The life and times of a Hoosier-in-training. In other words, my second trip to Indiana, “the Hoosier state,” to visit Michael.
On Thursday night we ate at Tony’s, an Italian restaurant downtown on Lincolnway. Tony’s has an odd atmosphere about it. We wandered through the dining room, not sure if we were supposed to seat ourselves. Most of the tables in the first room had little “Reserved” cards. We settled for a booth in a second room, which was shared by the bar. Tony’s is the only restaurant I’ve been to that only accepts cash. No credit, debit, or checks. Who carries cash anymore? Fortunately, I had birthday money in my wallet. The walls were packed with taxidermy heads. A buffalo loomed over the entryway. Numerous deers kept icy watch over the booths. A boar guarded the bar. Most curiously, a full lion and lioness froze mid-prowl in cases at the end of the room. Where did they get lions?
The group seated behind us was boisterous to the point of being obnoxious. Michael and I were amused by their loud antics throughout our meal. As we were leaving, we met a woman from the group near the door.
“It’s still there!” she gasped in shear astonishment. She was gawking at the buffalo head.
“I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”
She told us she was from New Hampshire. In New Hampshire they don’t have such things as these animals all over the place. She could barely stand it. The lady was almost beside herself with horrified fascination.
“It must be an Indiana thing.”
“No, it isn’t. Maybe a Midwestern thing. We’re from Missouri.”
“You’ve seen this sort of thing before? Are you a hunter?”
“No. But my dad is. I grew up with mounted deer heads in the house.” She was horrified anew.
“In New Hampshire…” she shook her head adamantly. “No one hunts in New Hampshire.”
The conversation went along in this vein a while longer. The lady from New Hampshire was either an amusing character or a tad drunk. We pointed out the bathroom to her and stepped outside into the chilly night air. Northern Indiana is colder than Missouri. “I’m sure someone hunts in New Hampshire,” I told Michael with a grin.
Michael worked Friday afternoon and night. I spent most of the time unpacking boxes of dishes and washing them. We discovered that his entire box of spices was destroyed. They look ok, but mice got into the box that was stored in his parents’ basement for our three months in Colorado. The mice chewed on a few of the spice bottles and left droppings and nesting materials to warn us. We can only assume everything is contaminated. After all of the dishes were done, I went for a walk and ended up at a football game. (See my last post.) Then I broke down all the boxes that had been unpacked. I filled an entire wardrobe box – one I could easily fit inside – with newspaper and packing paper. The pile of flattened boxes is several inches taller than the air mattress I’m sleeping on in the living room.
Saturday was overcast with sporradic rain. We spent the day shopping. Michael bought three different trash can sets from Home Depot and Menards. He’s searching for one that slides out on a track that can be installed in a kitchen cabinet. The kitchen is far too small for a trash can on the floor. The trick is that the available cabinet is very narrow. None of the three fit. They will all have to be returned. After the hardware stores was a fruitless search for brackets to hold together the base of the glass table my mom and Tim gave us. Michael called multiple specialty glass places. They aren’t open on weekends. We finished our shopping with a record-breaking grocery run to Walmart. Since Michael had no access to dishes before this, about the only food in his apartment was some bread and molding pineapple upside-down cake. Walmart was packed and the list was exhaustive. Grocery shopping took at least two hours and cost over $200. Michael’s apartment is now happily stocked with food.
With the newly acquired rations, we made tacos for dinner. The dining room lacks a table and is currently my bedroom, so we ate on the couch. Our friend Nathan came to visit. He went to grade school and high school with us and is working on his Master’s in sports management at Valparaiso University in town. Since Michael has no TV, we had a lovely evening just sitting on the couch and chatting. We honored “halfway to St. Pat’s day,” the guys with George Killian’s Irish Red beer and I with Mint Chocolate Bailey’s Irish Cream.
The search for a church has yielded frustrating results so far. Valparaiso appears to be a Lutheran town. There are four LCMS churches in town in addition to ELCA churches and the Valpo campus chapel, which I’ve heard is beautiful. Unfortunately, all of the LCMS churches appear to be very old and very traditional. Being quite fond of our contemporary worship, we are tentatively branching out. Sunday we attended Valparaiso Nazarene Church with Nathan. He’s also Lutheran but has found this church most to his liking. It’s definitely a mega-church. Michael and I got lost going in. We accidentally went into the huge gym where kids were playing and had to wander and follow signs to locate the sanctuary. It reminded me of The Crossing, a Presbyterian church I visited for a while in Columbia. Both sanctuaries are sprawling and theater-like. VNC outdid The Crossing with an additional mezzanine level of nosebleed seats. The service kicked off like a rock concert, complete with automated multi-colored lights, video screens and a fog machine. I knew a few of the songs, but not most. A man came on stage and prayed like he was performing a theatrical monologue, complete with a repeated phrase and gestures for dramatic emphasis. The audience/congregation applauded at the end of the prayer. Michael leaned over to me skeptically. “This is what you get for choosing contemporary over Lutheran,” I told him.
