"[I]t's an attempt to paint a picture that is real, that is not advertising. You enjoy the light by contrast with the dark."
-- Bono, on Pop
Six Days in Cleveland with the U2 Family
June 18, 2003
Wednesday, June 11th
7:05 am PT -- I've discovered a set of airport terminal maps in the back of the Delta Sky magazine, and lo and behold, there's the terminal map for De Gaulle Airport in Paris. I smile at the sight of the F21-36 indicator on the map. My U2 weekend has begun, and I tell myself it's okay to be such a geek about it. Soon enough, I'll be with the rest of the geeks, too. Just like family.
10:37 am MT -- As we're in the air between Salt Lake City and Cincinnati, the little girl in the seat next to me who is, I guess, about 8 years old falls asleep with her head on my shoulder. No U2 content here, but it was an adorable moment.
3:31 pm ET -- We arrive at Cincinnati's airport, which is really in Kentucky. Minor detail. There's no cell phone service here. Major detail.
7:07 pm -- I walk into Jacobs Field to watch an Indians baseball game with my old college friend Kent and his family. It's a beautiful ballpark, and we enjoy a nice, relaxing evening before U2 mode really kicks in tomorrow.
Thursday, June 12th
11:53 am -- I'm at the airport to pick up Aaron Sams (of U2wanderer.org). He gave me his flight number on Northwest Airlines, but when I call Northwest's 800-number, they tell me the flight is shared with Continental Airlines. Thankfully, Continental's baggage claim is just 20 yards down from Northwest, and we have no trouble finding each other.
1:00 pm -- Aaron and I have pizza for lunch at Big City Pizza in downtown Cleveland, the first of several meals we'd eat there over the weekend.
1:45 pm -- We arrive at the Hall of Fame and I am struck (not literally) by the enormity of the Phish "hot dog" in the lobby. I'd seen it in pictures before, but this thing must be seen in person to be appreciated. I'm sure the hot dog is bigger than U2's trabants and Zoo TV sign, which doesn't seem fair. What has Phish ever done? Where's the Lemon when you really need it? People need to know that U2 holds the record for largest food-related tour prop ever, and this weiner isn't it.
2:04 pm -- As we walk through the lower level exhibits at the Museum, I tell Aaron that the hand-written Jimi Hendrix lyrics look suspiciously similar to the hand-written Bono lyrics on the upper levels. Aaron agrees.
2:08 pm -- *NSYNC has made it into the Museum, but only because there's a Teen Heartthrob section or some such thing. The back of one of the *NSYNC jackets has a noticeable "U2" in the stitching. I'm proud to say I don't know enough about *NSYNC to know if this jacket is from the same era when they did their POP thing a few years ago.
2:35 pm -- We finally make our way to the U2 exhibit upstairs and I'm immediately full of doubt about what's portrayed as Bono's first guitar from the 1970s. It looks like it's never been played. Hmmm. Considering he couldn't play guitar, I suppose it probably is the real thing after all.
2:45 pm -- Aaron and I are about to be interviewed on WBWC-FM when Museum Curator Jim Henke shows up, also for an interview. Okay ... we'll share the mic.
3:18 pm -- The U2 exhibit is very, very good. I'm happy to see the contest trophy they won back in 1978 (contributed by Larry), the early press releases, letters, and promo material (also contributed by Larry), and the production notes contributed by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. The stage/tour design material from Willie Williams is also great to see.
4:07 pm -- Aaron and I are being interviewed by Todd and Mary during WBWC's U2 marathon when I crack a joke about Larry being a "monger" for having saved so much stuff over the years. In the back of my mind, I'm relieved to remember that the online stream of the radio show is down. Don't need Larry coming after me for that crack.
7:10 pm -- Three more slices of pizza as Aaron and I eat dinner at a Chicago-style pizza place far from downtown. There are apparently no restaurants in downtown Cleveland. At least none that we could find.
8:35 pm -- We stop by the Hard Rock Cafe for a drink and we're both dumbfounded by the display of a black suit coat in the window which Edge, the sign says, used to wear on stage during concerts. A black suit coat?
