We stood at the rail of the Nautica Queen, mostly middle-aged strangers elbow to elbow, singing and wiggling our hips to Play That Funky Music (White Boy) as we cruised Lake Erie on a summer evening.
To the west, the sky had turned orange and gold and pink over the water. To the east was the Cleveland shore, punctuated by the waterfront football stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where I had spent the day. In between us and the shore, people fished from the jetty, comfortable in their lawn chairs.
''Look at that! That's a real Key West sunset,'' the DJ cried, although in truth, the brilliant colors outshone the subtle hues of sunset over the Keys.
''Hey Florida,'' called out my newest friend, a Cleveland school teacher, ``what are you doing in Cleveland?''
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``I came to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.''
He shook his head and said, ``Never been.''
Unexpectedly, the DJ launched into a defense of Cleveland, talking about the time in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught fire. ''It was just a little piece of debris and some motor oil,'' he said. ``It only burned a few minutes before they put it out.''
I didn't know why he even brought it up, since no one had offered any offense. And I wondered how much longer Clevelanders -- with their pretty lake and cleaned-up river, classic baseball stadium and terrific rock 'n' roll museum -- would feel compelled to go on the defensive in the company of tourists who, after all, had voluntarily chosen to visit their hometown.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.