Sunday, April 19, 2015


So my uncle from New York, who doesn't even live in New York anymore, and apparently isn't going to live on the east coast for very much longer either, was in town this weekend for...well, what, exactly, it was escapes me at the moment—a conference or meeting of some sort, I think. Whatever it was, it presented the opportunity to get together and visit over a lovely Sunday afternoon meal, so we picked up my mom and met my uncle, and Aunt Meg too, at the very popular, much praised, Fletcher Place eatery known as Milktooth (whose chef, according to the Star, was recently named one of the top ten rising stars in culinaria—a word that it's possible I just invented).

I could be talked into believing that someone from the back of the house at Milktooth could be named a rising star; I would not, however, be so easy to convince if you attempted to argue that anyone from the front of the house might be eligible for such a distinction. And before we go on, to what will be the shortest restaurant review I have ever written, due to the fact that I will not mention a single word about the food, please take a moment to note the distinction between someone and anyone. Based on lunch service today (or perhaps brunch—this is the sort of place precious enough to purple the prose of a midday meal), there is no one in the front of the house who merits any distinction of any kind—nobody.

The place was bustling when we arrived at 12:30 (on a Sunday, no less), and my uncle, the first of our party of six to arrive, had already put our name on the list. He didn't mention how long he had been told the wait would be, but no one was in a hurry, and Amy and I were very excited to try it, so we waited. And waited. And then waited some more. Many people who arrived after we did were well into their meals before we even had a chance to sit down. After multiple inquiries yielded no apparent change in our status, my uncle was finally informed that the restaurant had all of one table that could accommodate our party. Not unreasonably inquiring as to why he wasn't told that in the first place, my uncle was then told, by someone who might have been a manager, that "I find it hard to believe" that he was not so informed.

I have worked in movie theatres, places where customer service is a top priority, for a long time; and I have a passing familiarity with how to piss off the customers, though I have never ranked which are the best ways to do so. If I ever did that, though, I am quite certain that expressing disbelief in what the customer just told you would be pretty close to the top of the list. Up to that point, I had been fine with the wait. Milktooth is very popular, and we arrived at the worst possible time; maybe they had a very good reason (though they did not provide it) for refusing to push tables together (or even situate them in slightly closer proximity to one another); and the hostess was astute enough to inform us (eventually) that the very inconsiderate six-top, that had been lingering for most of the time we had been standing there, had both received its check and been informed that there was another party waiting for the table.

But do not fucking tell me to my face that I am lying. It would also be good to, you know, actually have all of the things listed on the menu. We were told that they were out of most of their pastries, including a particular scone that I don't recall the exact name of now (and which isn't listed on their online menu), as well as the merguez sausage you could add to the one egg baked in spicy tomato sauce over Amelia's semonlina for $12. (The added sausage would have made it $17.) The same woman who said it was hard to believe my uncle hadn't been informed about the lack of accommodation for large(ish) parties later came by our table and, when we said that all of the food was very good, asked if it was worth the wait.

I'm not sure it was. I generally take the position that food trumps service when you go out to eat, and in this case it's almost like both factors were turned up to eleven—the food was excellent, across the board, but it was preceded by what might have been the worst service ever. Such extremes tend to be more indicative of a bad day than of a general pattern, and if a Milktooth representative pinky swore that that was the case today, I would believe them. I just can't imagine that I would ever want to go back. Milktooth, with its reputation way out in front, disappointed dramatically, a far cry from the dining experience we had at its owners' other venture—Bluebeard.

534 Virginia Avenue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Deep Thoughts #116

If “V is for Vendetta” counts for the Alan Moore graphic novel about Guy Fawkes, then I got 40 of 50 on the Jeopardy! online test yesterday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

General Cinema Eastgate Torn Down

We were driving back from Bloomington this afternoon, going north on Shadeland Avenue, when the old General Cinema Eastgate stomping grounds came into view. For over forty years, the relatively small building in the southeast corner of the Eastgate Consumer Mall property has been clearly visible going in both directions on both Shadeland Avenue and Washington Street.

