Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Last Petunia ...

... Maybe. 

I'm not discounting the ones in planters, inserted purposely into specially prepared soil by landscape contractors. I'm just giving a shout out to this little volunteer, peeking from a fissure in the sidewalk. It's survived in spite of being so close to the drive, in danger of being squashed by a car or drowned by the rain in the gutter, or from very little rain at all.

And here is the creek near the Speedway. It bisects a grass-covered lot as large as some family farms. During race weekends, the lot becomes a camping area for RVs. A lot of people choose to park near the grove of trees lining the creek, finding shelter in their shade. I go there at least once a week to check for turtles sunning themselves on rocks, red-winged blackbirds or the occasional heron. I've marked the seasons with pictures taken of the creek and its trees. 
In the middle of the city, it's my little piece of wild.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TLC Needed

While walking along Massachusetts Avenue, one can see a lot of buildings, carefully and lovingly restored and repurposed. Unfortunately, this building has yet to find someone sufficiently inspired with both money and vision to give it a new life.

It is an old church which has stained glass windows
as well as a lot of decorative details to give it interest.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flowers Everywhere!

One hot day last July, I left Roberts Photo on South Meridian and happened to look up at one of the buildings across the street. It was in the process of being restored and adapted for use as offices or condos. 


The building's surface has been cleaned, it's red brick practically gleaming in the hot sun, bringing out the floral details of its cornices.

So far, I haven't been able to find much more information about it. I think in a previous life it had been the long-time location of a party novelty company which moved to another location many years back. The main business currently at the site is the Old Spaghetti Factory, located at 210 South Meridian Street. The building is among those located in the Warehouse District of Indianapolis, which began its existence in the mid-1800's as a place where shoppers could go to purchase goods previously available only out of state.

Cleaning has revealed details of the beautiful structure
The area thrived until the Great Depression, when businesses struggled and failed, leaving the buildings to become decrepit and dour. Since 1995, astounding results have revealed the beauty of many of the old buildings, giving them new lives as restaurants, hotels and condominiums 

210 South Meridian Street is the address for
 The Old Spaghetti Factory, it's main entrance under the OPEN sign.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Take 'em As I Find 'em

There they are, a whole crowd of porcelain doll heads, all facing forward awaiting a new assignment. No hair, painted hair, or crooked and matted hair, these dolls have seen better days. Some eyes are painted on, others are glass, while many are missing altogether. No matter, they all have the same vacant stare and appear a bit, well, cracked

And how many glassy-eyed drivers side-swiped this utility pole before a piece of steel was installed to protect it from further harm? Based on the many deep scratches and gouges, shielding the pole was definitely necessary because few drivers seemed to have avoided it, before or since.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cowardly Lion and the Grinch

Detail from a window on the west side of the lounge of the Scottish Rite Cathedral
These pictures were taken in the lounge of the Scottish Rite Cathedral of Indianapolis. The first and second images are details of windows designed and installed in 1975 by the Willet Stained Glass Studio of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I refer to them as the "Cowardly Lion" and the "Grinch" because I think they closely resemble those characters.

Detail from window on west side of lounge.
Located in downtown Indianapolis, the Scottish Rite Cathedral was designed by architect George F. Schreiber in the Neo-Gothic style. Built in 1927-1929, its proportions are divisible by three, representing the three degrees of Free Masonry. It is the largest Masonic building in the United States.

One of the eight windows on the east side
of the Cathedral lounge, representing
mechanical and civil engineering
The stained glass windows on the east side of the lounge are dedicated to the arts and sciences: engineering, electricity, sculpture, architecture, art, music, law and medicine. They were created by the Von Gerichten Glass Company of Munich, Germany, where they were made and Columbus, Ohio where they were assembled, then installed in 1929.
Stained glass window depicting the artist
and his model in his studio
The Von Gerichten Art Glass Studio was established in 1891 at Cullman, Alabama by Ludwig Von Gerichten, who had immigrated from Germany to the United States. In 1893, joined by his brother Theodore, they moved the business to Columbus, Ohio where it was called Capitol City Glass Company. As the business's reputation grew, the brothers again changed its name in 1898 to The Von Gerichten Art Glass Company.

