Category Archives: Conversations at bars

“Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

The Unusual Dance to The Noodle

I was leaving the bar walking back to my car to head home for the night. I’m walking down Washington Street. There’s a gentleman who had turned directions earlier and was walking a few paces ahead of me. He then turned around to ask, “Could you tell me where to find The Slippery Noodle?” I give him those directions. I ask if he had been to Indy before and if he was meeting someone there. It is Wednesday night after all. I learn that he is in Indy for one night. This is his first and only night in Indy. I warn him that The Slippery Noodle may not be that busy on a weeknight and at this hour. Not sure of the night he had anticipated. I also learn that he is driving through Indy to the East Coast to fly out for his second tour in Iraq.

It takes  me 5 seconds to suggest something that may be of interest to him. I ask, “Had you read anywhere that Indy is #2 behind Washington DC as to having the most monuments?” “No,” he replies. I ask if he had noticed monument circle yet on his walk. Nope. “Oh, well, it is just one block away. I’ll walk there with you.” We walk to Monument Circle and take that in. I had been here once on an architectural tour which taught me to look up. I pointed out what I could remember that was unique or had a story. He seemed to enjoy it so I offered to walk him to The Indiana World War Memorial, one of my favorite places here in the city. We are standing on the top of the War Memorial taking in the view and he says, “I’m really glad you brought me here.” We continue to walk back towards where we initially met on Washington Street. I re-confirm the walking direction to The Slippery Noodle. We exchange a hug. He says, “Thank you so much.” We go our separate ways. We didn’t even exchange names, just took to the evenings dancing cues.

I wrote this story for the first time as a part of the CityWrite activities here in Indianapolis as a part of the National Day on Writing. CityWrite believes that everyone has a story to tell and has lived through an experience that everyone can learn from. Write yours.


A night out in Nairobi

A night out in Nairobi is exactly what I need before heading back to the Kenyan coast. Kelly with The Village Experience had made friends with one of the co-founders of the Africa Yoga Project and we decide to take her up on her offer for a night out and a bed and hot water bottle at her place. We meet Paige at her place. She is from New York City and had been living in Nairobi now for six years. Paige happened to score some tickets to a wine tasting we are excited to check out. Really grateful to have the opportunity to taste some African wines (and beers) and talk to the wine makers, brewers and distributors. This style of event is quite familiar to me. I felt at home.

My favorite wine of the night was the Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from South Africa, that went for 3700 Shillings or $43 USD. It was as good as fine wine with age with the complexities of tobacco and earth. Heaven in a glass.

Managed to try a few craft brews from The Big 5 Breweries: Kifabock, a lightly hopped Dubbel Bock.  Nyatipa pale ale, which satisfied my bitter hop cravings. And ended with a Temstout which had nice notes of coffee and chocolate flavor.

The ladies loved the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It was their repeat tasting while we enjoyed a variety of delicious cheeses and flavored chocolates.

Then off to visit the casino. My first time. Of course my first time to visit a casino is in Kenya of all places. We play roulette. I bet maybe the equivalent of $10 USD and enjoy two double Johnny Black Label on the rocks. I win some and lose most.

Next stop? Tree House where Kelly had heard a DJ friend of hers was going to be. I found Caol Ila 12…neat please. We dance the night away. I danced with an older gentleman that completely took the lead to some music of spanish influence. I felt relaxed and simply enjoyed the night.

Conversations at Bars. Third in a Series.

Go To The Libertine cocktail bar. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

Grab a seat at the bar and meet my new friend Adam. Your Bartender for the night. Adam hails from one of those fancy schmancy NYC bars where they specialize in Mezcal cocktails. My first drink was the Mezcal version of The Manhattan. Boozy. Stirred. Hint of Smoke and everything nice. I’m sitting with my new vegetarian friend and picking out something to nibble on. “Trotter Cakes” caught our eye with parsnips being listed as a part of the dish. Didn’t put two and two together that “Trotter” was for pig feet. I’m SOLD. But, my vegetarian friend couldn’t partake. (Don’t worry, she had a lovely dressed salad with radishes and dates.) So, Trotter Cakes. Amazing. The meat is shredded into two cakes with an ever so slightly crusted finish served over a bed of greens and a smear of a horseradish based cream sauce. This dish is succulent, these ingredients were made for one another. Adam had mentioned how good these were, so I asked for a drink recommendation that would pair well with the dish. He chose a bourbon whiskey based drink. I’m failing to remember all of the ingredients, but included an orange and chocolate bitters. He did well. The legs of bourbon on the glass was similar to the sweet juiciness from the meat, think gamey like duck meat. The textures and flavor of both truly complementary.

My friend and I are engaging in conversation with The Libertine staff and another guest, Zach, who travels to Indianapolis about 8 times a year. We all ooo and ahh and come together for a shared love of 21C and Proof in Louisville. I learn he is in sales and covers the midwest and make sure to tell him about staying at the Honor and Folly in Detroit. Zach comes over to talk to us and of course we are talking about what we are drinking. Zach doesn’t know what he’s drinking, he trusts Adam. He just met him. “Me Too!” I reply. We have a shared conversation about the term, “mixologist.” Taking to Adam’s point, where did mixologist come from? He doesn’t like it, he is a good “bartender”. And a good bartender is just right. I haven’t been to NYC, yet. Zach tells me how much I would love NYC, he says when I go, he even has a husband out there for me. A co-worker, Scott. Ha! Zach sells television shows to our local networks. Like the show reruns/second airs, past runs of the show “Community,” for an example. He sells content to local stations like WXIN. I was intrigued to learn more after reading a couple of articles on Netflix’s self-produced new content, House of Cards. Wanted to get his thoughts and dive deeper into his industry. I also wanted to know who sells Mad Men? The person. The Individual. AMC’s Mad Men has 2 million viewers. There are 80 million cable subscribers. Mad Men’s content is so valuable that AMC gets 40 cents per cable subscriber. Yes, per subscriber. That’s right, with only 2 million viewers. “They” are saying this is genius.

