Monday, May 30, 2005

Diary: NA Confidential's Memorial Day weekend in Bloomington and NA

Taking advantage of an ideal, sunny Memorial Day weekend Saturday, Mrs. Confidential and I motored to Bloomington, Indiana, for a much-delayed visit to the hometown of songsmith Hoagy Carmichael.

First, we dropped in on “Opening Day” at the New Albany Farmers’ Market, located downtown on the corner of Market and Bank, where there were a handful of vendors, and strawberries, bread and flowers for sale. It seemed a good beginning for the new season at the local market.

We made our purchases and hit the highway, arriving at Bloomington’s Farmers’ Market around 9:00 a.m., local time. The market in Bloomington simply is amazing, and I haven’t seen anything like it since waking to discover the weekly market day in progress in the square facing our hotel in Tournai, Belgium, during last summer’s Tour de Trappist.*

Bloomington’s farmers’ market dwarfs the above-average version held on Bardstown Road in Louisville. For the majority of the year, the market venue is a municipal surface parking lot, but roofed arcades have been constructed, their support beams sprinkled with electrical outlets, and other infrastructure provided so that market days see a complete and magical transformation.

Even this early in the season, there was plenty of food, with meats ranging from elk to pork, root vegetables, cheeses, honey and baked goods. Flowers, seeds and potted plants were there in abundance. Coffee service and scones were available, a solo singer was performing, and environmental activists and political groups of various stripes offered information at tables to the side.

At least 500 people were at the market, including a young Vietnamese-American man who saw my Oakland Athletics pullover and told me he lives in Oakland and roots for the A’s. It turns out that I’ve been a fan longer than he’s been alive. Other than that reminder of encroaching longevity, it was a good conversation.

We then drove to E. Kirkwood Avenue for breakfast (bagel and lox on my end) at the Village Deli and a pleasant stroll through the scenic campus of Indiana University, which would be far less impressive architecturally if not for the sheer ubiquity of limestone in the region.

IU’s Lilly Library currently features an exhibit on pop-up books and the papers of our former 9th District Congressman, Lee Hamilton, who is much missed in the NA Confidential household.

Coffee was taken in the funky Soma coffeehouse at Grant and Kirkwood, where an aquarium is housed in a 1950’s television set, old gumball machines dispense chocolate-covered espresso beans, and the slogan is, “Coffee first … then your mundane bullshit.”

From Soma we walked to the quintessentially Hoosier courthouse square to browse the three (!) bookstores located there, and reveled in the sidewalk cafĂ© ambience. Afterwards, it was back to the diverse Kirkwood/Grant area for lunch. Eateries boasting world cuisines – Thai, Turkish, Burmese, Moroccan, Tibetan, Japanese, Mexican – were open for business, and we opted for the Snow Lion, one of several tangible signs of Bloomington’s Tibetan cultural presence, for bean strings, noodles, fried tofu, and a version of kimchee.

Our final errand before returning to New Albany was to stop at the Bicycle Garage on Kirkwood and complete a transaction begun earlier in the day, for I had purchased a bike for Mrs. Confidential’s forthcoming birthday. She’ll now be free to move about New Albany on wheels, dodging motorized bumpkins and evading broken Smirnoff Ice bottles, and also be able to accompany me on bicycling excursions at home and abroad.

Back home in NA, our first ride was to Zesto’s for an evening snack. It was a fitting end to a very good Indiana day.

Sunday was another sunny, temperate, late spring day, and in early afternoon we took our bikes to the Loop Island Wetlands, tethered them to a tree by the old railway bridge, and set off on foot to investigate a natural preserve unlike any other in the metro Louisville area – thanks to owner Al Goodman’s visionary (and ongoing) efforts.

At the dueling grounds by the Ohio River, a sweeping vista of the Kentucky shore is framed by the K & I Bridge to the west, and the Clarksville waterfront to the east, and in the mind’s eye, a completed Ohio River Greenway project begins to make sense.

Current funding problems aside, the Greenway surely will come to pass, and when it does, it should do so in a scaled-back version that eliminates motorized roadways from the plan.


In closing, permit me to offer a Memorial Day remembrance. My father, Roger G. Baylor (1925-2001) served in the United States Marine Corps during WWII as a gunner aboard the USS Washington in the Pacific Theater. If you happen to attend a City Council meeting and observe me standing for the pledge of allegiance, be aware that my doing so is in honor of him.

* Trappists are a style of Belgian ale not served at Hugh E. Bir’s ... and this is just as well, for all parties.

1 comment:

jon faith said...

Soma is a treat, indeed. The former Book Cellar was located there and I have an overflow of memories of crisp mornings in Monroe County with bookbuying, highest among my priorities. Glad you had a choice trip, friend.