Monday, 5 May 2014

Hanging around Indianapolis...

The jet lag – or the flight – had given me a streaming nose that seems to have cleared up and a general fatigue, which I didn't realise I had. I'd woken up yesterday in the early hours and then sailed through the day, which involved going to the convention center to check if magazines had turned up (they hadn't, making a mockery of the whole thing). The event starts today so we're hoping something will be there when we head on down again later this morning. In fact, I have an early start, although that's no reason for being up so early. It's 0440hrs and I've woken up and decided to start writing. To be fair, I went to bed real early, around 7pm or something like that, and generally I slept like a log. I had some odd dreams. In one I told an old friend some home truths and in another I was some kind of disgruntled shareholder of a business (I know not why) and the person in charge of the business was TV's hotel inspector. I turned up for a meeting and was not welcomed. Security was called and I was 'escorted' off the premises while calling into question the footballing abilities of a man charged with the task of seeing me off – he had a dangerous dog on a lead. Now this last bit I can relate to as earlier in the day I was with Sam, a taxi driver, and we were heading into downtown Indianapolis talking about how, in America, or certainly in the state of Indiana, there are lots of benefit cheats – or rather people on benefits, not necessarily benefit cheats. Sam said it's widespread and a lot of those who are homeless or on benefits are better off than he is; it sounded like a familiar gripe, I told him, and explained that we have similar issues in the UK.
My Name is Earl. My hotel's outdoor swimming pool

Having discovered yesterday that my hotel wasn't far from a poor neighbourhood, blighted by crime and muggings, I'd seriously considered changing hotels, but after passing the time of day with Mike, the hotel's general manager, I decided to stay put and called the travel company to tell them. The manager was from Hyderabad originally and he was, for want of a better description, a kind of 'mobile' manager, a troubleshooter, brought in when needed. He'd lived in the UK for a while, in Hounslow, and has lived all over the place managing different hotels. He was last in the San Francisco area (Oakland) where his family still live and now he lives here in the hotel (a temporary measure) and I'd imagine he'll eventually bring his family with him, although his daughter's going to start university in Indianapolis as it has a good reputation, apparently. So he and I got chatting, we've even talked of going into town to try an Indian restaurant that he recommends. And it was based on chatting to him that I decided to stay put rather than uproot myself and cause untold problems for the travel company by moving to another hotel.

Being here on the outskirts of town, however, has taught me a lesson: book early to avoid disappointment.

The corridor of my hotel...
And talking of disappointment, prior to my chat with the manager and while I was deeply considering get out of here, I had a spark of hope when it came to breakfast. Why? Because people on Trip Advisor had said the breakfast here, which is complimentary, is to die for. Well, I beg to differ: wrapped bakery items, miniature boxes of well known cereal, no sign of any tea, a wafflemaker and, worse of all, plastic cutlery and plastic plates and dishes. This takes not trusting the customers to new levels: first an empty fridge in the room (a noisy, empty fridge that hums all night) and then disposable cutlery and plates. I opted for something familiar, a couple of small boxes of Rice Krispies (well, they're tiny), a glass of orange juice and that was breakfast. Then Sam drove me downtown, through the rough neighbourhood, which, I said, looked fine, until we saw a guy with a dangerous dog. Sam tut-tutted about him saying stuff like that was unnecessary and so on and 15 minutes or so later we were in the downtown area where, I've been told, it's safe to wander around, unlike the area surrounding my hotel. I had lunch in Champps (salmon with mashed potato, a glass of Cabernet and a Triton Dead Eye Stout and then headed over to the convention centre to discover there were no magazines delivered – this is more of a problem for my colleague who will be manning the stand. I've got to attend the plenary events. After that I headed back to the hotel and slept like a log and now, here I am, up early (it's now almost 0500hrs) and I think I'll call home in a minute. Oh, yeah, you can't make international calls so I'll have to use the cellphone.
Locally brewed Triton Dead Eye Stout.

Indianapolis on a Sunday has to be discussed as it's a similar picture in many American cities I've visited – there's nobody about, no traffic on the roads, nothing and, as always, I get this strange sensation that nothing is real, that behind the facades, the buildings are little more than film sets, propped up by splintered pieces of wood. Quite incredible really. It was as if I had built a city and invited a few friends to drop by and enjoy the facilities before I populated it – "come and drive around an empty city!" – and a handful of them had taken me up on my offer. Very strange. Having said all that, Indianapolis will come alive today as there's a convention for the rest of the week, meaning many delegates will crowd yesterday's empty malls and pack into the virtually deserted sports bars and restaurants. The streets will enjoy more cars and perhaps the place will look a little more like a city. But once the convention packs up, the city will go back to its sleepy state again and others will wonder whether it's all a facade and that really there's nothing there at all, just scrubland and tumbleweed. Perhaps that's it, perhaps I'm in some kind of weird sci fi movie in a city that doesn't really exist?

As I've mentioned before, Indianapolis has a bike share scheme and I stumbled across the bright yellow bikes and considered a ride, but didn't bother. I will do later in the week, though, after the convention as a 24-hour pass only costs $8.

I took a cab back to the hotel and hit the sack, missing dinner in the process. Dinner, of course, would have meant another trip downtown, another $20 cab fare and then another coming back again, so that prospect didn't appeal and besides, I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed. It's called jet lag.

Today will be busy as there's stuff to do, I'll probably have dinner in town and then head back here and the process will repeat itself for the rest of this week until I fly back to Chicago and then to London, returning home early on Saturday morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment