film clips from the performers honored thus far for their contributions to rock and roll.  Those of us who grew up ahead of the video generation and in the kind of small towns major rock groups never heard of, much less toured, only saw our rock idols on album covers. The glimpses provided in this unique show, therefore, hit you like a shot of teenage adrenaline, transporting you back in a heartbeat to the days when you cranked up your stereo and wondered what Jackson Browne really looked like.  Now you’ll know, as you watch greats like John Mellencamp, Lynrd Skynrd, Tom Petty and the Ramones roll by on the gigantic screen.  It’s like going to all the concerts your parents wouldn’t drive you to!

All the big names are there of course, and more are added each year. Be sure to watch for The Sex Pistols who, miffed by not having been offered inclusion soon enough, sent a grammatically disastrous, ranting letter of rejection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committee members.  Unfazed, the Hall of Fame simply included the letter, mistakes and all, in the film.   Sid is apparently not only Vicious, but also illiterate.

Planning a visit to Cleveland in the near future?  Be sure to set aside far more than an hour or two for your visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  A day might give you almost enough time – but two would be better.  After all, it takes time to explore the soundtrack of a lifetime, one singer and one song at a time.

Posted 7 years, 1 month ago at 1:04 am.

1 comment

Avoid Travel Trouble

 

Avoid Travel Trouble!

Sarah met Sandra on the beach at the Caribbean resort where they were both holidaying.  After a shared snorkeling excursion and some giddy nights at the disco, the two felt like old friends, so when Sandra asked if Sarah would mind delivering a gift to her aunt in Toronto, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation. 

But the customs official who tore apart her bags in Canada certainly gave Sarah reason to be seriously concerned when he told her Sandra’s beautifully wrapped package contained cocaine and not the coffee she thought she was delivering. 

Like Sarah, Don had no idea that he was setting himself up for a security disaster when he took his prescription medication out of its pharmacy-issued container and packed it in a zip-locked plastic bag.  The customs officials at the airport in Tunisia took a dim view of what they considered to be illegal narcotics.  Without proof that the pills had been prescribed by his doctor, Don was in serious trouble.

Jennifer was equally innocent of any evil intent when she snapped a few shots of the naval vessels docked in the harbor near her hotel.  That made no difference to the government official who saw the impromptu photo session, and followed Jennifer to confiscate her camera.  In some countries, military and other government controlled areas are off-limits to tourists and cannot be photographed, even from a distance.  Ask your tour guide to be sure.

It is against Canadian laws to import items of historical importance from other countries.  Check the regulations before making any purchases.

It is against Canadian laws to import items of historical importance from other countries. Check the regulations before making any purchases.

Bill actually thought he was doing a good thing when he bought the stone carving from the young man outside the famous shrine.  The kid looked stressed, as if he really needed the money.  It wasn’t until Bill was told that he’d bought a piece marble chipped from the wall of the shrine and that exporting items significant to another country’s cultural heritage was against the law, that he had any idea he’d committed a crime.

If you break the laws of the country you’re vacationing in, don’t count on your Canadian citizenship, or your lack of knowledge of the local rules or language to get you a get-out-of-jail-free card. You could also find yourself sentenced to far harsher penalties than anything you would ever experience at home.  It’s worth noting that some countries routinely sentence those convicted of drug possession to many years of jail time, whippings, or even, in rare cases, to death.  It’s scary, but true.

So what do you do if you’re arrested while far from home? Get in touch with the nearest Canadian government office immediately.  Although they will not be able to have your fine or sentence reduced, the consular officials can contact your family and friends, ensure that you receive fair treatment, and provide a list of capable, local lawyers.   What happens from there will be up to the judicial system of the country in which you’re being detained.

So what’s your best protection from these legal travel nightmares?  Good judgment and plenty of information.  If you’re not certain about what is and isn’t allowed in a foreign country – particularly when it comes to photographing people and places of military, historical or religious importance – ask.  If you’re planning to purchase an item you suspect might not be allowed into Canada, check at http://airs-sari.inspection.gc.ca  And if you’re asked to bring anything home with you that you didn’t purchase or package yourself, play it safe and say no.

Sidebar:

While we’re talking about terrifying things, we might as well cover all the bases.  Not only do the laws of other countries apply to you while you’re visiting, but you’re also subject to Canadian laws regarding certain crimes, no matter where you are.  Perhaps the most vigorously prosecuted of these are the laws regarding the sexual exploitation of children.  If you are suspected of committing such heinous acts while abroad, you can be charged at home, under the Canadian Criminal Code, and could face up to 14 years in prison.

