Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Midwest Tour 2006 pt 2 (The Hoosier Strikes Back)

Obligatory Apologetic Note (OAN): Sorry this took so long. I was awaiting photos to add to this post. Here's part two of the trip...

The midwest trip was just starting. The ending of Gay Games was amazing - as was seeing AJ race and win a Silver medal. But we were in Chicago. And though Chicago is most certainly in the midwest, it's a big metropolitan city. One of the biggest in the nation. I love Chicago because it's a perfect blend of big city and down home midwest. It's a larger version of my hometown of St. Louis - the big city sister to where I grew up. But in my mind, the midwest trip wasn't about to start until we left the big city for the more down home towns of Indianapolis and St. Louis.

On Sunday we had brunch and took off for AJ's parent's house. His parents had moved out to the country six or seven years ago from Indianapolis (actually from Speedway - home of the Indy 500 if you want to be exact). They now lived near a lake about 45 minutes outside of Indianapolis proper. This worked to our advantage as we didn't have to drive so long.

The road trip was underway! We had rented a giant SUV which technically fit 8 people (it would have been a tight fit for 8 though) We only had six, people but we had a LOT of luggage. Thank goodness that AJ is so good at TETRIS. He was able to finagle all our luggage into the car and left room for six of us.

I love roadtrips. I mean I REALLY love roadtrips. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe because of the constant scene changes. Maybe because you're being productive (traveling from point a to point b) but you can relax and hang out and talk. Maybe it's because I love listening to music or just chit chatting away my friends. Either way, road trips rock.

The SUV was equipped with Sirius Satellite radio and we had a fun time trying to find the appropriate channel to listen to. Mostly we listened to the 80's station and the 90's station, reliving our high school and college days, though that idea did backfire on occasion (Good God. Is that Hootie and the BlowFish? Turn that channel now!). We stumbled across a channel called THE BLEND which suited us well, as it was rather random mix (blend) of songs and genres. We were really trying to find something by John Cougar Mellancamp (him being from Indiana and all). Sirius really needs a channel called "The Heartland" or "The Midwest" that plays songs by John Mellancamp and Sheryl Crow. That would have been perfect for our trip.

Little known fact #1 - AJ actually taught at a high school (right after he finished his teaching program in Indiana) where John Mellancamp performed for the prom. Go figure.

We did eventually find a John Mellancamp song, by the way (BTW). I can't remember what it was, as all his songs sort of sound the same to me, but I remember that is was not a little dittie about Jack and Diane.

Little known fact #2 - AJ knows all the lyrics to Jack and Diane by heart. It is probably the only non Madonna/Dee-lite song that he knows completely word for word, with inflections and everything. I learned this a couple of years ago, when I made a passing reference to the song and he busted out singing it. Something he NEVER does. I was on the floor laughing. I swore I would make him sing it at karaoke, but we've never been able to find since then.

About an hour outside of Chicago we realized that we were going to drive right through Purdue, Indiana. AJ had gone to Purdue for a semester for Chemical Engineering, before transferring over to Indiana University! So we got a little bonus side trip out of it as well. We got the whirlwind tour of the campus as he pointed out to us the dorm that he lived in, and the buildings he took classes in and the giant football stadium that Purdue had. Apparently football is all the rage in Purdue Indiana. Who knew?

If you look closely at the picture, AJ has a look of resignment and slightly amusement at this side trip down memory lane.

It was about another hour into the trip after Purdue that Rita saw the cornfields.

Rita was SO excited about the cornfields. Actually I think everyone was excited really. Well, maybe not AJ and I - though I think we were excited to see everyone else excited. Rita immediately wanted to pull over and take photos of the corn and us next to the corn. We were on a highway with little or no shoulder. We explained to her that it probably wasn't the best place for us to pull over, perhaps we could do it later - at a better/safer place.

Rita was not down with this suggestion. "What if this is our only opportunity? What if there isn't another cornfield for us to take photos in? This could be our only chance!"

AJ and I explained to her that there would PLENTY of chances to take photos with corn. We were in the midwest. Cornfields make up a good 65% of the driving that we were going to be doing. The rest would probably be soybeans. Unless you are driving through Kansas. Then you'd get fields and fields of sunflowers.

She was not convinced, but she let us drive on.

We later stopped about 15 or 20 minutes later at a side road and took photos with the corn and in the cornfield itself. I don't think I've actually ever done that, so I was amused and excited along with everyone else. Surprisingly the entire group seemed fascinated by the cornfields. I made sure that there was documentation of the two midwest gay boys hanging out with the corn. Who doesn't love corn?

We arrived at AJ's parent's house in about four hours from Chicago. Their house is amazing. His parent's had stayed up for us and we had a late sandwich dinner with german potato salad.

