Gosh. Anyone looking at these photos is going to think Indianapolis is some kind of creepy ghost town.
I should say that there were plenty of people walking the streets of downtown Indianapolis. But Sunday was Manning-Bowl, and the blue and white be-jerseyed denizens of Indy were too busy migrating to the Lucas Oil Stadium to stop and get their pictures taken.
No Colts fans in the capitol building, though. No anyone in the capitol building. Technically speaking, we probably shouldn't have been in the building, either, since it wasn't exactly open to the public. But members of the party had state-issued key cards, and as there wasn't anyone there to tell us to leave...
It looks like I suspect all capitol buildings must look. Grand arches and high ceilings and doors carved out of heavy wood. A ring of statues circle the atrium from the second floor, standing on pedestals with labels like "AGRICULTURE," or ''ARTS AND LITERATURE," or "SCIENCE." The figureheads of Hoosier civilization.
The marbled halls don't just feel empty, they feel hollow. The rubber squeak of our shoes against the tiles vibrates in the open spaces, and follow us like ghosts down the stairs and past the governor's office. We sneak as quietly as can out the front doors, but like the rest of the city, the concrete steps leading up to the building are empty, so there's no one to see us breaking rules.
When I was in fourth grade, our class took a field trip to Indianapolis. We spent the morning at the Indiana State Museum, and grossed ourselves out peering into the display buckets in the Civil War medical exhibit. The afternoon we had to ourselves, two hours to do whatever we wished (with our chaperones) before the buses came to pick us up. My group had already spent much of the after lunch hour walking the underground tunnel that state employees used to get from their offices to the capitol building, so we decided to stay in the area, and walk the canal.
My memory of it then was that it was too long, too hot, a little too smelly and not nearly interesting enough for anyone to want to walk it. It's changed a bit since then.
The Indiana Central Canal was once intended to stretch from the Erie Canal to the Ohio River, extending all 296 miles from Peru, Indiana to Evansville, but due to the (strangely familiar) Panic of 1837, construction stopped after only eight miles were completed, the eight miles running through downtown Indianapolis.
It runs parallel to the White River, eventually meeting up with it at the heart of White River State Park. A far cry from the majestically imagined commerce route, now you can rent kayaks and paddle boats, drift under the overpasses and listen to the cars rumble above your head.
There are plenty to places to stop along the canal, if the water doesn't suit you. You could follow the bridge over the river and into the Indianapolis Zoo, if you like. A steam powered clock sits at the water's edge outside the state museum, ringing in the hours with the opening bars of "Back Home Again in Indiana," while the sun shines bright through the blue glass of the National Medal of Honor Memorial on the opposite side of the canal. You can reach the walk through the parking garage of the Eiteljorg Museum for Native American and Western Art.
And all along the walk, enterprising artists have done their darndest to make something interesting to look at. At the top of this sculpture, hidden in the shadows, a piece of smiley face graffiti instructs you to "stop doing what you're told!" Which is as good advice as any, I suppose.
I don't get many opportunities to see peacocks, but at the Cincinnati Zoo, they roam the grounds at their own leisure. I'd never seen a peacock show his feathers, so I had hoped that, before we left for the day, we might see one shake what his peacock mama gave him.
After plenty who had no interest in showing off...
And one poor fella who tried so hard but didn't have much to show...
As we were preparing to leave the zoo, we heard the tell-tale rattle and coo of a peacock who was in the mood and ready to find himself a fun-loving peafowl.
He was feisty, to be sure. He'd managed to chase a lady bird into a small, semi-fenced enclosure, and, tail proudly displayed, proceeded to follow her around the pen, vibrating his feathers and clucking in a way I'm sure he thought was seductive, but really made him come across as every relentlessly skeevey guy you've ever met in a bar.
Girlie was having none of it. She'd wait until he came just close enough, then dart behind his tail, where he couldn't see her. She scurried under a fence post, out into the zoo and away from his clumsy advances. And he? Well, he was left behind. All dressed up, and no where to go.
I don't keep plants. I like them, I like taking pictures of them, and I even like going to see them in the wild. But I don't keep them. Not anymore.
