Raw Deal

Helium-balloon weddings, Indiana oil barons, and sushi-chef sexism. Ask The Hoosierist.

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Q: Why, at least locally, are there so few female sushi chefs?

Jackson P., Indianapolis

A: Until this query arrived, The Hoosierist hadn’t realized that the only distaff sushi-wrangler he’s ever seen is the nice lady at the Broad Ripple Marsh who has for years prepared his California rolls. But his sources in Japan tell him that, according to traditional lore, women’s hands are warmer than men’s, which somehow screws up the fish. Also they wear cuisine-polluting perfumes and lotions. And they lack the seriousness and mental stamina necessary for such an exacting job. Because apparently rolling globs of sticky rice and bits of raw fish inside sheets of seaweed is super-hard.

However, since The Hoosierist has never noticed any problems with his California rolls, he believes that perhaps these are old husbands’ tales, and that the ladies can roll ’em up just fine. Others must think so too, given the slow but steady increase, even in Japan itself, of female practitioners. If you’d like to join their ranks, you can learn the ropes via the Japan-America Society of Indiana, which offers a couple of sushi classes each winter.

Q: Can you get married on that striped Conner Prairie balloon?

Beth S., Fishers

A: Yes, but it will be a small wedding. Not to mention a tenuous one. The folks at the pioneer village would love to see a wedding party borne aloft on their gigantic, tethered balloon. But the helium-filled gas bag can’t fly if the clouds are too low or the winds get above 15 mph or if there’s one single bolt of lightning within 50 miles. Which means you and your mate-to-be could book the balloon several months in advance, only to be grounded by a slight breeze or a squall over Muncie. “Just imagine all the complexities and uncertainties of a regular outdoor wedding, and increase that by a factor of 10,” says chief pilot Andy Young.

But Young thinks that under the right conditions, airborne nuptials could still be accomplished. First, schedule for high summer, when the weather is more benign and consistent than in spring or fall. And minimize the size of your wedding party. The balloon can carry about 20 people, max, but weather conditions could force last-minute weight reductions, which could mean ditching some of the bridesmaids and groomsmen like excess ballast. But if you confine your “aloft” party to just you and whoever gives the vows, you’ll probably be fine. “If it’s just a couple and an officiant, your chances to have a great day go way up,” Young says.

Q: Do I need a license or any training in order to home school my child?

Owen W., Martinsville

A: How home-schooling must gall Indiana’s professional teachers. While they’re required to take continuing-education courses and demonstrate measurable improvement among their charges, home-schoolers face virtually no licensing requirements or performance standards. Parents without so much as a GED can pull their children out of public school, plunk down those young scholars at a card table in their basement, and start “teaching” them. The state’s only requirements are that home-schooled kids get 180 days of instruction, and that parents keep attendance and provide book-learning equivalent to that of public schools. Not that anyone’s ever going to check, because the state has very little oversight power.

The Hoosierist believes there should be stricter requirements for home-schooling to prevent ignorant, unsavory characters from trying to “instruct” their children. Characters such as The Hoosierist, who has toyed with the idea of home-schooling his 4-year-old, even though his facility with mathematics is not so good.

Q: Last August was extremely hot, but my son’s football coach had him doing two-a-days anyway. Is there any way to “opt out” on particularly hot days?

Arika G., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist worries that this may make the boy soft. And when it comes to deciding when the troops take the field, your local coach still makes the final call. “For the most part, I’ll defer to the coaches in our state,” says Chris Kaufman, Indiana High School Athletic Association director of communications. “And just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you can’t practice.”

The IHSAA offers a heat-index chart and a calculator on its home page, so coaches can figure out just how hard they can safely work their squads. Concerned parents can also check this easy-to-use metric. And if you disagree with your local whistle-blower’s decision, remember this: Even if the coach says practice is a “go,” your kid is still your kid. So you can bench him on a hot day. Though it goes without saying that this will do pretty serious damage to his athletic career. “It probably won’t help the kid,” Kaufman says. “Or it could hurt his playing time.” And no risk of heat stroke is worth that.

Q: Is there any oil in Indiana?

Rita B., Terre Haute

A: All you modern-day Jed Clampetts can take heart. The chances of finding some bubblin’ crude on your property are slim, but by no means nonexistent—especially if your homestead sits over the 60,000-square-mile Illinois Basin, an oval-shaped subterranean oil puddle spanning Illinois, western Kentucky, and southwestern Indiana. Posey and Gibson counties, positioned smack dab on top of this lake of black gold, each operate more than 1,000 wells.

Which isn’t much, but it’s something. Even if a well only produces, say, 14 barrels every 24 hours, that translates into $1,400 a day at $100-per-barrel prices. Which translates into more than half a million annually. Maybe not enough to finance a move to Beverly, but more than enough to bankroll a new cement pond behind the cabin.

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue.

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