AJ gave everyone a tour of his parent's house. His parent's moved there about seven years ago. The house wasn't originally going to be the house they lived in. They had lived in the city and had bought the land out near the lake for a vacation area. They had hired people to build a simple frame house and for years it was pretty much empty. When AJ's parents retired, his mom and dad decided to move into this lake house and remodel it. Well actually, his dad was to remodel it. His mom gave him a five year deadline, and said if it wasn't done by then, she was hiring professionals. Fast forward five years, and the house was 90% done. Today it's complete and gorgeous. His dad did the ceiling, the floors, the woodwork, the fireplaces, the walls and wall treatments, even the stain glass. It's amazing and beautiful. We got a tour of the outside with the patio area and the bridge and the goldfish pond as well as his workshop.

Of special note was the numerous awards and achievements that AJ received in his prestigious academic career on prominent display at his parent's house . AJ's mom said that she took them all out of storage to show them off to us.

Including in this display was a write up in the local newspaper about winning the academic olympic brain game. Having been to their home in the past, I know that this piece of laminated paper is actually on permanent display.

Yes, my boyfriend is a true nerd.

Then we all crowded in upstairs and moved his mom's collection of dolls aside (she has several hundred dolls...) and had a big slumber party upstairs. We were wiped.

The next day we all piled into the SUV (sans luggage) and AJ's parents got in their van with the boat attached, and we went out to lake to try our luck with waterskiing.

The boat, unfortunately couldn't hold all of us and pull someone to waterski as well, so we had to split up into groups to go waterskiing. But first we all six of us piled in to have a quick tour of the lake. It was super fun hanging out on the boat, as AJ's dad drove around the sparkling water with the wind in our hair. We all felt very glamour Duran Duran circa the RIO video. I just needed feathered hair and an unconstructed white blazer to complete the experience.

I've been waterskiing once in my life before. About four years ago. - with AJ and his parent's in this same boat. After three or four tries I was able to get up then, but I was a bit concerned that it was fluke and that I wouldn't be able to get up this time.

It would have all been fine if I hadn't learned later that his parent's were very impressed with me being able to get up that first time I had gone waterskiing. In their eyes, it was a sign of strength that I was able to get up - AJ's ex wife was never able to get up, and hence they always viewed her as weak. But not I. I got up on my first time out.

The question was...what if I couldn't get up again?

It wasn't a problem. I got up on my first attempt with a problem, and it all came back to me. AJ had borrowed a telescopic lens for his new DSLR and took numerous photos, including ones of me making a spectacular ass of myself as I tried to jump over the wake of the boat (though, to my defense, AJ and Damon and everyone in the boat goaded me into doing it- those bastards).

Note the look of intense concentration on my face as I skiied. Go me.

Damon had some experience waterskiing as well when he was a kid, and was able to get up without a problem. AJ, having grown up going to the lake and waterskiing all his life, blew everyone away, making it look easy breezy. He was jumping the wake and swing back and forth with the ease of an old pro.

The rest of the gang didn't fare so well. They all tried really hard, and were able, at certain points, to get up - but they never stayed up, and I think they often times were so surprised that they got up at all and ended up dropping the pull bar. Everyone seemed extremely sore the next day (okay the people who couldnt' get up seemed extremely sore). It truly was a valiant effort and AJ claims that his parent's no longer think in terms of non-waterskiing people as weak. So they shouldn't be concerned with that. :)

That night his parent's "cooked out" which meant we got barbecue! His dad's barbecue rocked, with a homemade sauce and a slow cooking charcoal grill. They had bought eight 1lb porterhouse steaks, as well as made chicken skewers and a ton of sides. We were hungry after all our waterskiing on the lake and gorged ourselves.

The next day we toured Indianapolis AJ style. We got chance to see one of his childhood houses, and his old high school Ben Davis, as well as the Daycare Center that AJ's parent's used to own and that AJ worked at. (The Daycare Center was called The Kiddie Country Club when his parent's owned it, and was originally going to be spelled out The Kiddie Kountry Klub until AJ pointed out to his parents that when you abbreviate that, it would be KKK. They opted to go with a more traditional spelling.) We ran around the Indy 500 racetrack museum and saw gorgeous race cars (yeah, that's Rita looking fierce in the car at the museum). We got Long's Donuts (an Indiananpolis institution) which is situated in a "rough neighborhood" as his parent's called it (that meant there were people of color who lived there). Their yeast donuts rock - more substantial than Krispy Kreme but not as heavy as Dunkin' Donuts.

One of the highlights of the day (for me), was going to the Indianapolis Art Museum. Not only is it on a gorgeous plot of land with some faboo artwork (note the giant LOVE sculpture that Robert Indiana created which we all took a photo of ourselves climbing all over until the security guard came and told us not to), but it has specific history for AJ. It was the sight that AJ had proposed to his (now) ex-wife. He was a good sport about it finding the specific area that the proposal took place, though it took him a bit of time to find it ("It's over here. No. Wait. I think it's over in the garden area. No, hold on, I thought there was a well around there?"). We found it eventually. Everyone gawked in awe at the site which used to be so important in AJ's former life. Okay I gawked. I think everyone was just slightly amused.