From the time the brothers opened their business until it was was closed in the late 1930's, the company created over 1800 windows for approximately 850 churches in the United States. In 1914, they opened a studio in Munich where Ludwig spent much of his time, while Theodore remained in Columbus. Unfortunately, a lot of the company's clients felt that German craftsmanship was superior to American work. Since all the work was done by German artisans, there was no foundation to this prejudice. The result was that work was often done in Germany at added expense, then brought to the US for assembly and installation. Such was the case with the Scottish Rite windows.

From time to time, I meet a group of friends for lunch at the Cathedral, which is why I had the opportunity to take these pictures. I will return in the near future to add to this little portfolio of beautiful color and craftsmanship, which I promise to share.

Friday, August 26, 2011

This 'n' That

Inducing claustrophobia, this alley way is barely wide enough to accommodate
the delivery trucks which enter and leave daily.

I pass by this alley way every time I'm downtown. I always look to see what's going on there, if anything. I look at them all, but I don't want to enter because I don't like the feeling of being crowded. I want to move, to keep looking at stuff, to see what's out there, just beyond. All the walls seem to say is, "Nothing here, ma'm, nothing here but a sharply delineated perspective. Move along now."

And I do, because I want to see things like the Stars of the Peking Acrobats, spinning plates or balancing themselves on a stack of chairs on bottles. The bleachers in this little outdoor venue were full of admirers, who applauded enthusiastically for the acrobats' demonstrations of balance, strength and agility.

Then there was a little circus act from the International Circus Hall of Fame, located at Peru, Indiana. The "King" worked with a group of trained goats, a donkey and a rooster. I only saw the end of the act, but those goats knew their routine so well they anticipated their next moves. All, that is, except for the goat who added a trick of his own: having found that one of the does was in heat, he eagerly performed his services even as they all exited the ring together. 

This time next year, the act may have added a couple more members.

A line of local ladies demonstrated their belly dancing skills to interested observers. The tent was full of appreciative onlookers who recognized the importance of keeping the muscles of one's "pelvic floor" well-toned and functioning.

All these sights, and they were free!
But I'm still upset that I missed the Blue Monkey Sideshow.
*Sigh.* Maybe next year.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pretty Fair Feet

Princess Feet
Wandering around the Fairgrounds all day was something I really enjoyed. However, I didn't leave the house without planning exactly what shoes and socks I was going to wear. It was always down to my trusty New Balance walking shoes and a nice pair of sport socks. With the socks carefully pulled on my feet so there's be no wrinkles to make blisters and the laces carefully tied to prevent swelling, I knew I could be on my feet for the entire day without problem.

Waiting for hand-dipped ice cream at the IDA Dairy Bar
Still, it is with more than a bit of envy I gazed longingly at the pretty shoes and sandals worn by a lot of young women. I have short, wide feet and pretty is not an option for me. I joke that my feet are just long enough to keep me from tipping over, but it hurts nonetheless to know that Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik do not make any of their prettiest confections to fit an 8DD foot.

If I were cast in Cinderella, I would always be one of the Evil Stepsisters; my feet would let me down because I'd never fit the Glass Slipper. I'd always have to watch as a gold digger with small feet won the Handsome Prince while me with my wide feet would have to love him from afar.

Guess which is my foot
With my camera and a notebook in my tote, or even just in my pocket, I can cover miles and miles as I walk and take pictures. I see a lot of interesting, beautiful things and talk to a lot of  kind and intelligent people. It's my short, wide feet that carry me on these little adventures, something I couldn't do in a pair of sapphire blue satin open-toed pumps.

I'd just have to lie on my back as I gazed at a pair of beautiful shoes. Something tells me that's where they really intend for me to be, anyway.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Testosterone Poisoning

Some of you may remember a similar picture from an earlier post, Pancake in the Creek. It is a spiny soft-shelled turtle, formal name Apalone spinifera. This one is small, just a baby compared to his cousins and the more commonly known snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina.

Earlier this week, I read a post on Julie Zickefoose's blog, "Snapperfest: The World Is Watching," about a community gathering in Ohio County, Indiana, during which otherwise grown men (and women) take part in an activity to prove their masculinity. Yeah, sure. See the video on Julie's post or here.

Both soft-shell and common snapping turtles are put into a trough, the contestant runs up to the trough, pulls a turtle out by its tail and runs back to a mat. There, against the stop watch, he shoves his hand into the turtle's shell, pulls out its head then grabs it around the neck, holding it up proudly for the cheering crowd to see. If the contestant's effort is not successful and the turtle manages to bite his finger, someone is designated to step in, kill the turtle so the contestant's finger can be retrieved. In these cases, of course, it is the turtle that dies due to the man's  contestant's poor judgement.

I am surmising that this amoral and cruel contest was born out of a bar bet. We all know that on more occasions than we care to admit, grown men get so caught up in proving their manhood that the testosterone/alcohol mixture takes over, they overdose and do stupid things. This must've been an activity invented by men sitting around; bored and full of beer, they dared each other to prove their manhood -- 

"Hell, you ain't got no balls unless you can pull a snapper's haid out of its shell." 

And so a "community tradition"  came into being. 
The people of the community would have you believe that outsiders are interfering, trying to destroy a part of their "culture." This year was the 15th annual renewal of this event. Does fifteen years constitute a cultural tradition? Really?

The people of the region will probably also have you believe that the turtles aren't harmed by this activity. Watch that tape and ask yourself whether you, your child, your cats or dogs, or any living thing should be treated the way those so-called adult males are treating those turtles. Is this what it takes to be considered a man? Is this what is required in that "culture" for a grown-ass man to prove his worth? 

Shit, just when I'd thought I'd left that sort of intellectual pygmy behind, I find it's still just beyond my back door.

Photo of "Spiny Snapper" by Gloria Degitz
The photo above was sent to me by a friend who's aware of my interest in turtles. It was taken by a photographer in Hannibal, Missouri who saw this turtle walking up the sidewalk in front of her home. Her name is Gloria Degitz.
Please, check out her beautiful wildlife photography at the Hannibal Alliance Art Gallery.   

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Different, Yet Alike

Over the days I wandered the grounds looking for pictures of the Indiana State Fair, it was inevitable I would find things that related to each other, even accidentally. On the first day I saw the sunflower,  already withered but wearing a shiny blue ribbon as the largest of its class.

On the last day I took pictures, I visited the Indiana Department of Natural Resources building. They have outdoor gardens and water displays with native fish species. Shaded and with plenty of places to sit, the building is a popular place for families to visit. Near the front entrance, is this fountain, with its dimpled surface and water falling from the rim, peacefully echoing the structure of the sunflower.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Comfortractor, Agin

Yesterday, one of my missions was to take more pictures of the Comfortractor, featured in an earlier post. I went to the spot where it had been only to find it was GONE! All that was left was the patch of sunburned, matted grass on which it'd been standing. I wondered whether it had been sold, stolen or just taken away by its owner. Disappointed I went off to meet my brother and sister-in-law for lunch. Together with her sister and husband, we all enjoyed lunch and a nice visit at one of the "pork tents," then went off to visit other venues.

I went on to take pictures of the wheelwrights making a cart, then looked in on a group of blacksmiths. I happened to look up. There, in the storage shed, in all its orange gloriousness, was my beloved Comfortractor. It was hooked up to a trickle charger, possibly in preparation for the evening's tractor parade.

Of course, I took more pictures, this time of its interior.

I hope you enjoy this idiosyncratic beastie as much as I have.

How could you not?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nelson Jones and My State Fair

As people may have figured out by now, I love the Indiana State Fair and I love taking pictures of the activities and people involved in them. Each year I "patrol the perimeter," taking pictures of people and exhibits that catch my eye. Among my favorite places on the grounds is the "Pioneer Village," which displays and demonstrates farm machinery and practices of years past -- some of which are not that far in the past at all.

Pioneer Village is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It was established in 1961 by the Purdue Agribusiness Alumni Association. The showcase opened at the fair with an exhibit of its agriculture museum collection and has grown in popularity and size ever since. It now encompasses five acres of the northeast  section of the fairgrounds and consists of several buildings saved and restored for use. Among them is a barn, a silo, storage buildings and a corn crib, one end of which is used as a bin to store coal for the machinery used during the fair.

On the corn crib I saw a sign which read:

Captain O. Nelson Jones

The coal in this bin and that being used to power the engines in the Pioneer Village has been very kindly donated by Mr. Jack Weiss and Mr. Ed Schwartzentruber of Cincinnati Bulk Terminals LLC in honor of Captain O. Nelson Jones.

Captain Jones passed away July 25, 2010 at the age of 52 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was a highly respected industry leader who, if you asked him, would have humbly disagreed, pointing to others he held in high esteem.

His early childhood memories of river activities, his summer job aboard the steam-prop towboat, J. S. Lewis, and his father's sternwheel pleasure boat all combined to sow the seeds for a river career.

At age twelve,he persuaded the Mayor of Charleston (West Virginia) to sponsor a sternwheel boat race that became the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta, a premier river event for the next twenty years.

Captain Jones came to manage his family business at age twenty-four, his father telling him, "you have one year to turn it around." The Amherst Madison Company now successfully operates thirty barge towboats, ranging in horsepower from 165 to 5,600 as well as a construction division that has numerous floating cranes and barges.

Jones was an ardent supporter of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen and an active member of the American Sternwheel Association.

He was described by his friends as a fair-minded, genuine gentleman and one who was passionate about his industry.

Captain Jones was truly an industry leader who reached beyond his own business to create a positive impact on the world around him.

Thank you, Captain Jones, and many thanks to Cincinnati Bulk Terminals LLC for this wonderful gift of fifteen tons of coal for Pioneer Village.

While I was taking pictures, I briefly met one of the men who'd made the gift in Captain Jones's name. We didn't get much of a chance to talk, but it's fairly safe to say we were each surprised to find another member of both the S&D and ASA in the middle of the Indiana State Fair, and to know that it was because of the continued high regard felt for Nelson Jones by his friends and associates that he and I were able to share our mutual interest in river history.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On My Head

I had a list of pictures I intended to take today, all of them planned for that golden aura morning sunlight gives us. Only today, the morning was flat, gray and very humid. 

So I walked to the store instead, during which I saw these flowers. I nearly stood on my head to get the pictures. Must've looked like one of those comical garden cartoon ornaments to passing drivers.

'Though fully clothed, I was certainly mooning them as I contorted myself to catch a ground level glimpse of the pretty purple flowers. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back of the Bus

One evening, as the bus I was riding came up to its stop, I noticed this design on the bus in front of us. At first, I thought it was a part of its paint scheme; instead it was from the adhesive-backed advertising design that had been removed.

And now for the ubiquitous utility pole. I'd been trying to make a Mondrian-like grid from the lines and insulators. Between the street-gray bus and the pole, the stares I got from people as I took the pictures were enough to fill a large sack with question marks. 



"One of them arty types?"



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Venice by the Cornfield

Looking southwest, the Indiana State Office Building is shown in the background,
while a glimpse of the J.W. Mariott Hotel can be seen behind the tree.

Not really, but eh, what the hell, it might catch some attention. 

Until the development of the steamboat in 1807, people had never traveled by any means other than on foot, horse power, or by boats and ships pushed by the wind. Roads were hopelessly tedious and uncomfortable, making the country's rivers the preferred mode of travel. 

When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, connecting the east coast at Albany, New York with Erie, Pennsylvania its success launched decades of "canal fever" by states eager to provide their landlocked citizens with a way to get themselves and their produce to markets on the east coast and New Orleans. 

Indiana was not alone in this craze, but only one of its planned canals was completed, the Wabash and Erie Canal. Connecting Lake Erie at Toledo with the Ohio River, the canal route roughly paralleled the Maumee, Wabash and White Rivers over 468 miles, making it the longest canal in the country. Only two sections of Indiana's other planned canals were completed: the Whitewater Canal in southeastern Indiana, and the Central Canal in Marion County.

Construction of the Indiana Central Canal began in 1836 and was meant to connect Peru with Evansville over 296 miles, generally following the path of the White River. Portions of the canal still supply water to the city, while other sections serve as recreational areas. Stretching through the west side of downtown Indy, it connects the Indianapolis Zoo, the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, the Indiana State Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. 
"Big Blue," the new J. W. Mariott Hotel,
opened at Indianapolis in February, 2011.
Restored in the 1980s and extended in 1995, this portion of the canal is part of the White River State Park, extending from Eleventh Street on the north at Boggs Temple, to the White River just above West Washington Street. Other sections of the canal can be seen on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Butler University, and running through the Broad Ripple neighborhood

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gray Plaid Grids

At the intersection of Pennsylvania and Ohio Streets.
The building on the left is M&I Bank, that on the Right is the Chase Tower. 

Earlier this week, I was waiting for the bus at the intersection of Ohio and Pennsylvania Streets. It was late afternoon and the shadows were beginning to add depth and angles to the grid-like patterns on the taller buildings. The grids and their variations are the predominant theme among the newer buildings  in the downtown area. Devoid of curves and flourishes, the buildings that make up Indy's skyline resemble folded gray paper and Tranformers grown amok. The older buildings that are left provide the warmth, character and the lace.

Scaffolding a half block north of the intersection
on North Pennsylvania Street.

The scaffolding, located at a building just north of the intersection on North Pennsylvania Street, has been erected so that workmen can repair and repaint the stucco, creates a pattern of its own. The sun reflecting off the angled bracing reminds me of an Argyle sweater.

I looked down and saw the pattern in the covering to a freight elevator shaft. There, within a few feet was a texture of diagonals to echo that of the scaffolding. Not so much Argyle as big fluffy yarns.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fiddlin' Around

Although this girl is young, her expression leaves no doubt that she is very prepared
for her turn playing in the Indiana State Fair Fiddle Contest.

I passed through the storage building at Pioneer Village on Saturday, on my way to another event, where I saw people tuning their fiddles and warming up for the annual Indiana State Fair Fiddle Contest. Behind the barn a young woman was tuning up, making sure she and her accompanist were in harmony, as inside an older man went from one entrant to another with his guitar, calmly making sure he and his charges would be in tune, as well.

As one of the entrants told me, while it is important that your fiddle
 be in tune, it's more important that the fiddler and their accompanist
be in tune with each other.

The contest is sponsored each year by Traditional Arts Indiana, an organization devoted to "expanding public awareness of Indiana's traditional practices," focusing on the artistic sensibilities as they are defined by the communities in which the artists participate. Not only does this include music, but other skills as well, such as weaving, carving, pottery, lace-making and bee-keeping, among others.

Tuning and last minute practice behind the barn

The contest was divided by age group into four classes: 11 years and under, ages 12-17, 18-59, and 60-plus. Each contestant was alloted 5 minutes in which to play 3 selections; a waltz, a hoedown, and a selection of the fiddler's choice. However, "Orange Blossom Special" and "Listen to the Mocking Bird" were not permitted to be played.

Unfortunately, the winners of this year's contest have not yet been posted, so I'm not able to say who won, but a great part of the contest is about community and learning from other players. I can tell you the audience was supportive and enjoyed listening to all the participants, because I could hear their cheers and applause pouring out of the Opry House.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cows are Hard

As much as I enjoy the Fair, I've never before drawn a cow. I've taken plenty of pictures of cattle, patted their rumps and watched as they were washed and groomed. But actually sit down to attempt to draw an actual member of the bovine persuasion? Naw. No way.

Saturday was "Plein Air Day" at the Indiana State Fair. I decided to participate, but, since I buy my paint in quarts and pints, I did not have any little tubes of color, so I took some pastels and sheets of paper.

I think in terms of big gestures and can't draw small so drawing the Holstein lying on her straw bed was difficult; no matter what, I couldn't fit her on the paper in front of me. So her head's too big and her body is cramped. I think I truncated her trunk.

At least there's no black on my black and white cow.

Jenna, on the right, rests her head on the back of her stall buddy,
as they doze through the heat of the afternoon
Anyway, I like Jenna. She's my first cow and she seems to be smiling.

Given the sad events that occurred at the Fair last night, all events scheduled for today were cancelled and the grounds were closed. The Fair will reopen tomorrow, August 15, beginning with a memorial service for those lost and injured at 9 AM. While it hasn't been decided whether the concerts scheduled for the coming week will go on, other events will have their dates or sites shifted as needed to accommodate the circumstances.