Category Archives: Indiana

monday, 14 may 2007: the decision that changed everything.

000_0459Ten years ago today, I started working for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. At the time I took that job, I told myself it was going to be a major turning point in my career.

I said this because it fulfilled several goals for me:

  1. I wanted to work in a downtown office in a big building (Chamber’s offices were on the 19th floor of Chase Tower, Indiana’s tallest building)
  2. I wanted a job that connected me to the movers and shakers in Indy
  3. I wanted a job that expanded my role and responsibilities

With those three boxes checked, I immediately believed my career and life trajectory would take a drastic turn, thanks to the Chamber opening doors for me. I was only half right. Ten years ago today, my life’s trajectory took a drastic turn. But it never went to where I expected.

I had it all going for me. So why did I leave that job after one year and eight months? “Mid-life crisis,” is how I usually answer that question, jokingly, but it was more than that. So let’s take a look back in time, eh?

This is where the story begins.

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Chase Tower (now called Salesforce Tower). The tallest building in Indiana is smack-dab in the middle of Indianapolis. And I loved working there.

May 2007: Suite 1950
That was (and is) the Indy Chamber’s suite address at Chase Salesforce Tower in downtown Indianapolis. Truly an impressive structure, it is the tallest skyscraper in Indiana. Each day, I would be going to work in the heart of Indianapolis. While some folks hate the Urban Jungle, I love it. “Welcome, Kevin MacDonald” was written on a printed sign, greeting me as I pushed open the glass double doors on my first day. I walked down the hall, past a small cube farm—a cubicle “garden,” if you will—took a right at the Chamber president’s corner office and arrived at my office, about a third the way down the hall. There it was. My own office on the eastern side of 19th floor of the Tower. I felt important. I felt like a bigshot. I really did.

I’ll spare you the day-to-day details of my tenure there because, really, it’ll sound like the goings-on at any office in America.

The reality is my Chamber gig was great. But it was a volatile place. Not in the sense that people were screaming at each other and you’d have to duck a stapler being thrown at you. It was more subtle than that; more understated than that. Turnover there was high, that I recall. I did the math on it once and it was something like nearly 10 people had left over the course of a year or something.

It was a pressure-cooker job, but that didn’t bother me. I loved the Chamber and everything we were trying to accomplish while I worked there. In fact, I am still very loyal to that place. Sure, my frustration with certain elements of the job led me to bang my head against a wall to ease the pain, but isn’t that the same at any job? Truth is, I bought into the Chamber’s mission. It was an organization founded by Col. Eli Lilly to make Indianapolis a better place. That truly meant something to me.

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Riding the elevator to the 19th floor. Clearly, I was a serious man with a serious job.

My All-Time Favorite Chamber Experience
Working for the Chamber also availed be access to the major players in the business community as well as the political community. Even though I was a bit player at the Chamber, I was still privy to knowledge of big doins’ around town. My favorite story is of the city’s successful bid to land Super Bowl XLVI. It was May 2008 when Indy’s host committee presented before the NFL owners. Local businesswoman and past Chamber board chair Cathy Langham was on that committee.

Having met her and spoken with her at several Chamber events in the past, I asked her to call me with the results of the vote. I had a Post-It note with her cell phone number stuck to my computer monitor, in case I didn’t hear from her. She called me immediately following the vote to tell me we won the bid. This moment in my professional history is one of my all-time favorite moments because, for about 10 – 20 seconds, I knew something REALLY BIG before anyone else in Indianapolis knew.

About the time I hung up the phone, I could hear other phones ringing around the offices and cheers of “we got it!” Within minutes, it was breaking news on local television. But for about 10 seconds, thanks to my connection with Cathy, I knew before anyone else.

No, I can’t put that on a résumé, but it represents one of the more unique and interesting aspects of working for the Chamber.

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The road to this place…

About That “Mid-life Crisis”
Yeah, about that. Around the same time I was working at the Chamber, I had another goal, competing with my realized Chamber goals. For those who don’t know me, this particular life goal I’m referencing may seem like it’s out of nowhere. In some ways, it was, but it was what I wanted and in my head, I started to plot and plan for it right around New Year 2008.

