Along what was the Dandy Trail in what is now Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, you will find an abandoned bridge. It’s hard to reach on foot. Jayson Rigsby recently contacted me to say he made photographs of it on a recent kayaking trip along Eagle Creek.
The Dandy Trail was a 1920s pleasure-drive loop in what was then the country surrounding Indianapolis. I’ve written many times about the Dandy Trail and have driven about half of it; read all about it here. Since the Dandy Trail’s heyday, Indianapolis expanded greatly, and now most of the land around the old Dandy Trail has been heavily developed.
Eagle Creek cuts across northwest Indianapolis and intersects the Dandy Trail near where the town of Traders Point used to be. Read Traders Point’s story here. In short, frequent flooding of Eagle Creek in this area led to a flood-control project in 1967 that created Eagle Creek Reservoir, which led to the creation of an enormous city park surrounding it. It also led to the demolition of almost every building in Traders Point, as it was thought the flood-control work would permanently flood the town. That didn’t happen and Traders Point was destroyed in vain.
Here’s an aerial image of Eagle Creek Park. I’ve pointed out the bridge’s location, and have roughly drawn in the now lost portion of the Dandy Trail. The lost road’s north end empties out into what was Traders Point.
Zooming in for a closer look, you can clearly see the bridge. It’s at about the vertical center, and a little left of horizontal center.
It’s interesting to me that no trace remains of the Dandy Trail as it led to and away from this bridge. Here’s an aerial image from 1956 that shows the bridge and the road.
Jayson first made this image of the bridge from the air, from just west of the bridge.
Then he got into his kayak and rowed in for a closer look. This is the north end and west side of the bridge. This bridge appears to have a pony girder truss design. The Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis specialized in those, so this bridge might be one of theirs.
Here’s a closer look at the north end of the bridge.
This is the west side of the bridge.
I have heard that at some times of the year this bridge is submerged. I’m happy Jayson kayaked out to this bridge and gave me permission to share his photos.
My therapist urged me to do something today to honor the day and honor Rana. I decided to write about her, about her funeral, and about how I’m doing. But first, this photograph.
This photo is from the last Christmas before Rana’s mom and I split up. Rana (still Ross then) a was a senior in high school. We were gathering for a family photo and someone pressed the button to grab this candid shot. I just love seeing this interaction between Rana and me. Just look at our faces. Those are two people who love each other and are happy to be together. I’m going to cling to this image today.
I don’t think about Rana every day anymore. But often enough something will remind me of Rana or our time together as a family, and I’ll be sad and irritable the rest of the day.
I’m still seeing a grief counselor, and will for some time to come yet. Yesterday we talked about Rana’s funeral, really plumbed the depths of that day. It helped me finally unpack and process it. It was difficult, of course, as the funeral for any loss like this will be. But that day I was the ex-husband in a room full of people primarily from Rana’s mom’s world, and I was very anxious about it. The end of that marriage was 100% my fault and 100% her fault; we both did very destructive things. What did everyone know? Was anyone judging me harshly?
I saw Rana’s biological father for the first time in 20 years, and a great deal of his family. I knew many of them a long time ago, because they were surprisingly open and welcoming to me. A couple times I even visited their farm in rural Illinois when we dropped off or picked up Rana/Ross for a long visit there. They treated me like family.
I also met some of my ex-wife’s new family for the first time. I wasn’t prepared for that, even though I knew it was going to happen. It was awkward for me.
I was extremely disappointed for my ex-wife that none of her family came. She has two sisters, and her father is still living. They live in distant states, but apparently none of them could figure out how to fly in for the funeral. As much as I worried about how I might be judged in that room, I judged her family very harshly for their failure to support my ex in this time of extreme loss and pain.
But the most surprising thing about the funeral was how much time my ex-wife spent with me. She sat with her husband during the service, which lasted all of 20 minutes or so. 75 percent of the rest of the time, she was either with me or within five feet of me. I had not spent that much time with her, or spoken with her that much, since 2004.
There’s no denying that we will always share an important and deep connection because of our children. Even though I didn’t enter the picture until Rana/Ross was 7, I was present and active during the majority of Rana/Ross’s childhood. I was far more involved than Rana/Ross’s bio dad was. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that my ex wanted to spend time with me. Because of that connection, I also was comforted to be with her.
