Wednesday, September 03, 2003

More Ripple Blog.

We arrived at the Broad Ripple district of Indianapolis not long before sunset, at the end of a hot day (last Tuesday). A few things were immediately apparent, especially about the street that gives the area its name, Broad Ripple Ave. For one, it's at odds with Indy's street grid, which is more-or-less north-south-east-west. Then there are the pedestrians. A lot of them. Some follow the Monon Trail, which cuts through the area, but most are on the narrow sidewalks. For a block or two, the avenue is alive with walkers, who are strolling among shops, restaurants and bars, which are thick on the ground here.

It isn't that this kind of urban setting is unusual. By turns, I was reminded of other places -- any number of streets in Chicago, Deep Ellum in Dallas, the Drag in Austin, the street that radiates from the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, just to name a few domestic examples. More remarkable was its location in Indianapolis, and the fact that -- as it turns out -- it's one of those places that everyone knows locally, but almost no one from anywhere else does. I certainly didn't, and I've been visiting Indianapolis for years. Guess I wasn't paying attention.

We ate at Mezzaluna, which was stylishly tricked out and offered good Mediterranean fare. It wasn't especially busy, but did seem to be popular with young couples on early dates (early in the relationship, that is). My food was their version of Moroccan chicken, which I think was defined by saffron. But it was one of those dining experiences marred by an inattentive waiter, who would vanish for long stretches. We could only theorize about what he was up to. Perhaps he had to change into another black pair of pants or black shirt after spilling something on them. Or maybe he was working on the design for his new tattoo, sketching ideas on a napkin in the kitchen.

After eating, we took a walk with the rest of the pedestrians. The restaurants were a mix of chains and independents, as were the shops, which largely sold expensive clothes or designer knickknacks. Gail wanted coffee -- she hadn't wanted to wait for the waiter at Mezzaluna to bring it -- so we slipped into the neighborhood Starbuck's, which featured a roaring fireplace, and the air conditioner turned very high.

The clerks were a chipper pair of college girls, and at the end of the transaction, I said, "We're not from around here. Why is Broad Ripple like this? Why is it here?"

They didn't really know, but offered the opinion that it had once been home to "a carnival," and that grew into the distinct of today, somehow. I've done some reading on the area since then, and, though vague, that's as good a theory as any other I've come across.


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