After a day of running around in the hot sun, we drove over to meet up with AJ's sister and his family and then the neighborhood Broad Ripple for dinner with his brother and his daughter. As we parked the SUV, AJ pointed out the bar that he first got drunk in, and where he danced with two or three frat boys - and realized that he really liked it. He came out to his wife two days later.

After dinner with AJ's parent's and his brother Jeff (the rockstar accountant) and his daughter Rachel (AJ's niece), and two of AJ's friends John and Jen, we headed back into the city to drive around the "Circle" which is the center of Indianapolis. It's a beautiful statue/fountain, and we spent some time walking around and taking in the architecture of downtown Indianapolis. Though I've driven around the downtown and the Circle Center (and I've even been in the Circle Mall that is associated with the circle) I've never actually walked around the circle itself and it was pretty nifty.

The next day we had a quick breakfast, and looked at baby photos of AJ (he was ADORABLE!!!!) and then took off for St. Louis! But first we detoured and stopped at Indiana University where AJ showed us the dorm quad that he lived in (it was the "alternative dorm" apparently), the church he went to with his ex-wife, and art museum designed by I.M.Pei, and the buildings where he took classes - and taught classes in when he was TA in graduate school. We ended up sneaking into a classroom and experience a slice of what it would have been like to have AJ for a teacher.

IU has a gorgeous campus, and it was huge. We ate at a great deli that made homemade potato chips. I LOVE homemade chips. They were delish. We also stopped into a gay kitchen supply place (the owner seemed EXTREMELY pleased to see two gay boys in his shop) as well as a cute game shop where we picked up a Killer Bunnies calendar (yes we are obssessed with that game). We then got some coffee and smoothies to go at SOMA, a hip coffeeshop in Bloomington.

SOMA (by the way) is a reference to the drug in Brave New World, and not the neighborhood South of Market in San Francisco.

We also drove by and pointed out two of the three gay bars in Bloomington, Bullwinkles and Uncle Elizabeth's. Bullwinkle's is the gay dance club. If you have been to one gay dance club in the midwest, you have pretty much been to them all. Imagine some lights, a disco ball, a wall of mirrors, and a lot of plywood painted black. You know the club is fancy if it has a television monitors here and there. Bullwinkle's wasn't that fancy. But it was definitely a black plywood sort of club. Nearly every city in the midwest has a variation of the black plywood bar/club. Even San Francisco has a black plywood bar - The Café in the Castro.

Now Uncle Elizabeth's is starter bar, the place that everyone went to early to get a drink at, before they headed over to Bullwinkles (the other gay bar in Bloomington was called "The Other Bar" and from what I understand wasn't really all that happening. I've never been to it). What makes Uncle Elizabeth's special is that it is in a double wide trailer. Life doesn't get better until you've had a drink in a double wide trailer that's been converted to a bar.

My favorite part - the restroom had that rigid plastic accordian curtain/door that I had to pull shut for privacy while I did my business. I never felt so glamorous.

Random Factoid #1: Uncle Elizabeth's is named after the cat in a play called I Remember Mama. There were various incarnations of this play, including a musical version, a feature film, and a spin off television show.

Random Factoid #2: I Remember Mama was once performed at the Ben Davis High School - the high school that AJ attended (Sophmore to Senior Year). AJ was cast and performed as Uncle Chris Halverson in the play. This play is pivotal in his life, as it was the play that he met most of his long standing friends from high school (a group of friend affectionately called "the posse"), including his ex-wife Eve. AJ won "best supporting male" for his portrayal of the patriarch of the family in his high school awards ceremony.

With the Bloomington tour done, we loaded up on IU t-shirts and we were off to my hometown, the Gateway to the West... (more on the way...)


At 12:28 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Hehe I loved the part about how AJ's parents (used to) think non-water skiiers are weak XD

At 1:46 AM, Blogger Rita said...

Ahhh, I love the random factoids, the illustrations, the reliving!

And . . . I feel confident that the next time I waterski, it will be no problem. I could feel it!

I freaked out the one time I saw Damon and AJ just looking at me, from the boat. I couldn't understand how come they could see me. The perspective shift was so strange, I fell.

I wasn't pure enough of heart. I didn't believe.

(That was Emmie's theory on how come only the youngest kids could keep their hula hoops up at our beach party last year!)


At 10:39 AM, Blogger Love_Kitties said...

Corn. Waterskiing. You guys had a blast. It was so good seeing you last week. I LOVE your blog. Oh, and you guys are styling your cool "t"s in the mid-west. I keep thinking about how cool you guys are revamping the fit and all. The only people I know who do that are other designers. Go you. So, what was the web site that I could go and get some of my own cool "t"s?

Started blogging myself yesterday. Check out my page.
Big Hug


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