Saturday, December 31, 2011

Accidents & Postcards #3

I had this grand plan of getting up today and getting some stuff done around the house—a little bit of cleaning, take some recycling in—and then going out to take a walk around downtown to take a look at the progress on the last few legs of the Cultural Trail, along Washington Street and down Virginia Avenue toward Fountain Square. I also wanted to take a look at Georgia Street to see how that was progressing toward the pedestrian plaza they are envisioning for the Super Bowl.

But it was raining this afternoon when I got up, and it kept raining for most of the afternoon while I puttered around the house and tried to do a little bit of writing; and then around mid-afternoon it looked like it was going to clear up…sort of…so I started to get ready to go out, and put a bunch of recycling in the car, and then headed for the recycling center, which is just down the street. I dropped all of that stuff off, got paid for the aluminum cans, and then headed down to the Super Target in Southport for a few miscellaneous items. I narrowly avoided getting off of Southport Road onto 65 north when I saw some kind of traffic jam that went as far north as I could see from where I was—and as far south, too. Every bit of 65 that I could see from the Southport Road bridge was bumper to bumper, and stopped. I wound up taking back roads up to downtown and got started on my walk around five o’clock.

I parked on Park Avenue between Michigan Street and Mass Ave, one of the few places left downtown where you can still park for free at any time, and then headed for the library to take back a CD that had been with a book that Amy took back the other day. We had listened to the CD one night and forgotten to put it back in the book, so Amy asked me to take it back for her while she and Jackson were in Florida; but the library was closed by the time I got there, so that will have to wait for another day. Then I headed for the South Bend Chocolate Company on Monument Circle for a cup of coffee, and then I got the walk started properly.

There was a Pacers game tonight, so there were people out and about in the Wholesale District, having dinner and making their way toward whatever the arena the Pacers play in is called this week, and it was nice to walk around downtown at night when there were lots of other people milling about. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, and I had almost forgotten how vibrant our downtown can be when there are events taking place. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like at the end of January, when everyone and their mother is downtown for the Super Bowl. The new plaza on Georgia Street, however, is pretty much just a walkway right now. I guess there will be more going on during the Super Bowl, but for now it’s just another place to walk. I went from there toward Virginia Avenue to check out the progress on the Cultural Trail, but then I changed my mind once I got to the sort-of three way intersection of Washington, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. With the sun down, it was getting colder in a hurry, and it’s a long way down Virginia Avenue to Fountain Square—and then back again. Amy and I had seen part of the Virginia Avenue leg of the Cultural Trail in its nearly-completed state when we ate at Siam Square for her birthday, earlier this month. Driving home, I observed that much of that leg of the trail was complete in Fountain Square itself, and in the downtown section—but that whatever they were going to do with it where it passed over the interstate still had much work to be done.

So instead of embarking on that long walk, I went up Pennsylvania Street and headed back toward the car; and it turned out to be fortuitous that things turned out that way, because as I was walking up Pennsylvania Street, I saw one of the 46 for XLVI murals on the south wall of the Summit Realty building at 241 North Pennsylvania (across the street from the courthouse). It was dark, and my blood was pumping from the walk, and I was feeling good—and then I saw the painting, of one guy in a hat playing the piano, and another guy sitting nearby with what looked like a cup of coffee.

Though the plaque on the building describing the mural proved my first thought incorrect, the painting made me think of what it might have been like in one of those old speakeasies, in the Jazz Age. I got a very Midnight in Paris kind of vibe, like a car was going to pull up next to me and Scott Fitzgerald would lean out and invite me to come have a drink with him and Zelda. Obviously, that did not happen; but I was headed toward Mass Ave, and I knew of a few places up that way where I could keep the feeling of that vibe going.

As I got further away from the Wholesale District, the sounds and footsteps of people out and about with the Pacers game on their minds became fainter, and after awhile it was just me out on the sidewalk, and I turned up Mass Ave and headed toward Agio, which has been closed for awhile now; and even though it has been closed now for some time, it looks almost as though you might be able to unlock the doors and get right to work serving dinner. You’d have to sweep out the leaves that have blown into the outdoor seating section, but all of tables inside are set with plates and folded napkins and silverware, as though the staff had prepped the place for the next day’s service before leaving one night, and then simply failed to come in the next day. It’s vaguely creepy, and reminds me of the way Stephen King describes one of the towns in ‘Salem’s Lot other than the eponymous one—a town that I think was called Momson, where it looked as though the people had just up and left one day, with dinner still on the table.

Then I ducked into the alley behind the Chatham Tap restaurant, an alley that is actually a tiny part of the Cultural Trail. It’s designed for people to walk on, but I would not have been surprised at all if there had been a car back there…the one with Scott and Zelda in it. Alas—again—it was not the case; but I was awfully glad that I had gone ahead and taken the walk that I had almost decided not to. It wasn’t the best day for a walk, but it was still pretty good for the penultimate day in December. Had it been as cold this December as it was last December, the storm that passed through today would have left several inches of snow on the ground, and I would certainly not have been out for a walk in that at night.

You can click here to check out information on those Super Bowl murals at the website of the Arts Council of Indianapolis. They have been painted by both local and national artists, and though they have gone up all around downtown only because of the fact that we are hosting the Super Bowl, they will remain as beautiful and amazing public art in our city for years after the Super Bowl craziness has passed. I have seen only a few of them, and I don’t intend to make a checklist and spend a day tracking down all of them. If I did that, I would miss the beautiful accidents like the one that led me to the “Pennway” mural this evening; and that’s one of the things I like most about walking around, both downtown and here in Irvington. I never know where or when I am going to be inspired by what I see or what happens.

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