Sunday, January 28, 2007

blogging in church

Are you picturing me sitting in a pew with my beloved Apple iBook hidden behind a hymnal?

It’s not quite like that.

I’m part of a Connections Expo hosted by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. The parish is huge, 4000 members. Second Helpings is one of a dozen organizations set up in the lobby. It is a great event and very well organized. The have three services, 8:15, 9:30 and 11:00. They have policemen directing traffic and folks on golf carts shutting people to the church. It is wild between services—reminds me of a half time of a football game and I’m a beer vendor. I’m passing out information and talking as fast as I can, then boom—they’re all gone. I’ve got another hour before the next rush.

I worked at the Red Key last night until 2:30 and had to be here at 7:30.
And a shower is extra necessary after a Red Key shift.
I smelled like cigarette smoke, cheeseburgers and beer---heavy on the smoke.
I’m not a smoker, but I think I breathe in least a pack every Saturday.
Last year Indianapolis passed a stupid non-smoking law. Establishments that have under 21 year-old customers are required to be non-smoking. All others can be smoking. It forced a lot of restaurants to make a tough decision. And it made the bars smokier. People actually come to the Red Key because they can smoke. The bar is 56 years old.
My theory: Once the first cigarette of the day is lit, all of the old cigarettes come to visit. I’m so smoky at the end of the night I take all of my clothes off on my front porch. It was 15 degrees last night, but there was no way I was bringing those smoky things in the house.

Since this is the non-sequitur post, I’ll tell you about my last few days.

Friday was a typically busy day. I’m the Director of Volunteers and Building Maintenance. The building maintenance is a new part of my job responsibilities, but a natural fit. And I was doing it anyway. I grew up on a farm and managed restaurants for years. If something is broken, fix it. No need to have a meeting to discuss it. Of course, growing up on a farm I learned to fix things by the hammer method. If it’s broken, hit it with a hammer. If that does not work, hit it with a bigger hammer.

Friday morning I plunged a toilet and reattached the chain in said toilet, unstuck a drain and took apart the VCR to unjam a tape. I pitched the food safety tape and went on-line to purchase another one. To replace the tape it was going to cost $318 not including shipping and handling. I took the tape out of the trash, spliced the broken part, tested it and put it back in rotation. We were short a volunteer driver so I got to deliver food (picture big van, coldest day of the winter, slick sidewalks and Nora in a short skirt and tall boots). I spent the afternoon doing the stuff that is actually my job.

That evening I volunteered to pass out programs for a show at the Indiana Roof ballroom. A friend of mine asked me to help and she has helped with music stuff that I do, so I was happy to return the volunteer favor. I didn’t pay any attention to what I was volunteering for until I was ready to leave work and Googled the performers name.
Suzanne Westenhoffer is a comedian.
A lesbian comedian.
With a huge following.
1000 lesbians and Nora.
I take that back. 980 lesbians, 20 gay men and Nora.
I would hand someone a program and they would say: “Nora, I’m so excited to see you here.” You could tell that they were thinking, “Ah, this makes so much sense, no wonder she’s single.” I figured it was not the time or the place to stomp my little feet and shout “I’M NOT A LESBIAN, I’M JUST PASSING OUT PROGRAMS, FOR GOD’S SAKE.”

From there I went to the Marigold holiday dinner party. It’s always too stressful to try to plan something during December so we get together in January. The dinner was lovely and wine and stories flowed. It was a great way to end the day.

I had to be back at Second Helpings at 8:00 the next morning, a college service group was volunteering and I had to get them organized. I went home for a big fat nap and went to work at the Red Key.

Since I’m sitting in a church, I feel the need to confess.
I alluded to it in the last post. I did something out of character for me after the AFC championship game.
I blame the champagne.
I kissed JB, the guy I work with every Saturday night.
We’ve always been great friends and a little flirty. JB is a great (younger) guy and nice as can be. I knew that working together last night would be weird, but we fell back to our usual work relationship easily.
I don’t think we made eye contact for the first five hours, but we got through it.

And, in the when-it-rains-it-pours category—I had a date Thursday night.
I think.
It’s so hard to tell.
Either way, it was a lovely evening.

Monday, January 22, 2007

super bowl bound

Watching the game last night was nerve-wracking and fun.

And I might have had a bit too much fun last night.
Not going-to-Confession fun, but out-of-character-for-Nora fun.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

the sweet taste of victory…or so I heard

I live in Indianapolis, home of the Indianapolis Colts.
As you may or may not know, the Colts are in the AFC Championship game for the first time in the history of the Colts being in Indianapolis. As you can imagine (and it really is hard to believe how crazy it all really is) the town in going nuts.
Every news item this week is about the Colts, I even got my name mentioned on the Indianapolis Star sports coverage about the game.

