Brick Collection II

Indianapolis, USA
September 9, 2019

When I first saw John's brick collection it formed a single wall. In the time since we last met he's built that out into a full structure comprising hundreds of unique, individual bricks. It's practically a small house. It's beautiful.

John and David Outside
His Bespoke Brick House
In the four years since John initially shared his brick collection with me (back when I met him as a couchsurfer) coincidence has brought some parallel paths to our lives. He's kept on hosting many more travellers at his Cincinnati-area home just as I have been able to take in many a couchsurfer myself while living out in China these past couple years. John recently spent several weeks traveling around Colombia. I'm about to spend the remaining months of the year down in that same country. I was happy to glean advice from his experiences on the road there--and also happy to hear him share details about his brick collection for a second time.

"You're interested in different languages and words," John said to me as we stood outside his new structure. "What do you think the words on this brick mean?"

John and Leila
John held up a brick with a stamped impression reading "ROOKWOOD FAIENCE". I recognized the first word as a neighborhood that I'd happened to visit the previous day up near the Cincinnati Art Museum. But, I didn't know what the second word meant. It sounded French. Fortunately, the perfect person to explain was right at-hand.

"I don't know what that second word means," I told John, "But, I'll bet Leila, does. Her first language is French. Hey, Leila... ", I called out.

Leila and I had come together for this visit to John's home near Cinicinnati. She and I met studying over roughly the same years at the same grad school department back up in Montréal. She's since taken a teaching job in Indiana while I wound up spending the last couple years doing similar work back out in China. Still, the two of us managed to keep in contact. As part of this re-connection, we decided to make a trip together for the weekend. John's home made a logical getaway: just a two-hour drive from where she's been teaching in Indiana.

David and Leila Outside
Cincinnati Ice Cream Parlor
Leila was right around the corner from John and me, inspecting the different names stamped into individual bricks forming another side of John's newly-built brick house.

"Ah, faience," Leila said after she walked over and looked at the mysterious brick. "It means an object that's fired from clay but it also has a particular meaning in architecture. It's something to do with the designs and the special way that it's glazed."

Connecting John and Leila has been a nice way to spend time with people I know from wholly different realms. John has lived in the Cincinnati area for decades so knew all the good places to visit. Though he is a frequent couchsurfing host he was still happy to accompany when we went out around town. When Leila and I mentioned that along our drive back to Indiana we planned to visit an ice cream parlor operating since 1900 set in a rural part of the state John mentioned that he'd been there once, himself... and that there was also a similar Cincinnati institution: the Aglamesis Brothers' ice cream parlor. So, on the spur of the moment, the three of us made a late-night trip to be able to compare both fin-de-siècle ice cream parlors.

Leila, David and John
Eat Goetta for Breakfast
John was also the right person to lead us to a dish unique to Cincinnati that neither Leila nor I had ever heard of--let alone eaten--before we happened to find it referenced in a book we saw for sale at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Evidently, goetta was created in Cincinnati sometime in the 19th century by German immigrants. It's a sort of seasoned sausage that's made half from meat and half from steel-cut oats. There was an old, smoky diner within walking distance from John's house that served it up as a side choice with any breakfast. Goetta was good.

Fountain Square
Finally, John joined us coming along to the last place Leila and I visited before driving back from Cincinnati weekend. The Taft Museum was hosting a touring exhibition of 19th-century French advertising posters, "L'Affichomania," that intrigued all of us. Once again, having Leila alongside as a native French speaker enhanced both John's and my understanding of the objects we were looking at.

On our drive back Leila and I did manage to stop off at the other classic ice cream parlor in Indiana, Zaharakos, pulling in just as a huge Hindu parade was walking past the storefront. Small-town Indiana is not where I would have expected there to be numbers to support a Ganesh festival. But, evidently a local employer has hired hundreds of engineers from India and completely transformed the demographics of the small town.

Ganesh Festival
Columbus, Indiana
Thanks for hosting us, John! And Leila... with both of us looking to move off to new continents next year we'll inevitably continue our routine of meeting up in different states and countries. Where next? Who knows!

Now, it's time for me to move along. I've had fortunate timing passing through Indianapolis. Installation of a new fare payment system on the city buses has meant that getting around the city happens to be free over my entire time in this town. Now, I'm about to hop on route 11 downtown to catch a Megabus north to go call on Aunt Kathy.

Next stop: Chicago