Sunday, November 25, 2018

Cleveland to the Father of Flight's Flat

The bittersweet end of our time in Cleveland had come. I had hoped to visit Ark Encounter, the life sized Noah's Ark in northern Kentucky on the way home. Brandon got scared and said he didn't want to go. Rather than make him wait in the car while I laughed at animatronic Jesus riding a pterodactyl for hours on hours we just headed home. Luckily Zeus provided us with another, much cheaper, roadside attraction in rural Hagerstown, Indiana: the birthplace of Wilbur Wright co-father of the airplane!!!! You should have seen my passengers' faces light up when I informed them that they'd essentially won the chance to learn about early airplane technology for an hour or more. Hagerstown is not to be confused with Hangrytown, which is where Lydia lives.

Mmmm rural

These are the kind of businesses that I genuinely feel good supporting. The guy in the visitor center said that they were closed, that he was just cleaning or something, but that we could go in anyway. I think living in a city makes these folksy encounters give me even more of the warm fuzzies.

There was a fun sign that compared the 1903 Wright Flyer to a 1955 F-84-F. The Flyer's top speed was 35 mph while the jet's was 600.

The history of the birth home was kind of sad. The state bought it in 1929, didn't take care of it, then razed it in 1955. In 1973 the state built a replica house trying to look as much like the original Wright Home as possible. In 1988 the state wanted to move the home due to low attendance. In 1995 the state deeded the property to the Wilbur Wright Birthplace Preservation Society. The state is kind of a jerk. Indiana has long been my least favorite state in the union so this did not come as a huge surprise.

This thing was frigging awesome. It was like a like a carpenter built a video game from scratch. It was a Wright Flyer simulator and you had to pull all the levers and pedals just like you were flying the real thing. It was also very hard like flying the real thing, with lots of crashes.

Of course I overcame adversity and then sent a telegram to all the haters announcing that I had conquered gravity. I rule STOP You drool STOP

The museum was also doing its best to keep Christ in Christmas.

I can't relate to you here the unspeakably horrible things that Brandon reached in and guessed what.

It was a nice end to a nice trip.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Cavs Game and Smoky the Beer

The big draw of our whole trip to Cleveland was a Cavaliers game. Brandon's a big sports guy and a big Lebron James fan in particular. Town bicycle Lebron not being on this team anymore was a good occasion to remind Brandon that Lebron is a douchebag and will never be as good as Jordan was no matter how many subpar remakes of Space Jam he inflicts on society.

When people ask if I'm a sports fan I assume that they expect I'll grunt and then we'll chest bump and talk about the sports and the player trades and the circumference of a hockey puck. Surely they are disappointed by my nuanced answer. I really like going to live sport matches of all kinds, in the same way I like going to the opera or the circus. I like to be a part of American culture, I like to be entertained by a spectacle, and I like to people watch. On the other hand I don't care what these people are doing when I'm not here watching them compete.

The tickets were digital but then they printed you out a ticket when you arrived. It was an odd system.

This creepy man was made out of tires.

Zoe was supposed to come to Cleveland with us but bailed at the last minute so we took the opportunity to troll her.

“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

Speaking of circuses and spectacles, the halftime show was the Amazing Sladek doing acrobatics atop six chairs that he stacked up. There's even a New York Times article about him. Apparently he lives in Florida and drives a minivan to all of the games he performs in. He refuses to fly because he doesn't trust the baggage handlers with his special performance chairs. Considering if they banged a chair leg rickety he could fall to his death, I don't know that I blame him. The Cavs people said that he's great and that the only problem is that he's so interesting that people don't leave their seats to buy anything. That seems a bit far fetched but I guess it worked on me.

The Cavs actually beat the Rockets which I don't think was supposed to happen. After the win they played the "Cleveland Rocks" theme song from The Drew Carey Show.

So.... we went to a micro brewery to celebrate after the game. It came as a real shock to all of us considering this was like our 8th brewery of the trip. Noble Beast Brewing Co. was a pretty nice place though so why the heck not? I liked how industrial many of the the breweries were. At Noble Beast our table was right next to a forklift they used to move kegs around.

I got roped in by the story of this beer:
"Noble Beast Piwo Grodziskie

A historical and once extinct Polish style of beer brewed exclusively with oak-smoked wheat malt. Known as the "Champagne of Poland", pivo grow-JEES-kee-uh has a soft and round smoke character, herbal hop aroma, and extremely lively carbonation. A grain bill composed entirely of wheat creates an incredibly dense and billowy head of foam."

It wasn't half bad. Definitely the best smoked beer I've ever had but that is a very very low bar.

I liked how frequently the people of Cleveland seemed to have earned their own "major awards".

The song was right. Cleveland does rock.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A Christmas Story House and All the Beers

So Cleveland had a pretty robust craft brewery scene.

