Sunday, December 30, 2007

Architectural wonders

Speaking of Seattle's meta- morphosis from the land of Salmon to the land of Software, not all has been ideal. The building boom has resulted in an amazing array of really ugly real estate. On the last day of my time in Seattle, Pez and I went to the sculpture park recently put in over the highway right between Seattle Center and the water. Overall, I thought most of the pieces were so-so, with some interesting ones set at intervals in the muck. What was most disappointing, though, were the buildings that ruin the background of just about any picture one can take of the art. The building boom Seattle has been undergong has resulted in an extremely wide variety of spectacularly ugly buildings. Considering that the Pacific Northwest is often cold and cloudy, why build a chaotic pile of bleak grey buildings? Architects don’t seem to understand the bit about buildings being part of their surroundings. They also don’t seem to understand that even if you do use color, it doesn’t mean anything if you buy regular aluminum window frames. That seems to turn the building’s statement into “hey, look at this large collection of crap white storm windows I’ve affixed to this building.” At 750K-$1M a condo, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in an ugly building. Those that actually do have charm or history are in danger of being torn down like nothing since the late 60s through the seventies. The Moore Hotel where I used to work will soon be surrounded by 20-30 story buildings, robbing it of its water view. A couple of rooms still have a view of the Space Needle, but the rest will have only a view of crap such as the complex pictured above.
I've finally recovered from jet lag, so perhaps I'll be able to be a bit more up-to-date on this blog thingy.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


What a trip. I'm still recovering from the lag and the red-eye, which was packed to the gills. My connecting flight back went seamlessly this time. It was a rather unplanned trip regarding itinerary, but much happened, it being the holidays and all. I met up with my aunt and her family (Rho & Co.) three times over the course of the week, which was fantastic. I had a lovely dinner my first full day in Washington, then got to go with them to the Seattle Ballet's Nutcracker, and finally got to come to their Christmas Dinner, which was nothing short of wonderful--lambchops, fantastic Cabernet, and salmon with capers. I'm still way way lagged, so I'll throw pix on in lieu of scintillating prose...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Seat Placement and Precipitation Part 2: Stances (Wide and Other)

After my first flight, I get stalled in Minneapolis, as of course the connecting flight has been delayed. Once I got the news, I roamed around the terminal to find that Fox News has a freakin’ store here. They had nice postcards, but I’m not going to buy postcards at a Fox News venue. But then, perhaps I should have, as the extra revenue might work towards making it possible for actual researchers to find facts on which to base their claims. Significantly, the store was within 100 feet or so of the restroom made world famous by that Idaho senator, Mr. Tappy McWidestance (I wish I could claim credit for the nickname, but other bloggers have used it before me). While looking at the wares (in the Fox News store, not the restroom), I found that the illustrious Glenn Beck has a book out. this surprised me, as Mr. Beck has been a standout in exulting in his own stupidity on almost every subject and acting snidely toward intellectuality, sounding all the while like a third grader. It was on the same table as Keith Olbermann’s new book. Over the course of the past 5 years or so I’ve noticed that those who most vocally identify themselves with the Neo-Conservative faction have particular disdain for literateness. Purdue, for some reason, has a more conservative newspaper, the Purdue Review, filled with enough Fox News/DickCheney/O’Reilly parroting to satisfy those who have a hatred of all things liberal, and filled otherwise with enough grammatical hilarity, misspellings, and misinformation (most of you may be unaware that AnnaNicole Smith died of pneumonia this year) to keep actually-intelligent folks howling in their grad offices. Their arguments are frothy, with holes you could drive a Hummer through. I looked at Beck’s book and wondered if he actually wrote it. The cover seemed to credit him as the writer. How much, I thought, does it cost to buy off ghost-writers? Surely if there were other people involved, the book would haveto acknowledge it. What furthered my suspicion was the title page. Sure enough, Beck is shown there to be a co-editor, and the book is written by at least three other people (the publishing info inside the title page even went so far as to put “et. al.” after the other authors). I looked then at Olbermann’s book. Olbermann’s book was written by…Olbermann. Perhaps having the brains to write his own book is considered by Beck to be too snobbish and elitist. After all, the Liberals think themselves better than even the most compassionate of conservatives. Ann Coulter (whose books were noticeably absent even in the Fox News store) may actually write her own books, but her argument gets subsumed by her stupidly inflammatory language. But that is another discussion for another day.

