Category Archives: Indianapolis

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

sunday, 2 february 1992: the perfect day.

Whenever_We_WantedBut the rest of us die,
On your battle fields.
With wounds that fester and bleed,
But never heal

Yeah love and happiness,
Have forgotten our names.
And there’s no value left,
In love and happiness.

That’s a lyric from one of my favorite John Mellencamp songs, Love and Happiness. Just now, my iTunes shuffled its way to a live bootleg I have of Mellencamp circa 1992, which opens with that song. It didn’t take long for the flood of memories to come crashing down.

I saw Mellencamp on that tour at Market Square Arena on 2 February 1992. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

It was a Sunday. I was still in college, living in my parents’ house in South Bend. I was in a long-distance relationship with a girl from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan whom I met on Spring Break the previous March. We kept in touch and I flew up to Marquette to visit her in November 1991. I had a sweet, sweet mullet back then! We were still together, so she decided to fly down and visit me in South Bend for a weekend. It was the same weekend that Mellencamp was playing Indianapolis in a series of hometown shows for the Hoosier-born singer.

People forget, but this Mellencamp album and tour were a pretty big deal back then. He was a major recording artist throughout the 80s. After a string of wildly successful albums—Uh-Huh, The Lonesome Jubilee, Scarecrow and Big Daddy—Mellencamp took a break. He was burnt out. The 1991 release of Whenever We Wanted ushered in a new era for Mellencamp. Not only was he ditching the violins, pseudo-zydeco and country sounds he employed on his previous three albums for rawer rock sound, Whenever We Wanted was the first album he released as John Mellencamp. John Cougar was officially dead and buried.

My ticket to my first Mellencamp show, back in 1992. It was a perfect day.

My ticket to my first Mellencamp show, back in 1992. It was a perfect day.

A Last-Minute Decision.
Being as how it was such a big tour—especially for the Indianapolis dates—demand was high. A co-worker friend of mine at the Olive Garden had tickets for the Sunday night show. Her seats? Behind the stage. She, being a huge Mellencamp fan, wasn’t too thrilled about having to watch the show from behind the stage. Knowing I was going to have a visitor that weekend, I thought it would be a fun surprise for her and I to go see the show, but for the fact that it was a sellout.

A few days after the conversation with the co-worker, I learned an additional Indianapolis show was added to the tour. Upon informing my Mellencamp fan co-worker, I told her I’d buy her tickets for the Feb. 2 show. She agreed. She was able to procure better seats and I was able to take the girl to see Mellencamp. It wasn’t planned, honestly. It was something of a last-minute decision, really.

The Sunday Road Trip.
I remember nearly every single detail of that Sunday road trip to Indy and back. It was a cloudy day and pretty cold outside. No snow was predicted, but winter driving in the Midwest is often a wildcard. I was piloting my first “red sled,” a 1990 Chevy Cavalier. I loved that car, even though it would develop some peculiarities over the next two years before it was destroyed in a car accident. I even remember what I was wearing: blue jeans, brown loafers and a tan, button-down dress shirt, buttoned all the way to the collar (hey, it was a thing back then). Oh yeah, I no longer had the mullet.

On our way out of town, we stopped off to say hi to a buddy of mine who was living through a very bizarre episode of his own that I’ll not get into…but we stopped by, nonetheless. It was a pleasant, albeit brief visit and then we embarked on our journey down U.S. 31-South to Indy.

This was only my third “grown-up” trip to Indy. I recall a summer family vacation where we visited Fort Knox in Kentucky and also swung by Fort Harrison in Indianapolis. Our parents wanted to shop at the PX and the commissary. I distinctly recall the commissary entrance had a pinball machine, a video game and a big cutout of an IndyCar on the wall. Because I was already something of a fan of the Indy 500, I found that wall cutout rather intriguing. I spent a lot of time that day wondering how far away we were from the track (answer: the other side of town). Anyway, back to the story.

