Jan 31, 2015

The Five Stages of IKEA

Almost everyone has gone through it at some point in their lives.
It's overwhelming. You are flooded with emotions and questions. It is important to remember that you are not alone. The five stages of IKEA have been well documented since the first Swedish studies of the 1980's. The human experience is as old as flatpack furniture itself.

Disbelief
Why is this happening to me? you ask yourself, I can't believe the entire population of my city is shopping here today. The sheer monumentally of the building and the crush of people are nearly unimaginable. You have even mentally prepared. but it is entirely normal to be quickly overwhelmed.

Confusion
After the initial shock has worn off, usually in the kitchen section, you find yourself in the midst of being carried along by large crowds of people. Where am I? Why did I come here? What the hell does this gibberish name even mean? How am I supposed to get this piece of furniture in my yellow tote bag? Where did I even get this yellow tote bag??? It is normal to be disoriented and confused in these early stages.

Anger
Confusion quickly turns to anger as the people adopt defensive postures as "fight or flight" response to the confusion and crowds. You may find yourself lashing out violently at other shoppers with your yellow tote, or venting your frustration in other inappropriate ways. The best way to deal with these antisocial thoughts of slaughtering families with brightly-colored kitchen knives is to take a few minutes rest on the $150 mattresses, concentrate on the lights, and count to ten.

Euphoria
Unexpectedly, at the moment of greatest anger, there is a moment where perspective slips and you realize that you can buy almost the thing you need for a fraction of the cost. Perhaps you never bake, but you might and frankly $3 for a cake display is too good to pass up. IKEA is based upon the idea that if you make the price low enough, people will buy anything. Once you break through to the euphoria stage, your yellow tote will rapidly fill with 99 cent dish towels, flimsy glassware, plush rabbits, coffee tables, and thirty or forty pine wood picture frames. Whatever it is, you say to yourself, throw it in! It's half the price at Target!

Exhaustion
This euphoria eventually burns itself out as you become dehydrated and fatigue sets in. The more you look, the more you see the shoddy workmanship and cheap materials. You no longer fight the push of the crowds but let yourself be moved along. Now, you may be regretting some of the things you put in your bag and cart in the throes of euphoria, but you are too tired to take them out. Whatever, you may think, it almost does the job. Numbly you are content to stand still in line since you don't have to look at anything anymore. You grit your teeth and think just a swipe of the credit card and I am free.

(Conditional acceptance)
Once you are home, rested, you have assembled your furniture, rested again, you sit back and say, you know, this crap is tolerable, but sometime soon I'm going to replace this cardboard crap with something nice.

It's totally understandable.

Jan 28, 2015

Mez, one of the Mexican interns, left shortly after I got back, and because I'd worked most closely with her, I was tasked with making her goodbye card.


catching up

It's been a busy time since I got back to Stuttgart.
German classes started up again, with mostly the same class and the same teacher, but I have ended up missing a few even this early because of a competition I've been working on at the office.

We wrapped up the competition yesterday with me delivering the roll of plans to the office in Mannheim. This was kind of fun, actually. It's nice to be paid to go someplace different, although it was a scramble at the last minute to print out the final documents, seal the tube, and jump out of the office 20 minutes before my train left the station. It's a fast ten minute walk to the main station from my office, and then a quick 40 minutes to Mannheim on the slick ICE high speed trains.

In Mannheim, it took me fifteen minutes flat to deliver the tube and then I had about two hours to kill in the town. The third biggest city in the the state was not so interesting, despite it's location at the confluence of the Neckar and the Rhine rivers. The city is unique in Germany for its gridded city center, with each block roughly 100m long.

https://www.google.de/maps/@49.488057,8.4683271,15z

I spent most of my time roaming around the city on foot. Some really bad (or good) postmodern architecture. A big university in a giant palace. A high street with all the usual brands in Germany. Lots of Turkish food. I was back at the train station, perusing the bookstore, an hour before my train left.

To celebrate the end of the competition, I picked up a kilo and a half of mussels on sale and I cooked moules marineiere with crusty bread for dinner. Good stuff, although we both agreed we need to eat lighter generally at night.

