from Saturday, February9th of the year2013.
I’m just returning home from a week in Indianapolis, a midwestern city I’d not been to before. The midwest fascinates me, because it really does feel like a place as culturally different from New York as, say, Australia, or the +44. There are different rules that govern standard greetings, the way one wears one’s hair in public, the appropriateness of different forms of dress, the relationship of the afternoon to the evening, et cetera. One thing I’m obsessed with is cities revitalizing their downtowns. I love this so much. Cincinnati is doing it, Detroit is kind of doing it, and Indianapolis is doing it in a major way. There is an exquisitely retro steakhouse (retro in the sense of it having been around for 100 years) and a funny wine bar and a hipster cocktail boîte and all that, and then there are the cancerous and ubiquitous chains. There is something grotesque to me about there being this wonderful steakhouse St Elmó, and then just up the street the linguistically repellant chain steakhouse “Ruth’s Chris,” whatever that means, opens up shop. I feel like the people should take to the streets with pitchforks to protest that shit. Similarly, we need to shut down the TGI Fridays in Union Square; let’s take a tactic from the anti-abortion protestors and make people need an escort to get a mudslide fifteen paces from the greenmarket. Ugh.
Anyway, one thing that I am always acutely aware of in the midwest is the use of space in restaurants. There is so. much. space. The distance between the tables is loosely the size of apartments I’ve lived in in New York. There is room for empty space, for decorative follies, for an ambitious plywood and taxidermy design budget. What they have not, it seems, in any way figured out is how to handle an entryway. Despite all the space, there seems to be a confluence of cultural and spatial problems that means that you have five hundred women with overdone hair and makeup and wildly underdressed tops and boots (a white hoodie and UGG boots on a Friday night out!?) and the men who love them all trying to disrobe in a tiny tiny amount of space. I’d love to see if somebody has ever videotaped their entryways to design the flow; I’ve never really experienced this kind of problem in New York, even in crowded, cramped spaces there seems to be a designed and impromptu choreographic itinerary that basically everybody follows.
All of this got me thinking about regionalism and food-pride and ways to highlight, rather than average together, all the fun specific things that make specific places great. I like the idea that only in Cincinnati can you get that bizarre chili that has to be ordered a certain way; I like saving certain eatings for the one time every 18 months I go to Chicago, or Montréal. I feel like it’s key to establish a tradition that’s distinct (and that indeed resists) these restaurant chains and drugstores insisting that there is no season without a “special” aisle with wildly inappropriate Easter colors blasting in my face when I’m still observing lent. It’s grotesque in the same way, to me, that there was a line of Diù-Xí men outside of the Ruth’s Chris (again, what is going on with that; are they lesbians? Is it possessive or…?)