The Signature of Place and Time
Come On a Safari. With Me.

Hello Cleveland. I'm Back.

I think the last time I was in Cleveland was about. . . umm. . . seven years ago.  I always say seven when I know it wasn't last year and yet it wasn't so long ago as to be ancient.  I really don't know how long ago it was.  Now that I think about it, it had to be at least 12 years ago, and that's verging on ancient, but they say memory is the second thing to go, if I remember correctly.  I forgot what the first thing is.

I'm in a smelly Comfort Inn room, courtesy of United Airline, a non-smoking room that reeks of cigarette, in route yet interrupted to Grand Rapids, for a Festival of Faith and Writing.  A party of books, if you can say party about bibliophiles.  But that macaronic collection of people and books is tomorrow.  I mean today.  I mean I just had dinner with some new friends at 1o:30, which is like the middle of the night for me, and now it is tomorrow, at least yesterday's tomorrow (or is it today?).  I haven't had anything to drink, if you're wondering.

But enough of that.  Cleveland holds fond memories for me, at least with time they seem fond.  Whenever it was that I was last here, it was as the record mogul fool that I was was then, the godfather of Silent Planet Records, at the annual convention of the Folk Alliance, with several artists in tow (and on the dole).  I learned a few things that trip, like full size vans do not fit in parking garages.  I rented one to tote my starving artists about, drove into a parking garage, and discovered with horror, once in, that it didn't fit.  I mean vertically.  I scraped the top of the van a few times and became terribly concerned that I'd never make it out.  Stuck. I felt claustrophobic, scrapping my way through the first floor of the garage until it disgorged me into the street, thankful at that moment for the collision damage waiver I never buy but did buy that time.  Sorry, I tore up your van.  Thanks.  Goodbye.  Absolutely freeing.

You can do legal U-turns in the middle of a busy street in Cleveland.  It's fun.  Everyone's doing it.  Which makes it not so fun after all.  Particularly in a full size van.  And did you know that have a high center of gravity and that you should slow down to do a U-turn? I  know that. . . now.

One night I had the bright idea to take the artists to dinner. . . only my little group swelled to what seemed like 30,maybe 40.  A few homeless people (they looked similar to my artists), may have been with us.  We hired a few taxis and asked the driver of the lead car to take us to his favorite restaurant.  He did, after a tour of seedy neighborhoods, and it was good, and it cost me.  It really cost me.  I don't even know who all those people were.  And they drank.  I don't have a problem with alcohol, really, but drunk arists. . . well, there were moments of incredible inspiration, verse and song.  And tears.  Mine. Someone had to pay.

Self-avowed anarchists walk the halls of Folk Alliance.  I didn't really believe such folk existed, but they do.  They have a problem with authority.  They strum guitars and complain about their mothers and fathers and teachers and governments.  And people of faith?  I didn't even meet a Muslim, much less a Christian.  These folk were irreligious.  If I had found a crystal-gazing New Ager, I would have thought him/her a kindred spirit, a co-belligerent.  But not to be.

I'm thankful for at least one thing.  I met the fantastic Jane Kelly Williams in Cleveland.  I sent her an airline ticket.  She came.  She played and sang, and the room was absolutely still, reverent like high church.  It made it all worthwhile, being a record mogul that is.

I wasn't even a proper record mogul.  I always imagined a stretch limo pulling up to the convention center and me with shades and black skinny jeans and t-shirt advancing on the Folk Alliance with several admirers in tow, a couple of big strapping guys on either side to deal with hangers-on.

I have to tell you: the record business wasn't what I thought it was.  It was more like this: hang out with some wacky but inspiring people, spend money, listen to music, spend some more money, and when you think it's over, spend even more money.  It was a glorious waste of time.

I loved it all.

[The facts above bear some resemblance to the truth.  Sorry, but I can't remember it all.]