The weekend I got back, Saori and I went shopping and I got a new wool coat, lighter than my heavy winter one. The weather here this last few weeks has hovered between freezing and a few degrees above, with snow flurries and rain.

Last weekend, I was in the office for a few hours saturday but afterwards went out to a party at a friend's house. Saori and I came early to help prepare the food with a few other friends. Assembly might be a better word since what we were doing was smearing different spreads on sliced bread and cutting them into neat squares and rectangles. The host and her boyfriend got into a small fight (both are architects) about the patterning created by the different spread breads. I was torn between thinking the whole production was type A to the extreme or an interesting and elegant way to present party food since it is about as far as you can get from opening a can of salsa and a bag of chips.

Anyway, we met a lot of new people that night, almost entirely German, and caught the last train back to town with two other friends who convinced us to grab one last late night drink at one of their favorite bars. It was a smoke-filled rock and roll dive bar, and packed at one o'clock in the morning. The ceiling was filled with shot glasses, and the four of us squeezed into a table we shared with some other guys. Saori explained that it was one of the few bars in town that play straight up rock and roll, which was its appeal. I ended up practicing my German with the guy next to me. The benefit of speaking German while a drunk is it considerably loosens your tongue, but the downside is you are not in the most 'learning receptive' mindset.

Jan 13, 2015

Stuttgart Ho!

It was a quiet morning when I left Houston.
I drank the coffee dad had brewed once I was up, and finished packing the suitcase and the backpack. I was precisely at 50 pounds for my suitcase, so the overflow, including all the wedding planning books and magazines had to go into my carry-on, actually Saori's hiking pack from the storage unit.
I did a sweep of the bedroom and the bathroom and the kitchen, the areas where I spent the most time, and then toasted a bagel for breakfast before dad came downstairs. He took the morning off to take me to the airport.
Traffic in Houston slowed us a down a bit, but not unexpectedly. It was a cool rainy morning.

No problems checking in, although I sweated a little bit thinking about the size of my hiking pack and the full flight to Atlanta. With dense fog, my flight was delayed getting out, and delayed getting in. Coincidentally, I realized that Aunt Ashley was also landing in Atlanta, and she was so delayed getting there, that I would have been able to surprise her in the terminal if my flight had gotten in ten minutes earlier.

Once I checked emails and found my terminal, the flight to Stuttgart was preparing to board. I wish I'd taken an extra five minutes someplace to burn the $7 in USD I had in my wallet. Gifts or something. A last pint of craft beer. Oh well.

Lining up to board the flight to Germany, it was fun to try to pick out the Germans. There are some European facial features and structures, the clothes and shoes especially that they wear. Also in the mix were some US military type people, with the black daypacks a quiet giveaway. For the most part, the crowd looked professional. It was not a full flight, for which I was glad, and gladder to not have the middle seat.

It's a fast crossing. We have a 150mph tail wind which is kicking us along at close to 700 mph ground speed. The flight took me nearly ten hours the other direction, and this trip will be under eight. It's been a quiet flight except for when the stewardess made a quiet announcement asking if there were any doctors or nurses on board. It's really not a laughing matter, but it still made me think instantly of the movie Airplane.

Troupe of Security Actors

You can say many things about this guild of actors, but you can't say that the show hasn't evolved over time.

I would write, normally, quite a few satirical paragraphs about their history, but in a more serious way, I was disturbed by what I saw in my travels this trip stateside.

I remember when I saw rolled out the various "trusted traveler" programs. In exchange for $80 (the price is also falling, used to be more expensive), you can submit to a personal interview and a background check, and this will allow you to go through the "trusted line" at airports. You could keep your shoes on, your laptop in its bag, a simple metal detector instead of a full body scan.

When I left Atlanta on my way to Indy, I was waved to this line, along with everyone else around me, I was told they were allowing us to "try out for free" this system. No checks on shoes, no scans, no laptops out, etc.

I did not sign up for the program: my background has not been checked. I am not a "trusted traveler" but, I was given reduced screening. The same thing happened when I flew out of Houston. There was an actor at the head of the two lines, the "trusted" one and the normal, and he just told everyone to use the trusted one since they were giving more "free random trials" and that we could purchase one good for five years if we wanted.