A couple of years ago my mother gave me a venus flytrap. It was so cute with its tiny little flytraps in a tiny little pot - I loved it instantly. It was bright green, had three little traps, and came with a handy booklet that described all the best ways to care for your new adorably blood-thirsty demon plant.
I found it a nice sunny spot on the windowsill, and bought a gallon of distilled water, just like the little booklet said I should. I named it Audrey III, because in some ways, I am very, very original.
After about a week of carefully turning and misting Audrey, I decided it was time to try the Big Feed. The traps were too small to catch any of the flies that might have made their way into the house, so I did what I thought would have been the next best thing. I went to the fridge, and took the tiniest piece of ground beef I could fit between my fingers, like the booklet said, and dropped it into the tallest trap.
The trap closed around the ground beef hungrily, and I was delighted. My very own meat-eating plant, eating the meat I had brought it! I could not have been more proud. I could even see the little bump where the leaves had trapped the meat, squeezing out the nutrients. I put Audrey back on the windowsill and gave her a quick spritz - I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
The trap hadn't opened by the next day, but I wasn't worried. Maybe it would just take longer than I expected to digest that delicious ground beef. Maybe it was savoring.
The day after, the trap still hadn't opened, but I didn't notice, because one of of the smaller traps had caught itself a fruit fly! My baby Audrey, all grown up!
On the third day, not only had the trap not opened, but the plant itself... sagged. The traps drooped heavily, and its green was far from bright. Concerned, I looked for a sunnier patch of windowsill, and gave her an extra spritz for good luck.
The fourth day, Audrey had taken a dark turn. The leaves had begun to shrivel, the stalks limp and rubbery, and the plant's green coloring had taken on some dangerously brown undertones. Time to face facts; something was wrong with Audrey.
Trying to contain my panic, I consulted the booklet, but it didn't have a section helpfully titled "What to Do When Your Plant is Dying." I went to the internet, but it was surprisingly unhelpful - nothing about saving a sick plant, just a lot of know-it-alls griping about how difficult it was to grow a domestic venus flytrap. Well, I'd show them. I'd show them all! I was going to save Audrey III!
I gingerly started feeling my way across the plant, looking for anything, some sign of what was wrong, all the while fearing that I had done something awful to Audrey. She was clean, no indication that anything was hurting her. Until I lifted the still closed trap of the tallest stalk.
There, on the underside of the trap, was the answer. It shone like a beacon. And ugly, crusty, dried up spot, a perfect circle of plant death, in the same place where the trap had closed around the ground beef. I hadn't just hurt my plant, I'd choked the life right out of her.
It took seconds to toss Audrey in the garbage, but her memory lingers. I've never owned another potted plant, out of respect.
There are few animals that, when I go to the zoo, I can look at from the outside and still truly know their awesome might. One is elephants. Another is bears. And the moose. Obviously.
I don't know what I'd do if I ever saw a moose in real life. Lie down and wait for death, I suppose. They can run up to 35 miles an hour. Top human speed ever recorded is 30 miles an hour, but the average is only 11. I'm... not top human. I'm barely even average human. There's no way I'm ever outrunning a moose.
You might think it's silly to be afraid of something as goofy looking as a moose, but the people who spend their lives around them say that they can be more dangerous than bears. I'll repeat that: MOREDANGEROUSTHAN BEARS. More people are killed or injured by a moose than by brown bears and black bears combined. I imagine they all start like this:
"Hallo, Moose! Moose, you are so big and warm and fluffy. I just want to hug you forevOHNOGODWHY!"
Easy precaution there, though. Always resist the urge to hug a moose. Fear the moose, respect the moose, and we all might get out of this alive.
That's an electric fence with a sprinkler on top.
That's a moose lying next to a waterlogged electric fence. Does it care? No. Why should it? IT'S A MOOSE.
The famous fountain outside the Bellaggio Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip.
When I visited several years ago, we passed the hotel in the afternoon, and stopped to watch the water dance to a Frank Sinatra tune. The guide book back in our room promised that the music played half hour in the afternoon, so there were plenty of opportunities to watch the spectacular show. We even went back that evening, crowded against the barriers with hundreds of other camera-toting tourists, waiting. Out of the speakers comes the opening piano riff from that famous number from "A Chorus Line." Across the eight acres of pool, the fountain comes to life, circling, twirling, rocketing across the expanse. One singular sensation, indeed.