What is this life goal? I wanted to be a dice dealer at a resort on the Las Vegas Strip. As a communications manager for the Indy Chamber, I couldn’t have been farther away from that goal. I hadn’t been a dealer since about May 2001. That’s a long hiatus for a job that requires some intense mathematical skill as well as the manual dexterity to not look like an idiot, fumbling cheques all over a dice table. But as the weeks and months went by, the desire to be a dealer again grew with every passing day.

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…would go through this place: Blue Chip floatin’ Casino! Michigan City, Indiana.

Was I burnt out on being a PR monkey? Maybe, but as my fire for communications seemed to be fading, I became more and more in love with the idea of being a Vegas dealer for a few, simple reasons: I could make decent money at a job that was stress-free (by comparison) and never required me to work extra hours from home. I could go to work, do my job, then go home and not think about it until my next shift. That seemed so desirable at the time. It really did.

Of course, that also meant bidding adieu to my favorite side hustle of all time: PA announcer for the IUPUI Jaguars athletics program. I had just wrapped up seven-ish seasons of working the mic for every men’s and women’s home basketball game (save one, when a flat tire sidelined me), a few softball games and most of the men’s and women’s soccer matches. At the time, I thought this was the end of my era. So did they. The good people of IUPUI even honored me at the final home game of the 2007 season with a plaque in recognition of my time there. It was humbling, but nice to be appreciated. Sure, at the time, we all thought that was the end of the road for me. But I pulled a Jordan (or a Magic, or a KISS) and came out of retirement when I got back to Indy in 2010, working another three years or so before officially retiring. No, they did not give me a plaque this time, but we parted on positive terms.

Welcome Back!
As for becoming a Vegas dice dealer, I knew I couldn’t simply pack my life into my Blazer and skip across country on a lark. For one, the casinos have gone corporate. They no longer will take an audition from someone in black-and-whites who wanders in, just because you asked. And two, I hadn’t dealt in seven years at that point. I had to “get my dealing hands back,” as I told people.

To do that, I turned to an old friend: Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana. I worked there for about a year and a half in between my job at IU South Bend and IUPUI. Blue Chip welcomed me back with open arms, offering me full-time employment as a dice dealer on the graveyard shift. I took it. I still remember taking the phone call from John, the shift manager, when he offered me the job. “We want you to come back,” he said on the phone. It sounds corny, but that meant something to me, hearing that. It felt good to know I was appreciated (well, before I got on a live dice game again, at least).

Amidst several familiar faces and many more new ones, I made my return to the gaming floor over Fourth of July weekend 2008. My very first shift was all blackjack, highlighted by getting stuck on a table for the first 2-1/2 hours of my night, thanks to a shift manager who had forgotten about my table. “Welcome back!” he said, once alerted to the problem. That guy’s in prison now (for other reasons we don’t need to discuss).

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My Chamber office. One of the coolest offices I’ll ever have.

Meanwhile, Back at the Chamber
The good people at the Chamber allowed me to work part-time, remotely for a few months. Initially, the arrangement was…well, let’s be honest: it was a struggle for everyone. Working a graveyard shift meant I was trying to do Chamber work when I should’ve been sleeping. I ended up taking projects to the casino with me and writing news releases, newsletter articles and whatnot during my 20-minute breaks. It was hard for everyone involved; harder than they wanted to say (until it had to be said).

I made my way to Indianapolis about once a week or so to check in at the office. But by the time we reached October, it was clear this was no longer working. At the time, it was hard to admit that. But it was the simple truth. I couldn’t be in two places at once—mentally or physically—so I had to make a decision. By the time Halloween 2008 rolled around, I was no longer working at the Chamber.

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Employee #040776 at Wynn Resorts.

By November of the following year, I relocated to Las Vegas and was working as a dice dealer at the Wynn and Encore; the finest resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

I walked away from one goal to pursue another goal. And got it within 18 months.

Mission accomplished and they all lived happily ever after, right? If only…

Oh Yeah…There’s More
What I didn’t tell you is, in the midst of all this mid-life crisis nonsense was, of course, a girrrrrl. I know, I know. Cliché, no?

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On a break in the EDR (employee dining room) during a shift at the Encore.

We met while I was working at the Chamber and started going out. It was going very well until you-know-who decided he had to run off and join the circus and that was more important. Yeah, tell me THAT goes over well with the ladies, am I right? “Sorry, honey. You’re great an all, but I wanna go to a place where I’ll be surrounded by degenerate gamblers, hookers, endless smoking and drinking and all manner of social addictions. Gottagobyeeeeee!” I’m a real charmer, I know.

Out of respect for her, I will not share the details of our conflicts beyond simply saying it didn’t work out. That’s all that needs to be said. I’ll simply say that decision of mine set off a three-year, off-and-on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-living-together rollercoaster ride of a relationship that never settled into a good place for either of us.

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My first Las Vegas apartment, just as I was moving out. And yes, that’s about as furnished as it ever got.

Our relationship played heavily into my decision to move back to Indiana from Las Vegas in March 2010—not even five months after moving to Vegas. The other major reason was the economy. I was the low man on the totem pole at work and getting very few shifts. There was also a rising sense that I made the jump too soon. Sure, in my heart, I was ready to go to Vegas. But from a rational standpoint, I probably needed a little more time so I could establish myself. The struggle to stay afloat seemed too daunting and, given what the heart wanted at the time, it seemed best to pack up and move back to Indiana. Even though my employment prospects were pretty bleak in that moment, I knew I was coming home to the love and support of family, friends and The Girl.

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On the road back to Indiana, late-March 2009. Gassing up somewhere in America in the middle of the night. I was broke. My car was broke. It was nothing short of an adventure.

We all lived happily ever after, right? Well…fast forward 10 years later, Sunday, 14 May 2017 and here I am. Living in Las Vegas.

Again.

How did that happen? I’ll save the rest of the intervening years (2010 – present) for another day. It’s an interesting story by itself, but let’s stay focused on my 10-year anniversary of going to work for the Chamber. There’s good reason I want to do that.

The Fulcrum
Even though the jump from the Chamber to Blue Chip in 2008 feels like the turning point for everything that followed, it was really my decision to work for the Chamber in 2007 that served as the true fulcrum; the actual jumping-off point of every life decision I would make to follow. Without my move to the Chamber, none the dominoes that fell to put me where I am today—and where I’ve been over the past 10 years—would’ve have fallen the same way. Again, goes back to that “trajectory” thing. Moving to the Chamber set the course.

My stint with the Chamber has also cast a long shadow over the past 10 years of my life; mostly in a good way. Other times, not so much. Either way, I embrace it all. Sure, there were a few more bumps in the road than I would’ve preferred, but that’s life, man. There will always be bumps in the road. How you navigate over them and around is what matters.

There is no moral to this story; no fairytale ending or any of that crap. It’s a simple reflection on a moment in time in a series of moments in time that proved more pivotal than I ever anticipated. I thought I was just taking a new job that would advance my career. It turned out to be so much more than that.

As I sit here, less than a month away from embarking on a new professional journey, I can’t help but consider the parallels between then and now. Just as I did 10 years ago, I approach my unwritten future with excitement and happiness.

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Somehow, I ended up back in Vegas. Go figure.

How Did I Get Here?
There are mornings when I’m driving to work and I catch myself admiring the mountains in the distance that surround Las Vegas. I’ll turn off NPR and drive in silence, appreciating the Sheep Range mountains to the north, which loom over my morning commute, every Monday thru Friday.

I’ll look across the skyline to the east and trace the outline of iconic Las Vegas Strip resorts—the Stratosphere, standing tall like a needle in the desert; the Wynn, like a piece of shiny, curved glass, gleaming in the sun; the High Roller, slowly rotating like a giant bicycle wheel. As I approach downtown, I laugh at the fact that I’ve passed no less than five local casinos to get to work…and lament that I have to drive directly into a tangle of highways colloquially known by locals as “The Spaghetti Bowl.”

I allow myself to appreciate the scenery, the weather, the gigantic tourist attraction that pays my taxes (thank you, tourists!) and another day of drawing breath, and I ask myself, “how the hell did I get here?”

