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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 6

On the way back to Seattle, I found out I’d missed a reading with Bruce Pavitt, co-founder of Sub Pop, at Fantagraphics Bookstore with a gallery of grunge luminaries in attendance. Tad Doyle, Mark Arm, and Charles Peterson were on hand to celebrate the release of Pavitt’s book, Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989. As a fan of the music of these bands and the photography of Peterson, I wanted to stab myself for missing this event. But I was rewarded with a pretty decent consolation prize when I woke up the next morning and found out Mudhoney was performing a “secret gig” at an ice cream shop that night. I notoriously miss stuff like this. I could not believe my luck. Actually, I kind of didn’t want to believe it–the thought of seeing Mudhoney in a tiny, up-close environment sounded way too good to be true. I mean, this was classic Seattle story in the making. The way these bands were intended to be seen—in a tiny, grimy venue, screaming in your face.

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The only way to preoccupy my hopes of seeing Mudhoney up close was to continue my self-guided tour of all things grunge. The husband and I kicked off the day with a revisit to Discovery Park, the filming location for Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” music video. This time, we took the entire trail to the beach for a better look at the landscape. I even pinpointed the patch of tall weeds that famously dwarf Eddie Vedder at the beginning of the video (It’s aaaaalllll the way at the end of the trail and then up the beach near some interesting piles of driftwood.). Because I’m a nerd. Like there’s any point in denying this. I may have even tried a burrito at Taco Time because it’s mentioned as a certain musician’s biography. Even Seattle’s fast food is better. What’s up with that?

 

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Somewhere around here, Chris Cornell head-banged and Matt Cameron drummed from a sandbank.

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Obligatory standing-in-Eddie’s-weeds photo.

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A sea lion barked at us from the water while we were down by the lighthouse. He must’ve been goin’ hungry.

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Driftwood fort on the beach. (Or Hobbit house??)

Next on the agenda was a trip to the former site of Reciprocal Recording. A strange little wedge-shaped building on the edge of a neighborhood, this windowless phenomenon was once owned by Chris Hanzsek and Jack Endino. The studio hosted a number of local bands, including Soundgarden, TAD, Green River, and Mudhoney. Superfuzz Bigmuff was recorded here, as well as Mother Love Bone’s initial 8-track demos. Reciprocal is where Nirvana recorded their demo tape with Jack Endino, which was then sent to Sub Pop. Formerly Triangle Records (and before that, Triangle Grocery), the once-yellow building is now painted brown and recently housed Chris Walla’s Hall of Justice studio.

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That’s a lot of sound to come out of such a small building.

Of course, my tour of 90s Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the OK Hotel. This building is truly the stuff of legends. Now an apartment building, the OK Hotel was once a bar and music venue that hosted everybody who was anybody in Seattle’s emerging music scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Mudhoney, TAD, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and Soundgarden all played here. It holds the distinction of being the venue where Nirvana first played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live. You also might recognize this old building as the coffee shop in Cameron Crowe’s Seattle-centric film, Singles. In 1997, the Queens of the Stone Age played their first show here; four years later, the OK Hotel would end its days as a music venue after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake damaged the building and it was bought by redevelopers. I was very happy to see the new owners took care to restore the building and maintain the integrity of Seattle’s historic downtown.

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It’s really hard to take a picture of the whole building without getting hit by a car. Standing in a busy street here under an overpass, dodging traffic.

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As seen in Singles.

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Lobby shot of the OK Hotel as seen creepin’ through the front window.

Not far away in Pioneer Square is the Central Saloon, interesting not only for its proclamation of being Seattle’s oldest bar in town (Technically, it’s not.), but also for holding Mother Love Bone’s final show. Take a peek inside its cramped quarters and you can better appreciate how the band was only on the verge of breaking out before Andy Wood’s untimely death.

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Wasn’t here during a peak drinking hour, but the interior sure looked cool.

Next, I made a point to see the former location of the infamous Gorilla Gardens in Chinatown. Now a faceless carpeting business, the white building used to house some of the wildest shows in the city. This nefarious underground club saw a ton of police intervention before it was closed down, and saw the likes of the Fastbacks, the Circle Jerks, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, the Melvins, the U-Men, Green River, and Guns ‘n Roses. If you have never heard of this short-lived, crazy-ass club, look into it, if only for the Butthole Surfers chainsaw fire escape story.

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The guy in the car wouldn’t leave until I took the picture. Congrats on your fame.

