17 A Hotel Lobby in Indianapolis

I started my search for a Hopperesque hotel lobby at Circle Center, the retail mall that is the focus of Indianapolis's downtown renewal. A tourism information booth was set up in the glass-encased Indianapolis Arts Garden, where skywalks converge above the busy intersection below.

There, two African-American women sat between two potted palms at a table displaying handouts for local arts organizations and day-of-show theater tickets. One woman was large and dark, in her mid-thirties, with straight hair, big glasses, and a dark blue dress. Her lighter-skinned junior partner wore a lightweight flowery blouse and had corkscrewed hair atop her head. They didn't know of any hotel lobbies downtown like I sought.

"Are you from Indianapolis?" I asked.

They looked askance at each other. "Born and raised," the older one answered.

"Do you think that people in Indianapolis are isolated?"

The young one giggled and responded, "It is cliquish. I think that people are more in cliques than they are isolated. Like there's neighborhoods: the Riverside area, the historic area. To a certain extent, I think it is isolated.
But I think that's human nature."

"What about the African-American community? Are they isolated from the Whites?"

The older one shook her head. "I just never thought about it, 'cause I mean I interact with everybody, so…. I don't really stick to one race. You just go. And I say everybody's pretty much open and together."

The young one tittered again, "Unless they're in their clique. You know?"

I was glad to hear them confirm the tourism office's claim that Indianapolis is proud of its African-American heritage. Ransom Place, the traditionally black neighborhood just west of downtown, is home to jazz joints where The Ink Spots and Wes Montgomery
got their starts. Weekly "Jazz on the Avenue" concerts are still held at the Madame Walker Theatre Center, named for a local African-American woman whose hair care products made her America's first female self-made millionaire.

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