The answer: it all started on Monday, the 14th of May, 2007, when I went to work for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce…

Sure, the last four or five years have been every bit the roller coaster as that 2007 – 12 stretch, but we’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I will never stop appreciating everything—and the support of everyone—that led me to this moment.

Even the bumps along the way.

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Filed under Indiana, Indianapolis, IUPUI Jaguars, Las Vegas, Life, Personal

indiana republicans – 1; indiana democrats – 0.

A couple weeks ago, the CEO for Angie’s List came out loud and strong against the passage and signing of Indiana’s new, so-called “religious freedom” act. The Indianapolis-based company took a position alongside several other large corporations in voicing opposition to the bill, which many argued provided legal cover to discriminate against people, based upon sexual orientation.

Former Angie's List CEO is testing the waters to possibly give Indiana governor Mike Pence a primary challenge.

Former Angie’s List CEO is testing the waters to possibly give Indiana governor Mike Pence a primary challenge.

In the weeks since all the hullaballoo, that Angie’s List CEO, William Oesterle, hasn’t given up his fight against the supermajority of Republicans in Indiana and its (in over his head) Republican governor Mike Pence. Oesterle feels the “fix” to the RFRA legislation did not go far enough and has continued his fight. He stepped down as Angie’s List’s CEO and is now eyeing a run for governor. Did we mention Oesterle is a Republican? In fact, Oesterle was a staffer to former Indiana governor and Republican darling Mitch Daniels.

Already, there are rumblings from the right that Oesterle stands no chance in Indiana by ignoring the social conservatives in Indiana. But here’s my question: where the hell are the Democrats?

Once again, Indiana’s Democratic Party can’t seem to organize a carwash. Here is one of the biggest political bombshells dropped in state politics anywhere and all the state Democrats have been able to muster are a few emails soliciting donations and a rally at the Statehouse. That’s all fine and good, but what they failed to do was show any level of leadership. They failed to capitalize on the momentum in a way that puts a face to their agenda the same way as Oesterle. Ideas don’t win elections. People win elections.

It is not hyperbole to say Mike Pence’s political career is going up in flames. According to Howey Politics Indiana, Pence’s approval rating dropped from 62 percent in February to 45 percent this month. His disapproval rating shot up to 46 percent. By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents of the same poll also said the RFRA bill was not needed. Seems voters were willing to forgive Pence for his previous boneheaded moves as governor, but the unneeded RFRA legislation (after ignoring virtually everyone outside his bubble) has proven to be a bridge too fare; even for Republican voters.

What have the Democrats done with this? Nothing. That sound you hear is nothing but crickets chirping through the night. Who’s stepping forth as the person who will unseat Mike Pence in 2016? No one. Well, no one from the opposition party—whose Indiana General Assembly members could caucus in a phone booth, thanks to tanking in the last three election cycles (and showing no signs of getting out of its own death spiral in the upcoming election).

But who did step up to give a voice and a face to opposition to Mike Pence and opposition to social conservatism? A Republican.

Could Oesterle actually stage a successful insurrection and knock off a wobbly, incumbent? Don’t be surprised if he does. After all, this is a state where social conservatives rallied behind Richard Mourdock and defeated popular and longstanding Republican senator Richard Lugar. It could most certainly happen if enough independents and Democrats choose to vote on a Republican ballot in the state’s primary election, but that’s a long way down the road.

Pence better hope Hillary has a legitimate challenger in her White House bid, otherwise state Democrats will have little reason to not vote on a Republican ballot in the primary…if they want to be rabble rousers.

Indiana’s Democratic Party needs to get in the ring for 2016. It’s only been a few weeks since the RFRA debacle and they’re already losing ground to Republicans. Again. The sad reality is, until Democrats put forth candidates the people can identify, identify with and can support, Republicans will continue to eat their lunch.

Time for Democrats to get hungry and steal it back.

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Filed under analysis, Indiana, Indiana General Assembly, politics

in defense of south bend schools & their decision to focus on african-american student success.

South Bend Community School Corporation made some national news this week that caused a minor controversy.

