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Ten days on the road: Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis, and Chicago. Due to the number of images, I’m dividing this into two entries, giving Chicago its own.

Indianapolis

I don’t watch sports on TV. I know how sports work, and I like going to football and baseball games, but I barely do TV and definitely not sports on TV. I won’t even tell you what I was doing during the Superbowl this year, but “watching it” would be a bad guess. It’s a shame, then, that I (of all people) arrived in Indianapolis on the night of the AFC Championship, the Colts against the Patriots. Since my family’s from New England, I’ll cheer for the Patriots and the Red Sox, but that’s about the extent of any loyalty I have to any teams at all. Oh yeah– and the Virginia Cavaliers. (Duh.)

I arrived to a cold, soggy city. People were tailgating in brown icy slush wearing trash bags over their blue Colts attire. The lobby and bar of the Canterbury Hotel were literally shoulder-to-shoulder traffic (all in blue), and my room wouldn’t be ready for a half hour. Tired and hungry though I was, I said to the concierge without missing a beat, “Can I have an open tab until it’s ready?” It wasn’t an unreasonable request, but it was a ballsy one. That it was the first thing that came to my mind is probably not so good, but they actually did it, and I think that sped things up. (I had one bloody. It was drenche din Worcestershire sauce, which reappeared in Louisville.) I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was so packed: I was staying two blocks from the arena.

Again, I was starving. Every normal restaurant I went in (breweries and steakhouses) was packed– definitely no room at the bar to watch the game, and no room even in dining rooms where TVs had been set up. Sushi-fan that I am, I finally wandered into an oversized and empty sushi restaurant and watched the game with the staff while downing seaweed salad. After that, I went to Ruth’s Chris and got a front-row seat at the bar, and a lot of free drinks. I still can’t believe I didn’t just try to get a scalped ticket, but people told me I wouldn’t have gotten one for less than $100. I like going to a big game, but I don’t $100-like going to a big game. Maybe $20-like. By the end of the night, I was too sauced to care. I left after my meeting for Louisville. I was really, really excited about Louisville.

Louisville

I pulled up to my hotel in Louisville and proceeded to circle the block, twice, unconvinced that the foreboding stone building with three-foot-high red plastic penguins lining the roof was anything but a toy factory, given the world’s largest baseball bat resting against the Louisville Slugger factory on the next block. But no. 21c Museum Hotel is just that– every piece of furniture, from light fixtures to coffee tables, is installation art. When you walk in, you’re met with a video of two people sleeping being projected on the concrete floor, life size. It’s disarming because, given the subjects’ state, they almost never move. You think you’re looking at a projected still image. One sleeper flipped over while I was checking in, and I jumped! The elevator was even better. In the image below, you can see that there’s a camera in the middle of the wall facing me, recording, and that the image of me is getting projected on the same wall. Then, “behind” the projection of the people, emitted from the same projector, are letters that descend from the top of the projection to the bottom. By moving around in front of the camera, your projected self affects the letters’ movements. Look at the person’s arm and the projection of it– the letters are collecting on the projection of the arm like fallen leaves. It’s in the top 5% of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I have no idea how this works. And all while waiting for the elevator! The hotel could charge anything they want, but the cost is really modest, especially at the government rate.

I took a walk around the city in the afternoon, in spite of the close-to-negative temperature. Of particular interest was Fourth Street Live, a commercial district with restaurants, stores, a movie theater, and so on. Concerts are held there. It was… tacky. But if it brings business back to the downtown area, I’m all for it. The evacuation of major American cities and suburban sprawl just kills me. I wish I understood the economics and social dynamics behind it.

I ate dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Proof on Main, as it was just featured in Food + Wine magazine for its wine list, and even brussel sprouts were exciting. Waiting for the elevator, I began to chat up an employee and a man in a suit. I was just gushing–per usual–and the employee looked thoroughly amused. When I got off the elevator with the older gentleman, he asked about my job, and I told him about our program, and how lucky I am to travel like this. “Oh,” he said. “I have a lot of family that went to Virginia! Great school.” I thanked him and asked what brought him to Louisville. He grinned. “I own this hotel.”

Later in the evening, the concierge recommended I visit the Galt House for a nightcap. The bar had attracted a group of businessmen in town for a big meeting, and I couldn’t be bothered. I just wanted to do a crossword in peace, with a bloody. (It was a bloody phase.) The bartender asked how I wanted it, and I said I liked a heavy dose of horseradish. She proceeded to pour, as much as one can pour from those bottles, Worcestershire sauce into the glass. When I tasted it, it was like liquid salt! I told her it wasn’t right. She said, “That’s not horseradish? What is it, then?” I switched to red wine! The coolest part was the bar itself: a long, shallow fish tank with tons of goldfish swimming under my crossword.

Before I left, I drove by Churchill Downs, bought a souvenir from the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, and watched glassblowers at the Louisville Glassworks. If you’ve been noticing a trend across America of animal sculptures painted by local artists, Louisville’s got horses covered.

