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Whether you enjoy working, playing, or getting married in your own backyard, a recent survey shows more Americans than ever say that precious outdoor space is vital of late.
More than three quarters of Americans who have a yard (76%) say the family yard space is one of the most important parts of their home, according to a new poll commissioned by the TurfMutt Foundation and conducted online by The Harris Poll.
Nearly three quarters of Americans overall (72%) say a spacious yard would be at the top of their wish list if they were looking for a new home. That desire reflects a cultural shift in how Americans view their yards. Even more so, they’re willing to invest in their yards, and are using them more for everyday activities, including as work-from-home office space.
“What we are seeing with Americans is greater reliance on the backyard as an extension of the home. It’s not just a place that looks pretty – it’s a place to live and do daily activities such as working, dining and relaxing,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation. “They’ve discovered that ‘backyarding’ is a better way to live and there’s no turning back. They are also willing to hire professionals and invest money into yard improvements.”
People are enjoying extra time outside, too. Nearly a quarter of Americans who have a yard (24%) are spending more time in their yards now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
And they are really enjoying the extra time outside. Over 3 in 5 Americans who have a yard (63%) say they have enjoyed doing more activities in their yard since the pandemic began. Younger adults (68% age 18-54 vs. 52% age 65+) and parents of kids under 18 (73% vs. 58% who are not parents of kids under 18) are more apt to feel this way.
Who’s spending all that time outside?
• Older millennials - 32% of adults ages 35-44 who have a yard are the spending more time in their yard now compared to pre-pandemic.
• Parents - 30% of those with a yard who are parents of kids under 18 are spending more time out in their yard now compared to pre-pandemic and are more likely than those without kids under 18 to say they are doing so (21%).
How Americans use their yard has likely changed. For one, the outdoor office trend is here to stay with many Americans using their yards as makeshift offices for their jobs.
• Nearly 2 in 5 Americans who have a yard (58%) say they have spent time doing work for their job in their yard during the pandemic.
• Men are more likely to use their yards while doing work for their jobs, with 63% of men compared to 53% of women with yards saying they worked outdoors in their yard during the pandemic.
• Among those with a yard, parents of kids under 18 are also more likely (71%) than their counterparts without kids under 18 (52%) to have used the yard to get work done during the pandemic.
The yard has also become a place to de-stress, with more than two thirds of Americans who have a yard (69%) saying doing yard work, such as mowing, trimming or planting, is one of the ways they like to de-stress these days. This is especially true among parents of kids under 18 as they are more likely than their counterparts without kids under 18 to cite this (76% vs. 65%).
A vast majority of Americans who have a yard (84%) plan to invest in their yard in 2022, including:
• 67% say they’ll purchase plants/trees/flowers/vegetables to plant themselves
• 39% report they will purchase items to maintain or improve their grassy areas
• 23 % say they will install or update hardscaping themselves.
And the outlook looks bright for the landscaping industry. About a third (33%) of those with a yard plan to hire a professional to do landscaping or hardscaping in 2022. Other yard improvements planned for 2022 include installing a fence (19%) or a shed (15%) and adding a swimming pool (10%). Among those with a yard:
• Adults ages 18-44 are more likely than those ages 45+ to say they plan to invest in their yard in 2022 by hiring a professional to do landscaping or hardscaping, 43% compared to 26% of those age 45+.
• Nearly a third of those ages 18-44 (31%) will install or update hardscaping themselves, 27% will install a fence, 21% will install a shed and 18% plan to put in a swimming pool.
• Parents of kids under 18 (73%) are more likely than their counterparts (63%) to say they plan to invest in their yard in 2022 by purchasing plants, trees, flowers, or vegetables to plant themselves. Parents of kids under 18 are also more likely than those without kids under 18 to purchase items to maintain or improve grassy areas on the lawn (44% vs. 36%), and more likely to hire a professional to do landscaping or hardscaping (47% vs. 26%).
Given the unprecedented return to the outdoors, the available outdoor power equipment also has kept in step with products for every need and individual scenario, says the TurfMutt Foundation, and powered in a variety of ways including battery/electric, gasoline, propane, solar and hybrids.