It opened in 1974 as a 2-screen theatre, and then four more screens were grafted onto the building twelve or thirteen years later. When it re-opened as a 6-screen theatre in 1986 or 1987, it was one of the premiere movie theatres in Indianapolis. That lasted for all of about seven years, until the enormous new Clearwater Crossing 12 opened in 1993. Eastgate soldiered on for another ten years, enduring the encroachment of Kerasotes Theatres and the assimilation of General Cinema by Another Major Competitor, before the latter shuttered it in early 2004. (Kerasotes was also eventually assimilated by Another Major Competitor.)

Today, the theatre building was torn down. This was what I saw when we passed it on our way back from Bloomington.

This is the view of the building from the south. The rusted doors are the exit doors behind the screen in Cinema 3. What is already demolished in the right half of the picture includes Cinemas 1 and 2 (the original two screens from the 1974 opening), the lobby, and Cinemas 5 and 6.

After we got home, I drove back to the theatre with my camera. IMPD has used the old mall space as an operations center and east district headquarters for several years now, and they built a perimeter around most of the area, restricting public access. I hadn't driven by in years, so I didn't know that the perimeter doesn't quite extend to the theatre property. I was able to drive up to what would have been the front curb, had the exterior not already been destroyed. One of the guys on the demolition crew gave me leave to stay and take pictures, so I did.

Another view from the south. Note the exit doors on the grass to the right. Those would be the exit doors from the front of Cinema 1 or Cinema 2. The lower wall, center left of image, was, I think, one of the walls in Cinema 2.

Had you been in Cinema 1 and used those exit doors in the previous picture, you would have come out into the world slightly underground. These are the stairs you would have climbed to get back up to the parking lot.

The speakers hanging on the wall in the next picture are stereo surround speakers that were installed in Cinemas 5 and 6 in 1997. That year, we upgraded Cinemas 2 and 3 from stereo surround sound to DTS Digital, Cinema 4 from stereo surround sound to SDDS Digital, and Cinemas 5 and 6 from mono to stereo surround sound.

Remember the red screen lights?

I'm going to try to go back tomorrow to see if I can get some more shots. I took these pictures at around 7:15pm, so I can't imagine that they would have finished the job today. They certainly will not have carted all the debris away, so I'm sure I'll get some kind of pictures tomorrow - assuming I can still get this close.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Deep Thoughts #115

Walking along the Cultural Trail today, in front of the IRT, I’m pretty sure I heard someone refer to it as the Indiana Respiratory Theatre.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Deep Thoughts #113

When lead is pronounced with a short-E, it’s a heavy metal - not the past tense of the verb describing what a leader does. That word is led.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Beginning Our Fifth Month of Winter

According to the National Weather Service, Saturday night's winter storm set an Indianapolis record for snowfall on March 1st, and eclipsed the average monthly snowfall total for March by 5am.

And while this winter has not been as bad as the one in Boston, where they have had more than double the amount of snowfall we had last winter (which set a record here), we did manage to record the third coldest February on record; and I believe they said we recorded the seventh coldest November on record. November is not part of astronomical or meteorological winter, but we had snow on Halloween, and it was so cold that we had to cut trick-or-treating short.

Jackson had fun with it, though:

I can't stand being cooped up in the house all day, but no one wanted to go for a walk with me, so I had to strike out on my own after we took care of shoveling the driveway and sidewalk and front steps. What's cool about taking a walk on a day like this is that you get to see things from a different perspective. I went downtown, parked near the canal, got a cup of coffee at Mo'Joe, and then hit the Canal Walk. Normally this is a heavily populated multi-use path for walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters - you name it. (It's also part of the Cultural Trail, so it always gets plowed after fresh snow.) But today it was deserted, and a little bit eerie - but that was kind of cool, because you never see it that way.