Of course, we weren’t leaving Seattle without seeing the Coryell Apartments in Belltown. Pray tell what is the significance of this U-shaped building? You tell me if this looks familiar.

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The fountain in the courtyard was added for the movie, but otherwise the apartments have barely changed since Singles was filmed here.

 

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Chris Cornell appreciating a new speaker system right before it blows out the car windows.

There were two more places of significance I wanted to see before we ended our self-guided tour. The first was the Re-bar, where Nirvana was kicked out of their own release party for “Nevermind” after starting a food fight. Re-bar used to feature one of Seattle’s Mother Love Bone’s murals, which is also featured in Singles.

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Re-bar as it stands today.

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How Re-bar looked for Singles.

Even though it doesn’t offer up much aesthetic value, I really wanted to see the Motorsports International Garage. On September 22, 1990, Nirvana played what was then their largest audience ever—15,000—and a dude named Dave Grohl was in the crowd that day. He ended up behind their drum kit three days later. Many see this high-octane show as the turning point of the band’s career.

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I couldn’t find out if this is the original building, but this is at least the address for the Motorsports International Garage where Nirvana played.

After another day filled with musical tourism, we headed over to Full Tilt Ice Cream, where I came an inch away from being permanently known as “Bass in the Face.” But that deserves its own post.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 5

Of course, no trip to the pacific northwest would be complete without at least a drive-by assessment of the great state of Oregon. Because of time restraints and nostalgia priorities, all of my knowledge of Oregon is therefore made up entirely of Goonies filming locations.

View from the highway on the way to Astoria.

Our self-guided tour of everything Goonies took us to the picturesque town of Astoria and then to Cannon Beach, home of Haystack Rock. Almost everything looks exactly as it did in the movie. It’s like Astoria has been locked in a time capsule since 1985—and this is not a complaint. I fell head-over-heels in love with the seascape and the old Victorian homes, especially the Flavel House, which stands next to one of the single largest trees I’ve ever seen.

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The historic Flavel House. Can I please live here?

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Check out the size of this epic tree! It’s actually a 115-year-old giant sequoia. According to the museum, Captain Flavel collected trees from his trips across the world.

Being from Illinois, I was right at home with the bone-chilling, Chicago-esque weather conditions during our stay. It didn’t seem like Astoria was used to getting much snow, as the hilly streets were laden with cat litter to keep cars from slip-sliding into one another. The weather made the trek to the Goonies house near the top of the hill a bit perilous. I’d brought my all-weather, come-at-me-bro North Face parka, but didn’t think my snow boots would be necessary. Wrong.

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Have fun walking up this snowy lane in skater shoes or Chucks!

Unlike most movie locations, the owners of the Goonies house actually welcome fans. They don’t give tours, but they have a cute little sign outside their house welcoming you to the “Goondocks.” So you can totally stand outside and take pictures and perform the truffle shuffle without feeling like a creeper. If you go, remember it’s a private residence, so don’t be weird and knock on their door to regale them about the time Michael Jackson used your bathroom.

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The Goonies house proudly overlooks the town of Astoria.

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Goondocks sign–how cool are these people?

One good thing about the crummy weather is it eliminated any trace of tourists. We had full run of the beaches and the adorable downtown. As luck would have it, Astoria even has an independent record store. While it’s not exactly Vintage Vinyl, the place scored points in my book by hosting some furry residents—it’s actually a record store/animal rescue. So when I found the reissue of Temple of the Dog in stock, I had to give the place business. Because I was sort of literally in a temple for dogs. Get it? Besides a huge room packed with used DVDs, CDs, and cassettes, I was really surprised they had so many new vinyl releases. (It’s coming back, y’all, whether you like it or not!) I hope this place stays in business, because animals and vinyl are two of my favorite things.

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The gorgeous Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria.

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Street 14 Coffee in an old hotel. So cute I can hardly stand it.

I have to take a moment to give props to one more independent business in Astoria, Geno’s Pizza and Burgers. There was zero expectation of finding decent pizza in Oregon, and I was immediately impressed by the fact they offered fresh basil as a topping. You know your pizza experience is about to be elevated when fresh basil is an option. But the pies! Their pies were half a foot tall! (Not the pizza pies, the dessert kind.) Be forewarned: the peanut butter pie will send you straight into a sugar coma. Perhaps best of all, Geno’s was full of locals. There was even a textbook cliché Old Man of the Sea in there with his grandson. It was almost like walking into a Jack London novel, except without the wolves. Sometimes, it’s all about the atmosphere.

