I’d passed by Indianapolis just enough times to feel a strange compulsion, some might say a need, to stop.
Being on the road again early after the trip from New Jersey to Columbus, OH, I pulled into a city known only for dense Americana–i.e. football and Indy racing–around noon. It’s then that I begin to realize that not every US city is an ideal place to pass time with no friends, money, or destination.
Not knowing what to do for the afternoon, I was easily lured in by the museum’s promise: “Admission, Parking, Wi-Fi. Expression. All free.” The Indianapolis Art Museum had a surprisingly captivating entrance exhibit, a pleasant garden (though not on par with Kansas City’s…holy shuttle cock is that place cool), and a great museum space. And it was free.
But what to do next? I concocted a high brow/low brow mix of Weezer, K’naan, and The Hold Steady and whisked myself to Columbus, IN. I always remembered Columbus as having enslaved Hispaniola, but apparently he liked to leave his name in random cities across the Midwest, too. What a guy.
Columbus is billed as one of the architecture capitols of the country. Silly, Columbus, how many words shall I waste on describing you? In haiku:
Big name architects
Build mildly impressive things
Little town too proud
Or perhaps hyper-condensed: Cummins Diesel, unlikely benefactors, promotes architecture, hires famous dudes, receives middling modern design.
You above-average town, Columbus, cities laugh at your insignificance. I guess some things are just oversold. Nothing against the good people there.
Returning to Indy near dark, I caught a few wistful hours walking the canal downtown. Gouging a non-functional waterway down the main artery of your city seems all the rage with town planners these days. Indianapolis has had one for awhile. Seoul, SK has Cheonggyecheon, this goofy canal they claim is a “reclaimed river.” Omaha has the grand Gene Leahy Mall. I know I’ve see other ones recently. Really, I have. Faithful readers (all 3 of you), help me out here.
My unlikely next stop was a city that definitely does not have a central waterway. Or anything else, really. Gurnee, IL, is home to Melysa’s parents.
[Melysa is my traveling companion, car benefactor, and reluctant editor. She is currently on strike after being written out of the previous post (watch as I annoy her by continuing to use the first person singular in the following paragraphs).]
Not much to see in Gurnee unless you are doing a report on the evolving state of the strip mall. Although, it did provide a launching pad to Milwaukee, a city I’ve maintained a strange fascination with through the years.
See, see how fun Milwaukee is? Alright, I’ll admit that I have a strange fascination with incredibly inane, repetitive video. You might not agree, which is why this is probably the most boring thing ever filmed. Shush you! Behold, moving pictures and light!
Seriously, though, Brew City did not let me down. I began at Miller Valley, the amusing name bestowed upon the five city blocks and slight topographical depression that make up the mammoth Miller Brewery. Anyone in the area should go for the promotional video alone. It begins the tour, and makes frequent and enthusiastic use of the phrase, “It’s Miller Time!” It’s probably the most un-ironic thing ever made (with apologies to interviews of Val Kilmer and Spencer Pratt, most of Lorenzo Lamas’ career, and any Bruce Springsteen song with the word engines in it), and generally views like a 15 minute Viagra commercial. Overall, sweet tour.
And by the time I finished off three samples and two of my driver/editors, it was Miller time. So, because its Milwaukee, I headed to another brewery, intending to do another tour.
Then, Lakefront Brewery made my day.
For whatever reason, I ran into a lot of Wisconsinites during my year teaching in South Korea. It makes perfect sense if you don’t think about it. All the cheeseheads raved about “Friday Fish.”
Friday Fish is the tradition of town-wide fish fries in order to observe Lent, or clear stock for the weekend, or…something. I had attached to it as something I had to do in Winconsin, and had the good fortune of accidentally making my way to a brewery serving a heaping plate of fried shrimp, cod, bluegill, and perch. Life was good.
On to Miller Park, a buzz-sustainer of a ball field, and a fine close to an evening. The Brewers’ stadium is a good representation of what baseball still can be in America. By chance, I had been to the new Yankee Stadium just the week before. The Yanks are my team, but the new stadium is such an antiseptic monument to excess, it’s hard to like it. If I was super rich, it’d probably be great, but until then, give me the cheap tickets, easy parking, and family appeal of Miller Park. It’s an absolutely beautiful stadium, as well, not to mention the home of the infamous sausage races.
A gluttonous day in Milwaukee complete, it was soon time to head back to Gurnee, void the Civic’s bowels of the last of the unnecessary luggage, and mentally prepare for the journey across Iowa to Omaha. Being totally gay for Kevin Costner, I also can’t wait to see a certain baseball inspired cornfield. Soon, I’ll finally make it to my adopted Nebraska home. That’s a good thing.