If the level of security screening can be dropped as a marketing tactic, then why the bloody hell do we have it in place? It's not a question of security, its a question of extortion. If there is no more risk from a passenger like me to use the "trusted" line than the "non-trusted" then basically you hand over your personal details and  money to get a fast-pass. I can live with a fast pass. We are almost at the point where we have Platinum Preferred Citizenship. What I can't tolerate is the pretense of the extra security screening that is apparently just in place to motivate people to pay up and hand over personal details.

And where is the outrage from the people who actually thinks there is a threat? Is the perception of the threat lower than it was after 9/11? That a threat exists: absolutely. If anything, thanks to the actions and inactions of the world community in the middle east, there are probably more people who wish the US harm now than before. However, it should be remembered that this threat is far, far less than the one posed by, say, car drivers.

Jan 11, 2015

Houston

I can't believe it's been five days since I got to Houston.

The weather has reminded me of home, damp, rainy and cold, but not freezing temperatures here, which has not been encouraging to get out and do things. It's perfectly fine with me, since I really needed some vacation in my vacation.

I went to Wal-Mart, Target, TJMaxx, used bookstores, half priced bookstores, and liquor stores. I was tasked with hunting down wedding materials, so my first instinct was to find the best used bookstore in town. The place that topped the list, Kaboom books, is clearly the kind of place where the books come in much faster than they go out. Which is kind of it's draw I guess. Books go up to the ceiling, overflow the shelves, stack up on the floor. It is wealth of histories, biographies, literature, philosophy. But the older owner just blinked at me through his round small spectacles when I asked him if he had a wedding book section, or some wedding magazines.

I did end up picking up a book on home brewing beer and a history of Martin Luther and the Reformation in Germany.

I ate a lot of food. Mexican food from the finest in town (Hugo's), Mexican food favored by the norteno construction workers (Taqueria Laredo), and Mexican food for urban professionals (Tacos a Go Go). Dad grilled us lamb one night and we will have thick steaks tonight too.

Still haven't had my Houston doughnut fix yet, but I plan on remedying this tomorrow at Christie's Kolache Factory.

Lots of music and drinking events as well. Thursday night we went to what was basically a fundraising event by the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra at the St. Arnold brewery. Open taps and live drinking music from the brass section and strings. The event was a bit disorganized. The music was hard to hear, and there wasn't enough seating (although we found seats!) at the communal picnic tables in the brewery's beer hall. It was still fun and unusual though.

Last night we went to listen to a Krystal Cherelle sing at Vine Wine House. We were the first paying customers of the night and we grabbed a table and some wine and cheese and enjoyed her music. Really nice voice. Afterwards, we went to grab a bite at Tacos-a-go-go and jumped over to Antique Art Bar for another drink. It's a short walk from the taco joint, but I led everyone the wrong way and we ended up having to take the light rail back up the street to the club. It was a harrowing experience for Neri who is really not accustomed or comfortable walking around downtown at night or dealing with homeless.

Jan 5, 2015

midwest blitz: Ponca to Indy

We got up early saturday morning and grandma made us a farewell breakfast before we got on the road. Tay drove us down to Grandma Loretta's an hour or so away.

It was good to see Grandma Loretta too. We plopped on the couch and visited awhile when we arrived, before she served us up some BBQ she'd picked up in town for lunch. After lunch, we opened presents. Josh and Andera gifted us a really sweet Engagement ornament.

Grandma is selling her house, so a lot of the furniture is already gone. There were some new carpeting, and the dining room finally was empty save for the dining table. That room, more than any, saw the biggest changes since I first remember coming to the house.

My earliest memories there, the room was dark and vaguely smokey, dominated by a massive pool table, and with a mysterious and clanking Japanese pachinko machine on the wall.

Grandma drove us over to the apartment she is renting, in a nearby senior housing community, and showed us around.  Afterwards, we went to the post office to mail our thank you cards to Josh and Andera (Tay suggested it), before we headed over to Braum's for cherry limeades. While at Braum's, Tay raised the possibility of going to the Casino, and so, why not? we drove over to the nearby Riverwind casino.

