2 Hours of Jazz, 40 Minutes of Animals: Indy Zoo Revue #10

lemur concentrating!

A ring-tailed lemur trying really hard to concentrate despite distracting humans.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our family has been to our Indianapolis Zoo several times over the years. Now that my son is an adult and we’ve seen most of the animals a dozen times each, attendance for us isn’t an annual tradition, but we’ll drop in from time to time for special occasions.

Last week my wife Anne and I availed ourselves of a five-week event series called “Animals and All That Jazz”. Each Thursday evening a different jazz band has been invited to play a concert in their pavilion. Concert tickets cost a bit more, but they included zoo admission and the show lasted until after normal closing time. With a gracious one-time special discount through my employer, the two of us decided to check it out. It was a pleasant getaway from our current restlessness that has us pacing back and forth while waiting for our vacation week to arrive.

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An Autumn Walk Through Woods in West Baden

arches and autumn!

Gateway to a previously un-shared photo gallery…

Twice each year my wife Anne and I drive down to southern Indiana. Usually it’s for the sake of visiting relatives, helping family keep in touch, doing something nice for others, that sort of thing. Usually it consists of one three-hour drive down slow highways behind lackadaisical drivers, four to six hours of sitting and chatting and letting the older folks enjoy each other’s company while we might or might not nod off, then another three-hour drive home. We’re adult enough to accept not every weekend can be a convention or even a trip to the movie theater.

Dateline: October 24, 2015. My aunt suggested we break routine and get together for a bit of Indiana tourism. We headed out to the twin towns of French Lick and West Baden. When I was a kid we drove through them frequently but rarely stopped in either of them except for gas. Fast-forward four decades later, and now each town has a special attraction to boast as their own. For West Baden, it’s the enormous West Baden Springs Hotel, a structure with a history dating back to 1855 filled with frequently changing ownerships, periods of disuse, extensive restoration funded by multiple donors, and a new life today as a premier getaway in the southern Indiana area.

Once upon a time in the early ’80s my aunt took us inside for a quick look around. As I recall, beneath its large dome was a massive rotunda exquisitely detailed by proud artisans in styles hearkening to ages of yore. Back then we didn’t carry cameras around. We have no record of that visit. I thought it was a wonderful idea to return and see what’s been done with the place.

One little problem: upon our arrival we learned the entire facility had been rented out for the day for a fancy wedding. No uninvited visitors were allowed inside.

So this Saturday afternoon exploratory jaunt turned into a brisk autumn walk around the grounds, viewing the exterior features and digging the fascinating colors that nature shows off in southern Indiana every year ’round this time. Not quite the full West Baden Springs experience, but it would have to do.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 24: Outtakes Off I-90 West

Day 6 Devils Tower!

Welcome to Devil’s Tower. I’m your host, TV’s Wilford Brimley.

It’s a time-honored MCC tradition: every road trip concludes with bonus photos I skipped while compiling all the preceding chapters. However, this finale is a little more special than average.

Effective with this very entry, every single one of our annual road trips is now officially available for perusal and literary analysis on MCC from 1999 to 2017. All the major vacations from MCC’s 2012 inception to the present have been housed here exclusively from the get-go. As of today, all our prior travelogues from 1999 to 2011 have now been reposted and reformatted here for our own personal library to be shared with one and all — our lifelong, immutable road trip canon. Some write-ups were reprinted word-for-word, but in several cases extensive rewrites felt necessary and/or fun.

This curatorial project has been years in the making, and has now reached its final major milestone. It’s kind of a nice feeling.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 16: Bedevilment at Devils Tower

Devils Tower!

Many onlookers only know Devils Tower from that one time it worked with a young Steven Spielberg.

As of this writing I’ve visited 32 of our 50 United States. Anne has seen a few more thanks to her grandma, who drove her to Maine one time back in the ’80s. We’ve had the chance to luxuriate and wander several of those at length. Some of them were one-stop wonders, states adjacent to others that weren’t a main focus in a given trip, but were easy enough to cross off our lifetime to-do list if we could think of a reason to get out of the car and say hi. Perfect example: on our 2013 drive to Boston, we visited a Connecticut museum in our path (and weren’t enamored enough of that sketchy neighborhood to explore any further), but we couldn’t find an easy way to work Rhode Island into that year’s itinerary.