“What we are seeing with Americans is greater reliance on the backyard as an extension of the home. It’s not just a place that looks pretty – it’s a place to live and do daily activities such as working, dining and relaxing,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation.
TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) TurfMutt Foundation and has reached more than 70 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and part of their global LEARNING LAB. TurfMutt is an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2017, the TurfMutt animated video series won the coveted Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award for Best Interstitial Series. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat is featured in the 2017-2020Wildlife Habitat Council calendars. More information is available at www.TurfMutt.com.
Every year, many people put aside their work, daily stresses and responsibilities and escape on a vacation, somewhere far away from reality. It may be a secluded retreat in the mountains, or days relaxing at an exotic beach or resort. However, with the pandemic including social distancing, travel restrictions, and financial constraints, those plans may have to be shelved. But the desire to escape reality is very much alive. So, with many people remaining in their homes, how can that off-work journey happen? We have some tips for making the best of the situation and creating vacation memories without leaving home. It’s called a staycation.
What’s a staycation?
A staycation is, quite simply, a vacation at home. How realistic, how exciting, or how relaxing you make it is up to you. Theme it up for a more authentic “away-from-home” experience.
What makes a great staycation? Well, that depends on what you consider a vacation. Some people want adventure, while others like relaxing with a drink in their hand. Still others use vacation time to unwind by tackling DIY projects such as renovations. So, what would you enjoy doing if you could craft your own staycation? (Which, by the way, you can.)
Commit to it
Once you’ve decided to schedule a staycation – whatever it ends up being – commit to it. Mark it on your calendar. Plan for it. Make concrete plans. Research for the top tips for your staycation. If you’re working, ask for those days off of work. Don’t just say you’re going to have a vacation and spend the weekend lounging on the sofa, noshing on Cheetos and surfing the internet, unless a week of rest is the staycation you’ve planned.
Whenever you’re going for vacation in your home – especially in these times when so many of us are working from home – try to unplug so your mind’s not on work and responsibilities. It’s especially important to take time off from work when you are working from home. Set your work email to the “out of office” setting and write an auto-reply message. Then, don’t check your work emails unless absolutely necessary. Consider NOT telling your boss that you’re vacationing at home. Turn your cell phone off or on silent, and set a small window of time each day to check for email messages.
Skip the news. The idea is to get away from stress, away from reality. Just concentrate on your vacation experience. The news cycle can wait for a week. Really, it can. This is the time to be good to yourself.
Prepare for your staycation much like you’d prep for any other vacation. Create your itinerary. Decide what kind of activities you would like to do each day of your vacation. What kind of staycation would you like? Cultural learning, straight-up fun, pampering, relaxing? Write your vacation goals down, and then make a game plan. Don’t want to cook while on vacation? Gather menus from local restaurants that deliver, and have them on hand. You could even incorporate different restaurants into the theme of your vacation.
Before your official vacation start time, do all the necessary prep work. Complete all chores in advance. Wash the dishes, dust, pay the bills, scrub the toilets, empty the trash. Do the laundry BEFORE your staycation begins. You don’t really want to be sorting and folding while on vacation, do you?
Set the Mood for your Staycation
Many people have saved money in anticipation of an annual vacation to pay for things like hotel rooms, meals, plane tickets and a rental car. Why not channel some of those funds into your at-home vacation paradise?
Create your staycation space – really, truly, set up a space that exudes the theme of your vacation. Move the furniture, change the lighting, order pillows, fairy lights or scented candles – whatever your theme is, run with it. Look at magazines or online trip websites for inspiration. Think about the destination you want. Paradise under the palms? Set up a piña colada or margarita station at home. Roll up the rugs and go barefoot like you’re on the beach. Set up a hammock between backyard trees or on your back porch.
Dreaming of a mountain retreat? Set out pine-scented candles and decorate the room with cottage home decor. Plan for any purchases you’ll need for your staycation. Does your week require some relaxing pillows, aromatherapy candles, a tent or hammock? Dreaming of an overseas vacation? Hit the international foods section of your grocery and stock up on items from that region to set the mood. Planning a spa retreat week? Buy a set of high-thread-count sheets, a couple of luxurious pillows, scented bath salts, essential oils, and a super-soft robe.