We all started with $20. Grandma hit the slots while Tay and I headed over to the $5 blackjack tables. It's a little fun, but not really my thing. I guess because I am not constantly equating the chips in my hand to what they represent, its just a kind of token economy. And the game moves so fast, I dont really feel comfortable counting my chips between hands. The bullshit aspect is the 50 cent ante that you are required to play, a kind of per-hand fee. This strikes me as entirely bullshit since the casino is going to take your money regardless though the action of gambling. At a $5 table, you lose the equivalent of one hand every ten hands. Anyway, my fortune waxed and waned a bit, but at the end of 30 minutes, I was busted, Tay was $30 up, and grandma struck it at $150. I guess I am a good luck charm to everyone else. Grandma bought us a round at the bar, "Chips n' Ales" which was exactly how it sounds, but with more sports bar rolled into it.

The next morning, grandma rolled out a midwestern country breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy, and sausage. I miss these breakfasts a lot. Well-stuffed, we loaded up the car again and hit the road to Uncle Jeff's. He was still sleeping and Karsten was gone dropping off a friend, so its a sleepy aunt Ashley who met us and we quickly loaded up the SUV with the table and were on our way.

The weather was really good the entire trip. It was smooth driving up to St. Louis, listening to Tay's NPR podcasts, talking a bit, taking the occasional gas and pee break. We stopped in St. Louis for dinner at Sugarfire, a local chain not far from where I used to live. I got a brisket pieces and spicy sausage sandwich with pickles and BBQ sauce and tay got a platter. It was good, but not exceptional, not nearly the same caliber of BBQ as bogarts nor the gold standard Pappy's.

I finished the run from St.Louis back to Indy. Along the way, it began to snow lightly, and it was really only one stretch where we were driving through a snow flurry. We finally got back to Tay's place around 11pm, making pretty good time actually, and unloaded the SUV and put the table in place in the kitchen. It's going to triple his counter space.

The box of stuff he got from dad was a mix ranging from interesting objects worthy of hauling around (Balinese masks) to trash (Worst Psychotic Murderers, and Russian language workbooks). There was, inexplicably, an egg container for the refrigerator.

I finished my repacking and sorting (all the hard drives go into carry-on) and slept fitfully. If there has been one constant this trip, it has been low quality of sleep, and mostly filled with bad dreams.

In the morning, I had to say goodbye to my brother, and took the SUV back to the rental agency at the airport after gassing it up. Only turned the wrong way down a one way major street once.

midwest blitz: Indy to Ponca

The first day of the new year, we were up at 8 am. I cooked us some more eggs fried in last night's bacon grease, and then we threw our bags in Tay's car and we set off for Chelsea's. Chelsea graciously offered to drive us to the car rental place, so we dropped Tay's car, transferred the luggage and road snacks, and headed over.

Since Tay and I had been talking about making a midwest trip, he rented a midsize SUV to carry back a load of stuff dad had been carrying around for him, as well as a very expensive oak prep table dad picked up in the UK. Tay paid for the rental and we decided to split gas, which turned out to be a fantastic arrangement since the price of oil is so low right now.

The only problem was Tay was so nauseated he could barely finish the rental process. We had to put the car on my credit card because these cheap car rental agencies will only allow the use of debit cards if you have a return flight. I don't understand the logic, but you go.

Since Tay was basically incapacitated, I took the first leg. We had a Nissan Rogue and it was a really nice car. Handled well, comfortable to drive. Outside of St.Louis Tay's nausea became really acute and I pulled over where you could see the arch in the distance, and Tay got reaquainted with his breakfast.

We drove straight to my storage locker and I left Tay to rest in the car while I rummaged around to pull some stuff to take back to Germany. Saori and I were both concerned about our external hard drives in the harsh midwestern climate, and I also pulled out some more cold weather clothing which was convenient and Saori's hiking pack.

We took the scenic route across the river, right by the arch and across the flyover through downtown. It was strange being back in St. Louis, but really surreal to see our stuff in the storage unit again. Saori and I were both there when we filled it and locked it about two years ago, and I remember wondering what would have changed in the time that had passed since I last locked everything up. Fortunately, everything in the locker looked undisturbed, not too cold, and there was no sign of roof leaks or any other kind of damage.

