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Opinion & Columns

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Why We Celebrate the Fourth of July


“I can’t tell you how many people walk up to them, touch them, and just bow their heads,” says Greg Hess, an Indianapolis firefighter who was part of Indiana Task Force 1—a FEMA search and rescue team that joined the recovery efforts 16 hours after the two towers came down in 2001. “You don’t really get it until you actually see them,”

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For Once, a Pleasant Noise on the Circle

As the Circle Citizen ambled around the Monument during lunch today, she noticed a sidewalk sign advertising a free organ recital inside Christ Church Cathedral. “Free” being one of her favorite words, she stopped inside the chapel—by far the oldest building on the Circle. And it embarrassed her a little that she had never visited this spectacular landmark.   The first chords of Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BMV 548” w

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Where Did All the Flash Mobs Go?

Go figure. Just when Indy was getting some flash-mob momentum (both the IMA and Butler dance students, pictured, busted hot moves on the Monument’s steps last year), the city’s best stage for these impromptu performances went dark for the whole season. With the Monument closed for repairs, the exhibitionists have been going elsewhere to spring song-and-dance numbers on the masses. In case you missed it, an unidentified group performed “Do-Re-Mi” in Circle Centre on January 3; members of the Dead Unicorn Society stood still for a freeze mob in the airport on April 2; the Indianapolis Opera made dramatic use of the City Market mezzanine on May 4; and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir powered through “Carmina Burana” at the airport on May 28.

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A Heap of Trouble

I grew up on the south edge of my hometown, through the woods and over the railroad tracks from Joe Johnson’s farm. I knew little about Joe Johnson, whether he was married or had children, except that he drove a gray pickup and had a ravine in his woodlot filled with rusted farm implements, lard cans, worn tires, sagging bed springs, the odd toilet or two, and the everyday detritus humanity leaves scattered in its wake.

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Bed, Bath, and Beyond

It was late on a Thursday evening in Austin, Texas, and, anticipating a pre-dawn flight home the next morning, I was eager to settle into my hotel room, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and call it a night. The desk clerk at the airport Embassy Suites handed over my key, and I made my way to my assigned room at the end of the hallway. Trouble was, the room was not a suite—at the Embassy Suites! Instead, it occupied an awkward corner, with no separate sitting area, and featured an old-fashioned tube TV situated at an odd angle to the bed. If you can’t even score a suite at an all-suite hotel, you’ve encountered some pretty bad luck, as travel accommodations go.

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Up on the Roof

Rooftop envy is now in season on the Circle. You can’t tell it from the street, but several low-rise buildings boast decks that employees can use. Maybe you’ve never even considered the concept, because Indy isn’t one of those overcrowded cities where the use-every-inch lifestyle prevails. Most of our rooftops are forgotten tar-ritory.

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Top of the Line

Once upon a time there was a young girl who grew up with a bounty of good food on the dinner table every night. A mere wisp of a thing, the girl didn’t eat much, but what she did consume was delicious: batter-fried chicken that was lifted from the hot grease and drained on a grocery bag, green peppers stuffed full of tender beef and rice, thick bean-and-barley soup simmered from scratch and ladled generously into what her mother called “soup plates.” The girl’s father, spoiled by the excess and quality, professed little desire to venture far beyond the kitchen, whose stovetop was always occupied by pots with jiggling lids and whose ovens were filled with fragrant cakes and pies.

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Signs of Decline

I was stopped at a traffic light not long ago and noticed, off to my right in front of a strip mall, a person dressed as the Statue of Liberty standing in the rain. In the past year, I’ve seen three Statues of Liberty, two Uncle Sams, and one Little Caesar. The weather in each instance was unpleasant, either boiling hot, rainy, or bitterly cold. But there they stood, beside the road, waving to passersby, directing potential customers to a place of business.

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Bedtime Story

While reading the newspaper not long ago, I grew depressed by the number of challenges our nation faces—the decline of the middle class, the ballooning of the national debt, underperforming schools, and a war in Afghanistan with no end in sight. They almost make my problem seem insignificant: an ongoing struggle to find good bed sheets.

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Ticked Off

There are two clocks in my office. One is connected through the ether to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, whose quantum-logic clock is so precise it will not gain or lose more than one second in 3.7 billion years. The other clock was made for me by Bob Hatch, an Indianapolis retiree, who carved every gear from hard maple, cut the hands on his band saw, made the weight by filling a tomato-paste can with lead he’d melted with a plumber’s torch, and fashioned the verge escapement from a piece of steel and the pendulum from cherry wood and brass. That clock gains or loses a couple of minutes a day, depending on such factors as the humidity and whether my dog Zipper accidentally jostles it when she naps on the shelf underneath it.

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Sacred Cows

I was recently gratified to learn that filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have been collecting the paintings of Norman Rockwell. I enjoy it when other people like the same things I do, and I think more highly of those movie moguls, having discovered we share similar tastes in art.

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Injured Reserve

Dear Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Mike Hart, and Kelvin Hayden:

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Restoring A Memory

I first saw my wife’s childhood home 29 years ago when I rode my bicycle from Plainfield to Paoli to stop an encounter I believed harmful to my best interests—the introduction of her boyfriend to her mother. It turns out that if a man rides 95 miles in July heat to court a woman, it tends to impress her. The next week my future wife, Joan, bid her boyfriend goodbye and began dating me.

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Old School

David Letterman did not show up at our high-school reunion. Again. Had he appeared, now or at any prior gathering, paparazzi (if there are paparazzi in Indianapolis) would no doubt have stalked the premises, and the Late Show superstar would have sucked the energy from the room. Dave’s a private guy who, oddly, doesn’t particularly glow in the limelight, so we, his classmates of the Broad Ripple High School class of 1965, understand.

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Giving Large

On my way home from work every day, I am struck dumb by an illuminated billboard at the corner of 16th and Illinois streets. In red LED numbers, the huge sign flashes the current Powerball jackpot and, I believe, the amount to be won in the Hoosier Lotto, although I rarely look at that. When $123 million is staring you in the face, it’s hard to think about anything else.