One of the things I like doing as an Indianapolis-area resident is to experience the city as a visitor sometimes. For years, when I lived in northern Indiana, I used to come to Indianapolis for work, and wonder what it would be like to live here. Now that I live here, I wonder what it would be like to be a visitor, seeing the sights of the city that only the visitors see.
My wife and I were all set to do just that, with a weekend stay, courtesy of Downtown Indianapolis. Except she got sick at the last minute, so I ended up taking my 12 year old daughter instead.
Here’s how it went:
We roll up to the Conrad Hotel on Washington and Illinois on Saturday afternoon. Valet parking is a nice touch, because it saves us from having to park across the street and walk over. Valet parking is $35 per night, but it has unlimited in and out. However, we were planning on walking everywhere, since all of our stops were downtown, so we were happy to leave the car for the night.
The rooms in the Conrad are pretty nice. I had to switch the king room to two doubles, which was no problem. We were up on the 17th floor, which had some beautiful views of the city, and the rooms are gorgeous. Everything is very modern and sleek, and has a definite look to it.
My daughter and I laughed about the $5 bottles of Voss water, and I had to remind her not to drink any of them, since I didn’t feel like spending five bucks on something you can get elsewhere for $1. But we also received a couple of bottles of Voss, plus a small fruit plate, from the management, so we got to see what the big deal was (we’re still not sure).
We had a late lunch at the Capital Grille, and decided to not stuff ourselves, so we went with the hamburger. We’re both hamburger aficionados, so we thought this would be a good test. We were not disappointed either. The burgers were thick, moist, and tasted great. We also had the Parmesan fries, which were a nice touch. (It’s just not fancy unless you’ve got shaved Parmesan cheese on it).
After lunch, we walked over to the NCAA Hall of Champions, which is sort of like the NCAA’s Hall of Fame and Educational Center. Not only do they have the Hall of Honor, where they have engraved names of every athlete they have honored each year, but they have displays for all 23 NCAA-sanctioned sports played throughout the country. There’s football and basketball, baseball and soccer, and even fencing and hockey.
My daughter and I had fun finding names we recognized in the Hall of Honor, including Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and some colleges and universities we knew, like my alma mater, Ball State University.
After a couple hours, we headed back to the hotel and hung out in the hotel room, watching TV and resting. We needed the rest because it was so nice out — 38 degrees or so — and we were going to walk to the Phoenix Theater, which was 1.1 miles away.
The play we were going to see was Phoenix star Diane Kondrat’s last play, The Lyons. Kondrat is moving out to Portland, Oregon (which has its own thriving community theater scene). I’ve been a fan of Phoenix for a long time, but haven’t been able to go to many shows. This was going to be the first one in a long time.
“There’s going to be some swearing tonight,” said the woman at the door, looking at my daughter.
“Oh, it’s nothing she hasn’t heard, I’m sure,” I said.
“We just like to warn people. Some people don’t mind, and other people are shocked to hear the language.”
“It’s the Phoenix. Of course they’re going to hear that language,” I said, trying to demonstrate my hipness at being an old Phoenician. She smiled and we walked in.
“There’s going to be some swearing in the show,” said the man at the ticket counter. And the woman taking our tickets.
“Holy f***,” said Ben Lyons, the father of the story.
“Uh oh,” I thought.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, at least as bad as the well-meaning theater people made me think it would be. But there are a couple of words I promised my daughter I would explain “later.” (I just never said when “later” was. I’m hoping she’ll forget.
The show was both a comedy and drama, as Ben Lyons lay in the hospital dying, while his wife, gay son, and alcoholic daughter waited — eagerly? — for the cranky old man to finally die. Later, the son found himself in the same hospital after being beat up by a man he had pursued from afar.
The play was nothing but sniping, griping, whining, and complaining by four very dysfunctional people who probably surprised themselves by dressing themselves each morning without hurling themselves off a tall building. These were awful, awful people.
And it was totally worth going.
After the show ended, I got to have a nice long talk over a slice of Bazbeaux’s pizza with my 12 year old little girl about the importance of family, of love and kindness, and how her mother and I always treat each other with dignity and respect — something the Lyons couldn’t do even when their father was dying of being a complete and utter bastard. (Also, he had cancer, but I think it was the bastard thing that did him in.)
As much as I was worried about the effect the swearing might have on her, I was glad that this gave her an idea that not all families are loving and kind. That not all families got along enough that the fathers would take the daughters along on a travel writing trip.
“Daddy, those people weren’t very nice, were they?”
“No, Sweetie, they weren’t.”
“Because they didn’t love each other, I guess.”
“Did they used to?”
“Maybe at one point, but their lives started being about who was right more, rather than helping the other person do better.”
I saw the wheels turning as we walked back to our room, bellies full of pizza, her head filled with ideas of how life could turn out for some people, and of how her actions today could affect her relationships with her sister, her brother, and her parents, and how ours could do the same thing.
We talked about the play the entire way back, and even as she got into bed and said good night.
She finally fell asleep. We had been walking or sitting for the last nine hours, and she was tired. And we still had another day to go.
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