From the Yay-hoo story:

An Indiana school is giving third graders an inspiring early look at higher education with a series of field trips to local colleges — but the excursions are for black students only, which has angered some district parents.

“I just think it breeds intolerance and creates misunderstandings,” said parent Kelley Garing, speaking to KTRK regarding the field trips at the South Bend Community School Corporation. “It creates a divide.”

The series of trips — for black third graders in seven district primary schools — began Thursday with a visit to Ivy Tech, a community college. They’re the brainchild of David Moss, director for African-American student-parent services with the district, who tells KTRK that the trips aim to set a much-needed good example for the students. Read more

I admit my initial reaction to this story was raised eyebrows and general disappointment with South Bend Community School Corporation leadership for allowing a field trip for one group of kids while leaving the others behind. But then I listened to what SBCSC’s David Moss had to say in defense of this program. It doesn’t take long to see this initiative wasn’t just pulled out of a hat. The school corporation didn’t make this decision hastily. I’ll admit it may have been poorly executed, but the motivation for focusing on their African-American students comes down to a data-based decision.

Why would school administrators develop a program giving African-American kids additional consideration? It requires a careful examination of the student population, broken down across ethnic lines. I understand this is a sensitive issue for many, but I assure you it’s important to this story. For example, nearly 20,000 kids were enrolled in SBCSC schools in 2011. Caucasian students represented the largest segment of students at 38 percent. African-Americans were the second largest, at 34 percent. While those two groups are close to even in terms of size, their outcomes are uneven.

While 16.5 percent of white students in the school system took the AP exam in 2011—a test to potentially earn college course credit—less than 5 percent of African-American kids attempted it.

College enrollment numbers are even more stark. Last year, Indiana University’s freshman enrollment was only 7.2 percent African-American, significantly lower than the state’s 13 percent African-American population. By comparison, that state’s population is about 77 percent white. How many white kids enrolled at IU last year? 74.9 percent.

Sure, on the surface, this story looks shocking to some. It’s created some emotional responses. That’s understandable, because third graders don’t understand any of this. They just want to go on field trips. But SBCSC officials addressed a very serious problem in their schools because the data simply demands the attention. It’s no different than how business owners make decisions. Of course, if only it were that simple, but it’s not.

I can’t necessarily defend the program, because it does separate third graders and, in their minds, it may seem like the white kids are being ignored. But it’s important to realize Moss and SBCSC were looking at a serious lack of achievement among a large population within their schools and developed measures to tackle it. Sure, the execution could’ve been better, but let’s not call it “discrimination.” Let’s not retire to our tired, exhausting ‘us vs. them’ polarities that will ultimately lead to nowhere.

Should the school corporation modify this program to be more inclusive? That would be prudent, but it must not be ignored that their African-American student population is far behind in terms of achievement. Continuing to develop programs and measures to instill a sense of urgency and value in academic success is critical. Education is and always will be a primary key to success.

It’s both commendable and smart that South Bend school administrators are choosing to tackle this problem with students at a very young age. That being said, I also understand the complexities and socioeconomic differences with regard to race and culture. I am sensitive to the racial component here—sensitive to both sides of it—and I do believe a policy of wider inclusion for children is critical. Even though the children’s best interest is at the heart of these decisions, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.

But that doesn’t mean developing specific academic plans and programs based upon data is a bad thing. In fact, it’s a slightly revolutionary idea for public schools. As much as we want to believe one size fits all, the statistics tell a story that shows children in the black community do not advance onto college as often as white children.

Certainly, you and I may object to third graders being divided along racial lines. But let’s at least acknowledge South Bend schools administrators were not being arbitrary here. This was not a knee-jerk response from Moss and others. The data shows a clear need in this segment of the population. Addressing this need also impacts the entire community. The more educated a community’s population, the crime rate lowers, the employee market is more robust and more money flows into the local economy. The tax base also grows, allowing local governments greater opportunity to improve the community. Education is the rising tide that lifts all boats, even if you don’t realize it.

