Driving into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio was almost like déjà vu all over again. When John Cassady and I were traveling together 20 years ago, I heard him tell the story many times of driving Ken Kesey’s bus into Cleveland, complete with a police escort into town. “We’re all in the bus driving into Cleveland when all of a sudden a cop car comes up behind us with lights flashing, and then another and then a third one. The Rock Hall had arranged for a police escort to guide us in. Kesey said, ‘We’ve been escorted out of town before, but never into town!'”
Some of the people we met from the Rock Hall also remembered when the bus came to Cleveland. And those who weren’t there in 1997 knew the story and the legend.
Which is why we were so warmly greeted when we arrived. Security positioned us right next to the Johnny Cash Tour Bus (JC Unit-1, it was called). We knew we were in good company as Estelle and I toured the museum and waited for people to arrive for the day.
At lunch time we mounted the outdoor stage to read the poetry and prose of the Beats to the guests who were enjoying lunch outside. People would stop and listen to us for a few minutes before they’d take a picture and then venture inside for their own tour of the museum. We told the stories of all the Rock & Roll legends who have visited the Beat Museum in San Francisco, many of them inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
At one point, as Estelle was reading a passage that mentioned birds, two seagulls came walking up and started cawing like crazing. They simply wouldn’t stop and the people gathered around started laughing as Estelle tried to continue her reading despite the clatter, finally giving up and inviting the gulls up onto the stage to join her with all their chatter.
The gulls weren’t the only friendly critters we met while at the Rock Hall. As we were preparing to leave we saw a mounted police officer and took a picture with Kira in the foreground. The officer saw us and trotted on over and introduced “Larry” to five-month-old Kira who was mesmerized, having never seen a horse before.
When it came time to leave for the day we said our goodbyes and read one final poem by Jack Kerouac from 1959.
Jazz killed itself But dont let poetry kill itself Dont be afraid of the cold night air Dont listen to institutions when you return manuscripts to brownstone dont bow & scuffle for Edith Wharton pioneers or ursula major nebraska prose just hang in your own backyard & laugh play pretty cake trombone & if someone give you beads juju, jew, or otherwise, sleep with em around your neck Your dreams'll maybe better There's no rain there's no me, I'm telling ya man sure as shit.
The glass windows of the Rock Hall listened in silence, shuddered a bit in the wind, and seemed to understand.