Monday, July 27, 2009

Go Detroit! Definitely!

Perfect location!
The Edsel Ford Estate
Sound Board at MotorCity Casino
The Woodward Dream Cruise
Diego Rivera fresco at the DIA
Go Tigers!
Touring the factory
The amazing Heidelberg Project
Pet the giraffe
Polish heritage
African America heritage
Arab heritage
Touring Greenfield Village
Meeting Thomas Edison
The Henry Ford Museum like Detroit is cars but much more!

The hum of the auto production line may be diminishing but the buzz at the tourist sites is still strong. Be surprised! Explore the Detroit’s art, architecture, history, and multiethnic heritage.

The inside story: On a Segway or on foot explore the heart of Detroit with an Insider Detroit tour. Visit the significant restored landmarks such as Fox Theater, Detroit Opera House, and the Guardian Building’s lavishly decorated interior with mosaic and Pewabic tile. See the Renaissance of Detroit with the building of Comerica Park, Cobo Center, casinos, and Renaissance Center.

More than cars: The Henry Ford Museum is not a car museum. It it’s the nation’s largest indoor-outdoor history museum that was started by Henry Ford. According to Ford, "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used...." See JFK’s presidental limousine, Lincoln’s rocker from Ford’s Theater, Edison’s laboratory, and the bus made famous by Rosa Parks. His idea was to document the genius of America by showing how ordinary Americans lived and worked and what they have imagined and invented.

Step into the past: Adjacent to The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village is a collection of nearly one hundred historical buildings in a village setting. Travel through the seven historic districts by train, Model T, horse pulled omnibus or on foot. Watch costumed interpreters conduct period tasks like farming, sewing and cooking along with potters, glass-blower, and tin makers producing articles used in the village and for sale in their give shops.

Edsel Ford Estate: Completed in 1929, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is more than the home of a prominent American family beautifully situated on Lake St. Clair. The Cotswolds-style home tells the story of a family that contributed to the cultural growth of Detroit.

Art for everyone: The Detroit Institute of Art is one of the country’s greatest art collections including frescoes by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, "Detroit Industry." The newly expansion project includes innovative ways of displaying traditional collections to appeal to audiences without a background in the arts. Street art reaches a new level with the controversial Heidelberg Project. The artscape project attempts give new energy to a deteriorating neighborhood by creating meaningful art from discards of urban life.

African-American Heritage: At the Charles Wright Museum of African American History, "And Still We Rise" exhibit takes people on a journey that begins in prehistoric Africa, through civilizations that evolved on the continent, the Middle Passage, the horrors of bondage, and for a few freedom via the Underground Railroad. Experience the Underground Railroad Living Museum in the historic First Congregational Church on Woodward Ave.

Arab-American Heritage: Arabs have been coming to the United States for hundreds of years seeking better opportunities. In Dearborn the Arab American National Museum’s permanent exhibit "Coming to America" explores the lives of those American who come from the 22 Arab countries and practice different religions, work in a variety of fields, and have a range of educational backgrounds and political affiliations.

Polish-American Heritage: Hamtramck’s The Polish Art Center is more than a place to see and purchase Polish cultural and traditional goods. The owners have dedicated on part of the store toe an educational center featuring lectures, book signings, and folk-art demonstrations including classes on making wycinanki, delicate paper cuttings. Visit Polish market and dine at one of the many Polish restaurants.

Temptation or Supreme: At Motown Historical Museum – Hitsville USA a video about the history of Motown. Many of the stylish outfits that distinguished Motown artist are on display including the jeweled white glove and black fedora hat worn by Michael Jackson. As the guide explains Motown is "about music and hope, not color." The Motown Sound is soul music with a pop influence that leaped across racial barriers. Visit Studio A where the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes, and many others made their recordings. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to sing "My Girl."

Vroom: Learn where America’s love for the automobile started. The Ford Piquette Avenue plant is well preserved and largely unchanged from its original 1904 appearance where the first 12,000 Tin Lizzies were built. Then tour the River Rouge Plant and Dearborn Truck Plant, a working automobile factory, where Ford has built cars since the Model A. Plan to be in Detroit on the third Saturday in August for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise that draws 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe.

Detroit is cars and more. Watch a major league ball game, go to the zoo, or try you luck at a casino. Dine at the elegant Seldom Blues with views of the river or munch on one of American's Coney Island Hot Dogs. Detroit: so much to do, so little time! For more information check

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Positively Cleveland

Christmas Story House
The iconic leg lamp
Nighttown Jazz Club

John found his Fender guitar
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
More guitars

Metroparks Zoo
Going on a camel ride
The Cleveland Science Museum
Before the rainout
Hard Rock Cafe
Happy Birthday, John!

