Author Archives: Scott Hicken

Great Lakes Science Center Brews Up After-Dark Fun

I promised Scott another evening of me being the designated driver and he promised me another sonnet after the response to last week’s blog post. Enjoy!

Even without the Great Lakes Science Center's Beer Goggles, their Home Brew event was a lot of fun

Even without the Great Lakes Science Center’s Beer Goggles, their Home Brew event was a lot of fun

I am a big fan of the Great Lakes Science Center. Every time I go I have a great time. It’s an awesome space filled with experiments and exhibits that consistently entertain and educate me.

We’ve always enjoyed Yuri’s Night, so Amanda and I were very excited to learn the Science Center was continuing their events for the 21+ crowd will Science After Dark: Home Brew.

Home Brew, which took place a couple weeks ago, focused on the science behind brewing beer and coffee.

After settling in, our first stop was a presentation from Paul Benner and Reed Jaskula of The Cleveland Brew Shop. (Correction: Amanda’s first stop was the presentation, mine was for glasses of mead.)

I hadn’t expected the science and story of yeast (The Workhorse of Beer!) to be as entertaining as they made it, but hilarious drawings and a great dynamic made it a lot of fun.

Tremble before the terror of Yeast! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Tremble before the terror of Yeast! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

After Paul and Reed wrapped up we stayed for Arthur Gugick’s presentation on Calculus and the Coliseum, an amazing presentation on the math used to create from-scratch LEGO art pieces and monuments. Mr. Gugick is the local Cleveland artist/genius whose work is highlighted as part of the Science Center’s LEGO exhibit.

Minds are about to be blown...into little LEGO shaped pieces.

Minds are about to be blown…into little LEGO shaped pieces.

I love LEGO and the temporary (now through September 7th) LEGO displays were something that I was really looking forward to seeing. I had no idea that a significant portion of the Science Center’s lower exhibit hall was going to be dedicated to landmarks, paintings, and other fantastical works all created by Mr. Gugick.

After thoroughly amazing us with the talent and creativity portrayed in his presentation, Amanda and I were energized to begin our exploration of the Science Center’s other entertainment and imbibements.

Regarding drinks, Amanda was the designated driver and quite enjoyed (and appreciated) Phoenix Coffee’s options. I tried a few wines, beers, and meads, but ultimately my favorite was Sunshine Daydream by Fat Head’s Brewery. It was light and crisp and quite a pleasant surprise!

Beverages are easy to pick favorites from, but I would be very hard-pressed to pick out my favorite activity from the evening’s selections. The Science Center really outdid itself.

The first one we encountered was the Make-It-Yourself Miniature Golf, where all the holes were fashioned from reclaimed and recycled material. All you needed was some duct tape, your imagination, and a couple extra hands and you had your own mini golf hole!

By the time Amanda and I arrived there were already quite a few constructed, so we concentrated on trying out other people’s creations.

I call this "Action Shot Amanda"

I call this “Action Shot Amanda”

We also stumbled (figuratively) across Beer Goggle Cornhole, where you wore goggles that simulated the wobbly vision of inebriation. We didn’t actually play much cornhole with them, but it was fun trying to walk straight lines with the great lake view before us.

Next we found the LEGO Daredevil High-wire Challenge…or it could have been named something else very similar, it’s hard remembering certain details after a few cups of beer! But it was a lot of fun creating a LEGO machine that could make it from the third floor to the second without falling from the wire. Mine smashed to pieces when it reached the bottom, but I still made it the whole way!

Another awesome part of the night was the Tabletop Cleveland area and creating our own board game pieces. Amanda and I put together our little monstrosities and then took part in the evolving board game. If you had to hop on one leg in order to gain points equivalent to Pi, you landed on my challenge. Sorry.

My Cleveland Tabletop board game piece - Mustachio Baseball Bat and Pirate Bunny Drinking in a Rocket Ship - sits next to my bare-bones but uber-functional high-wire LEGO device.