En route to Indy for the Mellencamp show, we stopped in Kokomo to get a quick bite to eat—at Denny’s!—before the final push into Indy. I couldn’t tell you what we had to eat, but I do recall turning left out of Denny’s and nearly getting T-boned by oncoming traffic. It was probably not as harrowing as I seemed to think it was, at the time, but I did have an “oh shit!” moment in Kokomo. Who knew this would become the first of MANY “oh shit!” moments I’d have in Kokomo over the years: breakdowns, unruly pets, bad traffic, cops pulling me over…another topic for another day.

Welcome (Back) to the Circle City!
For the most part, the drive was pretty easy, but my anxiety was creeping up as we drew nearer to our destination. It was only my third grown-up visit to Indy. I didn’t know the streets all that well. I knew Market Square Arena was very close to the center of the city, but that was about all I knew. The two previous trips I’d taken there were for basketball games, and I didn’t even drive one of them. In reality, my Indianapolis at the time consisted of Meridian Street, Circle Center and Market Square Arena. That was it. The mere thought of attempting an alternate route down a parallel street was verboten and insane. No thanks. I’ll just sit here in traffic with all the other out-of-town rubes, thank you, very much!

Luckily, downtown Indy is stupid-easy to figure out. I mean, U.S. 31 takes you directly to Monument Circle. I knew MSA was visible from the Circle and we’d figure out parking once we got there. Sure enough, we turned onto Market Street off the Circle and parked in a crappy, little garage about two blocks from the arena.

The Not-So-Madhouse on Market Street.
This was my first concert at MSA. I’d been there twice previous for Pacers games, but never for a concert. Those games and this concert pre-date the mid-90s success of the NBA Pacers, so Market Square Arena wasn’t known for being a very loud building yet. Going to a game at MSA was a rather polite affair; mostly because no one expected much from the Pacers. But this was not a Pacers game. And the crowd was much more attune to the significance of these shows, so the atmosphere was decidedly different. The air was thick with anticipation.

Staring at the Backs of Heads All Night.
I’ll admit I wasn’t crazy about sitting in seats positioned in the exact opposite direction of which way the performers were facing. I wasn’t grumpy about it, but if I had the chance, I would’ve traded up. Nevertheless, our seats weren’t too bad. We were in the upper bowl of Market Square. From our vantage point, we could see the entire stage. We were on the left side, sort of in a corner. Even though I didn’t feel like staring at the backs of heads all night long, I quickly shed that attitude, as the show turned out to be stellar, regardless of your view.

”…We’re Droppin’ Our Bombs in the Southern Hemisphere…”
As the house lights dimmed, the low buzz of the 16,000+ exploded into a roar. Being as how we were seated behind the stage, we could see the band members taking the stage, moving into position. I spotted drummer Kenny Aronoff getting seated behind his kit and I kinda got giddy. Aronoff is one of the best rock drummers out there. He makes everything better. I couldn’t wait to hear him live. What I didn’t expect was Kenny Aronoff opening the show.

From a blacked out stage—the only light in the arena emanating from cigarette lighters (remember that?), Aronoff kickstarted the show with an intense, pounding drum solo that cut through the screams and shouts like a chainsaw. Aronoff took immediate command of the stage and set the tone: we are here to kick your ass.

Aronoff’s drum gave to the rest of the band filling in on the opening chords of Love and Happiness, the first track off Whenever We Wanted. All I remember is they sounded tight. They played with an energy I can’t quite describe; not angry, but locked in. As the band ripped through the opening, a spirited John Mellencamp made his entrance, bouncing and shaking across the stage as the 16,000+ in attendance collectively lost their shit. It was truly a pretty awesome moment.