To make your staycation ambiance even more realistic, you can make a vacation soundtrack with music that reminds you of that particular place, or perhaps a past favorite vacation that you’d like to recreate. Going to the beach in your mind? Ramp up some Jimmy Buffet music. Missing that trip to Brazil this summer? Make your own compilation of Brazilian favorites including the likes of Roberto Carlos or Anitta. Or, queue up some internet music mixes.
Think about your favorite luxury hotel amenities and try to replicate some of those special touches at your own staycation. Love peppermints or chocolates on your pillows? Do it. How about a fruit basket, or a water pitcher of cold spring water infused with the subtle flavor and inviting look of cut fruit? Make it happen. This is all about helping you feel like you’re somewhere else.
How about a pampering week, helping you release all the stress that’s built up this year? Consider a self-care “getaway” with a spa day, a YouTube yoga session, or a self-manicure. Start a journal of self-discovery. Draw a warm bubble bath, adding some calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile. Slip into the welcoming suds as you relax your mind and body. Soft music and candles invite you to soak away the stress. Then, wrap yourself up in the soft hug of a luxurious robe. This vacation is all about being good to yourself.
Retail Therapy Weekend
If you have money saved up that you won’t spend on a vacation this summer and miss shopping, you may want to arrange a retail therapy staycation. Curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and start online shopping. You could budget what you had already set aside for your anticipated actual vacation, and spend some of that money, or just “window-shop” and dream from the comfort of your favorite recliner.
Plan Future Vacations
You can’t travel much right now, but the future is wide open. You’ve been staring at your walls for quite a while now, longing to escape. Why not start that escape, at least in your mind? Begin planning your post-pandemic dream holiday or road trip (or plane trip). There’s no time like the present to ponder where you’d like to visit – start with the continent or country, and narrow it down from there. Search online for destinations, hotels and fun activities. Jot them down and start planning for next year.
Look online for interesting destinations and then start searching for places you can stay, like at hotels or bed and breakfast inns. What kind of activities can you participate in while there? Plan who will take care of your home, pets, how you will get to the airport, and even whether you will need airport parking when you get there. The things that usually stress you will be all figured out. There are plenty of online resources online, like travelbinger, that will make this task easier. Take notes, plan your budget, and work out the details so when it’s time to fly the pandemic coop, you’ll have all your ducks in a row for your next adventure.
Cook a fancy dinner
The internet is filled with how-to-cook videos. Zero in on one and cook that meal and impress your spouse or family. See if you can find fanciful foods that fit into the theme of your staycation. Or, ask your family to pamper you and cook (including doing the dishes.). You can also sign up for delivered meal preparation kits. These kits arrive at your doorstep with all of the ingredients, already prepped, along with step-by-step directions. You’ll feel like a professional chef in no time.
You may be someone who just needs to chill for a vacation. Vacations don’t always have to be about excitement and activity. Sometimes, you just need peace and quiet to de-stress from life. Create your zen vacation in a quiet place of your home – make it off limits to children (if you have them). Then, unplug your clocks or put them in the closet so you can’t see them. Turn off your phone, put on earphones (if there’s house noise you can’t block out) and just…chill.
Go camping for your staycation – for a night, a week, or somewhere in between – you choose. Set up a tent in the backyard, complete with sleeping bags and camp lights. Don’t forget the mosquito repellent or citronella candles. Pack up snacks in bags for a more authentic experience, and string lights in the trees or at the top of the tent for some extra ambiance.
Snag a couple of bags of ice from the store and fill a cooler with food and drinks to keep with the campout theme. Cook your meals on a grill, or have a fire pit if regulations allow. Roast marshmallows or craft s’mores. Tell stories around the fire. Stay up too late and laugh too much.
If your idea of camping is closer to glamping, or you don’t have a backyard, then move things indoors. Set up a tent or have your kids create a tent by hanging sheets and other fabrics in clever ways. Unleash your children’s creativity with tent-making – they know how to make the best tents and forts. Set up your indoor camping ambiance with flashlights and flameless candles for light sources. Eat from paper plates and make s’mores in the microwave. Search for a campfire video to play on your TV.