My Cleveland Tabletop board game piece – Mustachio Sword and Pirate Bunny Drinking in a Rocket Ship – sits next to my bare-bones but uber-functional high-wire LEGO device.

As the evening began to near its end Amanda and I made our way down to the LEGO exhibit. It really is inspiring. I’m not even going to bother trying to describe the detail, wonder, and skill that is captured throughout both Mr. Gugick’s works and the traveling exhibit.

It is incredible – and fun – and should absolutely be checked out before it leaves on September 7th.

LEGOs. Aw yeah.

LEGOs. Aw yeah.

As with my last entry I had also threatened promised to include a review a la sonnet, so here goes:

Great Lakes Science Center is quite a place,
Three stories of discovery await.
You will use the thinker behind your face,
Fun for the family, and even a date!

Science After Dark is really inspired,
Get out and learn with a drop of some brew.
With all that there is, your brain will not tire,
There’s so many sciences waiting for you!

Cleveland Brew Shop made yeast science funny.
Tabletop Cleveland brought fun you could make.
The Fat Head’s beer was really quite sunny,
Phoenix Coffee kept Amanda awake!

For a memory that is sure to stick,
Check out the LEGOs by Arthur Gugick!

Disclaimers: 

  • I am much happier with the rhymes in this sonnet. I thought that was worth you knowing. 
  • Amanda was offered tickets to attend Science After Dark in exchange for blogging about it. I got her second ticket because if she hadn’t let me go with her I would have whined like a sad puppy dog for well over a week. The decision to attend and post about an event is her own, based on whether she thinks it’s something that may also interest others.
  • My decision to blog about the event was actually my own this time. Because LEGO.

Sipping Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field (or Scott Writes a Sonnet)

Scott and I decided to switch things up at Grapes & Ale this year. I’d be the designated driver, and he’d have an opportunity to sample all of the wine. The only catch? That he’d write the recap.

Colin Dussault's Acoustic Side Project greeted people near the stadium's entrance.

Colin Dussault’s Acoustic Side Project greeted people near the stadium’s entrance.

Nestled at the corner of 9th and Carnegie, there’s just something about Progressive Field that I really enjoy. I’m a transplant to Cleveland, so my fondness for the stadium doesn’t stem from a home team association. And, as someone who competed in marching band through the Philadelphia and South Jersey region, I’ve been in my fair share of stadiums. But Progressive captures something few others do.

I’ve mulled over what that “something” is, and I currently claim it is “hopeful enthusiasm.” Clevelanders have a solid ability to both recognize “what is” while planning for and looking forward to “what could be.” Something about Progressive Field captures that. Regardless of its corporate origins, the stadium’s current name is very fitting for this city.

What makes everything better is when you have the opportunity to freely drink the official beverages of “hopeful enthusiasm” – wine and beer. The Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field event, which happened a few Fridays ago on June 27th, brings all this together for a great time. And, since it raises funds for Our Lady of the Wayside, we have a perfect storm of good vibes.

Wines, foods, and peoples.

Wines, foods, and peoples.

Arriving at Progressive Field a tad early, Amanda and I could smell the predominantly barbecued food that was waiting to accompany the many spirits that are automatically included with entry.

After getting our etched wineglasses, my first stop was to try the Johnny Appleseed hard apple cider, followed by some flipflop moscato. Then we moved on to grab some of the always-delicious Famous Dave’s wings.

Amanda was Designated Driver that evening, and there was plenty of bottled water and soda (“pop” if you’re not a transplant) for her. There was also salad and veggies, ample seating if you walked in deep enough, and even a putting green.

Famous Dave's not only provided good eats, but a nice take-home surprise.

Famous Dave’s not only provided good eats, but a nice take-home surprise.

If you don’t like wine, the Beer Garden had taken over Progressive’s Budweiser Patio. You don’t need to buy tickets to go in – although you do need an empty glass and then tickets if you want any beer – but the mini hot dogs were delicious and the snow cone machine was a great treat.

