Indy: What to See, Eat and Do

Friday, May 31, 2013

(Me with the giant Vonnegut mural on Mass Ave and the 
Funky Bones Sculpture from The Fault in Our Stars)

Oh Indianapolis, how I love you. I’m a lifelong Hoosier and am constantly shocked when I hear people say there isn’t anything to do in our city. We have so much to offer! We may not be a literary capital of the world, but we have wide and diverse cultural offerings. There are a dozen theatres, a symphony, that little race track, and tons of independent restaurants and parks.

So all of that has been on my mind lately and I thought I would make a list of a few of my favorite MUST SEE things in our city. I hope you’ll check them out if you’re ever in my neck of the woods!

Yummy Places to Eat:

Yats: Cajun/Creole food, cheap and so delicious!
Rathskeller: German food, really fun outdoor biergarten in the summer (Building designed by Kurt Vonnegut’s father)
Brugge: Belgian food, think frites, mussels, crepes and wonderful beer
Saffron Café: Moroccan Food, I’ve never had a bad meal here!
Mesh: A little bit pricey, but a good, unique menu
Creation Café: Located right on the White River, beautiful view of the city
The Tamale Place: Best tacos ever. No seriously. The tamales are obviously really good too.
Traders Point Creamery: Amazing cheese, yogurt, etc. made there!

Free Place to Check Out:

Indy Reads Books: My favorite used bookstore in the city. Every penny of their sales supports literacy in Indy!
Indianapolis Art Museum: Everything from Monet to the famous LOVE sculpture. Bonus: In the summer the art museum has an outdoor amphitheater where they show classic movies!
Indianapolis Central Library: I’ve spoken before about how much I love this library. Not only does it beautifully combine the old and the new, it also provides one of the best views of the city.
HART - Free Shakespeare performance on the White River Canal.
100 Acres Park: A beautiful park to wander in, plus it includes the huge Funky Bones sculpture from The Fault in Our Stars!
Sun King Brewery: A local brewery that offers free tastings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Crown Hill Cemetery: Gorgeous cemetery with walking tours, the final burial place for author James Whitcomb Riley and outlaw John Dillinger.
Holliday Park: Beautiful park with crazy old ruins (mentioned in The Fault in Our Stars)  
Who North America: For any Whovians out there, this is store entirely dedicated to Doctor Who. It is mainly an online store, but you can shop at their actual facility too and they’re incredibly nice.
Lew Wallace’s Study (The author of Ben Hur)
The Cultural Trail: Biking and walking trails through Indy

Other Random fun Stuff:

The Children’s Museum: One of the most incredible in the country. It’s fun for adults too and includes a huge Dale Chihuly glass sculpture.
Keystone Art Cinema: They show wonderful movies and have a bar, so you can take your drink in with you. Yes please. 

A few other resources if you plan a trip:

Photos by moi. 

The River Why

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The River Why
by David James Duncan

I wanted to like this one. I loved Duncan’s novel The Brothers K and had been looking forward to reading this one, but it just didn’t work for me. I felt myself dreading it every time I was about to pick it up. It was incredibly hard for me to get into. It’s about fly fishing and philosophy, an odd combination in any book, but in this meandering novel neither subject captured my interest. 

Gus is a fisherman to his core. His parents are both talented fishers and he was raised on a steady diet of hooks and lines. His father is a prim and proper Englishman and his mother is a redneck hot-tempered woman. Though their personalities clash, their loyalty to each other is unshakeable. The odd pairing, along with their eccentric son Bill Bob, were my favorite elements in the book, but the trio made far too few appearances to keep my interest. Gus’ parents are thrilled when he turns out to have a natural ability for the past time. 

BOTTOM LINE: I definitely seem to be in the minority here, but I just couldn’t get into it. There were some beautifully written sections and a few really unique supporting characters, but in the end it wasn’t enough. The rest of it fell flat for me. It’s not good when your favorite part of the book is finishing it so you don’t ever have to pick it up again. 

“… because of fishing I grew up osprey-silent and trout-shy and developed early on an ability to slide through the Public School System as river water slides by the logjams, rockslides and dams that bar its seaward journey.” 

“Perhaps not to know him is to know him well. He has a height and weight, face, voice, hair, the usual number of limbs – all the accoutrements of a brother. Yet there is an impregnability about him that thwarts easy intimacy.”