Give credit where credit is due: David Moss is addressing a very serious, almost crisis-like situation in South Bend schools. He and others in that community are trying to shift the paradigm to make kids from underprivileged communities realize their full potential through education. Sure, this program for third graders needs a tweak or two, but let’s not reflexively curse the efforts out of hand.

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Filed under analysis, college, education, Indiana, opinion, south bend

day 194: the day i went back (but only for a visit).

It was a short trip. It was a mostly unplanned trip; or, perhaps, a better way to describe it is it was a redirected trip. On Friday, day 194 since I moved to Las Vegas, I made my first trip back to the Midwest.

When I originally scheduled the trip, it was to attend a wedding with a girl from Michigan whom I was dating at the time. However, about two months ago, the girl decided “this isn’t going to work” and that was that. I suppose it’s self evident that I am no longer invited to her brother’s wedding, right? Rather than reschedule, I decided to fly back to Michigan anyway. After all, I hadn’t seen my brother in Bay City in six months. I hadn’t seen my mother in South Bend in six months. I decided to use this as a brief—very brief!—visit with family. And, to be honest, I sort of needed it.

I’ve been getting a little homesick lately. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy living in Las Vegas, but it’s tough to be so far away from family, sometimes; especially considering my grandmother died not too long after I moved and I was ordered to not come back for the funeral. Who gave that order? My grandmother. With the rest of the family’s blessing, I honored her wishes, but it wasn’t easy.

This weekend visit was a whirlwind. I was in Michigan for 22 hours (about two of them at the airport when I landed in Flint, which is a funny story I’ll tell another time). I spent Friday night with my brother and his buddy, Al, hanging out at Stretch’s Curve bar on the west side. I always enjoy going out to bars in Bay City because they’re always great, little dives. The people are friendly, the drinks are inexpensive and unpretentious and the decor is…well, put it this way: every bar in Bay City reminds me of the Warsaw on The Drew Carey Show.

My mother drove up to Bay City on Saturday with her little dog, Clover. We all spent the day house hunting with my mother, which was more fun than I expected. We didn’t take Clover with us. She stayed at my brother’s house. I think she was mad at me for moving away . It took her awhile to warm up to me.

My mom and I drove back to South Bend after house hunting and relaxed at her house. It was truly relaxing to lounge at her house for the night; almost too relaxing. I laid down on a love seat at 9 p.m. and fell dead asleep. I had thought about taking a drive around town just to see some old haunts, but I guess I was exhausted. I woke up in a pitch-dark room and struggled to get my sea legs. “It’s probably about 11, so maybe I’ll still hop in the car and take a ride,” I said to myself. And then I looked at the clock. It was 5 a.m. I was out cold for nearly six hours. That NEVER happens. I guess I needed the sleep. I guess I was happy to be back in South Bend.

Sunday morning was like so many other Sunday mornings in South Bend. I had a couple cups of coffee and then my mother and I went to Sam’s Club to buy salt for her water softener. We did brunch at Golden Corral (where I ate my weight in pulled pork) and then, about an hour later, my mother drove me to the airport and I came home.

The weirdest part of this trip: when I was at my mother’s house, I felt like I was never gone. Like the past six months didn’t even happen. Like it was all a blur, a dream or something. I don’t know how to explain it, but I was really “back home” for the day.

It’s nice to be back home now, in Vegas. I’ll probably head back to the Midwest in the fall or winter for a holiday (and spend more than 36 hours there!). It was bittersweet this time around, really. I loved visiting with people and being back in the Midwest, but I wasn’t there long enough to really enjoy it as much as I’d like.

A few errant observations from this trip:

Adventures in Flying.
Southwest Airlines was a great ride, although they really do cram us into their jets like sardines. But they made up for it with complimentary soft drinks and free TV on your iPad. Cute flight attendant, too, so there’s that. 🙂

Allegiant Air, on the way home, was also a comfortable ride. I like their seats just a little bit more than Southwest’s. I didn’t feel as crammed in (Kramden?).

What in the hell is up with people who try to bum rush from the back of the plane, cutting in front of people, so they can be the first one’s off the plane? Seriously, this is rude, awful behavior. And don’t try and tell me they were trying to catch a connecting flight. I saw this woman start making a move and thought she was going to cut in front of me (I was in 4C). Uh-uh. I’m having NONE of this, today, sister! So I halted her progress. She got no farther than Row 5. You’re welcome, rows three and four.