I arrived at Seattle over three hours late, the bus was packed in ways only those who have been in the Moscow or Tokyo subways during rush hour can imagine. It is dark and raining heavily. Pez's directions were quite helpful and soon I was in a seat at the Jolly Roger with a much-appreciated beer. Much appreciated.

Seat Placement and Precipitation

Ok, honestly, traveling by air has gotten to be such a demeaning hassle that I don’t really see why on earth people bother with it. I’m informed that I can’t get through security with a freshly-bought soda still sealed and bought from the machine next to the freakin security line—the limit is 3 ounces. No prob—I’ve got plenty of time before my plane boards, so I go out of the line and drink my soda at a leisurely pace. Once the level of the soda is down to the top of the nubbles at the bottom of the bottle, I show back up at security. It’s a new person. “You can’t bring that through here,” he says. “It’s less than three ounces,” I say. “It don’t matter. It has to be either empty or you throw it away.” Three ounces is different from empty. I bolt the rest of the damned soda and keep the bottle, as one needs to have a bottle when traveling. One just does.

Further along security, I take off my coat, yank out my laptop, put it in a bin, and lug my carry-on onto the stainless-steel table as the people in front of me take off their shoes. I don’t want to take off my shoes. I look at the matted and discolored carpet under the man’s socks. I look around for signage. Evidently, we’re no longer in the “removing shoes is optional” age that we were in the last time I boarded a plane. I take off my shoes, jam them in with my coat. I am directed to the puffer machine. I place my feet on the yellow footprints that no doubt harbor untold varieties of pedal fungus as the authoritative female prerecorded voice directs me to stay put. The jets blow harder than I’d thought, directly and painfully into my ear. The little TV screen’s blue and yellow grapefruit sections rotate, indicating I should continue staying put. The machine decides that bed lint is not a danger and I am allowed through the turnstile. By the time I get back to the conveyor, someone is already calling out for the owner of my bag. I raise my hand. “This needs to get looked at,” she states curtly. Fine. I put on my shoes and wait. And wait. The bag sits there. Another man’s bag gets called out. He’s a highly-strung Corporate type with his four-year-old. “Ridiculous,” he mutters. He fiddles obsessively with his limited-edition Blackberry. Neither bag is even being looked at. Mr. Corporate begins hassling the TSA folks that his bag needs to get looked at now. The TSA mention that someone’s bag is in front of him—namely my bag. “Ridiculous,” he says again, “I’ve been waiting here.” “So have I,” I say. Several minutes further, during which I let Mr. Corporate work himself into as big a lather as he wants (he has things to do), I finally am called over to explain my carryon. Mr. TSA opens up my bag and pulls out my toothpaste. “This is too big. Too much toothpaste.” He continues in a tone that makes it evident he thinks me a dumbshit, “You need to le me know what you want to do. You can either leave security checkpoint and go back to the desk to check your toothpaste and then come back through security, or you can throw it away.” Check my toothpaste. How moronic. Practically a new tube. “You can have the toothpaste,” I say, with an interior flaring up of anger in my skull that, were it a superpower, would have left him a steaming prune underneath his epauletted shirt. At least, now that I’m finally through security, I’ve found a seat next to an outlet so that I might be able to type on their nickel. When I was a kid, air travel still seemed to have some bit of style about it. It’s amazing how things have changed since. No dignity, no privacy, no respect. And no free peanuts.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pointless Effort No. 54

Woke up and worked on the Great Office/Bedroom Swap of 2007--moving about 600 books; dismantling, transporting, and reassembling the desk; running cable and speaker wire through the basement/ductwork/crawlspace, and reconfiguration of the sound system. All to move the office, though I won't be able to spend much time actually working in it until May.

Once the computer started working again--after several more trips to the basement to twiddle with wires--I found more pix on the Indiana Historical Society website, such as the various buildings that didn't make it past that wrecker-happy year of 1974.

Earliest to go was the Claypool, which was the closest thing Indy had to a large-scale European-styled hotel. It's the place all dignitaries stayed.

