Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wistful And Weathered The Pride Still Prevails - Alive In The Streets Of The City

Shane has a really good post on those halcyon moments in life when the fact of real life is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. One of the turning points in the post comes when he talks about a connection he feels to Indianapolis, even though there is a large part of his soul that seems constantly to be seduced by California.

Having read and re-read that post several times now, I’m getting this urge to wax nostalgic - and at one point, I think, I shall even wax a bit romantic, if you can dig it - about this city I live in and continue to call home. Indianapolis does kind of get its hooks into you that way, although I can only speak from the perspective of someone who was born and raised here - I haven’t got a clue how it feels for those who came here from elsewhere and have chosen to make Indianapolis home.

(Quick aside - It should be noted that I refer here to Indianapolis, not the state of Indiana. By and large, the state of Indiana disgusts me, from its conservative politics to its uneducated population. Apart from a handful of oases, to include Indianapolis, Bloomington, Nashville, and the State Park system, I am of the opinion that it is really only semantics that separates Indiana from the most hideously conservative backwaters of the world, like Kansas and Afghanistan.)

Having grown up here, I’ve watched Indianapolis change a lot over the years, especially the downtown - I was there the morning they imploded Market Square Arena, standing with Amy and my brother and a handful of my friends, in a small parking lot, I think on New York Street, between Delaware and Alabama, literally about two blocks from the arena. I graduated from high school on the floor of Market Square Arena - and now all that’s left of it is a gravel parking lot and a mayoral wet dream to build condos that nobody wants.

I’ve seen the Canal Walk expand from its former northern terminus, just below St. Clair Street (where there is a particular spot on which you can stand, clap your hands, and hear the acoustics make a squeaking sound in your ears) to its new terminus at the basin just below 10th Street. If you go up the stairs there at that end of the Canal Walk, you’ll come to the Buggs Temple, a former church that is now set to become one of those places where people come to eat and drink, the scenario city officials had in mind when they first envisioned the construction of the Canal Walk.

Over the Thanksgiving break from college in 1993, some friends and I went to Union Station, where there used to be a thing called a “festival marketplace,” which is sort of like a mall but with more syllables and just a dash more pretension, and I bought a Rush poster there, a poster I still have. Later that same evening, we all convened at a friend’s mother’s house to play a card game called Mr. Mao. At some point that night, during the game, a girl stopped by with her boyfriend - she sat down on a couch and watched us playing the card game, and I recall very clearly thinking that she was just incredibly beautiful, and that she was the kind of girl who would always be out of my league. That was in November of 1993, and her name was Amy Lee. A shade less than ten years later, I married her.

White River State Park has changed perhaps more than any other part of downtown in the years I have been growing up here in Indianapolis. What used to be just the zoo and the Eiteljorg Museum now also includes the NCAA Hall of Champions, the White River Gardens, an amphitheatre called The Lawn, the new Indiana State Museum (which was glued onto the existing IMAX theatre a few years ago), Victory Field (the best minor league ballpark on the planet), sculptures for display (and sale) on the Old Washington Street bridge over the White River, and Military Park (one of the best places in the city to go with a cup of coffee to sit and read a book - the gazebo is currently being refurbished, but when it’s finished, take a seat at one of the picnic tables in the gazebo and kill a couple of spring hours with your favorite book).

On the other hand...the four days I spent in New York two years ago for my uncle’s wedding were enough to convince me that this writer will never be happy, not all the way up, in this midwestern city, as nice as it is, and as nice as it may become. For sure, the days of the Lost Generation of writers hanging out in Paris cafés and Gertrude Stein’s flat in the post-World-War-I years are long gone - and yet the streets of New York City, especially those south of 14th Street, call out to me.

While we were there, we stayed at the 414, a nice little hotel/inn in Hell’s Kitchen, and we walked all over the place, seeing maybe a fraction of what there was to see in New York City (when we were not doing wedding-related things) - but the parts of it we saw are etched into my brain and onto my soul in ways that can never be undone.

One of the days, we walked from Hell’s Kitchen south through Chelsea, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Tribeca, and into downtown, where we walked down Church to Liberty, to look at where the World Trade Center once stood; and then we walked all the way down to the tip of the island and looked out over the harbor at the Statue of Liberty from the very edge of Battery Park. Shane’s got a really good picture of what that looks like - at sunset, no less.

We spent a day at the American Museum of Natural History, where my uncle is the technology director; walked through Times Square and midtown in the rain brought by Hurricane Ivan, which forced my uncle’s wedding, which was to have taken place at the 6th & B Garden in the East Village, indoors, at a place called Dish, also in the East Village; and spent a few hours on our last day walking around the Upper East Side, going to the zoo, and eating lunch at Pigalle, which was actually the best of the four meals we had while we were there. (The others, in order of excellence, were at the Chick Inn in SoHo, Ben Ash in midtown, and the Carnegie Deli, also in midtown - and across the avenue from Ben Ash.)

The day before we left for New York, I finished the novel I have been working on since I graduated from college; and in the time since I got back from New York, I have pretty much rewritten it, to include much of the influence being in New York for four days had on me. I don’t know when I’ll go back - although my cousin who lives in New Jersey is getting married next summer, so that might be cause for a return trip - and I don’t know if I will ever be able to completely reconcile myself to living here in Indianapolis when there is so much for someone like me in New York.

So, hey...thanks, Shane, for putting up such a good post - you have an ability to put quite a lot of yourself out there into cyberspace for public consumption, something I will never be as able or as willing to do - this post being rather a notable exception - and from time to time you inspire the creativity of another writer, one who would not be out here in the blog-o-verse had he not been inspired to comment on one of your posts. Now that I am here, though, I am quite enjoying myself. Thanks, man.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the nice comments.
Thank you for continuing to read my blog, as it often gets long and boring, as I love to listen to myself type.

Finally, I'm glad you're out here blogging. I love reading your posts. You get much more indepth than I do with things, and I love reading your perspectives - as they help me form better opinions by seeing what other people think/feel.

Also, I like posts like this - allowing me to get to know you a little better. Since we don't spend a great deal of time in person - which bytheway, we need to get a beer sometime...