Wordless Wednesday: Library of Congress Reading Room

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Reading Room in the Library of Congress

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like LESS Than I Did

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks Top Ten Tuesday Freebie: Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like LESS Than I Did.

1) Case Histories: I was expecting a basic mystery, which I would probably like, but definitely not love. Instead I got a twisty beautifully layered novel with incredible characters.

2) Beat the Reaper: Violence and mob stuff, but it sucked me in and was so well written!

3) City of Thieves: WWII in Russia/buddy comedy, surprisingly violent, but I ended up loving it.

4) The Stand: I always thought I would hate Stephen King’s books. I don’t like horror at all, but I quickly found that the man writes damn good characters!

5) The Happiness Project: I don’t like self-help books of any kind, but this one was so wonderful. I wouldn’t even call it a self-help book, but more of a realistic look at practical ways to improve your everyday life.

6) Moby Dick: An entire book about a giant whale, yuck. But it was funny and deep and more about personal struggles and obstacles than just about fishing.

7) Life is so Good: This nonfiction book tells the story of a man who doesn’t learn to read until he is in his 90s. It’s so full of lovely advice about life that comes from his unique experiences.

8) The Good Women of China by Xinran: Honestly, I read this to fill the X category when I was reading one author for every letter of the alphabet one year. It looked interesting enough, but it ended up being a really powerful book.

9) Hannah Coulter: My very first book by Wendell Barry and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it might be boring and slow, but it was wonderful.

10) My Life in France: Julia Child was just indescribably lovely. I was completely enamored by her after reading her memoir.

Shakespeare Retold

Friday, May 24, 2013

I recently discovered a 2005 BBC show called Shakespeare Retold. Has anyone else seen this? It’s so much fun! There are four episodes, A Midsummer Night’s DreamMuch Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, and The Taming of the Shrew

Each one is an hour and a half modern re-telling of one of Shakespeare’s plays. They all have a unique twist, for example Macbeth is set in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant where everyone wants to be the head chef instead of the king.

The casts of each episode are incredible! James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton, Damian Lewis, Billie Piper, Richard Armitage, Rufus Sewell, it’s a who’s who of British actors.

The thing I love about them is that it’s one more example of how Shakespeare’s plays are still incredibly relevant. His themes of jealousy, ambition, love, etc. never become dated and can be reworked in any time period. Just as other modern versions like 10 Things I Hate About You, The Lion King and West Side Story have shown, the stories work today just as they did then.

I watched them through Netflix, I’m not sure where else they are available, but check them out if you get the chance.

**p.s. I can’t wait to see Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing!

Every Thing On It

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Every Thing On It
by Shel Silverstein

I was raised on Silverstein’s poetry collections and my well-worm copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light In the Attic, and Falling Up have a permanent spot of my favorites shelf. I even memorized one of his poems (on ice cream flavors) for a junior high speech competition.

So I’ve been looking forward to this one since I found out about it. The posthumously published collection includes some gems. Most are funny, some are sweet and every so often you stumble on one that’s poignant as well.

Here’s my particular favorite…

A spider lives inside my head
Who weaves a strange and wondrous web
Of silken threads and silver strings
To catch all sorts of flying things,
Like crumbs of thoughts and bits of smiles
And specks of dried-up tears,
And dust of dreams that catch and cling
For years and years and years ….

One of the final poems in the book is a bittersweet encouragement to potential poets out there…

When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter–someone new?
Someone better–maybe YOU!

BOTTOM LINE: Silverstein’s poems have a playfulness that makes them fun for readers of all ages. I loved this new book and just like his others, I know I’ll be reading it over and over again in future years.

Image from here

Wordless Wednesday: Old Town Aquarium

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Old Town Aquarium in Chicago 

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I've Read This Year

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I've Read. I decided to keep it to books I’ve read this year.

1) Stardust: The Gift Edition by Neil Gaiman

2) Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (and all the PEL collection!)

3) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

4) Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

5) The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

6) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

7) Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

8) Persuasion by Jane Austen (all of the Penguin clothbounds!)

9) The October Country  by Ray Bradbury

10) The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Two Gentlemen of Verona
by William Shakespeare

This is an interesting play in the world of Shakespeare, though not one of his strongest. It is assumed to be one of his first plays. It has one of his smallest casts and it contains one of the biggest jerks in the whole of Shakespearean literature.