But it was also challenging to be with her, because she was cruel and abusive toward me, especially in the last few years before we split. Appropriately, I’ve since maintained a strict separation of our lives and strong boundaries around our interactions — boundaries that on that day came tumbling down, if only for those couple of hours.
The last time I wrote about Rana I said that I was about to try an antidepressant. The first one we tried improved my mood considerably, but gave me strong anxiety at bedtime and made sleep harder to come by. The doctor added a second antidepressant that he said for most people reduces or eliminates those side effects. The combination is working well for me. I’m happier, I feel hope and optimism, and I’m brighter and more cheerful in the world. It’s the first time I’ve ever had SSRIs/SNRIs not lead to frightening, serious side effects, let alone work. These two meds absolutely make life a lot easier while I continue to grieve.
It’s ironic, I suppose, that this anniversary of Rana’s death falls on the last day of Pride Month. I wonder how she would have participated. I’d like to be able to ask her.
Rana lives on in my heart and mind, but isn’t there anymore to visit, call, or text. This is the most challenging thing for me day to day, knowing it’s not possible to reach out anymore.
I was looking back through old photos recently and came upon this photo of my parents, my brother, and me on my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in 2014. We had taken them out for a fancy dinner in downtown South Bend, and then walked over to the church where they were married so they could reminisce. My sons were along; one of them made this image of us sitting on the church’s steps. I was 46 in this photo. Dad was 73.
My parents looked like they were 30 until they were 50, when they started to noticeably age. Even then, through their 50s and 60s they passed for a decade or more younger. They passed that trait down to both of their children. I was routinely carded in bars until I was in my late 40s. My co-workers were surprised when I mentioned recently that I’m 54; one said he would have guessed 40. Bless him.
We were also a family of full, thick hair. Here’s a photo of us with our Aunt Betty from when I was about 14, and Dad was about 43. But you’ll notice that his hairline is clearly receding.
Dad’s hair began to noticeably fall out starting in his 40s. It fell out unevenly, starting over his left temple and slowly working itself back. Here’s Dad in 1991 when he was 50, that hair-loss pattern in progress.
Meanwhile, a bald spot appeared at his crown. Then his hair started falling out over his right temple, eventually reaching the bare crown. It left him with a tuft of hair in front, right in the middle. You can see in the first photograph how he handled that: he left that central tuft long and combed it straight back to reach where his hair resumed again at his crown. He then slicked it all down with Vaseline hair tonic, which was made mostly of mineral oil. It wasn’t a great look on him, but there wasn’t much he could do with that hair pattern.
As I cruised through my 40s with my hair intact, I thought surely I’d escape Dad’s fate. Here I am at age 47 with a full head of hair.
But after I turned 50, my hair began to thin at my crown and recede over my left temple, just like my dad. I didn’t realize how much hair I was losing until early in the pandemic. I didn’t feel good about sitting in my stylist’s chair, so I bought clippers and gave myself a buzz. Only then could I see that my crown was nearly bare, and the hair over my left temple was thin all the way to the crown. I was losing my hair in the same pattern my father did. (I hate how I look in a buzz cut, but I don’t know any other way to cut my own hair.)
In my early 20s I swore to myself that as I aged, I would accept it in peace and with grace. But then with very good fortune I looked young for the next nearly 30 years. As I headed into my 50s I noticed gray hairs finally starting to show up and noticeable wrinkles forming on my face. Weirdly, my eyebrows became thin and faint. I certainly didn’t celebrate these changes, but I didn’t rue them either.
But when I saw how clearly my hair was going away, I freaked out — and I broke my promise to myself. I immediately tried Rogaine, and used it for nine months, but it had no effect. My dermatologist then prescribed Propecia, but the side effects were unpleasant and frustrating so I gave it up right away. I had no choice but to accept my hair loss.
I mourned for several months. I loved my hair! It was hard to come to peace with losing it.
Here’s a photo of me from the year I turned 40 that I especially love. I was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a field trip with my older son’s third-grade class. My son took my camera and made this portrait. I love it first because I see my enjoyment of my son in my eyes. But I also like it because my hair looked straight up terrific. I was wearing it a little long then, something I did off and on from college to my early 40s.