Anyway, by the time I emerged with the recovered goods, Tay was feeling much better and was well enough to be hungry. We drove to the nearby vietnamese place we used to eat on Olive road, and I had a good duck soup while Tay ate some Pho. Soup was probably a good choice for fragile stomachs.

After lunch, we hit the Ladue Schnucks and bought a case of Urban Chestnut beer and a gooey butter cake.

We got out of St.Louis late, nearly dark, and Tay drove to Kansas City. We switched after Kansas City and I took the wheel all the way to Ponca. This was a different route than normal, since before I'd always gone by Bartlesville. It was supposedly an extra 30 minutes to take the Kansas City route, but I am sure we more than made up for it. Besides, I was really not looking forward to the winding and narrow country backroads one needs to take across vast tracts of wilderness from the Bartlesville direction.

Grandma Betty was sleeping when we arrived, and Tay had to go knock on the glass to wake her up to let us in.

We had a busy next day in Ponca: runs to the bank, to the pharmacy, a swing by Brace's Books, probably the most conservative independent bookstore/coffee bar I've ever seen, but still one of the gems of Ponca. I've never seen so many books by Glenn Beck in one place. We bought grandma a cake at Pyramid, and stopped by Braum's for ice cream. Tay and I had a thorough discussion about which flavor to take home. Tay, arguing from the stance of separation of nuts and ice cream, championed fudge ripple, while I argued for the equal representation of black walnut, essentially a state's delights issue. Grandma ruled that black walnut was one of her favorites but handed down a pluralist decision.

For Grandma's 85th birthday dinner, we took her Enrique's which had expanded its seating further into the airport terminal. Bob and Velma met us there, and they also brought Helen Head, the mother of the founders of Head Country BBQ, who used to make the pecan pies they sold in the store. She is an incredibly sweet woman, 91 years old, who crocheted us pot scrubbers once, and who most recently volunteered to drive grandma around when she had her neck brace on.

Bob and Velma looked in good spirits and were really happy to see us, although poor Velma's legs don't work so well and she is forced to use a walker to get around in a rather painful way.

That night, I had trouble sleeping so I ended up photographing a lot of old photos of the Cases and Walkers.

Misc. Indy

The bad news was that Tay had to work this week while I came to visit. However, the good news was that his slate of cases was really light for the week between Christmas and New Years so he was generally able to take off around 3 or 4 every day. The few normal work days I was there, I'd get up early with Tay, make coffee and quickly fry up some eggs and bacon or sausage for us for Breakfast.

The first day Tay worked, I drove him to the office so I could use his car. I drove to Target and bought some more things for Germany and also a new shower curtain for the back side of Tay's standing tub.  After I picked him up, we walked through his neighborhood to Goose the Market, a new development meant to replicate the old pedestrian storefronts. Really really good sandwiches, although it was unclear that we were going to pay an extra $2 uncorking fee for the bottles of craft beer we drank off the shelf.

We spent a lot of time decorating, actually, trying to figure out how to use what Tay described as his bar room. It took us a few hours to assemble a new heavy wooden shelf Tay ordered and had delivered, and while he was gone one day, I took the liberty of totally re-arranging the space. We walked in and said "that's....an idea [but not a desirable one]." We joked back and forth the whole trip about our differing ideas of what his concept of "modern speakeasy" meant.

One day I walked over through more fallen down neighborhoods to check out the local Habitat ReStore, but there was nothing that I would have dragged back over to Tay's.

Wednesday, New Years eve, Tay had a half day, so we drove out in search of a traditional Indy dish, breaded pork tenderloin in a sandwich. Coming from Germany, this is known there as schweinschnitzel. Like St. Louis, there was a large influx of German immigrants early in the city's history and the food culture persisted. But not just any tenderloin sandwich would do.

Tay picked me up at his place and we drove together to lunch at The Gaslight Inn. Tay told me that this was a place considered by many to be haunted, located as it was outside of one of the oldest cemeteries. Imagine, in the heart of the brick city, an ancient crumbling brick building, with shadowy rooms upstairs and a dusty bar complete with a doily covered piano.