 

Posted 7 years, 1 month ago at 12:54 am.

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Petra, the pre-biblical wonder of Jordan, takes your breath away.

Petra, Jordan was built by pre-biblical workers without even the most basic stone carving tools.

Petra, Jordan was built by pre-biblical workers without even the most basic stone carving tools.

Let Petra Take Your Breath Away 

There are some things in life that can literally take your breath away, stop you in your tracks and change your perspective of the world forever.  Finding the lost desert city of Petra, in the far away Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is one of those things.

Petra, whose name comes from the Latin word ‘petrae’ meaning ‘rock’,  was built by early Nabataean artisans who somehow managed to carve a magnificent city of more than 3,000 temples, tombs and dwellings – gigantic, multi-storey monuments – from the rugged, red sandstone cliffs of the desert.

A visit to Petra is not an excursion for the faint of heart and don’t forget your walking shoes. You’re in for a hike.

Just getting to the entrance to the ruins involves a warm-up stroll of nearly two km along a dirt and stone roadway. Puffing a bit? You’re just getting started.

Your first stop is the Treasury – a remarkable structure that took generations of labor to build, but only a taste of the wonders that lie ahead.  Another several kms of walking or camel or donkey riding, if you prefer, will take you to the Street of Facades, an impressive row of structures once used as tombs.  Think you’re tired now? Don’t give up. If you really want to experience Petra, you have to be prepared to climb.

When you tire of walking, camels and their drivers are always at the ready.

When you tire of walking, camels and their drivers are always at the ready.

The High Place of Sacrifice is one of Petra’s most impressive sites – and it sits at the top of a 750-step pathway rising straight up towards the clouds.

Our exuberant guide Ibrahim, a young Jordanian historian with a constant grin on his face, led the way, leaping from rock to rock in his eagerness to reach the summit.

“C’mon!” he shouted. “You Canadians are supposed to be tough!”

This particular tough Canadian puffed and panted her way to the top, right behind a friendly herd of mountain goats. The view of the ancient city was spectacular, and so were the various shopping opportunities all the way up.

Intrepid and highly entrepreneurial Bedouin women who live in tents, caves and small villages in the desert around Petra climb up the mountainside each day to set up small tables of necklaces, earrings and other souvenirs at various points on the stone stairs and pathway.

While it seems like an odd place for a makeshift shopping mall, browsing through their wares helps to take your mind off the fact that your lungs are about to burst – it’s retail therapy at its best.

You might think that 750 steps straight up would be the ultimate Petra climb, but you’d be wrong. Ad-Deir, or the Monastery, is another must-see. To reach it, we climbed for more than three hours – again, straight up. Narrow pathways wound around the edges of steep cliffs, so keeping our minds on the climb was essential. At one point, the path narrowed to a breathtakingly small rock outcropping…narrower than the length of my shoe…and there was no way around it. I leaned into the cliff face, hung on tight as I inched along and never looked down!

The Treasury building lit by hundreds of luminaria is a sight never to be forgotten.

The Treasury building lit by hundreds of luminaria is a sight never to be forgotten.

A visit to Petra is more than a tourist experience, more than an opportunity to view a site of historical, archaeological and cultural importance. Seeing Petra by day, when the sun throws the ancient carvings into magnificent relief, or by night, when hundreds of candles encased in small brown paper bags light the way along the Siq to the softly glowing Treasury, is pure magic.

We are, after all, by comparison to ancient Petra, so very tiny and so ridiculously impermanent.

Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 11:08 pm.

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Alaska’s Red Onion Saloon is a fascinating step back into a hot bit of history.

Sweet Bea Hind and the Red Onion Saloon 

 “My name is Sweet Bea,” drawled the babe in the red bustier. “Sweet Bea Hind.”  With a swish of that behind, she started up the wooden stairs, “Come on up. It’s $5 for fifteen minutes…same as 1898…but the services have changed a little!”

"The price hasn't changed at the Red Onion Saloon brothel in Alaska, but the services have!

"The price hasn't changed at the Red Onion Saloon brothel in Alaska, but the services have!

In its heyday, the Red Onion Saloon and brothel in Skagway, Alaska had a staff of ten working under the entrepreneurial eye of Madam Diamond Lil.  Known as the ‘Madam that Had’em’, Lil was pricey – $100 an hour or $1,000 a night. An alluring “alabaster goddess”, Lil had diamonds mounted between her front teeth, stood six feet tall and weighed more than 250lbs. Perhaps her clients paid by the pound! 