Moved on to Tastings, a wine bar, for some more, well. Tastings. You can get 2 ounce or full pour wines. I like to go here to taste some of the more expensive bottles that I wouldn’t commit to purchasing a whole bottle of. I love the leathery tobacco goodness that is hard to find in a cheaper bottle. You will usually find me bar hopping with my PUP messenger bag. It’s made from the old Colt’s stadium rooftop, a material that was salvaged before it’s demolition. I work for People for Urban Progress (PUP) two days a week. When people ask what I do I have something to show them. I met two lawyers in town from Minneapolis at the bar. I shared with them my work with PUP. They seemed to have some keywords for me. Minneapolis deflated their old stadium and it is made of fiberglass. My ears perk up, this is the material we use, teflon-coated fiberglass. It’s indestructible. They are able to tell me who to contact about it. They didn’t think that anyone had plans for it and that we may be working on a couple of weeks to salvage it. Cool. A MiniPUP. Thanks for the tip!

I get a message from my co-workers and friends from MacNiven’s, a scottish bar. They are all at Mass Ave Pub. And, well. We know what happens here. Real People. Being Real. Imbibing together, the way life was meant to be lived. It only takes one person. One Person. To make you feel wanted.

Conversations at bars. Part deux.

My parents would not be pleased. I stopped off at Tomlinson Tap Room, parked my bike in the public space on the southwest corner. On my exit, I noticed a gentleman reading under one of the lamp posts on a bench. I opted to ride my bike in his direction, kind of curious what he was reading. I almost felt as though I was intruding, but still continued to inquire, “May I ask what you are reading?” He went into explaining this murder mystery. The title and author escape me now. He was incredibly descriptive of the characters and synopsis as to his nearly a quarter way into the book. I listened. In trying to find some sort of similarity, I mentioned that I had read a few murder mysteries by the author Mary Higgins Clark and inquired if he had read any of her books. He had. Great. Our conversation grew into present day politics, business and our synopsis or beliefs on why things are the way they are today on a few different topics. Finally, an introduction to Jeffrey, 53. I inquired if he had any children. Two daughters, Danielle, 23, and Elizabeth, would be 20. It had been 14 years since he had seen his girls, but not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about them. I asked if he had a photo of them. He did not. I replied, “But of course you have their photos in your mind.” Although, they were ‘yay high.’ he replied.

Jeffery is from Mooresville. That is where I grew up. He had lived in Colorado and Texas. He wasn’t a fan of Texas. He mentioned he enjoyed speaking to me as it had been a while since his last opportunity to have an intelligent conversation. Another gentleman came up, he inquired to Jeffery, “Are you homeless?” –Kind of rude, if you ask me– as if trying to bud into our conversation in a rude manner. Jeffery simply replied, “Why?” The guy, closer to my age, said, “Be careful on Ohio Street, apparently someone is going around with gasoline and spraying the homeless who are sleeping.” We all came together as to how asinine the idea of this is. Then, paying attention to time, I had been there an hour. I politely excused myself for my bike ride home. I’m sure I’ll see Jeffery again. I’ll carry a book on me to be ready.

Conversations at bars. First Edition.

MacNiven’s. Haggis. Craft brews. Scotch and Patrick, tending bar. What’s not to like? The Haggis, oh my it had been too long. I enjoyed it with a taste of the youngest scotch I have ever had, aged 3 years. Who knew. But with the description: ‘youthful, peat and smoke.’ I knew it was for me. Spot on. The last time I had Haggis was in 1998. I worked an event at Christ Church Cathedral with my friend Elizabeth. It was prepared there. I watched and assisted from start to finish.

My roommate and I went to MacNiven’s specifically for Sun King Brewing’sTIMMIE, oaked imperial stout. I had it before, but was craving more. Oh wow, how the flavor of vanilla oak, deep fruit maybe even a hint of lavender come out of it as it warms. This is a big one at 10%ABV so proceed with caution. I met a gentleman named Kevin. He was visiting Indianapolis for the first time. In town for business. I love to chat with first timers on what did you expect Indianapolis to be like and what have you noticed since you have been here. He ordered a Highland Scotch with a splash of water. He’s in town for the week for training. In town from Washington DC suburbs, married. Kevin was pleasantly surprised by how accessible the city was on foot as he had walked to MacNiven’s from Rock Bottom. I went into tour guide mode. Did you know that Indianapolis is #2 behind DC for a city with the most monuments? I had learned he was into beer and recommended Tomlinson Tap Room and a brewery visit at Sun King Brewing. We spoke about the history of Indianapolis, Universities, residential population. For those of you in Indianapolis, what are you excited to share about our fair city with people you meet at bars?

Another gentleman sat down next to me. He ordered a Lagavulin 16 year, neat. We were meant to be friends. He had his yellow note pad and was there to get some work done. I later learned he was making notes for a book. I learned that he was in the business of trees. Who would have thought, starting a business in trees? He travels to consult cities and companies on selecting the right trees. He’s in Indianapolis maybe two times a year. He started his business 8 years ago. Great conversation that just kept leaping into deeper thoughts on business and entrepreneurship. Passion. I could tell he liked to have conversations at bars. He filled my cup a little bit and I him. Would you like another he asked. Nah, I need to head home. What is your name? Mark. Well, Mark, it was a pleasure.

My oh my, how I love Conversations at bars.