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View from the bluff over Cannon Beach. You need a spyglass to see it up close, but Haystack Rock is the big rock poking out of the surf just before the horizon.

While Astoria was like walking into a Norman Rockwell snow globe, Cannon Beach has the look of a vacation destination for summer travelers. Though it’s a lot more spruced up and less-dedicated to preserving its historic buildings, the town is worth a visit for Ecola State Park, which includes the beach, forest, and look-out point over ocean. Remember when the Goonies peered through the pirate medallion to line up the rocks on the beach? That was shot on the bluff. And if you turn 180 degrees, you can see where the Fratellis’ restaurant was built for the movie. Taking a gander around, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers chose Cannon Beach for their pirate-themed adventure movie. It’s a natural wonderland, and only part of it is revealed in the film. I can’t wait to come back and explore all it has to offer. Hopefully next time I can leave the parka at home.

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Beach view of Haystack Rock from the opposite side. There’s a tiny cave inside it!

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What trip to Goonies territory would be complete without stumbling upon an old ship? Here are the remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906.

There was one more irresistible filming location I had to hit on the way back to Seattle. Racing to beat the sunset, we stopped through Tacoma, Washington and found the high school and house from 10 Things I Hate About You. Stadium High School is not only a crazy-impressive looking building, like a castle overlooking the bay, it features that iconic bowl football field where Heath Ledger evaded campus police whilst singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Julia Stiles. Visiting both movie locations in one day was a double blast of childhood nostalgia and gave me an excuse to visit places I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to check out.

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Entrance of Stadium High School, as seen in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.

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Stadium Football Field overlooking the bay. “IIII love youu baaaby…”

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Though the pole with the loudspeaker is now gone, (Maybe installed by the filmmakers) this is the place Heath slid down into the bowl.

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Kat’s (Julia Stiles) house in 10 Things.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 3

Olympic National Park would’ve been amazing any time of the year, but it was particularly awesome during our visit because we had the entire park to ourselves. With majestic seascapes and soaring evergreens dripping with moss, it was like wandering onto the set of the Lord of the Rings. It’s possible the snow and frigid temperatures had something to do with the lack of tourists, but it hardly kept us from enjoying nature’s beauty.

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The moss doesn’t actually hurt the trees, unlike the vines in the Midwest.

If you can see past my poor camera’s exposure capabilities, you can begin to understand how disgustingly beautiful this place is. Just off the highway was a trail leading to the beach, and a small wooden bridge spanning a creek because it simply wasn’t picturesque enough without an adorable bridge leading to the rocky shore. And then, driftwood! Driftwood as far as the eye could see! Like, so much my driftwood-coveting mom would’ve surely swooned right there on the sand.

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Disgustingly scenic snowy bridge leading to the beach.

Snowy driftwood, just in case the view wasn't spectacular enough.

Snowy driftwood, just in case the view wasn’t spectacular enough.

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Perfect beach rocks are perfect.

View of the coastal pines from the beach. Believe it or not, these were the wimpier trees.

View of the coastal pines from the beach. Believe it or not, these were the wimpier trees.

The enormous growths on these spruce trees are called “burls,” as in Burl Ives, only they’re not as holly jolly. Trees form burls after an injury or if they’ve contracted a nasty virus or fungus. These growths are a reminder of how the natural world is a masterwork in the absence of human interference.

Our main objective was to make it to the Hoh Rainforest before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time to frolic on random stops along the way. Still, I couldn’t help but shriek every other mile for my husband to pull over so I could take pictures the prehistoric-looking trees and ferns under the feathery snow.

So. Freaking. Pretty.

As it turns out, I am obsessed with moss-covered things.

The thing about these towering forests is you can’t get a decent picture of them. I grew more and more frustrated with my point and shoot camera as the scenery exploded with obscene beauty. There’s no way to articulate their majesty in photos. It’s like trying to replicate the Mona Lisa with washable markers. This quote from God, a.k.a. John Steinbeck, perfectly sums up my sentiments: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Though Steinbeck may be referring to the California Sequoias, this quote is more than applicable when it comes to the woody skyscrapers of Olympic National Park. What’s more, unlike every single time I’ve ever visited Sequoia National Park, there weren’t tourists crawling all over the trees, giving it the illusion of an unspoiled fairyland.

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Hoh in the snow.