And this lady who was in such a hurry? Slowest damn walker in the terminal!

TSA’s New Testament
Getting through security at McCarran Airport is one part cattle stampede, two parts switchback lines and a healthy dollop of Charlie Foxtrot.

Usually. But it would appear the good people who run security at McCarran are following the new book, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The day I flew, passengers were not required to remove their belts and shoes. Talk about a pleasant surprise! Not sure if the changes are permanent, but on this day, at the very least, we were partying like it was 1995!

Sadly, it was not the same at Michiana Regional Airport. We were still mandated to dance barefoot (and nearly pantsless, for some of us without a belt!) before entering their peepshow booth and being inspected by some 20-something with a badge and a 22-inch waist (to go with his 22-inch chest). Apparently, South Bend’s airport observes TSA’s Old Testament. It’s so humiliating.

And no, I do not hate freedom, asshole. I believe in security measures. I simply believe in being smart about it.

One More Thing
I got on a scale for the first time in nearly six months and have lost 10 lbs. The most humbling part of it is, though, no one noticed. Translation: you’ve got more work ahead of you, boy. Get your ass on that treadmill!

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Filed under bay city, Indiana, michigan, Personal, Travel

…welcome to elwood, indiana.

Because I enjoyed wandering Indiana via two-lane roads through small-town America a few weeks ago, I decided to do it again Friday. I’d say it was interesting and fun for the first half, then somewhat exhausting for the second half. The reason it felt like a chore in the second half is simple: I turned a 2-1/2 hour drive into a four-hour battle of wits with the open road. Nevertheless, I found it enjoyable to trek through Indiana towns with names like Elwood, Lapel, Leisure (yes, Leisure!). Towns like Hardscrabble and Swayzee, which bills itself as “the only Swayzee in the world!” Seriously, that was on a billboard on my way into town. How can you not appreciate that sort of pride from a town of fewer than 1,000 residents?

Even getting out of Indianapolis let me on a journey through a neighboring town—it was Fortville, I think—that reminded me of my hometown, Bay City, Michigan. It was like I found a portal to Midland Street in the middle of Indiana. While passing through Elwood, I marveled at its cleanliness and warm, inviting nature. I marveled at its local chamber of commerce, in a rather plain and dated looking storefront. I was taken by the fact that all the streets were named after letters of the alphabet. I also appreciated the furniture salesman in Elwood who waved at me while I was sitting at a stop light in his town. Indeed, Elwood was a bit of a gem for me.

Admittedly, I didn’t spend a great deal of time exploring these small towns and burgs. That’s something I need to remedy. I’d like to take a weekend driving trip where I can have breakfast at a local diner in one of these places. I’d like to take in some of the local flavor, whatever that may be.

The latter half of the excursion was challenging because of detours and fatigue. But even with these delays, the best drive from Indy to South Bend pales in comparison to a few hours ambling about the state on its back roads.

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Filed under Indiana

the road less traveled.

For as long as I’ve had a driver’s license, one of my favorite ways to clear my head is to get out and take a drive. Perhaps it was ingrained in me at a young age by my parents. Our vacations were always by car. My dad also liked to find the road less traveled when driving from point A to point B. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that taking a long drive is something I enjoy; especially when you consider I’ve driven to Florida, Kansas City, Denver (twice) and Las Vegas…and back. I guess it’s just part of my DNA. And I also get bored with the same routes.

That boredom led me to take a couple different paths to and from South Bend this weekend. The roundtrip drive to South Bend from Indianapolis is a pretty monotonous one: get on US-31. Stay on US-31. Try not to get frustrated by the 30 traffic lights in Kokomo.

So, Friday after work, I hit the road for South Bend but I chose the road less traveled. I took IN-141 north, which connected to 29 north—a stretch of two-lane highway through tiny burgs and towns I bet even lifelong Hoosiers have never seen. It refreshing…and somewhat depressing.

