Monday, February 22, 2016

Next Generation

Does this mean that the most memorable part of the place was the bathrooms?
As I've mentioned, I have nephews, and said nephews are crazy for baseball. And now they're both at (or, indeed, well past) the age where I can take them on baseball trips. So last year, they each got a mini-Byways for their respective birthdays. We all live in the Midwest, so the younger one and I headed to Cleveland and Akron in May, while his older brother and I hit up Detroit and Fort Wayne on Labor Day weekend. Here's how they went.

Younger Nephew is a big Indians fan, as well as a total goon for autographs. One year we went to Wrigley, and he was so relentlessly insufferable on the subject that I told him that players give autographs only on Very Special Days and that this wasn't one of them. This was a transparent abuse of power, but he fell for it. Man, I would be a lousy parent. Anyway, I relented in 2014 when we went to a rare Cubs doubleheader—he nabbed Neil Ramirez and Adam LaRoche, plus some other Cub whose name escapes me at the moment.

Anyway, YN is an Indians fan, in no small part because his brother is a Reds fan. Let's pause a moment to commiserate with both of them, though especially the elder, who won't see another competitive team till after he's out of college. (He's a high school freshman at the moment.) And let's pause, too, to consider the influence of sibling rivalry on sports allegiance, for the YN does not love all things Cleveland: when it comes to football—and in America it must, inevitably, come to football—he's a rabid Cincinnati Bengals fan, while his brother favors the Pittsburgh Steelers, who aren't even in Ohio, for cri-yi. Like it's not bad enough for the Browns that they can't even have a logo, just an unpopular color. Has anyone ever said, "My favorite color is brown?" Or even, "Nice earth-tones?" (Yeah, Antonin Scalia, I'm not over it. And if you don't prove to be one of the undead, why don't you rot in hell?)

Where was I? Oh, yes, autographs. I picked up Younger Nephew on the outskirts of Toledo, and we bombed eastward, arriving in Cleveland pretty much way earlier than I expected. But this made for prime autograph hounding:

Not a winter wonderland this time, but still sort of Arctic, in the sense of "desolate"
YN came up with a handful, including his favorite player, Michael Brantley, who signed his hat. So you know, it was all good.

Trust me, that says, "Michael Brantley 23" or something like that.
The next day, we made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When Rob and I were here in 2010, I wasn't that interested in going there, and I think now that I was right. Guitars and clothes aren't intrinsically interesting, and the sense of rock as a performance is definitely lacking here. That sad CBGB awning speaks more eloquently than I can to the frequent meaningless of artifacts out of context. So we touristed it up...

What's-their-names make the cover
...and hit the road to Akron. When I was a kid in New Hampshire, we drove to Akron a number of times to see cousins who no longer live there. As with our 2010 trip there, Akron seemed vaguely familiar, but not really. I tried to convey to YN what our family connection was there, but things that happened in the 1970s are to him as things that happened in the 1930s are to me. Live in the present, man.

Akron was an autograph scrum, and we actually had to leave our seats in the front row because we were swarmed by tweens with Sharpies.

Come the end of summer, it was time for the slightly more grown-up version of the trip. Rob and I have been to the Tigers together and separately more than once, but this was Older Nephew's first trip to the Motor City at all. Much to my surprise and delight, we happened to be going at the time of the Detroit Jazz Festival, which blocks off Woodward Avenue from Campus Martius southward and takes over the waterfront. ON has become an aficionado of the trombone, so this was more than fortuitous. The weather cooperated, and we spent the day listening, eating, and then strolling up to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers obliterate... the Indians. 

Not only had ON never been to Detroit before, but he is constitutionally an optimist, which explains why on the basis of this very narrow exposure, he exclaimed, "Detroit is the greatest city!" From your lips to Bushwick ears, kid.

Take that, Cleveland: Tigers win, 6–0
We spent much of the next day at Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's strange salute to the nineteenth-century America he led the charge to destroy. From its "working farm" to its bevy of transplanted New England homesteads, Ford's compendium of Americana is... just weird. As many people have noted, Ford's methods of industrial production and the economic dynamic that bears his name (in which workers earn enough to buy the products that they create) were the cutting edge of the transformations that came to define both America and the world not just in the automobile age but in the industrial era generally. So to have him spend his profits celebrating old-timey pursuits and the native, small-scale genius of various inventors might not be precisely hypocritical, but it does seem to carry a substantial whiff of regret.

More consistently, the Ford site also includes a museum of transportation technologies (among other things). We saw a bunch of cool old planes, trains, and automobiles, as well what is said to be the only extant Dymaxion house, designed by Buckminster Fuller. Red and I saw a related structure in the wild many years ago, but here's one you can actually walk into and size up whether it suits your exotic urban lifestyle.

The more or less abandoned House of Tomorrow, near Beverly Shores, Indiana; designed by George Keck but plainly inspired by Buckminster Fuller
That was all architecturally high-minded and all, but ON and I had a date at Shigs in Pit in Fort Wayne:

Sated, we made it to the Tincaps game. As I've noted previously, the Fort Wayne stadium is unusually nice for its level. In the years since our most recent visit, there's been a good amount of development around it. As in Charlotte, you could now live essentially overlooking the park, should you so choose.

As nice it was, the stunning moment for me was learning that in 2008, when the onetime Fort Wayne Wizards became the Tincaps, they held a contest that very nearly had a wildly different result. Indeed, the world came thisclose to enduring the flaming industrial horror of a team named the Fort Wayne Octane. Apparently, the retail gas pump was invented there.

What could have been, what could have been... Happy birthdays, kids!

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