The larger suites were pretty large.

I managed to find the key for room 746 at an antique store.

Right next door was the Indiana Theater. It had fallen into disrepair in the years after the demise of the Claypool, but City planners rescued it...sort of. In naming the Indiana the venue for the Indiana Repertory Theater, they moved in with grand plans to renovate. To make a more intimate theater experience, the theater was divided--a floor two-thirds of the way above the main floor, with floor level right around where the top of the curtain is in the photograph. Of the auditorium pictured here, nothing remains but the nonsensical elaborate plaster moldings of the proscenium as backdrop for the stage of the smaller auditorium. In the larger theater, all is black wallboard and orange-and-brown carpet.
The only 20s movie palace in Indy to survive in close to its original state is the Circle Theater, though Indiana Power and Light almost succeeded in getting the real estate to expand their ugly concrete headquarters.

I had a point in typing this when I started it, but hell if I can remember it now. I'm off to take a hot bath in hopes I'll not be so sore in the morning I can't get out of bed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What isn't any longer

Perhaps it's because of spending my formative years in a house in which well over five people likely died over the past 140 years. Perhaps it's because of growing up on some strange cusp--oldest of the new generation and seen in some ways as the youngest of the older generation; living in a way that was well-removed from the current scene, brought up with the value that looking backward is as valuable (if not more valuable) than looking forward--but I've been fascinated with things that were once but aren't any longer. I'd mentioned a project involving a current city that, in the era I'm writing in, no longer exists. I've found some interesting things, including my old apartment building, seen here in 1929, three years after its construction, back when Meridian south of 38th street was an avenue of luxury homes. The Admiral was quite an address then--a two-story lobby with hand-painted wallpaper intended to make it seem that one had entered a lush forest (which I had a chance to see when the owners updated), a brass elevator with self-closing scissor-grate gate, and parquet oak floors in every apartment. The suites still have separate entrances intended for servants. My old apartment is visible to the immediate right of the main entrance; the hindmost apartment on the second floor. At the time this photo was taken, it was occupied by a Mr. Whipple, who happened to be a big exec with what ended up as Delco, the big car-parts conglomerate. Why he had this apartment rented (for well over a decade--I've checked the city directories of the time) when he had a rather comfortable house (and a wife, etc.) is anyone's guess. I'm sure it was all aboveboard...
I've found other interesting things too--including the little known fact that Broad Ripple park had, for quite some time, the world's largest swimming pool. The amusement park there attracted people from all around this part of the country. Combined with the also-defunct Riverside Amusement park, Indianapolis had two of the premier amusement parks in the region.
There's also the sad fact that much of the decline of downtown had to do with racism. Once black people were allowed to rent rooms at the various addresses in the formerly-fashionable near-northside, all the rich white folks fled northward. To an extent, this momentum continues, with the richest of the Indianapolis area residing now in Carmel, Geist, and Fishers. The wholesale "slum eradication" movements occurred as early as the late '40s, culminating with the radical demolition of most of downtown's landmark buildings between 1970-1974. 1976 brought the Interstate system and the leveling of thousands of properties for the overpass. Before the Crash in 1929, Indianapolis rivaled Detroit for Auto factories and--before Prohibition--rivaled Milwaukee for breweries. I've lucked out so far and found photos of addresses that lost out to the highway. There may be a book in this after all...

You want snow? >WHAP!< Here's yer snow.