Baltimore pays off on mayoral wager

Mayor Bart Peterson will be swimming in crab when he collects on that bet he had with former Baltimore Mayor, now Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley tomorrow.
The good-natured wager over last week’s football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens has turned into a crab feast that will be prepared and served to about 30 special guests at Second Helpings.
O’Malley became governor on Wednesday but arranged the crab transfer before he changed jobs, according to Joanna Phillips of Phillips Seafood Restaurant.
Philips will fly to Indianapolis later today with her brother, Brice and they will bring enough crab for their chef Dennis Gavagan to prepare a three-course meal of crab cocktail, crab soup and crabcake sandwiches to Peterson’s staff and some members of the Blue Crew, according to Nora Spitznogle of Second Helpings, the local food rescue/job training program.
Brice said her entourage will have dinner tonight at St. Elmo Steak House, the restaurant that was going to supply Baltimore with shrimp cocktail and steak had the Colts lost last week.
- Susan Guyett

It was a really fun day at Second Helpings. The Blue Crew, a rabid (and I say that in the nicest possible way) group of Colts fans came and decorated the class room. The Chef and Phillips family from Baltimore were terrific and good natured.
Our mayor is a big fan of Second Helpings and did a great job of talking about Second Helpings to the press. I’ve added a link to one of the videos, clcik on the title to activate. I'm the one in the black dress against the wall. It got great coverage, all four television stations covered it, a radio station and the Indianapolis Star sent a photographer.
I came to the conclusion that crab cakes must be sexier than deer meat. The press conference on Wednesday to announce the donation of deer meat brought no reporters. Of course the story of hunters killing deer, donating it to us, us hauling it to a prison to be butchered and packaged and our volunteers turning it into deer meatloaf is not for your average noon news watcher.

The only downer to the whole thing? I’m allergic to shellfish.

Go Colts!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

dinner at the club

Sort of.

My brother left a desperate plea for a babysitter for my nephew this evening on my cell phone. By the time I heard it and called him back he’d taken John to his business meeting at the posh Meridian Hills Country Club. I told JR I’d swing by, grab John and take him to their house for a bath and bedtime.

John started crying when he saw me—he wanted to stay. He knows a good thing when he sees it. The family dining room has a giant television playing videos and a toy box stuffed with goodies. John had made friends with two blond curly haired sisters. What more could a four year-old want?

I wound up eating the rest of John’s kid mac and cheese, a great chocolaty dessert (it tasted like an adult Ho-Ho) and drank fancy coffee sitting at the kids table watching Cinderella.

Good food, good movie and good company.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

coffee, tea or my ego?

warning—long and self indulgent.

I’m sitting at the newsstand looking across the street at the coffeehouse I managed for years. Or what is left of it anyway. It is being torn down and I’m sure it will be gone by tomorrow.

A good chunk of my identity used to reside in that building.

A little history.
I graduated from Purdue in 1986 with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management (I was 25).
I worked in Philadelphia for years working for a big old restaurant corporation. I’d gone as far as I could with them. I was opening new restaurants, hiring and training the staff.

I moved back to Indianapolis (1994) and was feeling restless.

I wanted to do something different. I knew that I wanted to work for a small, independent business. A college friend is the owner very successful clothing store in my favorite part of town and I became the manager. I had worked there off and on for years and it was very comfortable.
Kind of.
Marigold is a wonderful store and I still work there occasionally. But I don’t have much tolerance for the questions: “Does this color wash me out? Does this make my butt look big?” Not that Marigold wants to sell people clothes that look bad on people—I just don’t have the eye for that kind of thing. I was the manager for a couple of years, and it was time to go.

CATH Inc was a quirky little coffee company with three locations and a bakery. AVS was the baker and suggested me to the owner (this was pre-relationship days). I loved every second of the coffeehouse world. The days started at 5:30 and I could be home by 2:00. The main shop was three blocks from my house. CATH (acronym for Coffee And Tea House) had been around for fifteen years already. The founder, Cathy Peachy died of breast cancer in 1994 and her husband was a hands-off owner. Cathy was tremendously well loved in the community and CATH had a great reputation.

The uptown location was a storefront operation with the bakery in the back--and the smell of the made-from-scratch muffins baked fresh every day wafting in to the coffeehouse.

Definitely the best smelling job I've ever had.

The original location was in the Indianapolis City Market, which was slowly changing from a market to a giant food court. Before Cathy died she spent a ton of money opening a location downtown right across from the City Market. You could have winged a coffee cup from one coffeehouse to the other. I made the difficult, but financially prudent decision to close that location.

