Rock ‘N’ Roll: Scooter A Chart-Topper

That vacation trip did not work out well.

Or did it?

That’s the thing about traveling with Greg. What starts out as a good idea becomes less so. An insignificant afterthought becomes a highlight — often hilariously so.

That sums up the Labor Day trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Regular readers have grown up and/or grown old with Greg, a son now age 40 with Down syndrome and the genesis of many of these articles.

Way back before smartphones and the Internet, even before compact discs, there were cassette tapes, played in palm-sized tape players, with Sony’s Walkman as a leading brand.

The Walkman came along in 1979, two years after Greg was born. As his older siblings’ tastes in music changed, their rock & roll tapes were handed down.

So by the time Greg was a teenager he knew a repertoire of rock tunes — though you might not know it by listening. Greg’s receptive speech is fine. His memory is excellent. His spoken speech sounds like marbles in a blender. His singing is, if anything, worse, about on a par with my own total tone deafness.

To this day, he can sing the entire lyrics of “Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann (take my hand)” though “Ba ba ba” is about all that is recognizable. He can also sing virtually the entire score of the musical “Annie,” both versions; “Mary Poppins;” almost anything by Peter, Paul & Mary, and most of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

His volume could get him a part-time gig as a foghorn, but, hey, he loves music. So do I. On trips, we load CDs, open the windows, and startle farmers riding tractors hundreds of yards away with Elvis, Bill Haley, Fats Domino … you get the idea.

So I thought it would be a delight to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Cleveland’s lakefront.

It was, sort of.

I had not been there before. I did not realize the cacophony that results from seven decks of semicircular walk-around exhibits, with a half-dozen snippets of a half-dozen different songs playing at the same time.

I could differentiate. Greg, who has about 50 percent hearing loss, could not. Oh, he picked up this or that, recognized posters and flat-panel TV copies of album covers (especially Prince, the favorite of his sister Theresa), and seemed to be congenial enough, but detached, uninterested.

That was because of the scooter.

Greg usually uses a walker. For distances, we pack a fold-up wheelchair.

We brought the wheelchair and, as instructed beforehand, looked up the visitor services staff.

“Could we, perhaps, leave Greg’s push-it wheelchair here and see how he does with one of your $10/day rental electric wheelchairs?” I asked.

They grinned — wickedly, I later realized.

It isn’t that Greg can’t maneuver a wheelchair with a bike-like handlebar, a green finger-hook lever for forward on the right side and a red finger-hook lever on the left side for reverse. He can. He can zoom forward faster than his father can keep up.

Reverse is the problem. Asking Greg to go backward, adjust his speed, twist around and look behind him, all while lights are flashing, little kids are toddling, flocks of schoolgirls are flitting, and oldsters my age are making do with canes and walkers … Yikes!

Invariably, I was on the wrong side of the scooter when, for some reason or no reason, Greg decided to quit crawling forward and start backing up to get a second look at something. I leapfrogged with only minor aggravation of my sciatica, though I got my heart rate up to stress test level several times.

Greg grinned.

“See?” he chortled. “All myself!”

Umm … yep.

Somehow, we made it through four of the museum’s seven decks … no, wait. There must be eight, because the ground floor is Level 0.

I enjoyed myself in snatches, and made a mental note to revisit. The venue is delightful, the memories are plentiful and the $25-range admission prices, less than that of a pro baseball game, are wallet-easy.

Greg was delighted.

“Next week?” he asked.

I told him that I did not think they could install a pacemaker in me that quickly. He didn’t quite get the details, but grinned agreeably and came right back with, “Next month?”

We concluded that part of the trip with an overnight stay in a downtown hotel, a stretching of my ketogenic diet to include hot chicken wings (the sugar is a no-no, but I muttered a carb-zapping incantation) and a next-day trip to visit another son, Matt, and a few more than a dozen family members near Dayton.

Greg will talk about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He did like it.

But that electric scooter, though nearly the death of me, was his grin-broadening delight. He mimics “Zoom! Zoom!” time and again.

No, I won’t get him an electric scooter for full-time use. The collateral damage might be too high.

But as a one-time memory maker, the scooter tops the charts.


Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois, Pa. and Warren, Pa. He lives near Brookville, Pa. Email: