Category Archives: Back Home Again In Indiana

The Last Waltz of the Mighty Wurlitzer (via Indianapolis Monthly)

Illustration / Christoph Hitz

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Indianapolis Monthly — Over the years, Indianapolis has been home to any number of pizza parlors. But only one had the power to rattle your plates.

If you’re of a certain age, the Paramount Music Palace very likely hosted one of your birthday parties, field trips, grandparent visits, post-football game feasts, tour-bus stops, giant family dinners, or honeymoons. (Seriously, honeymoons. We didn’t believe it at first, either.) For more than a decade, it was the family-friendly belle of the east side, accessibly opulent, affectionately schmaltzy, reasonably priced, filled with kids, and tinged with gold. And though the Paramount had live musicians every night, there was one true star of the show: a massive 1931 Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ that would appear each evening by rising from the floor, rotating with regal splendor. If you were of a certain age back then, there was nothing better in the world.

At the height of the Paramount’s glory days, the Mighty Wurlitzer was simply one of the biggest instruments in the country, and it looked and played the part. “You could feel the bass in the building and in your body,” says Michael Fellenzer, current president of the Central Indiana Chapter of ATOS. “And for me, there was a complexity that was fascinating. One person is making this sound like an orchestra? How?”

That word—how?—was the draw of the place, the question that enraptured kids and grandparents, drawing them back, letting them wonder. How can one machine make that sound? How does one person play it? How do you get something that big in here, anyway? And now, 20 years later, those who loved it way back when might wonder: Where did it go?

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An Actual Indiana Person’s Guide to the Indy 500 (via The Loop/Golf Digest)

Super-quiet

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The Loop / Golf Digest —

What is it?

The Indianapolis 500! It’s Indianapolis’s biggest event, the sports pride of the state (pipe down, Paul George, you know it’s true), and a very good excuse for most of here to sit in 1978-era folding chairs and drink room-temperature Hamm’s cans starting at 7 a.m. on the Lord’s Day.

Is this still a big deal?

WE IN INDIANA WILL HAVE YOU KNOW that the 500 is the Largest One-Day Sporting Event in the World, and also the one attended by the smallest percentage of actual athletes. Last year’s plumb sold out with a crowd that reports pegged around 350,000, which meant that one out of every 1,000 people in the COUNTRY OF AMERICA was chilling inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The complete and helpful Travel Guide over at the Loop.

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How to Host the Andrew Luck Book Club on a Non-$140 Million Budget (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

The Loop / Golf Digest — The Andrew Luck Book Club is, to date, the only consistently active book club captained by a functional NFL quarterback, excepting the one briefly launched by Jim McMahon in 1985. (They mostly read the backs of Van Halen albums.) The Indianapolis Colts QB/only football player on Earth to be regarded favorably as “the team’s librarian” is well-known as one of them fancy readers, and his book club has quietly evolved into a genuine civic joy that promotes literacy and has been adopted by a number of city schools.

The club is currently online, though an audio version is coming to Indianapolis public radio this month. And it’s had the side effect of calming many of our city’s important sports debates about dropping $140 million on this guy. (“A hundred and forty million dollars is ridiculous!” “But ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is a glimmering parable about the magic of youth and bravery YOU SON OF A BITCH” people will yell before throwing pork tenderloins around.)

Regardless, with Luck as inspiration, you might consider taking it a step further and hosting your own in-person book club. If so, a few tips for getting literate in your very own home:

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This Enormous Falling Pierogi Pushed Me Right Off Facebook (via Vice Tonic)

pierogi drop 2017 whiting indiana

Real news.

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Vice / Tonic — If there’s one thing we all know to be true, it’s that we should abandon Facebook now. I knew this. And in all likelihood, you know this.

You can’t swing a dead cat around the internet without bumping it into studies proclaiming how we’re all burning the precious gift of life on a yawning vacuum packed with screaming idiots, masked cries for help from vague sad people we no longer know and whatever our exes are doing, which, surprise, doesn’t help anything. (Science, incidentally, also frowns on swinging dead cats, but I couldn’t find any studies on that.)

