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    Germanic Utopia

    July 31, 2016

    New Harmony.

     

    Sounds like a fly by night, curbside revival you might find somewhere in the South, or maybe some new age Mormon retreat center out in the middle of Utah.

     

    Instead, it's a tiny town in Indiana with less than 900 residents (not all full-time).  

     

    A place where architecturally-interesting relics from the past mingle with artsy, creatively-gifted types, the quiet, filthy rich types, and several types in between.  

     

    Mary Ann and I traveled separately from Michael.  He had some work obligations.  Not to mention that logistically taking three adults along with a large three-year-old puppy was a bit of a hassle in one car.  

     

    On our drive, Chuck Berry and even some Irish tunes play as Mary Ann sings along.  

     

    Just under two-hours, we arrive.

     

    Former Germanic Utopia:  New Harmony.

     

    One flashing light.

     

    Four-way stops.

     

    Voluminous green spaces.

     

    The Wabash River.

    The old, now barricaded bridge linking Illinois to Indiana.  (Apparently, neither state wanted to pay for its upkeep, nor did either state allow its pedestrians and cyclists use of it.)  

     

    Uniform residential prototypes.

     

    Barns, gardens, and parks.

     

     

    The Athenenum.

     

    The roofless sanctuary (an inverted rose).

     

    The Granary (now used for social events). 

     

    Labyrinths to reflect.

     

    Tourists who flock to witness the 30,000-acre former Utopian enclave.

     

    When we drop our stuff off at the house, Mary Ann invites me for drinks and dinner at the Red Geranium.  There, we meet a friendly older couple.  

     

    Jim tells me where to take my motorcycle when I head back down middle America -- an area in Kentucky, but... 

     

    "Don't stop in Hazzard County."

     

    After our light meal, we head back to the house.

     

    Mary Ann sorts and organizes while I tour their old Harmonist house.

     

    The evening closes early since Michael does not arrive until tomorrow; he is the house night owl.  

     

    I find an interesting novel to begin and while I retire upstairs, Mary Ann retires downstairs.

    Saturday morning, Mary Ann had breakfast in one of the town's hotspots called Sara's with some of her New Harmony squad.

     

    I stayed at the house for a bit of laundry-duty.

     

    When she returned, she offers me the golf cart tour of the grounds.  A more formal guided tour was taking place around 1 p.m.; however, I opted for the selfie-tour version after our golf cart spin.

     

    She stayed home to ready the multi-course evening's meal.  

     

    I explored the main drag first and found a coffee roaster nearby.  

     

    What started out as a French Press ended up in an extended conversation with the owners ( a very hip, down-to-earth couple who had just transplanted themselves from Nashville).  

     

    We exchanged enlightenment on everything from traveling to career changes to raising children to settling down.  It dawns on me that this visit has more to do with meeting them than with anything else.  

     

    Despite my wanting to linger, I ventured off to photograph the town. 

     

     

    After a couple hours, I returned to the house to find Michael and Ami (the adorable 15-breed, three-year-old puppy) lounging while Mary Ann whipped up a culinary storm.

     

    Wanting a cocktail, we head to the Geranium.

     

    Upon our return, my hosts launch into dinner party work mode (each knew their roles) while I lazily walk upstairs for some reading and a nap.

     

    Refreshed, I assist Michael and Mary Ann as best I can.  

     

    Guests arrive, so I engage them.

     

    Being pleasant and conversational with complete strangers is my specialty.

     

    Three mature ladies joined us and one youngster, a 26-year-old, named Grady.  

     

    My hosts set a grand culinary backdrop of china, crystal, and silver.  

     

    Cold cucumber soup, tomato salad, potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, and meatloaf.  

     

    Butter galore.

     

    Baguette slices, four types of cheeses, and apple pie.  

     

    Cotes du Rhone in three flavors:  white, rose, and red; a Willamette Pinot Noir; and a Moscato.

     

    Later, scotch and bourbon to round out the evening.

     

    Dazzling and delicious.

     

    Mary Ann's meticulous tendencies shine when she cooks.

     

    I relished being one of the gourmands extraordinaire at the table.

     

    The night last until nearly 1 a.m.  

     

    Conversations became more animated; later, the record player was utilized.

     

    By evening's end, the sounds went to George Burns and Mama Cass.

     

    I hydrated mightily with club soda to offset my wine indulgence.  

     

    When the guests departed, and we retired to our rooms, I picked up my novel and did not fall asleep until past 2 a.m.  

     

    It was one of my latest (and greatest!) summer evenings; only the long one in Ocean Springs could compete with the one in New Harmony.

     

    People, food, wine, music... what else does one need?

    On Sunday morning, I awake close to 10 a.m.

     

    Mary Ann was cleaning up and reloading the dishwasher.

     

    We exchanged good mornings as I made my cup of tea.  Shortly thereafter, I retreated to my room to journal; plus, I wanted to allow my hosts some space and routine.  

     

    They left for brunch and upon their return, Michael (upon Mary Ann's suggestion) asked if I wanted to do the tour with him.

     

    I agreed.

     

    We drove to the Atheneum for the tram tour.

     

    In a span of 2 1/2 hours, here's what I learned:

     

    German separatists lead by George Rapp left Pennsylvania for Indiana.

     

    They were on a pious, celibate, and religious quest awaiting Christ's return.

     

    Ten-years pass... they return to Pennsylvania.

     

    However, their bones remain in an unmarked place (tombstones might elicit showmanship).  

     

     

    More years pass...

     

    Robert Owen and William Maclure purchase the entire town to create a community where science and reasoning and education rule.

     

    Another utopia where social reformers, abolitionists, and egalitarians gather.

     

    Two experimental utopias.

     

    One Indiana town.

     

    For me, New Harmony is reminiscent of Taos (New Mexico).

     

    Visionary. 

     

    Avant-garde.

     

    Hints of eccentricity.

     

    Michael and I reflect upon our experience along our short drive back.

    Our last July dinner together takes place at the Red Geranium.  

     

    Eating heartily, I meet a local biographer, a former town council member, and a flute and pipe icon.

     

    Fascinating, complex human beings.

     

    Sadly, dinner ends as does my Brandy Alexander.

     

    The icon (his last tour was with Sting) returns to Michael and Mary Ann's home later in the evening.  

     

    Confidently puffing on his cigarette, Chris offers volumes (and I do mean volumes) of advice and ideas regarding my journey.  

     

    Just as before, music closes the evening... some Cole Porter. 

     

    Finding myself inside a Boardwalk Empire episode... only without Nucky, without Chalky White, and without the rolling credits...

     

    I strangely sense that New Harmony offers a preview of what's to come.

    Until we meet again, my friend.  

     

     

     

     

      

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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