A Maudlin Moment about Moribund Marquees and Missing Metropolis

State Theatre, Anderson, Indiana

Every empty marquee tells a story:

Once upon a time, there was a community gathering place where citizens and neighbors shared adventure, laughter, heartbreak, tension, jingoism, victory, sorrow, dreams, and amazement in a cozy, rarefied atmosphere bereft of stereo sound, digital imagery, comfortable upholstery, or ads teaching you baseline smartphone manners. Many a childhood memory was born there, many a relationship begun there, many a care in the world set aside for two hours inside a temporary escape hatch offering inspiration or respite.

Something something something, and then it closed forever and now it’s an eyesore, and did you hear about the acrimonious lawsuits raging behind closed doors as we speak, but hey, at least we have a Redbox kiosk on every other corner. And they all lived in isolation ever after.

The name of the town changes like a Mad Libs answer. Sometimes the part about the lawsuits is redacted because no one cares enough to sue anyone else over its demise. But the rest of the story is frequently the same.

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2012 Road Trip Photos #1: Vandalia the Ex-Capitol Presents Lincoln and Madonna

Each year our family takes a road trip to a different part of the United States, takes photos, and provides a travelogue for friends. In the past, my procedure has been to spend months assembling the stories in my head; actually write it once the right set of mental circumstances fall neatly into place (usually about the same time my wife starts asking me, “How much longer?” every other day); and refuse to share a single word of it with any other soul until the entire piece was a complete work from start to finish. The process was arduous and drawn out, but often fun and usually worth it.

Note how the careful use of adverbs in the previous sentence belies my reasons for trying a fresh approach this year. This year, with laptop in hand I wrote on the go, spending the last few hours of every evening capturing our day’s journey in print as thoroughly as I could, then posting them here on a nightly basis for nine consecutive entries. It meant sleeping a lot less than I normally do on vacation and temporarily relinquishing the entertainment/news aspect of my brain that sparks my writing impetus more often than not, but I enjoyed the immediacy of the experience and appreciated the support of those readers who graciously followed along.

In several non-consecutive entries, I’ll be sharing the photos of our experiences from our nine-day semi-adventure, which took us from Indiana, via Illinois and Missouri, to Kansas and our primary destination of Colorado. The trip had its ups and downs just as any road trip does. Even in the worst of times, we thought some of the pics were keen.

The photos will largely be presented in chronological order, but not slavishly so. Front-loading this with all the shots of breathtaking mountain scenery is tempting, to be sure. We’ll get there.

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Day One was a nine-hour marathon from home to Topeka, with only one certified sightseeing stop in the small town of Vandalia, Illinois. My wife had one particular item on her agenda: their Madonna of the Trail statue.

A Madonna of the Trail

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