Friday, June 13th
10:40 am -- After meeting with some of the Rock Hall staff to discuss setup plans for tomorrow's Fan Celebration, Aaron and I decide to see if we can go through the exhibits again wearing the white wristbands we received when we entered through the security entrance. "The worse they can do," I say, "is stop us and ask us to leave." Just as the words leave my mouth, and we're about to set foot on the up escalator, a female voice shouts to us: "Gentlemen! You can't go upstairs with that wristband." As we turn around to speak with her, Jim Henke walks by, smiles, and says "Hey guys!" We both say "Hi Jim!" back, and the lady offers us the correct wristbands so we can go upstairs. Nice timing. Thank you, Jim.
1:02 pm -- Breaking the string of pizza meals, Aaron and I have lunch at Subway, and we're joined by fellow @U2er Teresa C., who has just arrived in town.
3:17 pm -- There are also, apparently, no office supply stores in downtown Cleveland, so we drive 15 minutes to a Staples in the suburbs where we purchase 24 dozen golf-size pencils for use with the quiz we're doing tomorrow at the Fan Celebration.
4:35 pm -- There's a tall gal standing downstairs at the Hyatt. She's wearing an Elevation t-shirt and carrying a Baltimore Orioles duffel bag. That's got to be Tammy, the better half of @U2er Phil R. I guess right, and earn a hug for my deductive skills. Phil shows up moments later and gets a hug, too.
5:33 pm -- The @U2 gang is just about all together now, and we're hanging out in the Hyatt Arcade area when another U2 fan walks up to us and introduces herself. Her name's Claudia and she's here for the 5:45 U2 fan get together. We don't know Claudia and we don't know anything about the 5:45 thing, but Claudia seems pretty cool and she decides to hang out with us for the night because "we're cooler" than the 5:45 gang, whoever they are. So there!
6:05 pm -- We arrive for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, figuring we'll stay all night for the EXIT concert, too. "We" is a group of 11 @U2ers and friends.
6:35 pm -- We're still waiting. (Note to self: always call in advance for reservations with a dinner party of this size.)
7:06 pm -- Finally seated!
7:46 pm -- U2's Elevation DVD starts being played on the TVs at the Hard Rock. In the middle of dinner, people across the restaurant start yelling the "Woo-hoo"s in "Elevation." Amazing. It continues with cheers and clapping after every song, and two young female fans do a lap around the Hard Rock at the start of "Streets." Very cool. Having missed my chance to join them, I decide to take part actively by standing on the seat in the booth and plastering myself against the wall during "The Fly".
10:35 pm -- After a full 30-minutes of checking microphones, the guy doing sound for EXIT's concert is finally satisfied that the show can begin. It's a little odd at first to see four girls in a band playing U2 songs, but EXIT is pretty damn good. They're dealing with some terrible sound issues in the Hard Rock, but I give them major points for putting up a good fight. Good show, although I'm still at odds about having seen people holding up cell phones during the show.
Saturday, June 14th
7:40 am -- My 7:30 am wakeup call hasn't come yet, so I call to let the front desk know I'm awake. They seem glad to hear the news.
8:11 am -- Teresa and Phil arrive at my room to start heading over to the Rock Hall to setup. Like the geeks we are, all three of us are wearing navy blue "@U2 Staff" shirts with khaki shorts/pants. This isn't planned, although I know no one would believe us.
8:44 am -- We find our computers on a table in the bowels of the Rock Hall, not far from a box labeled "Hip Hop Educator's Guide."
9:30 am -- Did I mention yet that there are no restaurants in downtown Cleveland? Phil and Tammy arrive with breakfast: mini-donuts and Hostess cakes bought at a CVS pharmacy down the road.
10:00 am -- The doors must've opened because there are a lot of people coming down the escalator. Our tables are set up right next to the ticket window on the lower level, which is good because it means a lot of people will come towards us. It's also bad because it means a lot of people will come towards us.
10:30 am -- The first "U2 Fan Celebration Quiz" is returned! Sadly, we don't award any points for speed.
10:40 am -- There are some people wandering around who are clearly not here for anything U2-related. They are a tremendous minority on this day.
12:25 pm -- There's an attractive female fan at the table looking for Answer Guy. She seems slightly upset that he's not here. He'll be much more upset to have missed her visit.
1:15 pm -- EXIT is playing upstairs, and playing well. The sound's much better than last night.