Since we were at the westernmost end of South Dakota anyway, we had wondered if we could find an excuse to hop over into its neighbor Wyoming. About two minutes of research brought us to an obvious option of inescapable prominence, by which I mean that gargantuan protuberance up there.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 15: Cold Shoulders from the Cold-Blooded

tortoise!

“Do I look hungry? Do I look to you like someone who needs fed like a baby?”

In the early years when my son tagged along on our travels, we made a point of including at least one amusement park or zoo on every road trip. That requirement faded as we got older, but we were happy to make time for animals if we found any interesting habitats along our paths.

Technically we’d already filled our 2009 quota at Custer State Park. We found it wasn’t South Dakota’s only wildlife habitat, and were curious to see if the Mount Rushmore State had other animals to offer besides panhandling burros and jaywalking bison.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 12: Burros Barge in Where the Buffalo Roam

burro!

That time we came under scrutiny from the South Dakota Burro of Investigation.

In the early years when my son tagged along on our travels, we made a point of including at least one amusement park or zoo on every road trip. That requirement faded as we got older, but we were happy to make time for animals if we found any interesting habitats along our paths.

In one South Dakota state park, it was the animals’ turn to come up and stare at us.

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 12: Mandatory Zoo Visit

Panamanian golden frogs!

Panamanian golden frogs — critically endangered, rather poisonous, and adorable hanging together from their little leaf shelter.

Before writing this chapter, Anne and I watched the first episode of the BBC’s inspiring, horrifying, utterly gorgeous Planet Earth II on Netflix, and now I’m ashamed of every inadequate animal photo we’ve ever taken. But let’s proceed with another batch of zoo memories anyway.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 14: Like a Bridge Away From Troubled Waters

Natural Bridge!

At long last: the one and only Natural Bridge!

If you’ve been following this miniseries up till now, you’ll know this wasn’t our best week. Between my infirmities and our frequent bouts of disappointment from half the attractions we visited, this was not Best Trip Ever. At all, in any way imaginable. Least of all from the Natural Bridge area, from their zoo to the Visitor Center.

Until we got under the Bridge.

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Cumberland Falls in the Fall

Anne + Falls!

Our lovely spokesmodel Anne welcomes you to “the Niagara of the South” according to the locals!

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Indy Zoo Revue Finale: Habitats & Handicraft

Orangutanorama!

This one’s for the orangutans. Just the orangutans.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

We conclude these galleries with a look at the scenes behind the animals — the spacious, sometimes lavish enclosures provided for the various residents at our zoo. When I was a kid, the old zoo on the east side was all about stacks of metal cages, concrete floors, and tightly crowded wildlife as depressing sideshow. My family has seen a number of zoos around the country over the past dozen years and appreciate those that defy the obsolete paradigm. If they can tuck in a few works of art around the edges for value-added visual flair, so much the better.

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Indy Zoo Revue #7: Last Call for Critters

Giraffe Head!

To their credit, giraffes sound absolutely nothing like David Schwimmer in person.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: one last miscellaneous mammalian menagerie — all the remaining animals that caught our eyes and got caught on camera just right.

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Indy Zoo Revue #6: A Cold-Blooded Cache

Turtle!

Turtle. Tortoise. Terrapin. Shell guy. Whatever.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: a smattering of reptiles from the Zoo’s climate-controlled Deserts enclosure. Plus one amphibian for, like, diversity or whatever.

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Indy Zoo Revue #5: Everybody in the Water

Walrus at Attention!

“I’m sorry, we will not be taking any questions at this press conference, but thank you for showing up and lavishing attention on me anyway.”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: a selection of our zoo’s waterborne creatures — mostly mammals, but with a few fish flung into the fray for fun.

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Indy Zoo Revue #4: The Birds II: Budgie & Lorie

Polychromatic!