Have a family costume night or a themed party during your staycation. Challenge your kids to dress up as their favorite movie character, singer, or superhero, using clothes, props and supplies already in your home.
Love watching movies? Build a staycation around that. Have a themed movie marathon. Each family member picks a movie that you all watch, or you could categorize movies, like comedies, animation, action or another genre. Don’t forget the popcorn. Plan ahead and surprise your “movie audience” with their favorite movie theater candy and sodas.
Romantic Night in
Try to set up a cozy, romantic room or patio area to enjoy a night in with your loved one. Group candles around your backyard. Flameless candles are great and there’s no fire hazard. Set up a hammock or pillows or some other way to relax. Chill a bottle of wine, soda or whatever happens to be your favorite beverage. Make up a cheese tray. It can be fancy, or it can be laid-back. Pour a bag of chips into a bowl if that’s your style. Set the perfect mood for a romantic staycation. Play some music, relax, and kickback.
Many people love to travel to new locations and learn about culture, architecture, art, languages, food, and more. The opportunity to learn something new during your staycation is limited only by your imagination.
Because of the pandemic, many museums now offer free virtual tours. Spend days in the Louvre, or take an interactive tour of Mark Twain’s house. Visit zoos virtually, or set up Zoom meetings with friends or relatives in different countries so you can practice conversing in a foreign language.
Travel the world for free using your local library card. Libraries have a wealth of e-books available to download from the library’s website onto your own device. Just pick them out and download, prop your feet up and escape into a mystery, thriller, romance, fantasy, or whatever genre you enjoy. Have your favorite beverage and snacks near your reading haven.
Take an online class on cooking, digital art, sewing, or something that intrigues you. This is your staycation. If your goal is to spend more time outdoors, consider starting a new flower or vegetable garden or a compost pile. Set up a rain barrel water collection system, making use of the rainwater rolling off your roof.
You can even make it a learning vacation for your pet. Learn how to teach your pet tricks or a new skill, like sniffing out smells. Or, just chill with your cuddly cat on your lap. For some, that’s a heavenly vacation.
For those who would rather “do” than chill, spend your staycation time learning a new craft. Clear out your schedule and spend that time really digging into whatever it is you want to learn. Use budgeted summer vacation money to order acrylic or oil paints, modeling clay, mosaics or stained glass supplies, whatever strikes your fancy, and learn a new skill you’ll maintain long after your staycation is over.
Renovate a Space in your Home
For those who need to be active during vacations, think about a renovation vacation. Since you’ve been home so much the last two months, no doubt you’ve zeroed in on a corner or a room of your house that’s begging for an update or a redo. Your construction project can make the whole family feel involved and useful. Repaint the kitchen and add a backsplash or replace the flooring. Update your bedroom, adding new curtains or blinds. Turn that depressing basement into a new game room, guest room or home office. Browse among the DIY articles from professionals for inspiration and guidance.
Whatever your stay-at-home vacation fantasy is, try to make it happen. This pandemic won’t last forever, and the vacation you take this summer, at your own home, may just spark some of the best memories ever. Don’t forget to take photos!
For more ideas visit porch.com
ErOddity(s) -- Noun, plural: An odd person or trait intending to arouse sexual desire.
ErOddity(s) is billed as “a mystery anthology that goes where The Twilight Zone never dared.” In the film, writer-director Steven Vasquez invites viewers to enter a world of the odd, the unexpected, the supernatural -- and yes, even the tantalizing -- where dreams can come true, but so can nightmares. Produced by Babaloo Studios, this compendium of four stories is a homoerotic cross between Tales from the Crypt and The Night Gallery -- only with a bit more action and full-frontal nudity.
Watch the trailer here.
Everything is kept completely soft-core, and most of what you think you see happens enticingly right out of frame. Likewise, any erotic edge is blunted by the sometimes-shocking endings, leaving a sense of creepiness running throughout each featurette -- kind of like the feeling one would get after having sexual relations in a graveyard.