2:10 pm -- Oddest moment of the day: Steve Averill and Shaughn McGrath of Four5One are standing alone at our table, looking at the pile of prizes. They seem to be concentrating on something, but I interrupt to introduce myself (as the guy who did the email interview with Steve a couple weeks ago) and Phil. We all shake hands and say hello, and they move on. They don't take a quiz sheet with them.
2:32 pm -- People have been asking all day if the U2 stuff on our table is for sale or free. One guy hasn't bothered to ask: He's headed up the escalator now with three posters that he swiped while we weren't looking. It's okay. He'll read this on @U2 and the guilt will keep him awake at night.
3:35 pm -- Almost time to award the prizes. I count more than 200 quizzes returned, a stunning number, and almost 100 have all 15 questions correct. We immediately go to Plan C for handing out prizes, which is to draw names randomly and let each person pick whatever they want off our table. That should ensure a high level of chaos.
3:50 pm -- There's an enormous crowd gathering around our tables.
4:00 pm -- The giveaways begin. I really need a megaphone or something so everyone can hear. And lucky for me, 1 out of every 3 winners has an unpronounceable name.
4:10 pm -- I've almost lost my voice, and we only have about 50 more prizes to announce.
4:43 pm -- It's been a very long, but very rewarding day. The prizes are gone, the crowd has dispersed, and I have about 150 pencils left. Where's the trashcan?
6:35 pm -- The @U2 gang is back together for the Four5One presentation at the Rock Hall. It doesn't start for 25 minutes, but there are already two dozen fans lined up outside the theater. I get hot flashes as memories of the Elevation Tour flood my mind.
7:51 pm -- Upon announcing that they've already heard 8-9 new U2 songs, Averill and McGrath decline the crowd's request to "sing them!"
9:25 pm -- The gang arrives at the Hard Rock to see if there's any room at the inn. Nope. We're not even in sight of the actual restaurant, but we can see the end of the line. We end up back in the bar at the Hyatt, which is playing Rattle and Hum on the TVs. Meanwhile, out in the Arcade there's a wedding reception underway and some Typical Wedding Singer is belting out a God-awful version of Journey's "Faithfully." I have a headache.
10:22 pm -- Claudia, further ingratiating herself as one of the gang, runs a lap around the bar at the start of "Streets." Atta girl.
10:31 pm -- I'm half-asleep and wholly exhausted when Dan E. leans over to me and asks if they have PopMart at the Rock Hall's movie theater. I ask the rest of the group, and I'm told "No PopMart." Dan finds this hysterical as he tells me his question was if they have popcorn at the theater. I need to go to bed.
Sunday, June 15th
9:46 am -- Awake. I've been asleep a LONG time, and my body is telling me it could sleep a lot longer if I'd let it.
10:35 am -- Dan and I sit down for breakfast at the Hyatt Restaurant. I notice that some of the Four5One gang are sitting two tables away. I'm not the type to interrupt, so I don't.
11:53 am -- Dan and I are walking up the dizzying spiral staircase to the top floor of the U2 exhibit at the Rock Hall, and whaddya know? There's Steve and Shaughn of Four5One walking down. We say hello and thank them for the excellent presentation last night.
12:31 pm -- Zoo TV: Live From Sydney is meant to be watched on the big screen theater with surround sound at the Rock Hall. It's an amazing experience, although a bit odd to be clapping and hollering at a video as "Zoo Station" finishes up. I don't feel quite as strange when eight other fans in the theater clap with me, a trend that would last the whole show.
5:50 pm -- Having proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that there are no other restaurants in downtown Cleveland, Aaron, Dan, Kim T. and I end up back at the Hard Rock for dinner. I see the Four5One gang again, and am tempted to interrupt and let them know I'm not stalking them. But that would seem like ... I'm stalking them.
Monday, June 16th
5:28 am -- I'm standing at the counter of the Burger King inside the Cleveland airport, waiting for my Sourdough sandwich to get zapped in the microwave. I'm barely awake. I'm jolted out of my daze by a loud shout of "@U2 Rules!!" (I think that's what it was. It could've just been "U2 rules" but I don't think so.) There are two girls in the order line smiling. They're way too awake for this hour of day, but we say hello and I learn that their names are Anna and Melissa. They recognize me from Saturday. We end up at the same gate, and talk a bit about the weekend. We talk a little about the Four5One book, which I've just started looking through. It's not even 6 am, but it's a good morning already. I'm with the U2 geeks. Just like family.
© @U2, 2003.