We only saw the waters dance once when we last visited the city. We stopped outside the hotel after the sun had gone down, avoiding traffic and errant bachelorette parties. I can't say it didn't feel a little bit like pandering to the audience when the opening chords of "God Bless the USA" blared from the speakers, but that didn't stop the crowd from cheering as the fountains rocketed skyward, singing along that they will proudly stand UP.... next to you. Against the city sounds, the water jets sounds like fireworks.
If you can't tell, that's tiramisu in a giant chocolate egg cup, made a little less fancy for the paper plates and Pepsi machine hanging out in the background.
This may make me sound like a giant nerd, but my favorite thing to do in Vegas is walk through the casinos. "Ooh-ing" at the Chihuly glass at the Bellagio, "Aah-ing" at the pirate ship outside
Treasure Island, hunting down every exotic animal on the strip. Lions at the MGM Grand. Tigers at the Mirage. Flamingos... at the Flamingo.
And it's fun to see how the casinos are different, but still the same. The ceilings feel close to your head (even if they aren't), and the lights are kept low, the better to tie your attention to the flash and jangle of the slot machines. And if you're committed to losing your quarters, you probably don't notice, or care, but if you're just walking the floors, it can feel a little claustrophobic.
Which is why stepping into the Paris is such a breath of fresh air. The ceiling is high, or it feels high, perhaps it's just painted to look high. It's still dark, but the street lamps hanging from the cast iron awnings that cover the tables and machines give the impression that you're gambling away on a Parisian sidewalk just after sunset, instead of midday in a Nevada desert.
We follow the path of fake cobblestones to the line of gift and snack shops, all done up stone facades and curly-cue signs to match the bright blue sky painted over our heads. We've been walking long enough for our feet to throb just a little, and our stomach to rumble just enough, that when we catch sight of dessert in the window, we decide to treat ourselves to an unbalanced meal. It is Vegas, after all.
(We did split a sandwich before hand, for our own piece of mind. And because the sandwiches looked delicious, but I didn't think to snap a picture. Sorry!)
I've written before about playing dress up at Yumekoubou Studio, and was delighted this week when, in the process of packing and purging some of the junk I've accumulated over the years, I found this series of photos documenting the change from "Tourist" to "Tourist in a Kimono."
It's a bit liberating to have all that make-up on your face, ghosting over your features like a mask. I'm a bit camera shy (read: a LOT camera shy), but after all the paint and powder, I don't even look like myself, and there's a freedom to that. It's a little anonymous, looking into the mirror and not recognizing your face. Who cares about a camera then?
I'm sixteen in these pictures, which sounds a lot closer than it feels. I ended up finding a whole bag of photos and maps and English-language brochures for the temples we visited while in Kyoto, and was shocked at how much I had already forgotten. The names were completely foreign, though some of the illustrations brought back hazy memories of Torii Gates and water blessings. Truthfully, I don't even remember Fushiko taking these pictures.
I wish I could find that picture of the four of us - Me, Julie, Fushiko, and the blonde teacher (whose name might have been Elizabeth, or it might have been Lauren, but I truly can't remember any more) standing in front of the yellow backdrop with our hands under our chins, palms down and fingers out. The teacher would be tearfully leaving Japan on our flight home after having lived there for over a year, Julie and I were both terribly homesick, and though we didn't know it at the time, Fushiko was struggling through what would end up being terminal cancer, but in that photo, nothing shows.
I've written about walking the grounds of Mauthausen already - that story is here, if you're interested. I think I mention somewhere that there isn't an inch of the building that hasn't been turned into a memorial. What I forgot to mention is that just beyond the central camp buildings, out where the grass is green in a way that belies its sordid history, is a statue garden. Built by the nations in honor of those they lost, these statues are a promise. A promise to never forget how deeply hate can burn. A promise to never forget the lives that were lost, and that still can be lost, when prejudice is manipulated. And above all else, a promise to learn, and to prevent this from ever happening again. Now, the sculpted steel giants on the lawn of Mauthausen guard that promise, and when you walk among them, you'll want to guard that promise, too.
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