The A-list diva emerges from the crowd and allows you to bask in her presence.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: another batch of birds, this time focused in two interactive enclosures where visitors could get up close to the wildlife, feed them on a limited basis, and pray they don’t choose that day to rebel.

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Indy Zoo Revue #3: Reluctant Monkeys

Orangutan Meet + Greet!

Just another humdrum work day for the new orangutan clerk at the Zootopia DMV.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: monkeys! Often the highlight of a zoo visit as they’re frolicking and gallivanting and perpetrating mischief on each other…um, we picked a bad Saturday for them, apparently. Mostly we found simians in a state of quiet solemnity, relaxing where they were and pondering their life choices. As with us humans, not every day is a party for one of nature’s most party-hearty animals.

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Indy Zoo Revue #2: The Birds!

Flamingo diva!

“Hey, human! If you run into John Waters sometime, ask him why he won’t take our calls, will ya?”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: feathers! Wings! Beaks! Colors! And one special visitor for the holiday, trying his best not to be seen.

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Indy Zoo Revue #1: Lions and Tigers and Bears!

Bear + Stump!

“Sure hope you’re not waiting for me to get my butt stuck inside that stump like that idiot Winnie-the-Pooh.”

Longtime MCC readers have perused galleries of the various zoos we’ve visited throughout the course of our annual road trips, from San Antonio to Minnesota to Atlanta to Queens to my favorite so far at the base of Cheyenne Mountain (the prologue, the main event, and the best part). When our long-term MCC remastering project is completed over the next year or so, readers will also eventually be treated to pics of our experiences in Omaha, Philadelphia, and The Worst Zoo We’ve Ever Visited, which shall remain nameless for now. And those were just the menageries we’ve seen with the word “zoo” in their titles.

But we don’t have to leave town to see animals. I mean, besides the occasional deer and rabbits we see in our suburb, or the coyote that I’ve heard are skulking around other neighborhoods. We’re fortunate to live in a city with its own answer to all those options — the Indianapolis Zoo, which has come a long way over the last thirty years from its early days of depressed wildlife hunched over in tiny, stacked chain-link cages. Today their living spaces are vaster, the environments are natural and pretty in their own right, the animals are varied, and the concession stands have made progress in lunchtime edibility and flavors. It’s a fun place to be, but we’ve been to our zoo so many times that it never occurred to me till a couple weeks ago that in five years of Midlife Crisis Crossover, we’ve never posted a single photo of it here. That changes now.

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

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Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 5: Gobblin’ Gobblin’ Gators

Naptime!

Woe betide any jester who thinks it’d be awesome to toss an alarm clock into the middle of naptime.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, my son was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!

Every time we brought my son on vacation in the early days, we tried to tailor at least one stop more for him than for the adults. Zoo Atlanta fit the bill nicely, but it wasn’t our only stop for wildlife on this trip. There’s something to be said for a site that offers a particular specialization, especially when there’s a chance of genuine, teeth-baring animal action.

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Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 3: Mandatory Zoo Visit

elephant!

A zoo where elephants enjoy their own version of Walden Pond? Sure, why not.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, my son was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!

Longtime readers have seen the title before. If you don’t know the drill, it’s not hard to figure out. We had time for just one stop on Day Two in Atlanta, which gave us a nice option for crossing “zoo” off the to-do list. It was certainly one of the most sylvan zoos we’ve ever visited, and we had the privilege of seeing one set of very special guest animals that were only in town from overseas for a limited time. It was incentive enough.

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Happy 2nd Earth Day Birthday, Giant Office Plant Monster

Earth Day Plant!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

On Earth Day 2015 as a fun perk, my employer marked the occasion by giving out free tiny potted palms to every home office employee. They were three inches tall, probably the kind that professional greenhouses give out to kids visiting on field trips. Most of them were probably dead within a week.

Just for kicks, I decided to conduct an experiment by seeing what would happen if I actually tried to take care of it.

Two years later, what was once a cheap greenhouse keepsake is nearly ready to audition for Little Shop of Horrors. Lucky for me it’s not empowered enough to escape my workplace or hitch a ride. Yet.

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