There were also some games spread about. If leaving with the little wine glass wasn’t enough, the beer tickets got you a handled mason jar and a Lime-a-Rita sample got you another festive glass. Although I didn’t have any, a trusted source told me the Leinenkugel’s stand had brought a Russian Imperial Stout that was great.

I like my crushed ice plain.

I like my crushed ice plain.

If you didn’t bring extra cash for the beer (like me), no worries. There was still plenty of that free-flowing wine, as well as a few other spirits.

To be honest, my wine preferences are pretty narrow; the wine needs to be white and sweet. I’m not listing a lot of sampled names here not because there wasn’t a large selection, but because there was and my sampling was more copious than my note-taking.

The vendors stretched down an entire side of Progressive Field; there was plenty of wine I didn’t drink, and plenty of wine that I did. But you needed to do something special to stand-out in my memory, and the vendor which delivered that was Cupcake Vineyards:

  • Walk-in wine truck pulled into the stadium? Check.
  • Photo-op? Check.
  • Second photo-op? Check.
  • iPads with all the info and cat videos you could want? Check. (Especially because one of our cats is named Cupcake.)
  • Tiny cupcakes at the ready? Check.
  • Delicious Prosecco? Double check.

When it came to wine, Cupcake Vineyards got my vote for “Win.”

Cupcakes! Cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes! CUPCAKES!

Cupcakes! Cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes! CUPCAKES!

Great venue, great drinks, great food, great company – what more am I to say? Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field was a feel-good event last year, and it was a feel-good event this year, and I eagerly look forward to next’s. Until then, I declared I’d review this as a sonnet, so here it is:

Progressive Field is a really great space,
Open and cool and filled up with big smiles.
If the Indians don’t manage to place,
It’s still a spot where-in I’d walk for miles.

Awesome is Our Lady of the Wayside,
Caring for those who are needing a boost.
Providing shelter, respite, and a ride.
So help by drinking fermented grape juice!

Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field is fun,
Food, spirits, and beer all over – delish!
So buy some tickets, you son of a gun!
“This never should end,” is what you will wish!

So come on down to 9th and Carnegie,
Bring hunger and thirst…but not the baby.

Selfie! Selfie selfie selfie! SELFIE!

Selfie! Selfie selfie selfie! SELFIE!

Disclaimers: 

  • I know Carnegie/baby is a terrible rhyme, but how about YOU come up with a better word that rhymes with Carnegie! 
  • Also, Amanda was offered tickets to attend Grapes & Ale at Progressive Field in exchange for blogging about it. I got her second ticket because I can flap my eyeleshes like a pro. The decision to attend and post about an event is her own, based on whether she thinks it’s something that may also interest others.
  • My decision to blog about the event was not my own, but part of Amanda’s agreeing to be Designated Driver so I could run about downing samples like a thirsty camel at an Oasis Sample Party. It seems batting eyelashes is not as powerful a tool of persuasion as I thought.

A New (York) State Of Mind: Billy Joel in Concert

Blogkeeping: Congrats to entry 8, Kim for winning the Uncorked giveaway. Please reply by the end of today to confirm you can attend.
Scott and me seeing Billy Joel for the first time at the Q in Cleveland

Our first Billy Joel concert at the Q in Cleveland

Last week, I fulfilled 10-year-old Amanda’s dream of seeing Billy Joel in concert. Although I initially had to drag Scott with me, Billy Joel had a new lifelong fan by the end of the concert.

I had never been to a Billy Joel concert before last Tuesday night. In fact, before then, any significant exposure to Billy Joel I’d had was what played on the radio in my formative years, when my only indicator of “what successful music sounds like” was nothing more than “it played on the radio.”

All the more I knew of Billy Joel was that “Weird Al” Yankovic did the It’s Still Billy Joel To Me spoof (and if “Weird Al” spoofed you it meant you were pretty damn important) and that, during my time in chorus, we had a lot of very hoity-toity vocal adaptations of Billy Joel songs which had some very deep – or at least intricate – lyrics. So I never formed my own opinion of Billy Joel, instead carrying on a concept that was formed over decades from other people’s reverence.