They have a passport thing where if you visit so many breweries you get a prize. I love passports, and I love breweries. Boom.

Popped into the Fat Head Brewery Beer Hall. Brandon kept saying "oh I think that's fat head!" at every fat guy in the place. I think that they were just your garden variety, non-famous fat people though.

Lydia went for a Bumble Berry honey blueberry ale that came with berries floating in it.

So there's a particular beer at A-B which is my favorite and is the nectar of the gods: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. It's made in limited quantities, is released on Black Friday, and sells out promptly. This presented a challenge because I knew where the go-to places to get this nectar of the gods would be in St. Louis, but I had no idea where to go in Cleveland. Luckily I planned ahead and talked to a guy in the office who hooked me up with a whole spreadsheet of how many cases were going where in the Cleveland area.

There were a couple of hotspots on our radar. First one was the Market District supermarket in Strongsville. We went there and they were sold out of everything but the basic flavor. Sad. I must have been on tilt at this point because on our way out of Strongsville I got pulled over for speeding. Once the policeman saw what an attractive motorist he was dealing with he let me go with a warning.

I knew fun stuff was still happening at the Lizardville liquor store because there was a line wrapped around the building. Having three people in our party meant we were able to crush it here despite the per-person limits.

This stuff was not cheap. The most expensive bottles were $25. Worth it! Not only did I get the beer but I got to blow up my friends at work who didn't get all the good flavors. The shame of one's coworkers is truly priceless.

We had a couple flavors on draught while waiting in line. It was truly a Bourbon County day.

Back at home base we munched on Thanksgiving leftovers.

The local Cleveland wildlife also seemed to be eating irresponsibly.

The airbnb was supposedly within walking distance of the A Christmas Story house, and we tested that theory by... walking there.

They cunningly made you buy tickets while inside the giftshop. There were leg lamps of all shapes and sizes. It was $12. I thought that was a good investment.

So the house is the same house used in the movie. But it was only used for the exterior shots. So the areas of the interior that you can see from the exterior, like the living room, are legit but many of the upstairs rooms had to be remodeled to try and be as close to the movie sets as possible.

A major award! The house was also fun because they explicitly announced that you could touch whatever you wanted. I appreciated that because it meant we could take better pictures and play around with the movie props.

You'll shoot your eye out. Had to write that at least once.

They even had some good hats you could wear while perusing. I did some multitasking by using my Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin while taking some soap licks for my potty mouth.

They also owned the next door hillbilly Bumpus House that the 785 smelly hound dogs lived at. You could actually rent this place out and stay the night, which is awesome.

We sort of continued our Christmas Story pilgrimage by traveling downtown and visiting the old Higbee department store. The creepy santa and elves scene from the movie takes place here, as well a scene at the start of the movie where the kids all smash their faces against the glass ogling all of the cool Christmas toys on display. 

I guess the Christmas displays are so popular that they somehow still exist despite the fact that the building is now a casino.

I was pretty obsessed with getting stamps in my Cleveland craft brewery passport so we hit a few more. This place was aptly named Butcher and the Brewer. You can sort of see the deli meat part of the business back there behind the bar.

I recall the bartender here being pretty snooty. A New England IPA on the menu was named "Well everybody else is doing it, so I guess we will too!". I found the beer to not be good enough for them to be this douchey.

The Victorian era Arcade Cleveland was strikingly beautiful. The whole building was rented out for a wedding so this was as far as we got. What a nice place.

I was also really impressed with Cleveland's main public library. I found myself comparing Cleveland to St. Louis a lot on this trip. I haven't been to that many rust belt cities beside St. Louis, and both cities have about 300K people in the city proper and ~3M people in their wider census area. I was a bit jealous of their downtown compared to ours. I'm not sure why but it felt like more of a big city's downtown, almost like Chicago. How much of that is me just being more familiar with St. Louis, I can't say.

Maybe St. Louis is just more spread out and not walkable? We could walk to multiple breweries downtown. We popped into Masthead Brewing.

 I thought it was cool that all of the blank cans were piled up everywhere.

We went to an inordinate number of breweries on this trip.

I was ready to do some eating and so I looked up "what's the most friggin' Cleveland food in the friggin' universe?" I like to curse in my Google searches so it knows I mean business. Anyway one of the most CLE frig foods out there is pierogi, the Polish potsticker.

Now Lydia and I had recently feasted on some pierogi in friggin' Poland so we were down to clown. Brandon though? Scared. He kept crying that he doesn't like "mushy food". To be fair I think the ones he ordered were likely more mushy because he'd gotten his tears all over them. Sad. My philosophy is if it's a national dish then they must be doing something right.

The pierogi at JukeBox were nice because I think they might have fried them, making them even closer to delicious potstickers.

As is my people's custom, we took a thing from another country then blinged it out real nice. I can't imagine there's a lot of buffalo chickpea pierogi in the old country.