There was only one other car in the parking lot when we finally reached the Hoh Rainforest. Amongst the trees lived the most soul-enriching silence. You couldn’t hear any traffic, or people, or any signs that civilization existed. Pure magnificence. The snow only frosted the blinding greenery, not obscuring it, freezing this emerald wonderland in a ghostly glaze. The scenery looked too magical, too breathtaking, to be real. I half-expected a satyr to leap out of the ferns and start jabbering to me about a secret quest.

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This way to Pan’s Labyrinth.

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A nurse log supports the lives of mature trees in the Hoh Rainforest.

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Mossesome.

Moss monster of the Hoh Rainforest.

Moss monster of the Hoh Rainforest.

How fortunate the people of Washington are to have this amazing forest. I’ve traveled to many of America’s most beautiful places, and this ranks near the top of my favorites. I can’t wait to come back and explore it more, when my toes won’t be in danger of breaking off in the cold. There are other  similar forests in Washington and Oregon I didn’t get to visit, which will broaden my explorations on future trips. The nice thing about missing sites on your first visit is it gives you a reason to come back. Washington gave me plenty of incentives to return.

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Even the streams are mossy!

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That time I was kicked out of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame

A younger me basking in the glory of an enormous Joshua Tree banner at the Rock Hall.

Comparatively speaking, I’m a youngish U2 fan. I fell for them in 2001, at the end of my senior year in high school; by the time I entered college, a full-fledged obsession had begun. This was mostly due to the fact I saw my first U2 concert that same year, sending me into a fandom spiral of no return. The fact I got to see them that year at all is sort of a miracle.

I remember exactly where I was the moment I first heard about the show–it was night, and I was driving the country way home. I just happened to have my radio on when someone mentioned U2 was playing at the Savvis Center in St. Louis. I sped home like a storm of devils was after me and found out tickets were going on sale in a matter of days. I called up my concert-going friend and asked if she wanted to come with, and she was game. It all happened ridiculously fast, with a string of green lights that seemed to wave me in the direction of musical destiny. The show was November 28th, and it was the fourth-last date of the Elevation tour. I made it under the wire by four tour dates. 

It remains the single concert that changed everything for me. Before that, I really hadn’t dove into anything outside of boy bands, because I was sheltered and didn’t know any better. Post September 11th, U2 was the driving force that helped me grow up. Their music, and that show, opened up an entire world to me. The band exposed me to ideas, music, and culture I wouldn’t have necessarily discovered on my own (or until much later) and for that, I owe them more than I can probably ever know.

ImageFast-forward to my absolute U2 fandom initiation/mudslide. I went through their entire catalog, buying up each CD slowly to savor each one along the way. There was no record store near me, so I generally bought most from a now-defunct CD store in the mall, and from big box chain stores like Circuit City. My first U2 album was their latest, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, so I went back and began collecting them chronologically, starting with Boy. I distinctly remember when I finally picked up Pop, and had the funny feeling that I would never buy an old U2 album again. From then on, everything would be fresh off the press. It was kind of scary, as I feared the best had already come and I wouldn’t be as excited about anything that came thereafter. So I took that time to really listen to each album and give it its due, which is maybe why I hold neglected titles like Pop so dearly.

With my new musical taste came new friends; I met one of my best college friends in a drawing class. We bonded with our shared interest in music, and he introduced me to other bands I hadn’t given much attention to before then, like the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Moby. Sadly, he had never seen U2 live, so I made it my mission to show him all the live U2 DVDs eighteen billion times until he could taste a grain of what it was like to witness them in person. You might assume this was ill-informed, but awesomely enough, it wasn’t. He loved them as much as I did, so it was only fitting when a ginormous U2 exhibit came to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, we went together.

This epic journey fell on our spring break. I won’t go over all the adventurous details, but let’s just say it was full of randomness, innocence, and music, and the trip stands on a short list as one of the best times in my young life. Of course, it centered around us spending two days in Cleveland, Ohio, and drooling like bwain-hungry zombies at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

For whatever reason, we thought it would be a great idea to walk to the Rock Hall from our hotel, so I have this memory of me walking sixteen city blocks in fancy platform sandals and realizing I’d made a huge mistake somewhere around the eighth block. The great thing was, once you get to the museum, you just stand around and stare for the most part, so you’re only really required to shuffle. One of the first sad truths you learn when you enter the museum is there is no photography allowed in the exhibits. Outside and in the lobby, you can take all the pictures your little heart desires, but once you’re past those velvet ropes, the CIA will jump out of a helicopter and throw you to the ground if you so much as look in the direction of your camera. (Only slightly exaggerating.)