I went through places like Michigantown, Burlington and Wheeling (which is a stone’s throw from Young America). The acres and acres of farmland stretch as far as the eye can see. While you won’t see the Golden Arches anywhere in these communities, you will see boarded-up businesses, dilapidated houses and remnants of what used to be quaint, self-sufficient little towns.

I crossed the Eel River in Logansport; a menacing, unforgiving body of water that moves swiftly through town. I doubt you’ll see jet skis zipping along this portion of the Eel. Its brown, choppy waters flank ominous-looking industrial mills in the town’s center that look like something out of an Upton Sinclair novel.

On the way back to Indy, I ambled through Mishawaka (just east of South Bend) on 331. En route to Bremen and, eventually, Bourbon, my journey was met by horse-drawn buggies carrying locals from an Amish community as well as the requisite farmland and one-light towns that appear to still remain closed on Sundays.

While I resisted the temptation to look upon these small towns and villages like a condescending, big-city jackass, I couldn’t help but appreciate seeing something besides Super 8 Motels, Shell gas stations and McDonald’s drive-thrus. I hope my future travels down these forgotten roads leads me to a local diner or greasy spoon where a guy can get a Coke and a pork tenderloin. No, not because this is some sort of petting zoo for me, but because it’s fun to meet folks from different walks of life and marvel at our differences and our similarities.

The road less traveled is one I’ll be traveling more often.

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Filed under Indiana, Personal

for the love of a smoking ban in indiana.

I don’t smoke. With the exception of two weeks in college and the occasional cigar—the last of which I smoked more than a year ago—I am happy I never took up the habit. I’ve always found cigarette smoking to be a disgusting, smelly, joyless habit. But if you choose to smoke, it’s cool. Do your thing. Live and let live. But I will always be in favor of smoking bans in places such as bars, restaurants, ball parks, etc.

Spare me the “infringement of rights” argument. State, local and federal governments routinely place restrictions around legal behavior. Just because you are licensed to drive a car doesn’t mean you can drive on sidewalks, exceed speed limits and ignore traffic laws. If you are 21 or over, you may drink alcohol, but you have to adhere to whatever local laws govern you; even if those laws are as absurd as Indiana’s archaic blue laws.

Spare me the “let the business owner decide” argument. Possessing a license to sell a product and employ a staff does not give the sainted business owner carte blanch to flout minimum wage laws, health standards or OSHA regulations.

Give me an example where people are allowed to expel toxins and poisonous, disease-inducing gases into the environment. That is what a person smoking cigarettes does in a bar, or restaurant or a ball park. They are exposing you, me and everyone else to poison.

Precedent aside in states other than Indiana, I look to smokers themselves as a perfect example of why it’s time to ban smoking in bars and other public places. Next time you’re sitting at a traffic light, look around at the other drivers and pick out the smokers. It’s easy to do. They’re the ones sitting in cars with the driver’s side window rolled down (regardless of snow or rain or sleet) with their left arms hanging out the window with a lit cigarette perched between their fingers. The only time the cigarette is in the car is when the driver takes a drag. As soon as he or she is done inhaling, that cigarette-in-hand goes back out the window, as does the secondhand smoke…for all of us to enjoy, I guess. And when that driver is done smoking the cigarette, where does it end up? Bouncing across the pavement. Even smokers themselves don’t want to be around their own cigarette smoke! Yet when we say we don’t either, they call it a right? Yeah, right.

Of course, this example is not each and every smoker in the world. But it occurs often enough to lead to the conclusion that smokers, by and large, have an inflated sense of entitlement about their cancerous habit.

It wouldn’t be a problem with me if:
a) There was no such thing as secondhand smoke
b) Smokers were more conscientious about their surroundings and those who inhabit it
c) Smokers didn’t treat the entire world like their own, personal ashtrays

But all of the above are simply not realistic. And, sadly, neither is expecting the Indiana General Assembly to be bold leaders. I guess, in the interim, we are stuck dodging clouds of poison in the air and hurled cigarette butts on the highway. As long as your “right” to pollute with impunity goes unfettered, eh, smokers?

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Filed under Indiana, Indiana General Assembly, opinion