I now accept that little by little the top of my head will come to look like my dad’s, and I increasingly won’t like how I look. I never liked how Dad styled that front-and-center tuft, but I am no smarter than him and can’t see a better way. Maybe I’ll try shaving it. But fortunately, progress is slow and I won’t have to cross that bridge soon.
I’ve been very fortunate — I’ve had an extra long run of youthful good looks. I won’t complain anymore. But it feels good to get this off my chest.
For a few days in early June, my wife and I technically owned five cars.
I drive this 2013 Volkswagen Passat. It is a terrific car — comfortable, powerful, well-handling, built like a bank vault. I get the impression all mid-sized sedans are as good these days. Just as we perfected the sedan, automakers are discontinuing them to make room in their factories for more SUVs. As a dedicated car owner and driver, I’m displeased. But that’s a rant for a different post.
My wife drives this funky and fun 2017 Kia Soul. I wish it were a tighter handler, and I wish its seats were more comfortable on long trips. But its small size makes it easy to maneuver, and it’s good on gas.
You might recall that we bought one of our sons a 2005 Ford Escape last year to help him launch into independent adulthood. I didn’t mention it at the time, but he’s had an incredibly rough last ten years. Some of it was his doing and some of it wasn’t, but if I told you all he’s been through you would be amazed that he’s still alive.
Early this year someone rear ended the Escape hard enough to give our son a serious concussion. It also totaled this SUV, which is a crying shame because it was really terrific to drive. Even though he got a fair price for the Escape from the other driver’s insurance, his concussion affected his ability to work and soon he ate through all of that money just paying bills.
He plans to sue for lost wages, but that takes time and he’s in a pickle now. Even though his concussion was improving and on more and more days he was able to work, he had no way to get there. He was falling further and further into a financial hole. So we went looking for another used car for him. We soon found this 2002 Mercury Mountaineer, which set us back $2700.
This well-equipped SUV drove ponderously, but it made up for it by having a near-luxury interior that included a third-row seat. It had only 150,000 miles on it, low for its age. I checked all of the things I know to check on a used car, and drove it, and it seemed solid.
The next day I drove it up to the BMV to transfer the title. On the way back, I had to put my foot to the floor to accelerate quickly on a short Interstate on-ramp. Something went BOOM! — and then it ran roughly and lacked power.
Sidebar: When you own old cars, you need an OBD II code reader. Just because a check-engine light is on doesn’t mean whatever’s wrong is worth fixing. I drove my old Toyota Matrix for at least 60,000 miles with a problem with the variable-valve timing system. It was going to cost twice what the car was worth to fix it. The car ran fine. When check-engine light lit for that problem, I just attached my code reader and turned the light off.
My code reader is this little dongle you attach to the OBD II port under your dashboard. It syncs over Bluetooth to an app on your phone that scans the car and shows you all of the codes in play.
When I connected it to the Mountaineer, it threw 17 separate codes. Lesson learned: bring the code reader whenever you evaluate a used car. Sure, the seller can use a code reader to turn off the codes. But you have to know that is a thing and own a code reader to be able to do it.
Most of the Mountaineer’s codes were for minor things easily and inexpensively fixed. Two were concerning: two cylinders were misfiring. That probably was worth fixing, were it not for two more codes: failure of two transmission bands. I feared the worst.
I limped the Mountaineer over to my mechanic. He’s helped me eke out long lives from several over-the-hill cars I’ve owned. He drove it, and checked the codes, and poked around a little under the hood. Then he called me. “Jimmy,” he began — and he only calls me Jimmy when it’s bad news — “It’s not good. Replacing those bands isn’t too awful bad, but 90 percent of the time when I do that, I find serious transmission damage that you can fix only with a new transmission. These Mountaineers are especially prone to that. [He’s right. I looked it up.] That’s a $4,000 bill. If I did the band work, we’re looking at north of a grand, which you’d have to pay only for me to find that the transmission is junk. This old car just isn’t worth it. It’s really time for you to move on here.”
Play the sad trombones.