It's been so cold this month that some parts of the canal have frozen solid, which allowed some enterprising architect(s) to create this:

And last but not least, you never see the mastodonts at the State Museum covered in snow, either.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Deep Thoughts #112 - Special Topical Nattily-Clad Edition

Yes, the snowiest February in the long, proud history of snowy Boston is, in fact, punishment because the recidivist Patriots cheated again.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Fifty Shades of Fault Done Gone, Girl

I'm eating lunch, or what passes for lunch, at the old juke joint this afternoon (technically yesterday), and looking for things to read out there on the magic internets. From one of the recent entries on the Paris Review's blog, I come to an article posted by the Guardian, about the Sydney Writers' Festival*. Apparently the Guardian did a live-blog of the festival (the 2014 edition), so I start scrolling through the entries to see if anything catches my eye—and what does the trick is an embedded tweet by someone called Courtney Robinson, who said, "Hey poetry slammers, that wasn't guerrilla or contrarian, it was fucking rude.” (Turns out I can’t go back that far in her Twitter feed to embed this one.)

Now, two things about that tweet. First, no tiny URL getting in the way of the thought and breaking up the rhythm. Second, take a look at what I quoted (or embedded, if I can manage to make that nubbin of technology work for me) and contrast what this tweet both contains and does not contain, with what the vast majority of other tweets do and do not contain. This one contains no numerals standing in for words. It contains no abbreivated words. It does contain a single thought, expressed in one—complete!—sentence, with correct punctuation.

Oh, and the F-bomb, too. Can't forget that. That's the interesting part. Take out the F-bomb, all you have is a tweet complaining about something the writer thought was rude. Is the writer being rude right back to the people by whom she was affronted? Sure she is. Is that being fair? Hey, who the fuck am I to judge? Her F-bomb emphasizes the degree to which she felt the poetry slammers were being rude, and, provocatively, encourages them to reevaluate their behavior in light of the way it made other people feel.

Not that the poetry slammers probably received any of those signals, but I digress in order to point out why I thought the F-bomb was interesting and not just a bit of profanity used in a gratuitous way; and it did another part of its job too, making me interested in what else the tweeter (Twitterer?) had to say. I click over to her Twitter page, and the most recent tweet says, in extra-large letters, "All aboard the lube mobile." Below the words is a picture of some kind of service van, taken by a photographer in traffic a bit behind the van. Below the words LUBE MOBILE is an illustration of a hand holding a wrench. It's probably safe to assume that this is some sort of automobile maintenance or repair service.

But the name of the service can be read in a dirty way, and I appreciate it when people allow their minds to work that way, both because of the tongue-in-cheek humor and because of the willingness to acknowledge sexuality. And yet that still isn't even the main point of this meandering post. (Although a secondary point is that this is another one of those instances where one random link leads to another and then ultimately points me at something interesting that I would not otherwise have encountered.)

That main point would be the tweet immediately following the one about the lube mobile. (Admit that you're laughing about the lube mobile. Even if you won't laugh out loud, or admit it to anyone else—admit it to yourself. Do I really need to paint you a picture of what's going on in the back of that van, after hours?) That tweet, which is slightly less elegant than the one addressed to the poetry slammers, reads, "I can't decide whether to read Fifty Shades of Grey or not, to hate read/ or just more deeply assess pop culture. Thoughts?”

This may be the first time in my life that I have ever wanted to respond to a tweet and then actually considered signing up for the service just to be able to do so; and though I did not do that, I do have thoughts, because I am in something of the same boat. Over the past year, we have played Gone Girl and The Fault in Our Stars, and beginning this coming Thursday, we will be playing Fifty Shades of Grey. The novels that spawned these films are three of the most popular novels of the last three years. Without having read any of the books or seen any of the movies, I have developed strong feelings of distaste for them.