This is entirely nothing like The Gaslight Inn of Indianapolis. There were a few old elements, a crumbling brick column in the center of the room, but the Inn was really nothing more than a woodsiding dive bar with some cute ghosts on the sign with the establishment name. Instead of dapper hipsters, the wide majority of the bar's patrons looked like blue collar regulars, and despite the pedegree and interest (the Gaslight Inn has been featured in many "haunted places" tv shows) probably most people come because they're regulars first, for the tenderloin sandwich second, and probably a scant scattering of ghosthunters.

Tay and I both ordered the sandwich, and split an order of onion rings, and we both washed it down with a cold bottle of budweiser. Huge sandwiches. I hate to say it, but they were pretty unremarkable. Except mine bled a ton of bright red blood all over the table, and Tay's sandwich floated sixteen inches above his plate until he sliced it in half with his knife. No, not really. It was good, but honestly there's little one can do with a flattened and breaded pork tenderloin to make it exceptional.

The funny thing was after we paid, Tay casually asked the server if we could take a look around. She gave him a strange look and mumbled something about needing to ask the manager. A few minutes later, there was a bald and lean gentleman, looked like late 50s or early 60s, standing by the table and asked to take a seat. This was the owner, a former bartender. He took us in, Tay still wearing his sharp suit from court, me in a heavy sweater. "Who are you with?" he asked, his eyes darting between the two of us. His serious and wary expression suggested that I should not reply, "Perkins, party of two."

It turned out that there were groups of people, ghost hunters, TV show makers, etc. who came out to the house to ghost hunt, and he thought we were one of them. What followed then was about half an hour of him talking about the place, the initial terrifying episodes ( a chalk line turned out missing which was never found), about how alcohol depletes the spiritual aura around a person (at this point, he pointed at Tay and said, "this guy, he gets it! He knows what I'm talking about!") since we were both listening politely and giving somewhat ambiguously encouraging nods to these kind of people in hopes they will top themselves. Anyway, he ran himself out and finally said that we would be welcome to come back and check the place out with a medium, a psychic he referred people too. He said that she could look at you and tell you who you are, not right now, but were in the past. And that she was going to the local univeristy. I regret asking about what degree she was pursuing. Anyway, convo me for the contact info.

After we extricated ourselves from Paranormal Pete's Pork and PBR, we walked over to the cemetery behind the restaurant. It was a big Jewish cemetery with very German names and a few really old gravestones. The oldest we found dated back from the early 1800s, which would not have been much longer after the founding of the city.  But it was cold as hell too, so we shuffled back to the car.

That night, I took Tay out to the Libertine, a cocktail bar close to the circle, where we had a few $10 very good, and strong, cocktails, before heading over to Chelsea's place. Chelsea lives with two other girls and they had a feminist Christmas tree where feminist icons were pasted to the ornaments. We drank a little more there before heading over to a house party of mostly the girl's friends, which were mostly a mix of recent graduates. I font think I was even the oldest guy there. Oddly, there was a photo booth in one of the rooms upstairs and every group got photographed.

When the ball dropped, I lead our group in Auld Lang Syne which apparently I was the only one at the party to remember the words, and we toasted with Corbel sparkling wine. We left shortly after since Tay was really tired and I was jet lagged as hell.

When we got back to the house, I fried up an entire package of bacon, which probably helped soften the blow of the booze, and after drinking lots of water, I stumbled off to bed. Actually, I hadn't drunk that much: a few cocktails, a few mixed drinks, and a swig of sparkling wine/engine degreaser.

So ended 2014, one of the most event-filled years of a very event-filled life.

Indianapolis: day one

Jet lag didn't let me sleep in much, which suited Suki fine since she usually rouses Tay at 6:30 every morning to feed her. I was in the mood for doughnuts, so I grabbed Tay's car keys and slid behind the wheel for the first time in about 9 months. I drove over first to Long's Bakery, widely regarded as the best doughnut shop in Indy, and bought a half dozen donuts. They were amazing. Some of the best doughnuts I've ever had. Especially the apple cinnamon. And the glazed doughnuts we're a bit like Krispy Kreme's in the way they melt in your mouth, but without the KK donut deflation that I usually find in their glazed.

I'd finished half the box just on the way back home. First though, we needed some food.