Well, the stage is set for the first humongo-snow of the season, and--what bliss--I don't have to worry about doing anything other than reading /writing /dusting /Interweb-surfing in the comfort of my own home. If I find that I need groceries, I'm sure I can stomp through the piling precipitation for the entire block between me and Kroger. We are expecting anything from 6-12 inches here in Indy. To keep myself occcupied when reading tires, when writing isn't happening, and when eyestrain makes the screen hard to focus on, I've decided to swap the back bedroom with the front office, which raises enough logistical issues to match the "chickens and foxes in a single boat trying to cross the river" logic problem we likely all had to work through in Algebra/Math class in high school. It appears my house is currently arranged for maximum book/art/furniture storage. Any other possible arrangement involves sacrificing bookcase/dresser/artwork space. This is a problem, as I've got easily 250 books more than last time I arranged the furniture. I'm afraid it's gonna be time for a cull sometime soon. [Heh--bet none of those I know would have expected me to think of something like that.]
This has indeed been the season for surprises.... Earlier this week, Pez called and offered, as a Christmas gift, to fly me to Seattle for the Holidays, which is quite something, as I've not done much traveling save that between Indy and Purdue for the past 18 months. Thanks, Pez! For some reason, this winter break is shorter and far busier, so I'll likely be working on finalizing my syllabus/scanning necessary poetry for readings/revising/composing/etc while I'm in the Land of the Tall Latte.
In addition to that, my good friend Tina called me out of the blue to offer to take me to the Indy Zoo for their Holiday shindig. Considering that every moment with Tina is an experience, I jumped at the chance. The wind was up, the lights were on, and the animals were more active than I'd ever seen them. Word to the wise--go to the zoo on crappy days. The animals don't care that it's cloudy and like it when there are fewer people around. The seals were happy and vociferous, the walruses were amorous (ahem), and the dolphins wheeled through their routine though it was well after dark. While we waited for the show to start in the dolphin arena--well above the splash zone of course--Tina and I spent our time speaking scandalously and snapping pix. I'd decided a while ago that I wasn't going to trim my hair until my second year was over. I started off looking kinda Hemingway. Considering the grey, I thought I'd end up kinda Whitman by May, but it seems I'm veering off toward looking like Berryman instead, which isn't quite what I'd been hoping for. At any rate, Tina manages to have sharper cheekbones than I do in this shot.

By the way, going back to the oncoming storm, Kroger's latest sale works perfectly...nothing like stocking up on Pizza-flavor Pringles, frozen pre-cooked shrimp, and Chardonnay for those times when you're snowed in. Sheesh.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Regimen--Day 1...

After yesterday's snit, we have a new day. Here's the results...
2.5 hours reading.
.25 hours writing
.25 hours doing household tasks

Record for RD1 (regimen day 1) not terribly good, Am hoping for 100% compliance for day 2...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

So much for a Lift...

The cloudy weather is taking over.

Just saw this and yeah yeah, considering that it's the holiday season and all, I know this is for the wrong holiday, but it's rather interesting and disturbing all at the same time.

Best viewed full-screen...

Today was the grand opening of the Central Library here in Indy, so, after sleeping far too long, then putzing about on YouTube for far too long, and then reading some Dorothy Richardson (which is what I should've been doing all along), I get in the car and check it all out. Millions and millions over budget and months behind schedule, it's still not quite done, but it's open.
Ever since the thing was only a plastic and cardboard model in the lobby, I wasn't terribly impressed. The model showed a building that was curved and all glass, looking quite a bit like an enormous IMAX Drive-In theater screen or a gigantic billboard, blocking the view of the skyline from the 8-story apartment building that shares the block, as well as other buildings in the area. Now that it's essentially finished, it looks all right, but it still makes a better door than a window, in spite of all the glass. It'll grow on me, I'm sure.

For all the views it has compromised, it has some great panoramic views of the city, which certainly will afford better photographs in less Seattle-like weather.
They were kind enough to consolidate all of the things I would go to the library for onto one floor in the new section (Recordings, Orchestral/Instrumental scores, Poetry and Lit Crit) and all of the general novels into the East big oak-paneled reading room of the old section. In the last ten minutes the place was open, I stumbled upon a five-foot by six-foot city planning map of Indianapolis, showing all of the lots that were slated for demolition back in 1976 for construction of the highway. I've been searching for such a map for the past five or so years, back when I got that idea for a novel where all of the characters had jobs that no longer exist, in buildings that no longer exist, and after clocking out went to homes on streets that no longer exist. As with Andrei Biely's Petersburg, the city itself would be a character, in a way; a city that no longer exists.

Though the library certainly was done with a large (and evidently an impressively expandable) budget, it was certainly odd to see these on the walls--they look exactly like the clocks that were on the walls in the ugly 1970s-era addition to the library that was also torn down. This one is new, but it makes one wonder if this style was selected to match the old ones, salvaged for re-use on the other floors?