A Two-Hour Hit Factory.
I went into this show thinking I knew quite a bit of Mellencamp’s material. I’d been a casual fan for a few years. My dad got me American Fool a few years prior, when Hurts So Good and Jack and Diane were very popular. I always liked that album, but it wasn’t a “wow” album for me. Mellencamp’s subsequent albums would change all that for me. He was a mainstay on the radio and on MTV. Mellencamp was also a rarity, earning both critical and commercial success throughout his career. The older I got, the more I understood the message of his music.

Even with all that in mind, I wasn’t prepared for the two-hour hit factory I witnessed at this show: Jack and Diane, Small Town, Paper In Fire (another wow moment), Rain On The Scarecrow, Lonely Old Night, Cherry Bomb, Pink Houses, to name a few…it was simply incredible. The energy, the sound, the intensity…just incredible.

This show was the first time I’d heard a couple songs that have since become favorites: Martha Say and Jackie Brown, the latter of which closed Mellencamp’s first set. I always appreciated the song, but it came off much heavier and darker when he performed it live.

It was also on this night I was introduced to Minutes to Memories. The lyrics have always been rather poignant for me:

Life sweeps away the dreams,
That we have planned.
You are young and you are the future.
So suck it up and tough it out,
And be the best you can.

While experiencing Small Town, Pink Houses and Rain On The Scarecrow live are memorable moments, it was when Mellencamp performed a pissed off rendition of Pop Singer that he became one of my favorite artists. It’s already an angry, cynical song. On this night, the anger was cranked up to 11. I loved that!

Coming into this show, I knew John Mellencamp was a thoughtful artist who, similar to guys like Dylan, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen, he gave voice to people and issues that are often forgotten or marginalized. It wasn’t until after this show I realized the depth of Mellencamp’s commitment. Sure, I knew he was an organizer of Farm Aid, so I knew the cause was important to him. It’s different, though, when you hear the artist telling his stories live. I never heard his music the same way after this night. In that sense, I “got” it.

Mellencamp closed the show with a communal moment. House lights turned on, he led the crowd in a bouncy, whimsical and optimistic Cherry Bomb.

That’s when a sport was a sport,
And groovin’ was groovin’.
Dancing meant everything,
We were young and we were improving.

What a great lyric and a great sentiment to close the show. It captures the essence of that night and, really, it captures that moment in my life.

The Perfect Day.
That girl and I parted ways about a year and a half later. About 2-1/2 years after that 1992 concert, my brother and I moved to Indianapolis. My buddy who was going through his episode? Yeah, that seems like nine lives ago. I don’t know if any of that has anything to do with my memory of the Mellencamp concert, but it all seems somehow relevant, to me.

Twenty-three years later and I still remember the finer details of not just the concert, but so many trivial details about that day. At the time, it felt like the perfect day. Even though we’re all in different places in our lives now, it is still a perfect day. No, I don’t feel a sense that she was “the one that got away.” I seriously doubt she feels that way about me either. Some relationships don’t have to last forever to be special or significant. Sometimes, they just have to carry you from one station to the next and then you both move forward in your lives and you’re both better for the experience you shared. You really can’t improve upon that, can you?

…and days turn to minutes and minutes to memories.

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Filed under concert, Indianapolis, Personal

late yellow flag means nothing; kanaan is worthy champion of 2013 indy 500.

What do you call a guy who wins the Indianapolis 500 under a caution? You call him a champion.

What do you call a guy who wins the 2013 Indianapolis 500 under a caution? You call him a champion.

I know some folks are grumbling about the Indianapolis 500 finishing under a caution flag, but it’s unfair to judge the entire race solely on this one detail. Tony Kanaan will forever be recognized as the 2013 Indy 500 champion. It was a fair finish. It was an earned victory. And, thankfully, it was devoid of any manufactured drama.

