Travelogue ~ Indy Edition – Part 1

So, my son’s gift was a weekend exploring a city of his choice. It had to be less than a 10 hour drive. And it had to be someplace he had never been before. I don’t know what i expected him to pick, but it wasn’t Indianapolis.

Thankfully, i have a couple of friends who have lived there, so i had their advice, plus the usual searches on Trip Adviser, etc. My oldest even helped us out by looking up stuff that might not be on most people’s radar. I took him out of school after lunch so we could get to the city around dinnertime. We sorted ourselves out in the motel and got stoked up for a full day today….


Since there was no breakfast at the motel, we found a local chain place and had a filling, homestyle meal that kept us full til late afternoon. When we were near done with the meal, i asked the first-grade-ish girl at the table beside us if, in her opinion, the zoo was worth a visit. I told her that my guess was she was an expert on the zoo (Her grandparents confirmed my suspicion), and that i would take any advice she was willing to give since we were planning on going there tomorrow. She not only gave us her full-on opinion of the best parts of the zoo, but also told us of a couple other things in the same area that she felt were worth visiting. Yes, this exchange embarrassed my son a little, but later, i reminded him that this is how he learned to form opinions… By being asked to express them.  And far too few adults do that with weedlings. As a result, they grow up to be the types of babblers we saw far too many of in the last year… The ones who shout much, but say little.

After breakfast, we took a bit of a detour from the traditional exploring-101 guide and did something we could have done anywhere… We went to a movie. But my son really  wanted to see this movie, and we didn’t really have a timetable. So we took a couple of hours to see Lego Batman  Truly, i ended up laughing at least as much as he did. The cultural references… Oh my!… Every G and PG bad guy from my lifetime was in there somewhere. Many completely unexpected, irreverent, delightfully gratuitous. We both really enjoyed it. Find a weedling and go see it. Or go without a weedling. I won’t judge you.

The next stop was the Indiana Medical History Museum. This place is well worth a visit if you are in the Indianapolis area. It is the oldest pathology building in the country, a true gem for historians. And it is located on the grounds of an old mental asylum, a true gem for medical people and creepy lovers. Now, some of you know of my fascination with abandoned mental hospitals, and i admit, that was the initial draw for me… But this place really is a historic monument. From the original amphitheater where autopsies and lectures were held, to the pathology room with preserved diseased organs (mostly brains), to the histology, chemistry, and bacteriology labs; there are collections of original equipment, specimens, and documents dating back to the mid-1800s, back when most of mental healthcare was beyond barbaric (Tho this hospital practiced “moral medicine”, meaning that they didn’t succumb to lobotomy fever like so many asylums of the day did.) (Afterthought: Maybe that is why the place doesn’t feel haunted.) The tour guides are very knowledgable. And while the museum seems rather small from the outsides, it is packed to the gills with all manner of interesting tidbits. Do go. Especially if you are medical.

Next was downtown. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art . My son’s tummy was getting rumbly, and their cafe is award-winning (deservedly so), so we enjoyed a late lunch before embarking on a tour of the museum. Bellies full of sandwiches and amazing salads, we began our tour in a room dedicated to western cowboy art. The detail in some of these paintings was remarkable. Horses so painstakingly wrought in oils that you could see individual hairs in their manes. Between the main floor and the upstairs native American exhibits, there was a totem pole – a recreation by a grandson of his grandfather’s finest work. The totem tells the story of a sea monster. In the center of the totem is a figure that instigated this conversation…

My son, regarding the totem carefully, “Ma, that animal in the middle looks like she had too many piña coladas.” He turns facing me, his hands framing his chest. “Do these pineapple rings make my boobs look big???”

To play devil’s advocate, tho it was a stereotypically “boy” statement, the figure really DID look like it was holding pineapple rings…

And as a strange addendum, that section of the totem was called Mother-In-Law. No kidding.

Anyway, the Native American exhibits mostly focused on the local tribes, but i have to say, the outlay of artifacts and art was absorbing. My son, who immediately sought out the sections showcasing the native Canadians was equally enthralled. There is a lot of variety in the arts and crafts on exhibit, and the narratives that go along with the displays are very well done.

On the way out, we stopped at the museum gift shop, where my son fell in love with an overpriced bison replica that he is convinced is made of real fur and needs to be in his Canadian-themed room. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, he would pull it from the bag, smile at it, and make it “kiss” me. He named it Stuart, and it is currently staring at me from the nightstand. I love that, even as a teen, he still has a little bit of that little boy in him. That little bit of sweetness. I hope he keeps it.

After the museum, we walked to Monument Circle. We visited Rocket Fizz, a store dedicated mostly to sodas,  that had everything from nasty “barf” flavored soda to the beloved white birch beer of my youth. We also spent some time admiring the long stretch of motorcycles that had come to hang out. And we had ice cream at The Chocolate Cafe.   We walked for ages, saw some cool shops, talked to some cool people, and generally had a cool time. Well, a warm time, since it was unseasonably spring-like weather today. But still…

Now we are back in our room. My son is already asleep. He was exhausted – whether from the day or my allergy-induced snoring last night, i’m not sure. I’ve a cup of tea balanced precariously on my bloated belly (The black walnut and coffee ice creams in that giant waffle cone were worth it!) And i’m mulling over some things that i learned today:

  1. Mental Healthcare has changed both a lot and not at all in the last 150 years. It makes me sad that few treat it like “real medicine”, and as a result, it doesn’t get the research or funding that it should.
  2. Tho i knew it already, today i was reminded of the differences in Native cultures in the Americas. Many of us, myself included, tend to forget that assuming homogeneity between the Choctaw and the Hopi is like expecting the Turks and the Dutch to be the same. The cultures are very different, and each beautiful in their own right.
  3. Regardless of any differences there might be between my native New England and Indiana, Hoosiers drive exactly like Massholes.(Yes, it’s a word. See? Told ya.)
  4.  If i ever make a totem pole, i must remember to check it for boy humor first.

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