Rock Hall-approved photo of Zoo-TV Trabants taken from ground floor level.

So when you’re faced with the inability to take a single picture of Larry Mullen Jr.’s first drum kit, the single instrument that spawned your favorite band, what other sign of true appreciation exists than to have your friend distract security while you quickly and respectfully touch it? While I understand and encourage the Rock Hall’s mission to preserve their collection of rock ‘n roll memorabilia for future generations, I argue they really hung that carrot in not allowing anyone to take a photo without a flash.

The fact of the matter is, once you get away with touching a historic piece of rock memorabilia, it infects you like ebola and you can’t find a way to stop. It becomes a game, and you start making mental lists of all the things you want to touch, and keep tabs on where the security guards are stationed at all times, and start plotting strategies with your cohort to make your dreams become reality. Once we entered the tower, the top of the U2 exhibit and beheld the dimly-lit room full of stage costumes, I kind of lost it. Nothing became more important to me than my mission to touch Bono’s black pleather Fly costume. 

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The Fly – I touched that pant leg. Unfortunately, not while Bono was in them.

Some touches were more easily scored than others, based on the layout of the room and the number of guards stationed at each exit. Well, the U2 costume tower was more heavily guarded than any other room–with two guards at either end, and nowhere to look but right at you. Which is why it was so impressive my friend and I started a running tally of all the things we touched. Later, I made a list of my coups on a dinner napkin. But the Fly was my Holy Grail and it held out till the end, on our second visit, after we’d exhausted everyone else in the room. We had hung around for what was likely a couple of hours until the guards could stare at us no more, and I made my way for the exit and slyly held out my hand to touch the pant leg like a child brushing their hand along a sidewalk fence. Turns out, the cooler you play it, the less likely anyone is to notice it. That is, unless you’re doing something you think is completely within the rules and a security guard spots you.

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Coyly described as “Brushes with Fame,” #14 on my Rock Hall questionnaire lists my coups. It continues on the back.

There should be nothing more rock ‘n roll than being kicked out of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, am I right? The irony is, I got escorted out by security for something incredibly lame after I’d done the bad stuff undetected. After our big touching “heist,” (Wow, could that be taken horribly out of context…) my friend and I made it out of the exhibit and paused on the stairs to take pictures of the Trabant cars hanging from the ceiling. The tiny cars were used as stage lights on U2’s Zoo-TV tour, and from the top of the stairs, which led to the lobby, I could get a higher vantage point of the details. 

Contraband Trabant photo taken from the forbidden staircase. Notice the Secret Service agent is totally wearing sunglasses inside a museum.

That’s when security yelled at me to drop my camera. I wasn’t a total vigilante, mind you. I was always a good kid in school, yadda, yadda, so when someone actually yelled at me, I tended to listen while my head hung in shame. So it seemed a little much when a security guard motioned me down the stairs, and another followed me, both with their little Secret Service headsets. To clarify, I asked the guard at the bottom of the stairs what he’d caught me doing wrong. Apparently, it was okay for me to take pictures of the Trabants from the ground floor of the lobby, but not on the stairs. Even though they were the same cars and I wasn’t able to see anything else from the exhibit with that vantage point. It was one thing to be yelled at while you were touching Elvis’s guitar, but  taking a picture of a cardboard car hanging from the ceiling at a slightly higher angle equaled a security escort from the premises?

Needless to say, I was a bit thrown off by the parameters of the rules. What was more, the Secret Service stayed glued to me like I was some kind of marked criminal and wouldn’t let me browse in the gift shop. I left the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame with a confused sense of triumph. Which was more awesome, touching The Fly’s pant leg or having a story about being physically ejected from the hall of musical anarchy by its Secret Service? I’ll bet the latter is something even The Edge could never boast about.

I went back to the same exhibit a year later and was relieved (and mildly disappointed) when nobody threw me out at first sight. I half expected to see a black and white security screenshot of my face posted in the gift shop, but alas, I was not as infamous as secretly hoped. I haven’t returned since 2003 to know if the photography rules have changed, but I would imagine security would have to be tripled to keep people from taking discreet pictures with their camera phones. Hopefully, the Nirvana exhibit from the EMP Museum will come to Cleveland, and I can make a return trip to find out first-hand. (And, perhaps, report back with a new list of coups…)

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