So while we all should quit for very good reasons, I ended up quitting, like I do most things, because of pierogies. 

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Two Days Embedded in the World’s Hottest Brickyard (via Indy Monthly)

Brickyard-Vrabel-on-track-667x500

Proud of self for taking this photo and not falling off a moving pickup.

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Indy Monthly — Two things about my experience at this year’s Brickyard 400, held Sunday on the surface of the sun: This was my first NASCAR race (though I’ve seen Cars 4,000 times, which counts), and I was lucky enough to spend it with Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski and his Miller Lite 2 crew. So while I can’t hear a thing anyone is saying right now, I can offer these thoughts from Keselowski’s pit box and Pit Road.

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John Mellencamp’s 10 Greatest Indiana Concerts (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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They come from the cities and they come from the smaller towns.

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Indianapolis Monthly — Ask John Mellencamp fans for memories of his best shows in Indiana, and one thing quickly becomes clear: The guy has performed in a lot of places around here. He has played bars and football stadiums, basketball arenas and fancy theaters, Farm Aids and guerrilla gigs. Regardless of venue, though, the shows have rarely disappointed. “As much praise as he’s gotten, I think he’s still underrated as a live performer,” says Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone who received his Ph.D. in American literature from Indiana University. “I saw him in 1992, and it was just torrid. I don’t think I’d seen John in an arena to that point, and I remember thinking, ‘Boy, he’s not having too much trouble filling up this space.’”

In honor of Mellencamp’s August 4 date at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the final show of a tour that has made a number of Indiana stops already, we compiled a scattered, highly unscientific, and 100 percent debatable list of Mellencamp’s best Hoosier concerts over the past four decades. As you might suspect, the list is culled from minutes and memories, so if yours are different (and they probably are), drop us a line. Here are our choices, presented in chronological order because we can’t really rank them. Well, except for maybe that one.

Read the full list over at Indianapolis Monthly.

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My Son Tends to Vanish Into the Wilderness a Lot (via The Mid)

vanish into the wilderness

JUST KEEP GOING, IT’S NOT LIKE THERE ARE BEARS AROUND HERE OR ANYTHING.

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The Mid — The thing about losing your child in an unfamiliar state park is how it hones your senses. Everything else falls away—everything. The scenery, the green, the humming of the birds, the voices of the other hikers. It all collapses, slips off black edges in your peripheral vision, so your mind and your instincts can focus on one thought, just one crucial thought: When I find him, I am going to kill him. 

I mean, we didn’t lose him lose him, in the sense that he was gone for days, or even hours. It was maybe 40 minutes, tops, although it’s hard to tell because time stands still when you’re tromping through riverbeds and into small valleys and over fallen logs muttering a near-constant torrent of curse words. There were four of us: me, my wife, our effervescent and adventurous 11-year-old and his much wobblier, less calibrated 3-year-old brother. If you’ve ever gone hiking, or walked on a beach, or in a parking lot, or in your house, you know it’s not easy to keep a party of children together, especially one of varying ages. So we came to a spot that required some climbing, and the 11-year-old went first, leaving the three of us behind. And apparently this is where there was some miscommunication: Where we said, “Wait for us at the top,” he heard, “Please wander off alone into the forest, and if you could take the bag with the water bottles, that’d be great.”

(We find him over on The Mid.)

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The Most Expensive Dog Wedding Ever Still Smells Pretty Much Like Kibbles

“You call that modern formalwear, Alfie? Get in your bed! GET!”

GateHouse — The dog we had when I was growing up was an adorable, slobbery wet mop named Cutty, a wonderful companion known mostly for her thick black fur, dragon breath and abysmal bladder control. (Seriously, best dog ever, but if you’d brought one of those hotel room black lights to our downstairs carpet, you would have seen nothing but a minefield of long-dried puddles. If I’d had girls over, it would have been a problem. It was not usually a problem.)