This is mostly due to the fact that they are all wide release films that have no business playing at an art house—even a fake art house like the one to which I sell my labor for a pittance. Part of the dislike for Gone Girl is because it contains Ben Affleck, someone whose acting skills I find lacking. Part of the dislike for The Fault in Our Stars is because John Green and his entourage elected to rent one of our auditoriums for a friends and family screening of the film before it opened in Indianapolis. Though I suspect that many of his sycophantic followers would doubt the veracity of this claim, the following is true: John Green is not Jesus. And word around the campfire is that author E.L. James was difficult to work with during the making of Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a novel that started life online as Twilight fan fiction and supposedly contains quite a lot of bondage porn wrapped in what everyone I have talked to who has read it has described as really bad prose.

So what’s to like? I know that Gone Girl is a Missing Wife Thriller with lots of Shyamalan-esque twists, and I have read intimations that the prose is not especially literary. The Fault in Our Stars is a YA tearjerker, and if the novel is anything like the film, the ending is a soft, fluffy cheat—though perhaps not an unexpected one, given the point of view from which the story is told. Of the three, it’s the one I think is least likely to be terrible, and I’ve been trying to convince myself to buckle down and read them all, so that I can find out whether or not my hating on them is indeed valid.

And I’m open to all three, on their merits, regardless of what I have heard going in. If anything, the fact that I have the lowest possible expectations for all three novels greatly increases the chances that I will like all of them more than I thought possible before I began. I read Twilight in the same spirit, and came away from it with a firm confirmation that the prose is quite bad. On the other hand, Stephenie Meyer does have a solid grasp on pacing, and the story was interesting enough to keep the pages turning at a brisk clip. If I read these other three novels and find that any of them contains some hidden quality I hadn’t remotely expected to encounter, I will have no problem acknowledging that.

Based on the first two thirds of Gone Girl, however, I am fairly sure that I will have nothing to acknowledge about that novel. The problem, however, is not so much with the prose as with the fact that the two main characters, Nick Dunne and his wife Amy (the gone girl), simply aren’t very sympathetic characters. Amy, in particular, is a despicable human being. There are plot twists galore, which is mostly the point, and those twists keep the pages turning; but I’m not rooting for either of them, and in a book like this, if the prose doesn’t keep you hooked, and you don’t care about the characters, then all the plot twists in the world are just special effects. And because it relies so heavily on twists and misdirection, I am certain that it will be basically unreadable a second time. Once you know what happens, all you have left is 500 pages of post-internet vernacular that is, I think, as non-lyrical as it is possible for prose to be.

Reading The Da Vinci Code was a similar experience. I thoroughly enjoyed that novel the first time around, but once all the plot mechanics were laid bare, a second reading revealed that, for all of his talent at doing research and assembling the elements of a good yarn, Dan Brown simply isn’t a very good writer. The book wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t stand up to a second reading because it has nothing left to reveal of itself apart from an unstable foundation. I think that great books need to stand up to second and third and fourth and fifth readings, that they need always to reveal new things each time you read them.

Gone Girl does not pass muster in that regard, and I suspect the same will be true of Fifty Shades of Grey and The Fault in Our Stars. Remember that tweet I mentioned, many paragraphs ago? Courtney Robinson couldn’t decide whether or not to read Fifty Shades of Grey as something to hate read or as a way to gain further insight into current popular culture. I’m not going into any of these books hoping to hate them. Just because I suspect they are whatever negative thing I think they will be doesn’t mean that I want them to be. My purpose is probably more along the lines of the gaining further insight into popular culture idea (though it is true that I am not expecting any of them to fill me with pride at the current state of popular culture in this fading republic).

Either way, my thoughts on her question ran quite a bit longer than 140 characters, so it wouldn’t have done me any good to sign up for Twitter after all.

*—After I finished this post, I went back to add the code for the links, and I realized that the path from the Paris Review blog to the Courtney Robinson tweet was more protacted than I remembered. This is the post on the Paris Review blog. The link in the second bullet point led to this article posted by the Guardian, which had a link to this story at the bottom of the page. At the bottom of that page was this link to the story about the Sydney Writers’ Festival, and about halfway down that page was the Courtney Robinson tweet to the poetry slammers, which led me in turn to the tweet about Fifty Shades of Grey on her Twitter page.