De Ville in the details

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

Greek immigrants Alexandrine and Pantelis Cafouros probably intended to name their restaurant Café de Ville. Evidently, when Alexandrine — or Aline, as she was known — found out “Devil’s Café” didn’t mean what she thought it did, she was mortified.

The restaurant opened just after the turn of the twentieth century in downtown Indianapolis, where the service entrance to the Hyatt Regency is now. Pantelis was a waiter at the Claypool Hotel who decided to open his own restaurant. There weren’t many Greeks in Indy then, and I can imagine how eager they were to prove themselves and succeed. Good Greek girls just don’t go around naming their businesses after the big D himself, and Aline wasn’t going to let it stand.

So Pantelis named it the Paradise Café. But it looks like the other name had devilishly stuck, so the place would be known as The Paradise & Devil’s Café. It was basically two restaurants in one, but still a homelike place to eat for ladies or gentlemen, as the sign says.

Despite growing up in Indy, being of Greek descent, and being a total history nerd, I never heard this story until I stumbled upon it while looking for something else. It’s on the historicindianapolis.com website, which is loaded with great information and fun, engaging stuff. I looked at the About Us page, saw the young faces, and felt very proud of my hometown.

Below the article is a comment from Pantelis and Aline’s grandson, Greg Cafouros. He said his brother, Carl Cafouros, wrote a history of Indy’s Greek community. The images shared here come from Carl’s collection via the Indiana Historical Society. Another commenter said he grew up with Carl at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. (He also said he thought the Greek Festival was more fun at the church’s former home at 40th and Penn.)

My Papou and his family landed in Chicago’s Greek immigrant community around the same time Pantelis and Aline opened their restaurant. My family’s information is scant, but Greektown was just up Halsted Street from Jane Addams’ Hull-House. A champion of immigrants and other “outsiders,” Addams was a good friend to the Greek community. It’s entirely possible that Papou spent time at Hull-House, which changed the world for so many, as a young man.

History is always closer than we think.

Chosen by cats

If you are in transition, chances are an animal is or is waiting to be your teacher. Cats in particular choose us for these missions, although some cleverly let us think we do the choosing.

For example: A tiny, loudmouthed tiger kitten adopted me at a Southern Indiana animal shelter when I was just out of graduate school and unsure of the next step. When I picked her up, she looked me straight in the eye and meowed. I’d passed muster.

UnknownRaven Mardirosian describes a similar experience in “Just Another Crazy Cat Lady Story” (2014). She had just arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado for graduate school. On the East Coast, she’d left behind her fundamentalist Christian family and her “sort-of” girlfriend at their Christian college, which banished Mardirosian from campus when their relationship was uncovered (by said girlfriend).

It was the beginning of many years of wandering — if not running — and yet there she was in an animal shelter, about to take on the commitment of adopting one of two kittens. She was drawn to the darker one, as the orange tabby reminded her a little too much of the beloved family cat whose loss she still grieved. But when the orange tabby’s tiny white paw grabbed her finger, Mardirosian knew she’d been chosen.

That orange tabby, Avery, became Mardirosian’s link to a kinder, gentler way of being amid a return to the East Coast and a series of jobs, schools, apartments and girlfriends. People in her life asked: When are you going to grow up? When are you going to get right with the Lord? Avery just napped in her lap, knowing she would figure it all out.

While living in New York City, Mardirosian adopted Zoey, a little gray street cat, through a fellow CCL (crazy cat lady). After thoroughly vetting Mardirosian and her living space, CCL brought Zoey for a trial visit.

Zoey turns her eyes my way: jade green, with just enough of a razor slit to show that I’m not the only bitch in the room. …

Then she decides to come over and say hello.

She likes you.

The magical three words. All of the chasing after my parents’ love, the attention of the beautiful redhead or blonde or black-haired girl at Henrietta’s … flies back in one terrifying sword of truth — she likes you — as Zoey remains in my lap, not quite seated, not quite standing.

She does, doesn’t she?

Still, in the beginning there was fearsome hissing and screaming, broken glass and an abscessed injury to the base of Avery’s tail. Though Zoey did settle down, she remained moody and opinionated — much like Idgie, my aforementioned loudmouthed tiger cat.

Mardirosian developed a unique relationship with each of her feline charges: “I’m much more aligned to Zoey, the secret observer. The runner. I’ve got that skill down pat. Avery challenges me to remove the labyrinth that winds its way around my heart and let others love me.”

Her account of Avery’s illness and the agonizing decision to let him go, after nearly two decades of life and love, is wrenching. Though deeply moving in and of itself, it brought back the loss of Idgie, who passed at age 16, quite vividly.

Even in her grief, Mardirosian recognizes, as I did, that her friend and guide is “safe, happy and free. … This crazy cat of mine will fly on. I may not know how — but trust the energy that propels him forward will move me in the same way.”

At our city shelter, I met a tortoiseshell kitten. I picked her up, and she reached out and patted my face with her paw. Lucy is now an easygoing 3-year-old, a very different cat with a new set of lessons.

My education continues.

Butler update

Saunderses / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Saunderses / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Butler University has reversed its decision to replace the student newspaper advisor with the university’s spokesman. Nancy Whitmore, director of the Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism, will serve as interim advisor while a permanent replacement is found.

Gary Edgerton, dean of the College of Communication, told the Indianapolis Business Journal the school made the change because the controversy was distracting the students. Maybe it was a distraction, but one can only hope it was also a teachable moment about conflict of interest for students and administrators alike.

The newspaper (or the university; who actually makes the decision?) hoped to have a new adviser in place within a month. Things rarely move that quickly in academia — they certainly didn’t at Butler during my time there — but we shall see.

Still lurking is the question of why the previous adviser, Loni McKown, was removed from that position and whether the reason had anything to do with content control. So, as always with student journalism, that bears watching.

I surprised myself a little bit by caring so much about this move on Butler’s part. I’m much more attached to my graduate school (Louisville Seminary), and my college years were not the happiest. Still, they played an important part in getting me to where I am now, and I am grateful for that. Also, Butler is very much part of Indianapolis, and Indy will always be home.

Maybe it was because I just completed a project full of advertorials, which are all about content control — but they are clearly labeled as marketing products. It makes a big difference when everyone’s cards are on the table.

Journalism will live to fight another day.