The sermon was actually quite good. The pastor preached on the equal nature of God’s wrath and God’s love. He said the two were not only married, but one and the same. Because of God’s love for us, He hates anything that will harm us. Sin always harms us, so God pours out his wrath on sin because He loves us so much. Basically, he preached on God’s character as our perfect Father. He used numerous Biblical references from a noticeably modern translation (I am oh so picky about Bible translations). The pastor was an engaging public speaker while still feeling genuine. He incorporated his own family into the message.
The sermon was followed by an altar call – a practice that makes almost all traditional Lutherans wriggle nervously in our seats. I ran through my thoughts on decision theology…God chooses me, but can I choose Him? Can I respond to Him? The Lutheran line: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…So on. And with those thoughts, the altar call was over. Soon after, the whole service was over. I want traditional contemporary. I missed the Lutheran order of service. There was no confession of faith. No confession and absolution. No Scripture readings except when they were brought up during the sermon. Outside, the sun dazzled our eyes.
“Well, what did you think?” Nathan asked.
Michael laughed. “It was…entertaining.” So I believe he’s back to the drawing board.
Sunday afternoon was sunny, so after lunch we walked to Ogden Gardens Park. The gardens are beautiful. Little pathways lead through flowers and other plants. Wooden bridges and gazebos offer a view of ponds fed by trickling creeks or kept moving by subtle fountains. Schools of orange, black and white fish swim up to beg for fish food or cheerios. There are also lawns spotted with trees of different varieties and sizes. We especially enjoy the trees that branch out from the trunk in multiple directions. Michael loves the weeping willows, too. We found the playground equipment and hopped on the swings for old times’ sake.
“Remember when we used to swing all the time at recess?” he asked.
“We always raced for that one swing. One time I got it, and you told me if I didn’t get off, you would kiss me. As if that would be a punishment. Silly boyfriend.”
“You said that?”
“No, you said that. I thought I was gonna get a kiss. But Meredith said if you kissed me she would scream.”
No kids were there, so we climbed on the equipment and slid down the slide.
We went back to the apartment with the intention of driving to the dunes to hike. But suddenly the sky was overcast and the temperature dropped what felt like ten degrees. We spent the afternoon lazily hanging out together and ate leftover tacos for dinner. For dessert, we went to Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor on Lincolnway downtown. Lincolnway will be my replacement for Broadway in Columbia, though I think it has considerably less character. Pat’s will be my replacement Sparky’s, though Sparky’s could never truly be replaced. Pat’s is much larger and feels more commercialized than Sparky’s. But to my delight, the shop offers a dazzling array of unique flavors. After much pondering, I ordered a scoop of Kitty Kitty Bang Bang in a sugar cone. The concoction was cheese cake ice cream, raspberry swirl, and crushed oreos. Delicious. Michael got caramel apple pie in a waffle cone. It was also quite good. I will likely become a regular customer of Pat’s Ice Cream once we’re married and I live here. I’m trying to maintain a wedding/honeymoon diet right now…but life’s too short not to eat ice cream.
If Michael didn’t have a job, none of this would be happening. I’m grateful he’s been blessed enough to get a good one, but this week it will be a drag. Starting tonight for the entire week, he’s working nights. He started at 11 p.m. and should get off at like 8 or 9 a.m. Then, naturally, he’s going to need to sleep half the day. It’s nearing 2 a.m. I’m trying to stay up as late as I comfortably can so that I can sleep on my air mattress while he sleeps in his bed once he gets home. I’m sure I won’t stay up all night or sleep nearly as long as he wants to, but the later I sleep in, the less time I have to kill while he’s asleep and I’m awake. I have a feeling I’ll have plenty of time to finish “Love in the Time of Cholera” soon. That book is depressing me. A lot of books depress me. I haven’t decided when I’ll go back to Missouri, but I’m sure I won’t stay here very much longer with this wacky schedule. I hope he will be done with training and won’t have to work any more nights once we’re married. Our wedding is exactly six months from Sunday. Hooray marriage! But I’m not a Hoosier, yet.