I stopped at Tay's grocery store, about a fifteen minute walk away, a Kroger which looked like a typical depressed and impoverished neighborhood supermarket. It was still a treat and contained varieties and foods I'd not seen since leaving the US. I envied the peanut butter aisle. They even had a few local craft beers on sale.

I bought a bunch of staples: tea, coffee, cereal, more eggs, country sausage, bacon, fruits,  vegetables. Tay doesn't cook much, he takes the approach of eating foods which are reasonably healthy and can be fixed in five minutes or less. So he usually eats a lot of salads, sandwiches, and things he can throw on the George Foreman grill.

After putting away the groceries and washing the dishes in the sink, I decided to take a stroll to The Circle, located about a mile and a half south of where Tay lives.

Indianapolis was a city by fiat and geometry: when the state was being established, it was decided that a capital city was required, and it was arbitrarily located in the geographic center of the state. There was nothing actually here except a small forest and an unnavigable small and sandy river. The city was designed as a grid a mile square, with a circle in the center and four diagonal streets radiating away from the circle. This was the nucleus of the city.

Indy reminds me a lot of St. Louis- they shared similar boom times and the brick architecture, landscape, and feel of an impoverished, abandoned, and corroded industrial city. Tay's neighborhood, one of the early neighborhoods outside of the city center, was built of elegant and stately houses likely for the city elites and upper middle class. The years  saw the neighborhood decline in the predictable way, and it was only recently with renewed interest in the urban cores that the neighborhood began to improve and attract new residents. These resi-dental streets are still gap-toothed, but I get the feeling that this will not last.

There are ton of war monuments in Indy, the center of the city is given over to them, including the giant confectionary white pillar and fountains which take up the entire circle. This monument commemorates the "soldiers and sailors" who died in the wars leading up to the erection of the monument before WWI. The city tarted up the column with string lights as a Christmas tree, a move which I at first found incredibly tacky but then softened the more I read the plaques and memorials. Many of the wars commemorated rank among the most unjust in the history of the US: the land grab that was the Mexican war, wars to exterminate and dispossess the Indians. It is nice, however, to have a central focal point in a city, a landmark for understanding the relation of the other parts of the city.

I stopped at the library on the way back. The central branch is lovely, with restored and elegant reading rooms complete with fireplaces, wood paneling, and coved vaulted ceilings. I checked out a book on the history of Indianapolis architecture and simply read for about an hour.

In the afternoon, I drove out to an Indian grocery store and stocked up on Indian spices and ingredients for an Indian dinner. I also grabbed Tay some quick meal Indian pouches and a big box of frozen chapattis so he could have some more after I left. It was a little strange to think about Indians (from India) in Indiana.

When I got back to the house I dragged up the inflatable bed from Tay's haunted basement and ran a load of sheets. Jet lagged, I took a nap for a few hours until Chelsea brought Tay home from the airport around 1AM. She's very nice, very thoughtful and giving. I suppose you need that kind of personality type for social work.

Indianapolis: arrival

Breezed through immigration and customs in Atlanta, and then I had some time to kill before my short flight to Indy. The first thing I ate on arrival in the US was toasted everything bagel with cream cheese. Amazing. I wonder how hard it is to make bagels.

Tay was still in Phoenix when I arrived in Indy, but he apologized profusely and let me detailed instructions. I was debating public transport, but since it was bitter cold, late at night, jet lagged, and exhausted, I wisely opted for a cab, expensive as it was.

I let myself in to Tay's and my old cat Suki came out to greet me. Probably she remembered who I was but I think she was too relieved to have someone pay attention to her to be angry with me for giving her up years ago.

Tay has a great place, a home or duplex which must have been quite expensive and luxurious when it was first built. Original wood floors which are creaky now, but still installed with a very high level of craft. High ceilings and lovely dark wood moldings, doors, and frames. It is the kind of place that suggests dark leather chairs with brass fittings, slowly revolving ceiling fans, and whiskey cocktails. The office of a 1940's private detective, perhaps.

I slept in Tay's bed that night and Suki jumped up to join me. I was pleased and surprised since Tay said she was having trouble getting up, but apparently she CAN but much prefers to be picked up or to use the folding stool Tay bought for that purpose.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...