There was a lot to like about Cutty: She could smile on command, which might have actually been angry teeth-baring but whatever it was adorable, she could catch mice (which came in handy when you live in a 400-year-old house in rural Indiana) and she could consume an entire box of 12 chocolate Santas in one sitting, which, incidentally, is not something you want to have happen in a house with light carpeting, if you catch my gloppy drift.

But Cutty, being a dog, did not live a fancy lifestyle. She had one possession in the world, one, not counting the throw pillow in the living room she would occasionally make love to. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the guests were regularly notified, and we had Lysol or whatever.) And that possession was a red rubbery ball that she got seriously growly about if you tried to touch it. OH wait, she also had a red and white dogsweater my Mom made her wear at Christmastime, and every time you put it on her she would give you this look like, “Oh I see that you are trying to get me to run away from home?” So, OK, three possessions. But never, at any point in her 16 years, did she own a $6,000 custom wedding dress.

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Deep-fried fair-food cereal: Can it be worse than regular Trix?

Pictured: Step 5 of the P90X program cycle.

GateHouse — I am not a big eater of fair food, which you can probably tell, because I am not dead.

I am also not a very big rider of fair rides, which you can also tell, for the same reason. There was an annual fair that came through my Indiana hometown every year — it had to, because it was an annual fair, and if carnies are known for anything it’s their strict adherence to contractual obligations — and I would go every year, because it was either that or play fantasy baseball with my friends. And here is this only time this sentence will ever be written anywhere on Earth: The county fair was the much stronger option for possibly meeting girls. (It was also a much better option for eating funnel cakes, which was the far more likely outcome.)

This happened when I was in my teens, in the mid-1930s according to my hair and posture, back when my unformed adolescent body could do things like consume three consecutive funnel cakes without collapsing into a heap of convulsive stomach-clutching. (By contrast, if I eat one whole glazed donut now I must run four miles to destroy the attendant calories, which is hard, as I don’t really have the two hours to spare.)

And it is a DARNED or possible GOLDANGED good thing, too, because if I were a teen hitting up the Lake County Fair now I would have all manner of newfangled (and newdanged!) fair foods to consume while not meeting any girls. (Can I tell you that I have never understood the idea of fair foods anyway, and not just because of my aversion to throwing up into a Crazy Ball game, but because I cannot fathom why, when you’re going to be hitting 8 Gs in a rattletrap spinny contraption that was built in 1956 and contains most of its original rivets, you definitely want your waist parts jammed full of unregulated dough prepared by undocumented gypsies. God the kids are going to LOVE going to the fair with Fun Dad in a few years.)

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On your stupid bracket, Flagrant Foul 7s and THE DOMINANT INDIANA HOOSIERS

GateHouse — A few things about the NCAA tournament, which this year is being attended (and handled nicely, thankyouverymuch) by my Indiana Hoosiers, who have finally returned to the dance following a lengthy recruiting scandal in which the school hired a coach who was previously involved in a recruiting scandal and then came to Indiana and engaged in — this was weird — a recruiting scandal, a development which caused everybody in Indiana to gasp.

When this recruiting scandal happened Indiana — which, interesting story, had spent most of the previous few decades being coached by an overweight cartoon character with a spotty history of winning championships and not-choking people — lost everyone who ever played for them and spent many many years losing basketball games to schools that exist only online, such as the University of Phoenix and some people who met on FarmVille . So this is kind of a big deal, and please excuse my singing of the IU fight song, which is actually a new song, as we lost our original one in a recruiting scandal.

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1. Hey, guys! Guys in the office! Listen, I’m gonna be sitting at my desk this morning, just hanging around doing some work and drinkin’ me some coffee, so is there any way you could hit me up with some talk about how your bracket is doing? Really doing? I don’t mean just stats and wins and losses — those are boring and bourgeois NUMBERS, devoid of LIFE and FEELING and FEELINGS OF SELF-ASSIGNED SUPERIORITY. No no, I want to know how you did it, how you picked nearly 2/3 of your games right, what you were *thinking* EACH TIME.

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