Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking the Monon Trail

I’ve never been real big on the Monon Trail, mostly because I used to think that it was boring compared to walking around downtown or here in Irvington; and it is boring compared to downtown and Irvington, but it’s not altogether boring, especially if you’re walking with a stroller. I don’t know how many times we have walked the Monon Trail since Jackson was born, but it can’t have been many. Either that, or we’ve taken so many more walks around Irvington with the stroller, since the last time we were on the Monon, that I have managed to forget the advantages of a long, flat, paved stretch of abandoned railroad track.

Irvington has much to recommend it, but its sidewalks are not among those recommendations. There are a lot of trees in Irvington that have been growing for well over one hundred years, and the roots of those trees have shifted many a sidewalk skyward - so that the sidewalks in places vaguely resemble the streets of San Francisco. Yes, there are old houses and winding streets, those beautiful trees and quiet parks, and cute little shops, the library, and (arguably) the best pizza and coffee in town - but very little of that is conducive to taking a walk while pushing a stroller. And those little cup-holders they put at the back of the stroller, for mom and dad? Yeah, those were not designed for off-roading, which is an apt description of running the gauntlet of sidewalks in Irvington.

The Monon may be boring, but you can set your coffee cup down with confidence, and it’s also possible that the smooth, even pavement may well lull your little one off to sleep. Jackson has some kind of pathological aversion to sleeping anywhere but in his crib, but he dozed off for some time while we were walking the Monon a couple of Sundays ago. And the parts of the trail that I thought were going to be sketchy turned out not to be sketchy at all - at least as far as we got. In fact, you could almost think you had become lost in a state park on some of the bits of the trail just south of 38th Street - except for the fact that the trail is paved. And you might still be able to hear the cars whizzing by on 38th Street. I’m just sayin’. It’s that nice. See?

Bridge over Fall Creek, just below 38th Street

"I can see the water!"

It’s also possible that your wee little one might want to get out of the stroller and frolic all about. The Monon Trail can accommodate this in ways that the sidewalks of downtown and Irvington simply (and safely!) cannot. Following are some shots of Jackson in full frolic.

Jackson runs the Monon near the State Fairgrounds

We picked up the trail in Broad Ripple, with no particular destination in mind, and took it south to just below 38th Street, which was a bit farther south on it than we had been before. One of these days we’re going to take it all the way to downtown, but that’s an awfully long round trip when you start in Broad Ripple. Probably would take some advance planning or something. That leg of the Monon comes to an end near the intersection of 10th Street and Mass Ave, which is also where one leg of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is going to come to an end. It doesn’t look to me like those two places connect naturally, which means they’ll have to build some kind of connection between them - maybe a bridge of some sort? I don’t know.

There’s also something called the Fall Creek Greenway, which was new to me (but which we did not explore - this time). The Indy Parks Greenways Trail User’s Guide (PDF) describes it as a trail that could wind up being a little over nine miles long, connecting downtown to Geist Reservoir. According to the map in the guide, the part that has already been built runs northeast - from where it intersects the Monon just below 38th Street - along Fall Creek to the Skiles Test Nature Park. Bits of the trail that have not been built yet would run it through Fort Ben up toward Geist, and then southwest of the Monon toward downtown, also along Fall Creek.

Fall Creek Greenway

There have been some stories of crime along parts of the Monon Trail between 38th Street and downtown, but I haven’t seen a single stretch of it yet that has given me pause. It’s certainly possible that I’ll see stretches of it that are sketchy, especially as we explore more of the trail between 38th Street and downtown; but if people frequent the trails and keep them heavily populated, crime should remain a minor concern - and you might just be surprised by how much nature still remains in the city.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Some Rush News

So I’m sitting there at work today, and Ryan is looking at something on the computer and he asks me if I have heard that Rush is taking Moving Pictures on the road this summer; and I say no, I hadn’t heard that, what’s it about? He directed me to a posting on the AV Club website that says that Rush, “[f]ollowing the trend of grizzled classic rockers performing their most successful opuses in their entirety on tour,” will in fact be touring this summer and performing the entire Moving Pictures album as part of the set list.

I reckon that’s pretty cool, but it’s a far cry - heh, get it? - from seeing Pink Floyd do all of Dark Side or The Wall, or even from seeing Rush themselves play “2112” (which they have already done). Moving Pictures isn’t a concept album in the same sense as those two Floyd records or that one Rush song, although it would be pretty cool to hear “The Camera Eye” live - if Geddy can pull off the high notes. Also, it’s only seven songs, and four of them - “Tom Sawyer,” “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ,” and “Limelight” aren’t exactly strangers to the band’s set list. Unfortunately, the tour dates on the Rush website don’t include Indianapolis (yet).

According to that post, they’re also going to play some songs from the studio album that they’re working on; and that sent me over to their website, where I found out that a new documentary about the band is going to premiere (though not in competition) at the Tribeca Film Festival, later this month. That’s cooler than both a Moving Picutres tour and the prospect of a new studio album. Even cooler than that would be if a distributor picks it up at Tribeca and books some playdates for it. That could be a long time coming, though. Hopefully it will at least get some attention at Tribeca and start to make the rounds at other festivals.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dead Karen's Baked Ziti

So I’ve been catching up on The Sopranos, which I never saw when it was on the air because we’ve never had HBO and of which I was a bit dismissive when it was on the air because it was in direct competition, as far as acclaim and awards go, with The West Wing, which was on plain old network television and which Amy and I both enjoyed to watch. Due to some faulty DVDs from the library, I’ve had to watch bits of the last few episodes of the fourth season more than once; and one of the bits I’ve seen a few times is Janice trying to get Bobby Bacala to eat his dead wife’s last dish of baked ziti.

Hearing “baked ziti” over and over again made me want to have a go at it myself - and I just happened to have checked out the Sopranos Family Cookbook from the library the other day (I know, I know - obsess much?), so I flipped through it, looking for the recipe for Karen Baccalieri’s baked ziti. Unfortunately, that’s not in the book; the only recipe for baked ziti is credited to Carmela. (And yes, I know these are all just characters and that someone else came up with all the recipes in the book. It’s the spirit of the thing, you know?)

So…working from the recipe for Carmela’s dish, I boiled up some ziti and tossed it with some tomato sauce (that Amy made sort of from scratch) and some grated Parmesan and Romano cheese. Then I turned half of the ziti out into a casserole dish and spread ricotta and shredded mozzarella over it and covered that half of it with more of the sauce. Then I plopped in four links of basil pesto chicken sausage that had cooked up in the pot of sauce and poured the remaining ziti over that, covered it with more sauce and more cheese, and threw it in the oven. The recipe said to bake it at 350 for 45 minutes covered and then 15-30 more minutes uncovered. I cut that time down by about a third, to 20 minutes covered and about 10 more uncovered. And this is what came out of the oven.

And this is what it looked like on the plate.

Unfortunately, I’m not a professional photographer; and those pictures looked way better in the camera’s display window than they do now on my computer, particularly the shots of the plated dish. Also unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be - although for something that was made pretty much on the fly, with not a whole lot of thought put into it, it turned out pretty well. The pasta wasn’t quite as toothy as I would have liked, and there wasn’t enough sauce; but both of those things can be fixed on the next go round.

Now…if anyone out there knows of an actual recipe for Karen Baccalieri’s ziti, I’m all ears.

Sunday, April 04, 2010