Still unconvinced this year’s 500 was cheapened by the late caution flag? Consider this:
* 14 different drivers led for at least one lap
* 68 lead changes during the race
* 28 of the 33 cars were still running at the end
* 25 drivers were on the lead lap with 100 miles to go

No Manufactured Drama, Please
Simply put: this race was still very much up for grabs right up to Lap 200. It wasn’t a parade lap. It didn’t rely on the old NASCAR trick of a mysterious, late caution flag for “debris on the track” as a means to bunch up the field and engineer a closer finish. It also didn’t end via implementation of one of the dumbest rules in racing: extra laps.

The 2013 Indianapolis 500 race results were true to the integrity of the sport.

Still unconvinced? Ask yourself something: How many baseball games have the Yankees won over the years where they didn’t need to rely on Mariano Rivera to close it out? Are those in-the-bag-by-the-7th-inning wins unworthy in your eyes because they weren’t nail biters? I doubt it.

A win is a win. Late penalties, late caution flags, rain-shortened games (or races, for that matter) and late close calls at the plate are a part of the game. Besides, today’s yellow flag/checkered flag finish was only the 15th caution flag finish at the Brickyard since 1940. That’s pretty rare. Not as rare as an Andretti sipping the milk in Victory Lane, but still pretty rare. Yes, that was a cheap shot. Sorry, Mario. And John. And Jeff. And Michael. And Marco.

“Let The Drivers Decide Who Wins”
It’s a similar argument to “let the players decide who wins” in basketball, which is code for “we hate referees and officiating when it’s not convenient to us.” In my estimation, a caution flag on the last lap (or two or three) is just one more variable to consider. A yellow flag at on Lap 198 certainly takes the drama out of the moment, but it doesn’t dampen the results anymore than a yellow at Lap 138.

Yes, we’d all like a duel between drivers coming out of Turn 4, heading to checkered flag, like 2006 and 2011. But grumbling because today’s race did not end in similar fashion is holding this sport to a different standard than other sports.

The top of the Borg-Warner Trophy. Yep, he's nekked!

The top of the Borg-Warner Trophy. Yep, he’s nekked!

Sports, Human Imperfection…and Mother Nature
Sporting events do not exist in a vacuum of perfection. They are human events and are often subject to the not-so-tender mercies of human error and Mother Nature. Speaking of Mother Nature…

Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Dario Franchitti are three-time winners of the Indianapolis 500; an exclusive club with only six members. They are also members of another exclusive club: winners of shortened Indy 500 races. Does the fact that Rutherford won in 1976 having completed only 102 of 200 laps—the shortest Indianapolis 500 race in history—mean his victory is mitigated? Do you regard him, Unser and Franchitti less deserving of being called three-time winners? Should we etch asterisks next to their faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy? Hardly.

I point to these factors because weather-related finishes are just as random and unplanned as a late car accident. Sure, in a perfect world there would be no accidents, every pit stop would be perfect and it’s always sunny and 78° on race day. But that’s the beauty of sports. It’s not perfect. You want perfect? Play with robots.

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Filed under Indianapolis, sports

indy in the month of may.

In 49 other states, it’s the month of May. But in Indiana—Indianapolis, to be precise—it is now THE MONTH OF MAY. I don’t expect you to quite understand it if you aren’t from here or don’t live here. The Month of May (yes, it’s capitalized) is the annual monthlong run-up to The Greatest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500.

The Month of May, I’ve always said, is punctuated by a series of Days. These Days are what Indy 500 fans live for, every Month of May:
* Opening Day
* Pole Day
* Bump Day
* Carb Day
* Race Day

I pity you if these Days require explanation. 🙂

The Yard of Bricks
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is alson known as The Brickyard, because the original track was made of bricks. While the 2.5-mile oval is now paved, a one-yard strip of bricks remains exposed at the start-finish line. While the track is best known for open-wheel racing, it was NASCAR’s Dale Jarrett who began the tradition of race winners kissing the bricks after winning the 1996 Brickyard 400.
wheldon-son-Indy-bricks
Back Home Again in Indiana
rpm_a_nabors_600The traditions around the Month of May are just as beloved in Indianapolis as the race itself. The 500 Festival Mini-Marathon this weekend is the official kickoff to the festivities, followed by several events leading up to the race. Most fans know about the annual 500 Festival parade, but one of my favorite traditions is the remembrance service held at Monument Circle on the Friday before the race. It is a somber event honoring members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The ceremony includes a caisson with a flag-draped casket, a riderless mount and a military flyover to close.