The Red Onion’s system was efficient and profitable. Each of Lil’s ladies was represented by a china doll, whose hair and clothing matched the live one upstairs. Customers pointed to their choice, then climbed the wooden stairs, while the bartender placed the doll face down. After 15 minutes, a bouncer removed the client, and the doll went back up, ready and waiting.

With 15,000 miners passing through on their way to the Dawson Creek Gold Rush, and just 300 working girls in the area, business was brisk. Each 10’ x 10’ room was equipped with a hole in the floor for payment deposit. Money rolled down the tubes and right into the cash box behind the bar. Diamond Lil took 50 percent, the bouncer got 25 and the working girl kept the rest. In high season, they made $5 an hour and were the wealthiest women in town.

Visitors to the Red Onion are welcome to climb the stairs, just as the customers must have long ago, and marvel at the tiny bedrooms used by the entrepreneurial ladies, each of whom was able to choose her own paint and wallpaper – important for those who spent so many hours in the workplace!  On display are not only some fascinating old photos but also some still very glamorous gowns and accessories worn by Lil and her ladies. It’s a flashback to the days of fast fortunes and faster ladies. 

The brothel museum above the Red Onion Saloon in Skagway is a fascinating little surprise…just one of the ‘must-sees’ on a recent Alaskan adventure that knocked the socks off every member of the family. It’s well worth the $5 admission, even if the services have been significantly reduced!  If you like, you can round off your tour with a quick meal in the bar and slide a red satin garter around your sleeve to prove you’ve had the Red Onion experience.

And what happened to to the notorious Madam Diamond Lil?  Sadly, for all her hard-headed business sense, Lil let love to be her downfall.  According to Sweet Bea, poor Lil allowed her heart to be captured by a fast-talking con man who ruined her business, lured her away from Alaska, took all her money, and left her to end her days, working as a night cleaner.   

Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 10:51 pm.

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Pilot Butte, near Regina, Saskatchewan is home to the kind of rodeo that combines real cowboys, bucking broncos and snorting bulls. If you’re looking for serious rodeo riders and down in the dirt thrills, this is the place!

The bulls are big and angry at the downhome rodeo in Pilot Butte, Saskatchewan.

The bulls are big and angry at the downhome rodeo in Pilot Butte, Saskatchewan.

Ride ‘Em Cowboys !

“Folks, he paid his entry fee so let’s pay him off!” says the announcer at the Pilot Butte rodeo near Regina, Saskatchewan.

The crowd claps sympathetically for the red-shirted rider whose lasso has just missed the horns of a young steer. The prize money isn’t going to be his this time, but the rider is able to raise his hand in a wave anyway.

That’s what real cowboys do when they’re competing in small-town rodeos.  As the old saying goes, ‘they pays their money and they takes their chance,’ and if all goes well, the prize money is theirs.  If not, their payment is the applause of an appreciative crowd.

If you’re ever in Saskatchewan on a warm summer’s evening, you might want to experience the time-traveling sensation of attending one of the dozens of small town rodeos that take place in community centers around the province.  Don’t go expecting the Calgary Stampede – that’s not what you’re about to see.  Go looking for a place where time stands still and hometown values still count for something.

You could arrive to find a big pile of sand piled high beside the concession stand, and a passel of kids, big and small, happily digging in it.  You’ll wonder what they’re up to until you see the small, hand-lettered sign. “Find a token and get a free freezie.”

“We put ten tokens in there,” smiles the concession stand lady, “and those kids have been digging all evening.”

A free freezie.  Can you imagine a city kid rooting around in the sand for a freezie?  Not likely – but these kids are having fun.

And so are the kids sitting in the stands with their parents, digging into huge bags of kettle corn and sipping on soda.  You can tell this is a big evening for the whole family, because everyone’s Wrangler jeans are neat and pressed, their boots are polished, and there are more white cowboy hats than you can shake a stick at.  My husband and I look down at our shorts and t-shirts and feel a little under-dressed.  We’ll know better next time.

Serious rodeo riders compete for the cash at the Pilot Butte rodeo, near Regina Saskatchewan.

Serious rodeo riders compete for the cash at the Pilot Butte rodeo, near Regina Saskatchewan.

No one’s paying much attention to fashion anyway, given the action in the ring.  From calf roping to bull riding and bronco busting, the cowboys and girls of the western circuit are putting on a show that’s all about courage and competence.  At any moment, a stray hoof or horn could spell disaster for the young athletes and the crowd holds its collective breath until the event is over and the danger has passed.  Only then do the watchers ‘pay off’ the competitors with warm applause.

