2014.03.19 Park my carcass in Indy

Indianapolis: a city that really loves its war memorials and seems to have a problem with its overnight guests.

Colleen went to Indy last week for the Public Library Association conference and I joined her Friday because she had convinced two of our children (and two grandchildren) to live with her in her hotel room. 

I-69 suddenly disappears and a visitor from the northeast travels on smaller roads past interesting houses to reach the downtown area. It took 20 minutes, but I was impressed that the Interstate didn't tear through the downtown as it does in most larger cities. The map shows there are some expressways from other directions, but it seems a little less intrusive than other locations. I like that.

My applause ends when it comes to parking garages. It's no fault of the garage owners that so many of them were full. After all, it wasn't just thousands of librarians from across the country. There was also a comic book convention going on, along with some basketball thing.

After encountering FULL signs at garages, I finally found one that let me in and as I was about to take my ticket, I noticed the warning about no overnight parking. It was too late to back up so I went in to find a parking spot in order to ask about my predicament at the pay booth.

Six floors with no vacant spaces other than the dozens and dozens marked as reserved. Finally, on the roof, I parked and took the elevator back down. The attendant confirmed that if I didn't get my car out, it would be locked in until Monday. So back up and back down and back to the pay booth. As I waited for the gate to lift, I heard him say, "That will be $6." 

"Wait a minute," I answered. "I parked, I came down to talk to you, I went back up and drove here and you're going to charge me $6?"

"You have 10 minutes to come in and leave," he said. "I can show you the time right here on your ticket."

It took me 11 minutes. I was not friendly. I might have been a little sarcastic when he handed me my receipt.

I spent nearly an hour in search of parking before one of my kids told me that the hotel valet parking now had some openings. And then the day improved.

Instead of an expressway, Indianapolis has a state park downtown. Wide open spaces. A former highway bridge now used by pedestrians. Remnants of an old canal that was designed to connect with the Erie Canal. A vegetable garden. A water wall. A dirty river.

There were more than thousands of librarians taking over the downtown. Comic book characters from Indiana Comic Con prowled the streets. Children had photos taken with a loud-breathing Darth Vader. 

And then there was the other set of costumes: Thousands of basketball fans dressed in their favorite Big 10 colors. I fit right in since I was wearing my son's old Michigan State Landscape Architecture sweatshirt. Unfortunately, we appeared to be staying at the hotel that served as the base for Wisconsin fans, but we escaped before the MSU win.

When Maddie and I entered the elevator Saturday morning, I immediately spied a trio of bright red Wisconsin fans and I crossed my arms over my chest. Then I noticed there was also a pair of Ohio State shirts and over to the side was some Hawkeye gear. 

"We bought our tickets two months ago when Iowa was ranked 12th in the nation," one of them explained.

A disappointing time for the Hawkeyes, but their fans must have had a great time anyway. Not only could you see super heroes walking the streets, there was a canal that would be dyed green for an early St. Patrick's day celebration and a 5K run that required participants to pause for a beer after each kilometer.

And there was one of our favorite pre-occupations: Go to a restaurant and play Guess the Librarians. I thought it was a good challenge; Maddie thought it was too easy. The clothing is such a give-away, she said, but you never know, it could be some comic book character who is by day a library director and by night some sort of super hero who needs no sleep and fights illiteracy with a single bound.