While that is the most meaningful of all Month of May traditions, my favorite is, without question, “our friend” Jim Nabors and his singing of Back Home Again In Indiana. I know it sounds corny, but this is the one tradition that gets me every year. By the time he gets to “When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash,” I know I’m not alone in getting teary-eyed.

That, of course, leads to the five most-famous words in racing:

…and Mario is slowing dowwwwwwwwwwwn.

I’m kidding! It’s actually six words, now: Ladies & Gentleman, Start Your Engines.

It’s Indy in the Month of May. And now you have a little idea of what it means here in Indianapolis.

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welcome back to indianapolis, super bowl!

Will we see LII in 2018?

Word on the street is Indianapolis is winding up for another Super Bowl bid. This is a good thing. This is a great thing. According to a recent Indianapolis Star article, the last one pumped $152 million into the local economy. If all goes according to plan, Indianapolis would host the Super Bowl in 2018 (just in time for Andrew Luck to be in his prime?). Of course, there were local naysayers for the last one and there will be naysayers for this one. I have a two-word response for them that I shall not repeat here.

The reason Indy works so well for large events such as Super Bowls, Final Fours and other major basketball/football games is because our downtown is perfectly suited for it. All the major hotels are within walking distance of both Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium with plenty of bars, restaurants and shopping options along the way. It’s a compact, clean, safe and bustling downtown that is easy for out-of-towners to navigate.

At first blush, people thought Indy was a peculiar choice for one of the largest media events in the world. But the numbers don’t lie. Super Bowl XLVI was won of the most successful in recent years. And best of all, the local businesses reaped major rewards. Well, if you were in downtown Indianapolis, I suppose.

Because there was so much excitement and such a crush of people in the Super Bowl Village along Georgia Street—to say nothing of the popular zip line attraction—the outlying bars and restaurants probably didn’t do as well as they had hoped. I’m sure the hotels were booked solid, but everyone wanted to be in the Village. 2018 planners will have to take that into consideration.

Another factor we can’t count on: weather. It was unseasonably warm this past February. More than likely, that led to the larger crowds.

How will 2018 planners retain the numbers from 2012? I only have a couple suggestions:
1) Spread out the downtown attractions. I think organizers and fans agree it was a great atmosphere downtown, but too crowded. The area needs to widen out by a one or two streets in every direction. It was great to meander through the bars, concerts and throng of people. But no one likes to feel like a sardine.

2) Bring even more “atmosphere” to the street. There needs to be a little bit more to Super Bowl Village. It was fun to wander with brew in hand, but it seems like we could do a little more down there to enhance the experience. I’m not sure what that is, but it needs a little something.

If I’m still living in Indy when we get this Super Bowl (and we will), I intend to be on a committee somewhere. My only personal goal is to get tickets to the Maxim party. Or the Playboy party. Or…well, any party.

Predictions for Super Bowl LII
It will be in Indianapolis. The AFC will win. The halftime show will be a band I’ve never heard before.

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off the market.

I could buy a house right now. No, really. If I saw a house for sale tomorrow that I really, really liked, I could put in an offer and afford the 30-year mortgage. In fact, I’ve been looking lately for a home. Compared to other people my age, I’m sort of late to the home-buying party, but not without good reason. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade wrestling with the question of where do I want to live for the long haul. I’m only slightly closer to the answer in that I’ve narrowed it down to two cities (yes, I currently live in one of them). All I need to do is determine which city will land me as its permanent resident (and that decision is getting easier to make everyday).