While the adult events are without doubt the most breathtaking, the most impressive is indisputably the junior chuck wagon race.

It’s a pretty simple system.

Each team has a small wagon, big enough for one child to ride on.  A piece of Bristol board is curved over it, to form the roof.  While the rider crouches inside the wagon, two other children perform the services of the horses, racing madly around the track beside competing chuck wagon teams.

That’s all there is to it.

Six teams are on the roster to compete, making a total of 18 kids.  Given that each competitor might only have two parent spectators and perhaps the odd grandparent, I expect the stands to empty for this final event – but I’m wrong.  Not one soul leaves.  The stands are packed and everyone rises to cheer on the victors as well as the also-rans.

And the prizes?

Every competitor receives – a freezie.

If the world has been moving a bit too fast lately, head for a small-town Saskatchewan rodeo and get a grip on what really matters – honest competition and genuine appreciation for hard work and talent.

Oh - and while you’re there - have a freezie!

Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 3:55 am.

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Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of the revolution

As Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Revolution, Che Guevara remains its most beloved son and  iconic leader.

 

Che's legend is larger than the statue that looms over his shrine-like memorial.

Che's legend is larger than the statue that looms over his shrine-like memorial.

Revolution and Romance in Cuba

 

“What have you seen of the island?” I asked the older couple, sunning themselves poolside. 

“Nothing,” they replied.  “We never leave the property.”

I was stunned.  There we were in Cuba, arguably one of the most interesting areas of the Caribbean, and my two tanned friends were content with a lounge chair and a pina colada.

“We always do this,” they told me, explaining that holidays were always spent on the hotel property.

“That way, we always know what to expect.”

Vacation time should be spent whatever way makes you happiest – but, not exploring Cuba when you have the opportunity is…well…a loss.

Cuba is a fascinating mix of the beach resort atmosphere of places like Veradero, the full-on, Vegas-style glitz of the famed Tropicana show in Havana, and the still very serious official dedication to the heroes of the revolution.  The latest techno-pop tunes may blare in the resort discos, but in many ways, time has stood still since the beginning of Castro’s rule in the 1950’s.  There are cars older than most of the tourists, still in regular use.  Not the treasured babies of automobile aficionados, these cars are instead the basic means of transportation for many Cuban families.  Repaired for fifty years, the cars are held together by wire, glue and considerable faith.

But perhaps the most fascinating example of faith you’ll witness in Cuba is the on-going passion the country seems to exude for Che Guevara – long dead, but still the most popular figure of their revolutionary past.  Born Ernesto Guevara in Argentina, Che (which means ‘friend’ in Spanish) came to Cuba as a doctor to serve with Castro, quickly rose to military power and played a pivotal role in deposing the Fulgencio Batista regime. 

Assassinated in 1967, at the age of 39, while trying to lead another revolution in Bolivia, Che is an iconic hero in Cuba. 

 

Che watches over Revolutionary Square in Havana

Che watches over Revolutionary Square in Havana

 

In Havana’s Revolution Square, the enormous side of one building is adorned with a line drawing of his face while billboards showing him and quoting his most stirring revolutionary sentiments line the roadways. Every gift shops offers Che postcards – his face is unmistakeable.

A visit to his memorial, just outside the town of Villa Clara, is a fascinating study in both history and passion.  Regardless of your political views or your opinion of the man himself, a tour of the Che’s possessions and the photographic chronicle of his life will offer a rare glimpse into one of the world’s longest-standing love affairs between a leader and his people.

A chess set, doctor’s lab coat, a camera in its leather case, even a photo of Che holding a baseball bat are displayed with the kind of reverence reserved in other countries only for religious artifacts. His camera is the only one you’ll see.  Tourists and locals must leave theirs outside, to show proper respect.

In an adjacent room is a tomb containing the remains of Che and the small band of Cuban revolutionaries killed with him in Bolivia and returned to Cuba 30 years later.  Carvings of each face surround the central image of their leader, identified simply as Che. Visitors shuffle through the cool, candlelit darkness in silence.  Outside, cameras once more in hand, tourists snap photos of the enormous statue atop the memorial. 

It could be argued that, had he lived longer, Che’s luster might have dimmed in his adopted country.  We’ll never know –  he died young and has remained a cultural symbol for Cuba.  Sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of the Sunwing flight home, I raise a glass, not to revolution, and not even to Che, but rather to the timelessness of passion.


Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 2:48 am.

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