Vasquez keeps the audience eager to discover what happens next. He even throws in a few girls to keep things just off-center enough to accentuate the ghoulish goings-on. (“Hey,” one character surprises us at one point, “at 18, boys will be boys -- getting their kicks wherever they can!”)
The special effects are impressive, and the orchestrations also keep this one a step above your standard gay indie thriller. Several original songs by Trevor Page are featured, including the hard-driving, jivey anthem “Dancing on the Edge,” which will really stay with you..
Cory Tyndall serves as our host through these voyeuristic ventures into the bizarre. Tyndall, who is also the film’s associate producer, is less the sepulchral Crypt Keeper type than a younger, better-looking version of Rod Serling. He has the right amount of naughty charm to keep us tuned in, even if his line-readings do at times seem a bit … well, read. (Oddly, even this adds to the disjointed, otherworldly feel of the pieces.)
His co-star, Brandon Rife, fares slightly better in the acting department, and he, too, has those wholesome “all-American” good looks. As for the rest of the cast members, they are all young and cute, and each (more or less) has sufficient dramatic ability to make us willing to suspend our disbelief for the requisite 20 minutes (the average length of each episode). Many cast members appear in more than one installment.
Both Tyndall and Rife star in the first piece, titled “Forever Mine.” Rife plays a confused lad seeking a love that will last him a lifetime -- and he takes action to guarantee it. Right from the start, you know his relationship with his brother, played by Tyndall isn’t the healthiest. When Tyndall tries to put an end to the incestuous liaison once and for all, Rife is dismayed to his breaking point. “You shouldn’t have stopped,” he says desperately. “You’re all I have.” The stark and startling way he solves his problem starts the rest of the film with a bang.
The next segment, called “A Mind of Their Own,” is perhaps the most intriguing. Poet Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, “All we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” Could the same be said for an adolescent’s spicy libidinal fantasy? This time Rife appears as Aaron, a young man who suspects his boyfriend’s eye has wandered. Then one night, he spies the boyfriend sneaking into the closet, where he takes out a mysterious box.
“I thought I’d do a little investigation,” he narrates. “I thought I’d have a look inside this secret box for myself.” What he finds leads him to his own forgotten past and challenges his assumptions of the present.
“Our next account is a Christmas story,” proclaims Tyndall, again emerging to introduce “Unsolved Christmas” -- the third segment, which is the longest, most developed and the funniest. “Holiday time in sunny Southern California -- but it’s not all merry, I’m sorry to warn you,” he cautions. Then he presents Edward Gutierrez as a fresh-faced peeping tom who peeks in on boys or girls -- he doesn’t discriminate. The last thing this dude needs is a camera, yet that’s exactly what his folks give him. At times, this story almost plays like a spoof of a cheesy porno, but we’re reminded that it’s always good to have a hobby -- just make sure it’s one that keeps you out of trouble instead of getting you into it.
Finally, in “The Way to a Man’s Heart,” an abused young lover gets his revenge from beyond the grave. “It’s a peaceful day in this long-forgotten cemetery,” Tyndall begins, joining the action only long enough to provide the set-up. “A few yards away lies the body of 18-year-old Thomas Riley, hastily buried in a large packing crate one year ago today.” In this last tale of the macabre, the old saying “The way to a man‘s heart is through his stomach” has several less figurative and more grisly meanings.
Rife returns in this segment and demonstrates a fine vulnerability as the wronged partner who returns from the other side on the anniversary of his untimely expulsion into the after-world. Addison Graham co-stars as his arrogant, cold-hearted, yet incredibly good-looking thug of a boyfriend. Alderic Vitale is featured as the couple’s guilt-ridden friend, through whose eyes the plot unfolds, along with Heather Page Cohn as his girlfriend.
In many ways, “ErOddity(s)” is reminiscent of those irresistibly lurid dime-store horror comics so prevalent in the ’70s and ’80s (provided that you bought them from your local adult establishment). It’s a perfect bag of treats for when you’re up for some after-dark tricks, when things that stir in the night aren’t necessarily of a spectral nature. ErOddity(s) is available on DVD and VOD from TLA Releasing at TLA Video or at Erodditys, which also offers more information about the film."