It was this conception of a lauded and serious artist that I took into the concert. As Billy Joel entered the Q’s performance stage and sat down at the piano under a single blue spotlight, I was 100% prepared for the show to be little more than Billy Joel dutifully playing each of his hits, with nay but a pause between for a sip of water. I’ve seen the same from lesser-known songsters.

Let me be perfectly blunt upfront – Billy Joel in concert was amazing. Basked in a soft glowing light while seated at his piano, the man pointed out at the people surrounding him in the fully packed Q and observed that while he hadn’t released a pop album in two decades he was still touring to massively sold-out crowds.

This wasn’t ego talking. He’d brought it up so that he could proudly announce his own career was proof that he was “full of crap and lies.”

This was in reference to lyrics he had written for his song The Entertainer, “I won’t be here in another year; If I don’t stay on the charts.”

This statement made it clear from the start that Billy Joel had an acute self-awareness of himself that allowed a very a unique attitude to show through during the concert.

I have no idea if Tuesday night’s performance is reflective of the concert experience across his entire career, but I know that it certainly shattered my expectations of him.

Subtle aspects of this unexpected mindset popped up throughout the night.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

There were the intermittent segments Amanda and I began to call “Story Time With Uncle Billy” where the audience was regaled with tales of being stranded and cursed at on Ohio freeways, and his claims that Ted Nugent needed to aim his throat spray “up his ass.

There was the lengthy explanation of every factual inaccuracy and “complete bullshit” to be found within The Ballad of Billy the Kid. Or the alternate lyrics for She’s Always a Woman: “She’ll ruin your face with her powerful thighs.” And yes, I heard that right.

But the pièce de résistance was yet to come. As the show’s three-quarter mark ticked over, Billy Joel stood up and was handed a bright red electric guitar.

I didn’t know that he was introducing the defining moment of my existence on this planet, when I would realize I had now lived a Complete Life.

Billy Joel told the audience that he hoped the next song would be a religious experience, and that he would be welcoming to the stage a roadie that had been with his crew for many years.

At this point, imagine if you will, a middle-aged Al Lewis stomping out onto the hardwood. His many arm tattoos were visible thanks to the black Guy Harvey t-shirt that had the sleeves cut off with a deep V of fabric that ran down his ribs. He had in his hand, pressed firmly to his mouth, a microphone.

Billy Joel introduced him to us with his given Christian name of “Chainsaw.”

Chainsaw then broke into Highway to Hell, with Billy Joel rocking out on the guitar. And I do mean the full, 3-minute and 29-second song. Chainsaw stomped around the stage shouting at camera men, instrumentalists, and front row audience members. Billy Joel dug deep into that guitar. Red lights and spectacle flashed around them. It was a fantastic rendition.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

When the song was over the soft lighting once again came up. Chainsaw retired to the back, and Billy Joel handed over his guitar while retaking his seat at the rotating piano.

The expected lyrical repertoire earnestly resumed with the same energetic humor displayed earlier in the night, punctuated now and then by the odd rendition of Uptown Girl.

But nothing quite matched the “What the Hell did I just see?” moment that had arisen when Billy Joel shared the stage, and an AC/DC cover, with Chainsaw.

So, my friends, that is what I wished to share of our experience. After the other night, any of my thoughts of a “stuffy songwriter nearing the end of his career taking for granted the endurance of his work” were blanched out.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not to recommend that you go see Billy Joel in Concert, should he tour near you:

On one hand it’s an amazing experience orchestrated with great love by a talented man who clearly wants you to have as much fun in the audience as he’s having on stage.

On the other hand, as you leave the concert, your mind may be completely blown by the realization that Life will be all downhill from there forward.

Largely thanks to a man called Chainsaw.