The two gentlemen of the title are Valentine and Proteus, best friends living in Verona. One of the two, Proteus, is deeply in love with a woman named Julia. The other, Valentine, is sent to Milan at his father’s bidding, where he falls in love with the Duke’s daughter, Silvia.

The horrid Proteus follows Valentine and despite swearing his undying love to Julia, he quickly falls in love with Silvia. Not only is he betraying Julia with this infatuation, he is betrays his best friend. He is a selfish and horrible man and it’s hard to understand why Julia would remain true to him.

My favorite scene in the play is between Julia and Silvia. The women find common ground where Silvia expresses her disgust with Proteus for abandoning the woman he swore to love. She had no idea that she was telling this to that same woman and it touches Julia deeply.

The play shares a dozen similarities with Shakespeare’s later work. It has a woman following the man she loves and meeting him in disguise when he falls for someone new from All’s Well That Ends Well. It has Thurio, a useless lover picked by the girl’s family ala Paris from Romeo and Juliet. It also has a bit from Twelfth Night with a woman pretending to be the male servant of the man she loves. These elements don’t work well together to make a great play, but each bit is an interesting plot point that is used more successfully in a later play.

BOTTOM LINE: This play is definitely a precursor to some of the great work that came later, but it doesn’t have the strongest plot. It contains hilarious puns and beautiful lines. Unfortunately the flip-flopping Proteus’ happy ending is not satisfying to audiences and the play is rarely preformed live.

“She is mine own,
And I as rich in having such a jewel
As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold.”

I read this as part of the Let’s Read Plays yearlong event hosted by Fanda. From November 2012 to October 2013 participants will read 12 classics plays throughout the year, at least one each month.

Hello 29!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oh my goodness how I love birthdays and lucky me, today is mine! Seriously guys, birthdays are the absolute best. It's not about presents or anything like that. I love having an excuse to celebrate life, to do fun things that you might not normally do and to spend time with all the people you love. Instead of presents, the Huz always spends a whole weekend having fun adventures with me around the city. We check out new restaurants and go to museums or events that I've always wanted to check out. 

I've never dreaded becoming a year older. I think it's fantastic. I've never regretted one year of my life or the way I've lived it, so each new birthday is a chance to celebrate another year of possibilities. Who knows what adventures this year will hold! 

So here's a few lists to celebrate turning 29! 

5 Things I'm doing during my birthday weekend:
1) Attending my first roller derby game
3) Touring Monument Circle 
4) Drinks at a cool new martini bar
5) Check out the local craft brews at Tomlinson Tap Room

5 Things I'm planning to do this year:
1) Go to Harry Potter World in September! (already bought the tickets!) 
2) Celebrate my BFF's destination wedding as the MOH in June, so freakin' excited for her!
3) Visit Margaret Mitchell's house in Atlanta 
4) Swim with Dolphins 
5) Attend my first Indy 500 Race (I'm a Hoosier and I've never been, shameful)

5 things I'm grateful for:
1) The Huz, always
2) Health, I take it for granted, but all of the people who are incredibly important to me are healthy, such a blessing.
3) Steady jobs for both me and the Huz
4) My niece and nephews. I may not be ready for kids, but these guys are such a joy.
5) The pup, I post way too many Ollie photos on Instagram, but I seriously love that dog. 

5 awesome things I'm grateful for in the past year:
1) Lots of weekend trips and the friends I've taken them with: Shakespeare plays in Wisconsin, a lake house in Kentucky, the Smokey Mountains, Washington DC, Louisville, and Chicago. Each one of those trips was a chance to spend time with family or friends who I love so much. There's something about traveling with people that gives you a chance to get to know them so much better, I love it.
2) Every new thing I learn how to cook
3) Time to read and the desire to do so, such a gift! 
4) A massive road trip to Montana with the Huz
5) All of the joyous events in the lives of the people I love: graduations, babies, marriages, success at work, new houses, new pets, new adventures; each one makes me so happy.

Image from here, because birthday pie is way better than birthday cake.

Meeting the lovely Ann Patchett

Friday, May 17, 2013

I had the chance to see Ann Patchett speak last week and it was fantastic! She was the speaker for this year’s Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture and she was honored with the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Literature Award.