When I picked up the Mountaineer, my mechanic said, “I’ve got this 2007 Honda CR-V here. I’ve been tinkering with it as I’ve had time, fixing everything that needed fixed. That wasn’t much, because these cars are incredibly reliable. I own one and my wife owns one. I almost never see CR-Vs come through here, and when I do it’s invariably something minor. This one’s a little beat up, and it has 225,000 miles on it. But it’ll go another 100,000 miles easy. I’d sell it to you if you’re interested.”
Margaret and I drove it, and it drove and handled like a car with 200,000 fewer miles on it. We worked out a deal for $4100 and I brought it home.
At about the same time, our son ran into more setbacks. His choices ten years ago put him in a deep hole, and the climb out has been long and full of earned and, increasingly, unearned consequences. An unearned consequence landed on him a few weeks ago, and him needing a car is on hold for now.
Our daughter was driving this 2010 Ford Focus.
It had been Margaret’s car, but when we bought the Kia we sold the Focus to our daughter for a nominal sum. She was just starting her adult life and needed a car. She named the car Fred, and she proceeded to ride Fred hard and put him away wet. I took him for a drive and found him to be very, very tired, with 196,000 miles on him. I hoped we could squeeze another year out of him.
I drove Fred to my mechanic, who found the front brakes to be beyond shot, the front sway bar links to be worn out, and the motor mounts to be cracked through. He said that otherwise the car is in okay shape. He didn’t recommend replacing the motor mounts as this would cost us a lot in labor for little gain other than a reduction in noise and vibration. But he could do the brakes and the sway bar links for a reasonable price, and if we did that we ought to be fine. I said yes. The car’s tires were near the end of their useful lives, so I had Discount Tire put on the least-expensive tires they offered that would fit.
We decided that the CR-V will go to our daughter. We’ll be the First Parental Bank and Trust — she’ll buy the car from us on a zero-interest two-year term. We are taking Fred in trade. She’s already named the CR-V Henry.
We’ll pull Fred into the garage and leave him there until our son is ready. Then we’ll give that car to him. We hope he’ll be steady and able to replace Fred when the time comes.
Meanwhile, I sold the Mountaineer to a junk yard for $420.
That’s five cars. The reason I say I technically owned five is because I haven’t yet transferred Fred’s title to me. But the deal is made and it’s just a matter of me going to the BMV.
It’s been quite an adventure buying all of these cars. I’ve learned some important lessons the hard way. But we feel good about being able to help our kids through the rough-and-tumble years of gaining their full independence.
I won’t rehash it at length because I’ve written about it many times before. I prefer any of my “good” film and digital cameras to my iPhone. But when my iPhone is the only camera on me, it does good work and lets me capture a subject I would otherwise miss.
My current iPhone is the 12 mini. Frankly, I don’t like how it extra-saturates the colors and gives an appearance of extra sharpness. I say appearance because when you zoom the images to 100% you find that the details are soft. I’m not sure how this camera manages to do that. The end result is an idealized look, a reality that doesn’t exist. Photos from my previous iPhone, the 6s, had a more natural look.
In January, while I was on my long bereavement leave, I drove down to Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River. I drove the Michigan Road and inventoried our guide signs along the way, but then took a long walk along old Madison’s streets. This coffee house is on the main drag.
In June I visited San Diego. Our company had its first ever annual industry conference on a resort island there. I also brought my Olympus OM-2n and a roll of Kodak Ektar. Photos from that roll are forthcoming.
Here’s another resort island photo, this time looking out into Mission Bay.
Closer to home, while on a walk around the neighborhood in early Spring I stopped to photograph the callery pear blooms.
On another neighborhood walk, I came upon this 1969 or 1970 Chevrolet C/10 truck. Remember when we used to call these pickups? Nobody does that anymore.
On New Year’s Day I got out my mom’s old record player, which is from the late 1950s or early 1960s. I have a small number of vinyl LPs that belonged to Mom and probably 100 78s that belonged to my grandparents.
In May, my longtime friend Michael drove to Indy so we could see Stryper together. They are a Christian metal band that has been making records and touring since the 1980s.
Finally, I really like this photo of the back of the Slippery Noodle Inn on the south side of Downtown Indianapolis. I was at an event next door, and stepped out onto the terrace to make this image.