Back to reading. I'm starting a new regimen tomorrow. I'd been searching for a Chinese buffet that would turn me off of Chinese buffets for a while, and it appears I found one. Good. No more Chinese buffet food for me. Starting tomorrow I'm eating sensibly, spending a minimum two hours reading and two hours writing. Active avoidance of all things Britney. A brisk walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon. Household chores only every other day and only after all the other above stuff is done. This Shall Be.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's the End of the Semester. It's Cold...

...and the sun hasn't shone much lately. What we all need is a lift. Found this on the Interweb this evening. This game show beats Plinko all to hell... The second team appears to have a bit more difficulty.

I'd certainly watch this over some stupid Immunity idol search.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dreams before Writing

In the dream I started off working in a student union on my portfolio for Mary's poetics class. I had my blue binder and sheets of paper in various colors. Things got a bit muddled after that, like the dream was trying to figure out what it wanted to do, with unrelated things vying for attention, somewhat like having the radio on while driving in the country at the periphery of any station's reception, and bits of all sorts of music compete badly to rasp through the speaker wire. People next to me talking about car grilles. I'm walking, balance-beam-like, on the top of curbs and edgers outside the student union of the in-city campus that wasn't any campus I knew. It was cloudy and sleeting. A dead vacant lot near a strip mall, seen in weak midwinter evening sunlight.
Then, suddenly we are at a private personal party at conductor Raymond Leppard's house. His family is there and I am snacking on finger food from little trays set out on the coffee table. It is late morning, judging by the quality of the sunlight, so the party must've been some sort of informal brunch. I comment on the music coming out of the speakers and walk over to check it out. It appears to be on the last track (number 4) of a CD by Bolcom. I've not heard a note by Bolcomb, (his name appeared on the CDs with an extra ending B), and this music sounded rather proclamatory, with much brass, and angular in a way I didn't immediately understand. Leppard was trying to get things done in a corner of the big living room, where he had his office. The song ended, and I took the liberty to put another Bolcom CD in the player. I meant to ask Leppard questions--many came to mind--what does he think of Bolcom? It's possible that he knows him personally. How much time does Leppard spend writing, spend rehearsing, spend listening to music? He certainly appears focused, and I am hesitant to disturb him, even under these rather easygoing circumstances.

I am distracted by the sound of a movie that Leppard's older grandkids have turned to, starring Julia Roberts, who, over the course of the movie, has been betrayed by all of her friends and by focusing only on that betrayal, has made herself in later life--she's in her early seventies in the final scene--successful, beautiful with surgery, and in a white wedding dress surrounded by well-wishers in the center of a cavernous hunting lodge, where a reception is taking place. As the Bolcom swells on the stereo, overpowering the movie's soundtrack, the camera pulls back in to its location on some balcony overlooking the scene, panning up, following the central chandelier, composed of four beams of wood, stacked crosswise, suspended by a heavy chain. The chandelier is being hoisted up to the top of this huge room, the chain bumping over the topmost beam of the place, the heavy wood frame of the chandelier comes into contact with the beam, tilts slightly, and then the unseen hand lets go. The music swells, the chandelier plummets out of frame, the black iron chain leaping over the beam. The credits fade in and out over the empty view of the upper levels of this lodge--cross-supports, aging wood, railings.

People are outside playing croquet, in spite of the lawn being covered with frost. Several of us pile in a late 40s-early 50s Ford. It's been a nice visit. Leppard is still working busily away at his computer.
The car is the dark green of a billiard ball on the outside and that peculiarly 1950s shade of pistachio on the inside. The springy seats are enormous, expansive, proportioned as if I were rememmbering a childhood car ride, only I can see out the windows. We are taking a different route back home, a road that might lead up to the familiar highway later on. The driver (is it Erik? Is it Eric? Is it someone else?) asks if there's a road atlas in the car. Some of the other passengers start looking. I think I remember seeing we are on highway 72, wherever that is.

I know to be a good post, this needs some sort of rumination, of reflection on what it could mean. This is something I might do if it weren't for 20 student papers, inputting final grades, two revision portfolios, and keeping up with my reading schedule. Perhaps you could ruminate for me.