I also stayed for the book signing which followed the talk and got my two favorite books by her (Bel Canto and State of Wonder) signed. We had a chance to talk for a minute and she even took a quick picture with me. It’s definitely one of my absolute favorite author meetings I’ve even had.

Patchett talked a bit about her bookstore Parnassus Books in Nashville. She emphasized the importance of supporting local bookstores and not just saying you enjoy them and then buying the book on Amazon because it’s cheaper. I’m dying to visit her store in Nashville and I’m hoping to make a trip there later this year. I also completely agree with her point about putting your money where your mouth is. I think that’s true for the arts as well as bookstores. Yes, it costs money to buy a book new or go to the theatre, but you’re supporting something important when you buy you ticket!

She said she’s traveled to dozens of libraries all over the country and Indianapolis’ downtown branch in one of the most beautiful she has ever scene. As you guys have heard me say before, I definitely agree! She also gave the entire St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V! It made sense in the context of the talk and it was absolutely incredible! She made some important points about there not being a magic muse who writes her novels for her. It’s hard work and it’s not easy, but it’s something you sit down and do every day if you’re a writer.

"If you love books, you want to push them on people, so owning an independent bookstore is the best!"

(Just laughing with Ann Patchett, no big deal)

If you’ve read State of Wonder you no doubt remember a certain intense scene with an anaconda. She described her actual experience on a small 15 foot boat on a river in the Amazon. One of the men in the boat (not one of the tour guides, just a passenger) pulled at giant anaconda out of the river and into their boat. He kept it in the boat for 20 minutes, describing everything about it while it slowly wrapped itself around his body. They eventually pulled it off him and put it back in the water, but she said it was absolutely terrifying and in that moment the scene from the book was born. She later found out the guy was a snake expert and they became friends, but can you imagine witnessing that?!?

During the Q & A session someone asked her for book recommendations and she suggested the following books:

1) Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn
2) Casual Vacancy (this one was interesting because she said she hasn't read the Harry Potter series!)
3) Independent People by Halldór Laxness (Apparently a book about Icelandic sheep and coffee)
4) The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
5) Old Filth by Jane Gardam
6) The All of It by Jeannette Haien 

Photos by a kind new book-loving friend I met in line.

Classics Club Spin

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Classics Club is hosting another Classics Spin! Pick 20 books off your Classics Club List. On Monday (the 20th) they will announce a random number and you have to read that number off the list you created sometime before July 1st. I’ve listed a mixture of books I’m dreading, ones I’m looking forward to, very old ones, relatively new ones, big ones, small ones, etc. Can’t wait to see what I’ll be reading!

We have a winner! It's #6 The Rights of Man. I'm not looking forward to it, but I've been wanting to read it, so this is a good motivation.

1) Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
2) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
3) The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
4) All My Sons by Arthur Miller
5) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
6) The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
7) The Warden by Anthony Trollope
8) Roughing It by Mark Twain
9) Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
10) Germinal by Émile Zola
11) The Island of Dr Moreau by H G Wells
12) The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
13) Native Son by Richard Wright
14) Maurice by E. M. Forster
15) Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
16) Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
17) Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
18) Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
19) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
20) In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

You can check out the complete details here.

Image from here

Wordless Wednesday: Alcatraz

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Rock, San Fran

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for Ten Books Dealing With Tough Subjects. 

1) The Submission: Racism

2) Speak: Rape

3) The Longest Goodbye: Losing your mother to cancer

4) The Cement Garden: Incest

5) Rabbit Hole: Coping with the death of a young child

6) The Innocent Man: The death penalty

7) The Yearling: Animals being killed   

8) Beautiful Boy: Addiction

9) Unbroken: Torture

10) Columbine: School shootings

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
by Tennessee Williams

A southern family gathers to celebrate its patriarch Big Daddy’s birthday. His two sons are as different as can be. The elder, Gooper, is married to a nauseating woman and has five obnoxious kids with another on the way. The younger, Brick, is an alcoholic struggling with a horrible depression. His wife Maggie is beautiful, but is cracking under the strain of trying to hold her marriage together. Their complicated relationship seems irrevocably broken, though we don’t know why at first.