The 1930’s brick gas station turned oil change garage was across the street from the bakery. We’d look across the street and comment that it would be a great coffeehouse. One of the employees was finishing his degree in architecture and drew up plans. The owner trusted me to over see the project and I managed to get it all done for $30, 000—including fixtures, equipment (cappuccino machines cost thousands of dollars) and furnishings.
The new location was a hit. It was a sunny and happy place. The walls were filled with artwork and we started hosting music. Touring singer/songwriters from all over the country stopped on their way through Indianapolis (and often slept on my sofa).

I was dating AVS and I was as happy as I’d ever been.
Then AVS’s band got kind of famous. They were on the cover of the Indianapolis Star’s entertainment section. AVS broke up with me that day. And he quit his job—as the baker.

And suddenly I was as miserable as I’d ever been. I was working a ton, often baking all night and then working at the coffeehouse. My social life totally changed. I was not going to see music at all. Either A’s band was on the bill or he was at a show with a date (I got no satisfaction when his car got repossessed and he had to move to an even crappier neighborhood—I felt responsible—I know, crazy). And A. and I continued a stupid on-again, off-again relationship.

The City Market sales were declining. Everybody and their brother started selling coffee downtown, putting in those fake cappuccino machines and selling “cappuccino” for 69 ¢.
Starbucks came to town, milk prices went up, a coffeehouse opened on every corner and I started not cashing my paychecks. I made sure the employees and vendors got paid.

I got a part-time job waitressing. So now, I was working in a smoky bar until 2:00 three nights a week, baking and working 7 days a week at the coffeehouse—and I was poor and sad. You can imagine my mental state during this time.
And then it got worse.

I got a letter from a real estate attorney that our lease was being terminated because I had paid the water bill late in January (this was in August). That same day AVS moved to Austin. We spent a teary (on my part) morning together. As he pulled out of the driveway, I jumped on my 1960’s Murray bike and rode to the Indiana State Fair—one of my favorite things in the world. I lost myself in the wonderful world of cheese sculptures and 4-H rabbits. I had almost convinced myself that everything would be okay—I’d just paid a water bill late…eviction was pretty harsh, right?
I walked to retrieve my bike—and it was gone, the cut lock lying on the ground.
It was not going to be all right.
We fought the eviction—spending thousands of dollars to do it—and still lost our lease.

I felt horribly guilty. I was putting people out of work. A neighborhood-gathering place was closing. A cool hangout for high school kids was going away. A nationally recognized music venue was biting the dust. All because I’d paid a $45 utility bill late.

I made a deal with the newsstand—they had extra space. They got the coffee equipment and they would hire the employees. I put on a good face to the media—the coffeehouse closing got lots of press.

I turned in the keys to the building on the morning of September 22nd, 2004.
That afternoon the owner had a press conference to announce they sold the property to a grocery store chain.
I felt used.

I was the president of my neighborhood association (one of the largest and most powerful in the state) at the time. I had to wear my neighborhood hat “we are thrilled to have a grocery store on this corner” and smile for the cameras, while the pissed-off ex-tenant Nora was making a fist behind her back.

The City Market location continued to flounder. We found a buyer and I happily walked away.

It was rough for a while. I took a break, working at the Red Key three nights a week, I was able to live on my tips.
It gave me time to realize how crazy the last few years had been—and how crazy it made me.

I’m sitting at the newsstand, looking at my old coffee equipment as I type this--who would have guessed how well it all worked out?

I have a great job. I’m still active in my community. I’m writing for two publications, the occasional musician still sleeps on my sofa and I'm pretty darn happy.

None of that would have happened with out CATH, or AVS, for that matter.

It was time for the building to come down.

Friday, January 05, 2007

is it too early to vacuum?

I woke up early (5:00) this morning. And when I say woke up, I mean that I smashed on the alarm snooze button a several times before I dragged my ass out of bed.

I have articles that are due, um today. Three for NUVO (150+300+500 words) and the Broad Ripple Gazette column (1000-ish).

I've really slacked off so far this year. The last four evenings I've done nothing but read, which is good for the soul. But not so much for the deadlines.

One of the NUVO articles (500) is about AVS's old band. They are playing a 'reunion' show next week.
It is weird to be writing about a band that I named.

AVS and I had a nice information gathering E-mail exchange. I have purposely not had any contact with him since June. Which was hard for me, this has been the longest we have not talked in the 10 years that I have known him. I know that we both still care about each other, but I don't think it is either of our intentions that I wind up crying next to a dumpster behind a bar as he's pulling out of town. This will be interesting.

I'm off to waste some more time before work.
Have a lovely day.