St. Louis

Because I drove to St. Louis, I got the experience of seeing the Gateway Arch from afar, growing as I approached the city. It’s impressive! Having enjoyed my San Antonio B&B experience so much, I decided to stay in Lafayette Square at a B&B that has since closed. The experience was one to laugh about.

If a B&B owner makes recommendations, should you take them?

The answer: yes, if you are a frequent B&Ber who stays in touch with the owners and aren’t that particular about food. For the rest of us, the answer: not necessarily. My B&B owner was a fastidious man who had retired from a long career as a flight attendant. He played the soundtrack to the film Dreamgirls for the duration of my stay, and his house was furnished and decorated such that you must use coasters, and there are doily ones waiting for you on every surface. And he was really, really nice. It’s just that the restaurant he recommended was really, really bad.

I tend to eat tiny breakfasts and leafy lunches so I can go all out for dinner. In my research, I found a restaurant called Mosaic Tapas in downtown St. Louis that had a somewhat outdated review in Food + Wine. Further Googling suggested it was still good. It was amazing. I had a big glass of jammy red zin and a “flight of soups.” My three were cauliflower, tomato, and potato-leek, and I honestly wanted to order another round when I was done. But that was to be just a taste before going to the B&B rec, the 1015 Cafe. When the hostess sat me in an unlit corner of an otherwise busy restaurant, I politely let her know that I hoped it wouldn’t mess up anyone’s sections, but because I’m alone so much, I would prefer a small table in the main dining area if she has one. (There were certainly tables to spare.) The host just wasn’t nice about it. My server was no better. She might have been new; she didn’t know anything about the menu. I specifically said I didn’t want to invest in the rabbit unless it was cooked medium/medium rare. It was actually braised, sitting in a pool of brown grease over potatoes. And come to find out, it had been overcooked. It was tough and almost seemed burned, like the bottom had rested bare on the bottom of the pan too long. Why kill a perfectly good rabbit and do that to it? That’s animal cruelty right there.  I ended the night by walking around the Central West End neighborhood.  Every restaurant and bar was packed on a cold Wednesday night, about 10pm–interesting!  I couldn’t resist the Sub Zero Vodka Bar.  Got a yummy chocolate-mint martini on the house!

My one regret is that I didn’t go to the Hill neighborhood for great Italian food. Next time!

In my limited off time, I ascended the Arch and went on the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour. I think the Arch was an overpriced tourist attraction, but I would have regretted not doing it. The tram itself is most of the fun. It’s straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey! Imagine a little chalky-colored egg-shaped capsule with five small tractor seats in a “U” facing the door. Claustrophobes, don’t even think about it. The brewery tour was another worthwhile tourist attraction, and free! I was a little impatient because I felt guilty about spending an hour going on the tour on a business trip, I knew I wouldn’t retain anything I learned about the brewing process, and I couldn’t stand the sound of so many people chomping and popping their gum. Number one pet peeve. Amazing how quickly I recovered when we ended up at the tasting room. It was a late time to go, on a January weekday, so there was only one tour group after us. What I’m saying is that they didn’t kick us out for about an hour and a half, so I tasted a lot of beer, and I decided to wait and eat a lot of pretzels before I left. The best part were “flavor spikes,” shots of lime and mango to add to a light beer like Michelob Ultra or Budweiser Select, and chocolate to add to a stout. It was a little freakish, but what else would you expect from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for adults?

Before I left, I bought a 3-CD set of “Real Men of Genius” radio ads. If that’s any indication.

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If only the Colts players could see their fans…

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RCA Dome.

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Chicken limo! Thoughts that actually crossed my mind when I saw it parked: “I wonder if it has a sunroof,” “I wonder how many people get fried chicken drive-thru when they rent that,” and, “I wonder how much it costs!”

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Indianapolis has taken “streetwalker” from the figurative to the literal in designing pedestrian crossing signs…

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21C exterior.

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Zen walls in the 21C.

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A courtyard in the middle of the hotel, photographed from my room.

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Installation art piece.

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Having fun with the penguins!

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I thought this was just cool.  A neon forest mural, in blacklight.

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Even the TV offered art as programming.  The bigscreen (suspended from the ceiling in front of exposed red brick walls) turns on to this experimental video, which runs in a loop.

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A view of the room, and me in my powersuit in it.

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The elevator instlalation art piece!

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Thomas Jefferson looking across the river.

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That horse is completely sequined.

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Fourth Street Live.

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World’s biggest bat at the Slugger factory!

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Taken on the drive from Kentucky to Missouri, somewhere in south Illinois.

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A really, really big adult video and toy store on the highway 🙂

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Skyline!

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The museum you walk through to get to the Arch’s tram was empty, so… I played.

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Squished in the tram!

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View of St. Louis from the Arch.

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View of southern Illinois from the Arch.

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View of the Arch.

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I got lucky with this shot.

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Flight of soups, and my reading material.

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A building near Mosaic– very cool floral arrangement sculpture in the lobby.

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Central West End at night.

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Real Men of Genius…

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Interior shot.

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My room in the B&B…

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Delicious second-B in the B&B.  Brioche french toast with a blueberry yogurt/sour cream filling.  I was wowed.

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