The play won the Pulitzer Prize for its deft portrayal of a family full of secrets. Contempt, greed, adultery, etc. the story is ripe with issues. Williams has a wonderful talented for capturing the fissure in relationships and people’s psyches. Brick is horrible to Maggie, talking to her with utter contempt. His treatment of his wife is a learned behavior. His father, Big Daddy, has treated his own wife with disdain for forty years. In his own words…

“All I ask of that woman is that she leave me alone, but she can’t admit to herself that she makes me sick.”

Maggie the cat’s loneliness is palpable. I’ve never encountered a character so isolated and trapped in her own life. Her husband Brick is so broken, whether it’s because of his feelings for his dead friend Skipper or his guilt over Skipper’s death or both. We know that Skipper loved Brick, but we don’t know whether Brick felt the same, only that he was so bothered by Skipper’s confession that he hung up on him.

BOTTOM LINE: The play is an enthralling portrait of loneliness. You can't look away.

**The edition I read had two versions of the third act. The first was the ending as Williams originally imagined it. The second was a rewrite that Elia Kazan encouraged Williams to do. Both are interesting, the major change is the absence or presence of Big Daddy.

 “Living with someone you love can be lonelier – than living entirely alone! – if the one that y’ love doesn’t love you.”

The 1958 film version makes a few major changes, notably the absence of any reference to homosexuality. It completely leaves out the bits about the former owners of the plantation. It makes Brick and Skipper’s relationship into a dependant friendship, but never touches on the issue of homosexuality. It also leaves us with a much more hopeful ending than the play does. It stars Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor; she is particularly mesmerizing as Maggie.

The Great Gatsby

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Like many people, I read this in high school and vaguely remember liking it. Rereading it was a completely different experience. The cadence of Fitzgerald’s writing just floored me. Each sentence was beautifully crafted and the lyrical pace of the novel is astounding. He manages to tell one man’s story from three different perspectives, each time showing us a bit more of the man behind Gatsby’s mask, but never fully revealing what is true and what’s a lie.

Most people know the basic plot. Nick tells the story of the one summer he spent in New York and the charismatic man who was his neighbor. Gatsby throws lavish parties and remains a mystery to all who know him. Finally Nick finds out that Gatsby whole life is devoted to reconnecting with an old flame, the now married Daisy. She is a deeply unhappy woman whose brute of a husband is cheating on her.

There’s much debate over the topic of greatness when it comes to this novel. Is Gatsby great? If not, why did Fitzgerald choose this title. To me it is the idea of Gatsby that is great. It’s the persona he creates for everyone else to admire from a distance, not the man himself. He is just a man, full of dreams and disappointments. He gets everything he originally set out to achieve, but only on a superficial level. I think it’s particularly telling that Fitzgerald originally considered the title Trimalchio.

“Trimalchio is a character in the 1st century AD Roman work of fiction Satyricon by Petronius. Trimalchio is a freedman who through hard work and perseverance has attained power and wealth.” - from Wikipedia

I think that despite Gatsby’s shady business dealings, Fitzgerald created a self-made man that he admired and pitied in equal parts. Gatsby is, on his surface, the picture of success. He is also one of the most thoroughly alone individuals in literature. At the end of the novel Nick desperately tries to find people to attend his funeral and of the hundreds who made it to Gatsby’s parties, no one seems able to make it. It’s truly tragic.  

In rereading the book I was surprised by the brazen nature of Tom and Myrtle's relationship. I had forgotten how he flaunts it, taking her to restaurants and introducing her to Nick. It’s also incredible that the title character doesn’t make his first appearance until we’re already ¼ of the way through the book. I had forgotten that Gatsby had returned home at some point to buy his father a house and show him that he was now wealthy. There’s a level of loyalty there that I admire. Even if Gatsby left his roots behind him for bigger and brighter things, he still felt the need to care for them in some way.

BOTTOM LINE: There are few American novels that portray ambition and emptiness in such a visceral way. Fitzgerald’s descriptions are breathtaking. If you’re hoping to find sympathetic and relatable characters, try his autobiographical novel Tender is the Night. If you want a book where each line sings off the page and metaphors for the deflated American dream abound, this is the one.

“It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.”

“Thirty--the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”

“He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was ....”

Check out Fanda’s posts here, here, here and here

Check out the fantastic Crash Course posts here and here

I'm off to go see the movie now!