Bear Down and Get Some Runs, best-of: A walk through Indianapolis

Monument Circle lit at night.
Monument Circle lit at night.

September 21, 2005

Getting used to a new city without the typical school environment to fall back on is something I’m not used to. This isn’t like wandering around Dallas or San Fran or Seattle for a day or two before getting back on the road. We live here. And so today, in an effort to better familiarize myself with the city, I head out of our apartment and walk around downtown Indianapolis.

Despite my suggestions to the contrary during my time in Bloomington, Indianapolis is actually a nice city. It’s no Chicago, mind you—not even in my most unbiased and objective analysis could I say that it is—but it works. It’s a grid city, like Chicago, and our apartment is in a wonderful location. We’re right next to the IUPUI campus, so Meg can ride her bike to class, and we’re about five minutes away from the downtown area. It’s the equivalent of Northwestern being five minutes away from the Sears Tower, but with the atmospheric differences between the two areas in tact.

Indianapolis is called the Circle City; at the center of town, where Meridian Street and Market Street meet, there is a round-about with a large stone war monument in the middle. Along with the Circle Monument, Indianapolis also has the Circle Center Mall that connects four adjacent blocks. Just north of the mall is the RCA Dome, just west of the mall is the Conseco Fieldhouse, and a bit east of the mall is Victory Field, home of the Triple A baseball team, the Indianapolis Indians.

I set out on foot, and as I get into the city it occurs to me that I am now officially a part of it, as I am no longer unemployed. (Sorry Hutch.) I have found freelance work at a well-known weekly paper called NUVO, and my first column appeared in this week’s edition. As a sports fan, I never really dig a guy from a different market with clear biases coming into Chicago to tell me about the Bears or the Bulls. Now I’m that guy, and there’s no way that I’m going to write about my teams in their city, which means that at some point I’ll be writing about their teams in their city, which could mean trouble. For now though, I’m just happy to be writing.

It’s always exciting to know that right now, as we speak, I am in print. To know that at this very moment, someone could be picking up a paper, popping it open, and finding my big smiling face and my words next to it…very cool. And so the first thing I do when I get downtown is go to a NUVO newspaper thing-dingy and grab a copy. I open it up to page 28, and there I am, Bears hat and everything. Beautiful.

But as I peruse NUVO and the other papers, I am hit with a mondo of a story from home: Marshall Field’s has been bought out by Federated Department Stores, and will officially become Macy’s sometime in 2006. The headline: “FIELD’S NO MORE.”

Now I am not a shopper, nor am I a Christmas-enthusiast (though I’m not a detractor, either), and so the Field’s move does not really affect me. But a bit of me finds this news to be rather upsetting, and if a bit of me feels that way, then certainly there will be uproar in Chicago, where the name Marshall Field’s is as synonymous with the city as are “Wrigley,” “Daley,” “Capone,” or “Jordan.” I expect to hear a lot from Chicago shoppers, many of whom will reprise the sentiment of 87-year-old Helena Beadal, who was quoted in the Tribune article: “Macy’s should stay in New York and Field’s should stay in Chicago.” I am sure that this will be the feeling among many Chicagoans; as if it isn’t bad enough to be losing a Chicago icon like Field’s, having it ursurped by a New York icon stings even worse. I call Mom to console her, but she’s at school and not answering, so I call Nana.

“Hi Nana!”

“Oh hi! How’s Indianapolis?”

“It’s good. I’m walking around the city right now, holding a copy of my latest column.”

“I know. Your mother told me. That’s great news. Keep it up!”

“Thanks Nana. Speaking of news, I just read about Marshall Field’s changing to Macy’s.”

Her voice drops a bit. “Yeah…”

“What do you think?”

“It’s too bad.” She lets out a tired groan. “But it really hasn’t been Field’s for a long time now. Marshall Field’s was always about service. ‘Give the lady what she wants.’ But that’s gone. Now it’s just about sales, about money. It’s really not the same place. It’s a shame. I suppose that’s the way things go.”

I continue around the city. The mall, the RCA Dome, the blues bar called the Slippery Noodle which is so heavily adorned with Blues Brothers gear that I have to go in and have a Guinness. Along with an impressive array—and it really is impressive, and an array—of Blues Brothers memoriblia, they have an actual copy of the actual promotional poster that the orphans bring from place to place, the one that Aretha shakes her head at and that Ray Charles hangs upside down. Amazing.

I pass the mall again on my way back towards our place, and as I do I spot a jazzy black man playing a saxophone. I am not familiar with the song he is playing, but I walk by and say hello. He looks at my hat.

“A Bears fan, huh? Alright. I got something for ya.”

And off he goes playing Bear Down.

“Alright! Yeah! I’ve got some money for that!”

He laughs while playing, and I give him a few dollars and sing along as he plays. People cross the street, looking with a curious eye at the saxophone player and the guy singing with him. “Keep it up! Take care.”

“Alright man. God bless.”

I walk away, happy. And then I hear him talking with another passerby, and he begins to play another song, and I recognize it: the Notre Dame fight song.

Anything for a buck.

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