"It’s a Fender Standard Stratocaster. I have one of these. It is a perfect reproduction," exclaimed John, our grandson. Walking from Embassy Suites to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum we stopped to examine the colorful guitars that are part of Cleveland’s street art project. That was when my husband and I knew we had picked the perfect high school graduation gift for John who will be music major at Le Moyne College in the fall.
I pointed to the plaque, which explained the artwork. It is called "Singing Legacy" and was designed by the Hungarian Community. "I know you think your ancestry is half Irish and half Italian but the your great-grandmother is half Hungarian. Did you know that?"

Before entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, I asked, "Do you know who I. M. Pei is?" It was obvious from the look on John’s face that he had heard the name but it didn’t register. "Stop. Look at the building. I. M. Pei designed it. He is one of the world’s most famous architects. Many of his buildings incorporate a pyramid, including his famous pyramids at the Louvre Museum in Paris, which you probably saw in the movie "The DiVinci Code."
In the lobby I pointed to a large hot dog artwork hanging from the ceiling. "I wonder what that has to do with Rock and Roll."

"It is from a concert by the rock group Phish and those cars hanging over there are from a concert by the Irish rock band U2."

I knew I had a lot to learn about rock and roll. We started our tour with a cinematic journey through rock and roll history. "Mystery Train" in Theater One, follows the evolution of rock and roll.

"Oh, no," was the quiet sigh from John when he heard the narrator say, "there was a time when there was no rock and roll." At the end of the second presentation, "Kick Out the Jams," in Theater Two the musical journey from the music of the 1950s to today’s music had enlightened the three of us.

"John, look at these quotes. In 1985 a San Antonio Councilman said ‘The First Amendment should not apply to Rock and Roll’ and J. Edgar Hoover said, ‘Rock and Roll is repulsive to right-minded people and have a serious effect on our young people.’ Amazing. I find it interesting that when I. M. Pei designed the pyramids at the Louvre many people were just as outraged by his pyramid design as other people were about rock and roll. And, they are both here to stay."
Most of the artifacts on display had little or no connection to my generation but articles like Jim Morrison’s Cub Scout shirt and Mick Jagger’s American/Union Jack Flag Cape fascinated John. Given the musical generation gap we split up and agreed to meet for lunch and then go to the Hall of Fame multi-media presentation together. My husband and I took a trip through our musical memory lane that included Elvis, Buddy Holly, Les Paul but didn’t progress beyond the Beatles.

Over lunch we discussed the evolution of music which seemed to be encapsulated in the phrase: "Elvis freed the body, the Beatles freed the music, and Bob Dylan freed the mind." It was a learning experience for the three of us – bridging the generations through music. While John’s music may never be our favorite and our "old timers music" will not replace his favorites we all learned about the evolution of music and wondered what music will be like when he has grandchildren. Interestingly, I thought CDs had replaced vinyl records but based on the number I saw for sale in the gift shop vinyls are having a resurgence in popularity.

John played in his high school jazz band so dinner at Nighttown, Cleveland’s premiere jazz club, seemed appropriate. After dinner, the lights dimmed and the quintet jazzed up Nighttown. Led by keyboardist David Garfield, along with vocalist Alex Ligertwood who was the lead vocalist for Santana, Steve Ferrone on the drums; Kip Reed on the electric bass, and Tony Pulizzi, on the guitar, we listened to music that appealed to the three of us. "They are playing ‘Babylon Sister’" whispered John, "one of my favorites."

The next day at breakfast, John’s grandfather asked, "Did you ever have a B-B gun?"
"No, my mom said I’d shoot my eye out! Do you know how many kids never got a BB gun for Christmas because of that line?"
"Do you know what movie that line comes from?"
"Of course! ‘Christmas Story.’ We watch it every Christmas. It’s my mom’s favorite."
"Perfect. We are going to the ‘Christmas Story’ house today."
"Do I get to buy a Red Ryder BB Gun?"
"No, and we are not going to buy a leg lamp either!"
"Oh, f…duge! to quote Ralphie."

Even though Cleveland was not the setting for the Christmas Story it is where the house used in the classic movie based on Jean Shepard’s story was filmed. Our guide, Grace, explained, "The owner loved the movie and when he saw the house for sale on eBay he just had to have it. He bought it for about $150,000 and spent about $240,000 restoring it to look like it did in the movie." My husband and I felt right at home in the 1940s house. Truly a place that spanned three generations. My husband and I lived the era, the movie was a Christmas favorite for our children and is now a classic for our grandchildren.

We also visited the Cleveland MetroPark Zoo, the Great Lakes Science Center, and cheered for the Cleveland Indians baseball team at Progressive Field. All are great multi-generation activities.
I knew the perfect place to end our fun-packed music-laced trip to Cleveland - The Hard Rock Café. As we sat down for lunch, John looked at the video, "That's Eric Clapton playing ‘Layla,’ the same song they played at Nighttown." When the waiter announced John’s upcoming 18th birthday, he exclaimed, "Cleveland rocks!"

If you go:
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum:, 216-781-ROCK
Nighttown:, 216-795-0550
Christmas Story House:, 216-298-4919
Cleveland:, 800-321-1004

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