Palm Springs, California, is one of those destinations that I never get tired of. I’m not sure whether it’s the landscape or the abundance of over-the-top gayness that makes the city truly magical. I attended Palm Springs Pride 2019 on my most recent visit to this gay mecca in the desert, and it was the largest Pride celebration in the city’s history.
I had forgotten how easy the Palm Springs airport is to navigate, but it does make a good first impression. Within minutes after walking off the plane, visitors can be lying poolside at their hotel or shopping in the boutiques and art galleries of Palm Canyon Drive.
I was visiting with my friend and fellow journalist Josh Rimer, who was named Mr. Gay Canada 2019. He and I met on a media trip in Arizona, and we have traveled to Columbus, Ohio, together as well. Visiting a destination like Palm Springs is more fun if you travel with someone, unless you are an extreme extrovert, and neither of us fits that description. We’ve traveled together in the past, which helped make this visit fun.
After checking in at the Alcazar Palm Springs hotel, we headed straight for the Opening Night Pride Party at Trina Turk clothing boutique, which was hosted by celebrity hairstylist Brandon Liberati and his husband, fitness trainer Craig Ramsay. The party drew a who’s who of Palm Springs glitterati. Every year, Trina Turk donates a portion of proceeds from items sold during the event back to the Pride organization.
Before heading out on the town, we grabbed dinner at Trio, a staple in Palm Springs since 2009. (In fact, the first time I visited the city almost a decade ago, I dined at Trio.) Josh and I decided to share a few starters, including the Coachella Valley Dates and Ahi Tuna Tower. We were both hesitant to order the dates because they are filled with blue cheese and neither one of us is a big fan, but they turned out to be delicious. The blue cheese complemented the sweetness of the dates, which simply melt in your mouth. Trio also hosts one of the best parade-viewing parties in town, so if you come to Pride in 2020, be sure to make a reservation.
Palm Springs nightlife is truly one of the best experiences in the country. There’s a bar or club for every type of person. Whether you are L, G, B, T or Q, you will fit in. Arenas Road has emerged as the epicenter of nightlife in the city, with venues including Hunters, Chill Bar, Quadz, Stacy’s, The Eagle and BlackBook within a two-block radius. Other nightlife venues are scattered throughout the city and in neighboring Cathedral City.
After a night of partying, head back to the Alcazar for a restful night’s sleep before heading out to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get a bird’s eye view of the city. I’ll admit that I don’t like heights or roller coasters, so the tram made me nervous. The 10-minute journey to the top aboard a slowly rotating car is quite the experience. There are five towers along the way, and as the car passes each tower, it swings back and forth – sometimes slightly and other times, it’s enough to make you a bit queasy. A little side note: the temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler on top of the mountain, so dress accordingly. Josh and I wore our traditional tank tops and were a bit chilly, to say the least.
Located adjacent to Arenas Road is Johannes, a lovely restaurant with modern décor that is owned by chef Johannes Bacher. The menu includes an assortment of house specialty schnitzel. Bacher, who hails from Austria, brought his favorite dish to Palm Springs, and it quickly became a favorite among the locals. We had to try some, and I can tell you, it does live up to the hype. I don’t remember the last time I saw schnitzel of any kind on a menu, outside of a German restaurant, which I learned uses a different type of preparation. Another one of my favorites at Johannes was the Grilled Marinated Peaches & Burrata. If you are looking for a lighter option, give that a try.
Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert | YouTube Originals youtu.be
Music lovers should take note that Palm Springs is the gateway to Coachella and Stagecoach Festival, two of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country. Stagecoach has grown into the premier country music festival in the United States since its inception in 2007.
Palm Springs is a destination that always lives up to my expectations. Whether you are looking to party until dawn, relax by one of the dozens of pools around town, or go hiking in nearby Joshua Tree National Park, the destination really does offer something for everyone.
Enjoy the Journey!
About the Author
Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBTQ travel. He has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and public relations and currently resides in Indianapolis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.