Wednesday, February 16, 2005

This Is My Hometown

You can't go home again.

Well, I guess you can, but it will be radically altered and changed.

Case in point: This past weekend a friend of mine wanted to see The Aviator. But he didn't want to drive down to Fishers to see it. Since the ratio of him coming to see me to me going to see him is about 37:1, I told him I'd be glad to meet him at his home in Pendleton. Which, of course, is where I grew up.

Pendleton, at least as my memory recalls, was considered neither a small town nor a big suburban city when I lived there. It rested somewhere in between, which gave us both a quaint downtown full of locally owned arts and crafts stores as well as popular chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Hardee's. But in the past ten years the town's been trying to become an alternative to Noblesville, slowly suffocating its small town atmosphere in the process. Hence the large and unsightly new Marsh that just opened and the now-vacant grocery store that rests downtown. And the odd-looking new Dairy Queen that forced the closure of the older one near the Interstate. Pizza Hut and Hardee's are still there, but because they were built in a different time, they come across as run-down and depressing instead of the once-thriving businesses that they once were. (Seriously. When Hardee's opened up, you would have thought that no one in Pendleton had ever eaten a hamburger before.)

This, of course, pales in comparison to what they've done to the high school. Since my friend is a coach at the school, I convinced him to use his key so we could take a quick tour. The school was remodeled several years ago, so I knew it would look different on the inside, but I was unprepared for the lack of feeling I would have. Oh, sure, there are still a few icons from my youth that still have a presence - for example, the pen and pencil machine is still in the main hallway - but a lot of it has been ripped out. The lockers? Gone, replaced with newer ones that don't have a fancy overhead compartment to store your books. The decor? All changed - no more plastic flower-y curtains and weird textured wallpaper. The gym? Still the same in theory, but the addition of 20 corporate banners makes it feel less like a gymnasium and more like a huge billboard. Even the stairways are different.

Yeah, I know, it's been remodeled, what did I expect? I'm not sure. Maybe something that said I was once a part of the school. But other than a few sports trophies and a few of my classmates' pictures on the "Sports Wall of Fame" - a new addition as well - it's like the class of 1991 didn't even exist. (At least not those of us who didn't excel in sports.)

After this, my friend and I headed to Anderson to grab some lunch before the movie. Anderson is in a pretty sorry state right now. The entire city felt deserted. Boarded up buildings were everywhere, as were run-down homes and rusted-out cars. Anderson was never what I would call "high class", but it always looked better than it does now. A lot of my hangouts from high school have now been closed, such as the two theatres at the mall. Oh, they're still there, just deserted and decrepit looking. (And gutted on the inside. I took pictures through the windows.) The mall is still in existence, but appears to be on its last legs. From what I've heard it has about a 40% occupancy rate, which means it pretty much mirrors the city. Sad.

I didn't drive by either of the homes I lived in during my youth, mainly because it was dark when I left and I wanted to get back to Fishers. It's funny how it feels more like my home now than Pendleton does. I still proudly say I grew up in Pendleton, but Fishers (or Indianapolis) is now where I consider myself from. And other than nostalgic trips back, I doubt I'll be going to Pendleton much more in the future. Because all it does is depress me.

The Aviator was good, by the way.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tool Boy

I worked out next to Jennifer Garner yesterday. I saw someone hop on the Stairmaster next to mine, so I glanced over to see who it was. I immediately thought, "Is that Jennifer Garner?" Of course, I instantly realized it wasn't Jennifer Garner. Here's why:

#1) Ben Affleck was nowhere near her. And, judging from what I've read, he's always never 12 feet from whichever Jennifer he's currently dating.

#2) She was wearing a 2003 Race for the Cure t-shirt. I'm sure Jennifer Garner supports breast cancer research, but I seriously doubt she was at the race. Had she been, all the local news stations would have never let us forget that. They'd still be running stories. ("Will Jennifer Garner be at this year's Race for the Cure? News at eleven.") And I doubt that Jennifer Garner saw the ugly yellow and blue t-shirt design at a local thrift store and picked it up.

#3) Lifetime Fitness is in Indianapolis. Jennifer Garner is not.

Too bad, because I think it would be fun to work out next to a celebrity, especially a celebrity I think is really cute. Oh, sure, I've never seen an episode of Alias and that 13 Going On 30 movie was a bit too cutesy for its own good, but that doesn't mean I would kick her off the nearest elliptical trainer.

Tool Boy was at the gym last night. Tool Boy is this guy I think is really funny looking yet seems to somehow attract all the women within a ten treadmill radius. I don't know how to describe his looks. Think of the cliche of a 20 year-old frat boy. Now age him by about seven years but keep the same wardrobe, like the backwards baseball hat and the fraternity t-shirts. Also add some pounds and remove the chin. That's Tool Boy.

Tool Boy caught my attention about five weeks ago when I noticed that he was using a treadmill not to walk or run, but to stroll. The next day he was on the same treadmill going the same speed. Then about a week later I had to use the treadmill next to his since it was the only one available. I couldn't believe the amount of attractive women that came up to talk to this guy. And each one was totally enamored of him. I'm still trying to figure out why. The backwards baseball cap? The ever-present smirk on his face? The fact that he goes to a gym to do everything except become fit? I don't know, I can't figure it out.

So, anyway, Tool Boy has one admirerer who doesn't seem to understand that he's a playa and not a lova. She's always walking up and touching his arm, patting him on the back, and giving that coy smile that I interpret as "Now that we've had sex we're supposed to get married!!!" Tool Boy just blows her off. I haven't seen her in the past few days, so I hope she hasn't sunk into a deep depression, finally realizing that Tool Boy has no interest. I'd tell her as much if I saw her, but since I don't wear the latest $90 t-shirts nor do I own a baseball cap - let alone wear one backwards - she probably would have no desire to even speak to me.

Yeah, I admit it, I'm jealous of Tool Boy. But then I think of what his life must be like. The shortness of breath whenever he walks faster than two miles an hour. Constantly wondering, "What is that girl's name? And have I slept with her?" Having to remember football lineups from teams that played the Superbowl long before he was born. Spending all his free money on beer and Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. And suddenly I realize that my life isn't so bad. Oh, sure, I don't attract too many women at the gym, but then again I'm not there to socialize, I'm there to work out. I've never been comfortable talking to anyone at the gym anyway, because I'm always sweaty and stinky and out of breath. And that's not a very good first impression to give people. Instead I put the headphones on, set the iPod to "shuffle" and watch people for 45 minutes. And silently judge some of them.