Dear Mayor Ballard,
Once a month, my wife and I visit our public library to read the magazines we are too cheap to buy. The stories are predictable—the same actors and actresses are still in rehab, Congress is still inept, and the western U.S. will run out of water in the next few years. While the problems of Hollywood and Congress are beyond my ability to solve, the solution for the water shortage can be found in my basement, which floods on a regular basis.
“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,”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.