When I do get around, I write about it. If you want to read exclusively about my visits to United States presidential sites, you can do that over here.

Travel: Indiana

If there's a great injustice on this website, it's that I didn't take more pictures of the Dan Quayle museum in Indiana. Really, it's a thing. You can read about a few other sites over at my pages on William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. And oh yeah, Abraham Lincoln.

Crown Hill Cemetery (Indianapolis)

March 26, 2008

Indianapolis, like most major American cities, has its fair share of dead people, and the creme de la dead people are in Crown Hill cemetery. With my natural affinity for dead people and boring activities, I was ALL OVER IT.

Not in a disrespectful way, though. I wasn't humping tombstones. I did take some pictures, though. Here are the highlights. First up ... YOU GUESSED IT! A U.S. PRESIDENT!

That's the final resting place of one Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of William Henry, our last bearded commander-in-chief and the man who kept Grover Cleveland's chair warm. You'll note that "president" doesn't get top billing on his marker. Instead, that honor goes to "lawyer and publicist." Yes, publicist. Look for time-traveling Benjamin Harrison on the next season of "Entourage." That's how desperate they are to tweak the ratings. \ Not pictured: the line "Statesman, yet friend to truth." Apparently, the statesmen of the 1890s needed better publicists.

But what about people who were ALMOST president?

What you're seeing above is an obelisk for Thomas Hendricks, the first vice president of Grover Cleveland, and then some kind of a Gothic structure that, as far as I know, never held any political office of any kind. You might not know this, but Indiana is the LAND OF VICE PRESIDENTS! I learned this visiting the Dan Quayle Center / Vice Presidential Museum in Huntington last summer; somehow, I completely failed to write that visit up on ye olde blog, which is inexcusable, because it was great. Only New York (11) has more than Indiana (5), and New York had a head start. Three of the four dead Indiana VPs (Dan Quayle is the one who's still kicking) are at Crown Hill. I'll spare you the photos of Teddy Roosevelt VP Charles Fairbanks and Wilson VP Thomas Marshall, but I will note that there's no mention of the job on Marshall's crypt, though he was probably the closest of the three to actually being president (Wilson had a massive stroke in office and basically hid it).

Two more to go. Check this bad boy out:

That's me trying to look impressed in front of the grave of Richard Jordan Gatling, a man who has filled more than a few cemeteries in his own right by inventing the first successful machine gun. He also invented something called a "wheat drill." Which is either something used to drill wheat, or a drill made entirely of wheat. Wikipedia isn't entirely clear on this.

I was sort of hoping that he'd have a gun turret for a tombstone, but taste always seems to prevail in these situations. Sigh. And speaking of a depressing amount of taste ...

... here's the one prison that John Dillinger's gang couldn't break him out of. It's sort of reserved, considering he was one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century. I guess I was hoping for a tomb that loooked like a bank vault. Double sigh.

I'm assuming the poem is for someone else in Dillinger's family that is buried nearby. If not, there's a creepy story that needs to be told. Alternative weekly newspaper for the Indianapolis area, I'm looking at you.

May 9, 2008

J.J. Johnson

When I went to Crown Hill Cemetery in late March, it was basically to see Benjamin Harrison. When I got back to D.C., I did some research and discovered that I had been with 100 yards of one of my favorite musicians.

J.J. Johnson was one of the best, if not THE best, trombone players to ever pick up a horn. There are recordings where it's not entirely clear how what he's doing is physically possible. He had a beautiful sound and could play across the entire spectrum of jazz (he's considered a pioneer of bebop, a form which isn't really designed with the trombone in mind); he worked with some of the best musicians in the world and even managed to break out and lead his own groups -- something not many trombonists have done. He was a great composer, too.

He was from Indianapolis. He died in 2001, shooting himself. (His health was failing.) He's in Crown Hill's mausoleum, next to his wife, Vivian.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

May 9, 2008

Fate, with the aid of a Volkswagen Jetta, has brought me back to Indianapolis. I like it here, but me and this city at the point where we've seen all we want to see of each other. Mostly now we just eat dinner in silence and hope the kids will visit to break up the monotony.

But there's still some life left in this relationship! I went back to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the third time today. If you get the chance, go. It has a nice overview of American/European art, some good local-focus stuff, a neat contemporary gallery with a few installation pieces ... and the building itself is really cool looking. Plus there's a flower/sculpture garden for nicer days, and they cram all of the Asian and African art onto the same floor so it's really easy to skip.

Plus it's free. What more could you want?

Some highlights:

A neat neo-Impressionist gallery. That's the fancy term for dot painting. I've seen a lot of this in museums before, but never 12 pieces all together in one room. These guys are cooler than the regular impressionists, who I suspect were really just a bunch of lazy drunks with no eye for detail. Plus, adding "neo" to anything makes it sound cooler, with the possible exception of "Nazi."

Another James Turrell installation. I saw this guy's stuff at the Mattress Factory last month. The one at IMA is a low-lit room, and when you walk in, you think you can see a large, solid, dark canvass hanging on the wall. If you wait a few minutes, it becomes clear that it's actually an opening to another room painted in that color -- the third dimension slowly asserts itself if you're patient. I would want one of these in my house, but over time, I would almost definitely start using the painting/room for storage, and the illusion might be ruined if visitors can see right off the bat a large box labeled "ACTION FIGURES DO NOT TOUCH."

Bill Viola's "Quintet of the Silent." Five guys on a plasma TV. They were filmed changing emotions and facial expressions for a minute. The video has been slowed down, and low plays on a 15-minute loop. So you hardly see them moving unless you sit and watch. I don't necessarily get it, but it's cool.

"Floor" by Do-Ho Suh. The floor is made of clear plastic panels. You can walk on it. It appears to be held up by thousands and thousands of tiny plastic figurines, and their flattened palms are pressed against the glass as you look down. This is cool because it could be either really a) Asian or b) Stalinist. Or both! I would like to go to a North Korean art museum some day, assuming they have any that aren't for the exclusive personal use of the glorious leader, because sometimes it's refreshing when propaganda smashes you over the head repeatedly with a tree trunk. Enough of the subtle science of public relations, America! TELL ME WHO TO WORSHIP! Unless the answer is Barack Obama. I'm tired of that guy.

One man's quest to be the humblest person alive
Copyright 2014, Chris White