Monday, January 01, 2007

happy new year

I went to the Rock ‘n Roll New Years Eve at the Indianapolis downtown Hyatt hotel. I was writing about it for NUVO. I got to hang out with 2500 of my closest friends.
I’ll admit to going in to the evening with a bad attitude. I gave myself a good talking to on the way in. “I’m lucky to be able to attend such a big event. A year ago I never dreamed that I would be writing for NUVO. Blah, blah.” And it was fun to dress up and downtown Indianapolis was hopping with the Colts game. My fake good mood did not last long. I stood in the will-call line and waited patiently under the “L-Z” sign. They could not find my name or anything under NUVO. I ran in to the photographer that covering the event. He pointed me to the top-secret unmarked table where I was given a wristband. The un-organization at the entry was indicative of the rest of the evening. The music was on three floors. I was given a sheet listing the bands, but nothing about which floor or what time. It does not help that I’m horribly afraid of heights. The place was lousy with glass elevators and steep escalators.
People were wearing everything from Colts jerseys to sequined long dresses. I would say that 2000 of the folks there were 22 years old and determined to get their $40 worth. I would be happy to never see another noisemaker again. There was a roving band of obnoxious guys that would pretend to hit on any woman over 40, and then make fun of them behind their back. That got old pretty quickly. I’d smile and keep moving. It is a pretty weird evening to be alone—and sober.
The bands were all good, in their own way. Carl Storie had a big hit in the 80’s with the ballad “Dancing Shoes.” He and his band were great, but I was feeling sad standing in that room--maybe because the room was full of dancing couples my age.
X-Ray Roger Jimmy played teen-age boy rock. Lots of guitars, ripped jeans, tank tops and screaming girls. All I heard were cover songs. I stood by a potted plant and watched in awe.
Stereo Deluxe is a power pop band of cute angst ridden 20-somethings. They started late and played way later than they should have. The next band waited not so patiently to start.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band was up next. Josh (the Reverend), Breezy (his wife) and Jayme (his little brother) are all great people. Josh used to be the Director of Volunteers at WFYI the local public television station. He and I would swap volunteer gigs. It’s always nice to have another volunteer that has your best interests at heart for big events.
That said, I have to admit that I only love them for a song or two. Think Delta Blues meets meth lab. Frenetic high-energy.
Click on "happy new year" for a link to their website. They are cute as buttons and it is fun to see what they look like.
At midnight they dropped thousands of balloons from the ceiling (I'm not sure how many floors the hotel has and I was afraid to look up). I was standing with my back to the wall, behind yet another potted plant. I was also worrying about the structural integrity of the building. I did get to see an engagement. The guy tied the ring to a string tied to his belt loop because he was afraid of losing it.
I listened to a couple of songs from the headlining band, the Virgin Millionaires. They are one of the best rock bands I’ve seen this year. Someone spilled a drink from above. I was afraid it was something else. I was relieved to feel an ice cube hit my head! I took that as my cue to leave.
It was a long five hours, but I survived. And I got to tell the obnoxious guys to %*@$-off on the way out the door—the first time I’ve ever said that to anyone.

Here is the review I wrote, as you can see I’m much nicer in print…..

The New Years Eve Rock ‘n Roll Ball at the Hyatt Regency rang in the New Year in nearly 2007 different ways. There were at least that many people, a balloon drop, a comedian, at least one engagement (congratulations Sarah and Gary) and a fantasy casino. People were wearing everything from Colts jerseys to sequins. However there was no doubt that the focus of the evening was on music. The DJ and the bands were spread over three floors with music spilling throughout the hotel.

Carl Storie and his band commanded the ballroom for the night. The room and the dance floor were constantly full of adoring fans. It is clear why Storie is an icon in the Indianapolis music world.

X-Ray Roger Jimmy kicked off the music on the atrium stage. Their high-energy guitar driven rock (and rock star good looks) had the 20-something crowd pumping fists, dancing and singing along. Their New Years wish of “peace, harmony and lots of sex” was a big hit.

Upstairs at the NUVO stage Stereo Deluxe proved why they were the 2005 Benchmark Battle of the Bands winners with their power pop strength. The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band took over at 11:30. They stopped for a few minutes for the official countdown to 2007, although the energy produced by the Peyton’s rivaled the thousands of people screaming at midnight. The Big Damn Band has a big damn delta blues sound produced by only three members. As the Reverend promised, they saved the best for 2007. They reclaimed the stage and the crowd with authority. And if this were a piece about fashion, Breezy Peyton would get the best-dressed nod. Not everyone can find the perfect little black dress and accessorize it with a washboard.

The Virgin Millionaires played their first show of the new year to a huge appreciative crowd. It was the perfect way to musically ring in 2007.