While I’m unsure of where said house will be, I am—for the first time in my adult life—at the most financially stable point I’ve ever been. This is not braggadocio. It’s merely a statement of fact that I have finally reached the point I should’ve reached 10 years ago; that harmonic convergence of emotional, financial and professional maturity to be ready to commit to something for more than 12 months at a time…and be able to afford it.

With all this in mind, I’ve made a decision. I will not buy a house. Not tomorrow. Not the day after that. Not next week nor even next month. I will suspend this search for a happy home until 2013.

It has less to do with the two-city quandary than it does strong financial considerations. See, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from dear friends who have bought homes: you’re going to lay out A WHOLE LOTTA CASH when you sign on the dotted line and within a month, something is going to happen that will require you to lay out A WHOLE LOT MORE CASH for repairs/replacement.

Both aspects of this lesson were not foreign to me. I know exactly how many zeroes will be on that check at the time of closing. It’s the “something is going to happen” part that scares me. OK, both parts scare me because I’ve reached a pretty good vantage point in my life where I’m spending and saving money wisely. I’m whittling down some old debt that, once upon a time, threatened my credit and wore around my neck like an albatross.

If I buy a house right now, that albatross ain’t goin’ nowhere anytime soon. Oh sure. I’d be able to afford everything with the house and could probably withstand the first domestic catastrophe. But at what cost?

With that terrifying scenario in mind, I’ve decided it’s best to wait until the new year to really and truly shop for a new home. Why 2013? Two reasons: 1) 13 is my lucky number; and 2) With the exception of my car payment, I will be debt free on 1 January 2013…at least that’s the attainable goal I choose to give all my focus right now.

My concern is if I bifurcate my focus on a home and debt reduction, something’s going to give. And right now, when I can see a faint glimmer of a light at the end of the debt tunnel, I don’t want to compound the matter by switching tracks.

I thought the decision to wait would make me sad, but it’s actually a bit of the opposite. I find it somewhat freeing. I still really want to buy a house, but I’d rather be in a stronger financial position than where I am, currently. And what’s encouraging about that is I’m already in the driver’s seat.

The rest of this year will be motivated by saving as much for a down payment as humanly possible. While I’m dismayed I won’t be able to host an end-of-the-world party on 21 December 2012 as I’d planned, I’m looking forward to having you over in 2013 for a housewarming party.

Will it be held in Las Vegas or Indianapolis? Time will tell.

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Filed under Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Personal

suburban jungle.

I’ve been threatening for the better part of a decade to always have a “go” bag at the ready in my car, in case I feel like splitting town for the weekend without warning. For me, it’s about the drive more than the destination. Point the car in one direction and don’t stop until you feel like it.

Well, I decided on a Plan B tonight: drive around neighborhoods looking at houses I’m considering buying (just one, not all of them).

Plan B was interesting enough, I suppose. It’s nothing I’ve done in the past, so I took to it like a mini adventure. I didn’t set out with a real plan in mind. I was mostly going to see what the neighborhoods were like and if anything good or bad stuck out to me.

The only real takeaway is all the houses I checked out tonight are in neighborhoods NOTHING like where I grew up. Back in Bay City, Michigan, I was raised in a house on a city street across the street from a middle school. It was a nice neighborhood with sidewalks. This was no subdivision. I didn’t grow up on a cul de sac. But all the houses I looked at tonight were either on cul de sacs or just around the corner from one.

These neighborhoods I checked out tonight all have that planned community feel to them; sort of like what we saw in Poltergeist. I’m not knocking them at all. I found it all to be comfortable and relatively quiet. And at least one or two of the houses had potential.

Truth is, I probably need to take someone with me, next time I embark on house hunting. I’m an absolute rookie when it comes to navigating through the suburban jungle. I need some company to hear additional feedback. That means I need to get out there and find a friend.

Eesh. That might be tougher than finding a house.

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