Bugging Out

Bedbug infestations, a whale of a mural, and garage sales run amok. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: I haven’t heard much locally about bedbugs lately. Is it okay to stop worrying about them?

Rebecca T., Indianapolis

A. Sorry, bug-o-phobes, the threat posed by these tiny home invaders is not, like a lice infestation, all in our heads. The problem is so widespread that the Marion County Public Health Department actually has a full-time “bedbug guy,” Larry Lobdell, traveling the county offering tips on keeping the pests out of homes, apartment buildings, and hotels.

Mainly because they’re in a lot of homes, apartment buildings, and (mostly cheap) hotels. And bedbugs, which like to infest carpets, furniture, and bedding (hence the name), are the devil to get rid of once they become established. Their bites don’t appear to spread major diseases, but they can trigger violent allergic reactions in some. Plus, they drink your blood while you sleep.

Lobdell says that bedbug infestees can find themselves as socially isolated as lepers. One child was even banned from his school when word got around about an outbreak at his house. The good news is that routine home hygiene can stop them from setting up shop in the first place. We’re not talking about anything heroic here—just regular vacuuming, bathing, and washing of sheets. Also, don’t bring any used furniture into your home if there’s a chance that it might carry passengers. Follow these simple rules, and the only bloodsucking parasite you’ll find on your couch will be your no-good brother-in-law.

Q: A new Jack in the Box just opened in my neck of the woods. What’s the 411 on this place?

Gary H., Fishers

A: The Hoosierist is happy to finally welcome this San Diego–based fast-food chain, although a glacier could have gotten here quicker. The 2,200-location company was founded in 1951, but it didn’t get around to opening an Indy-area store (at 8950 S. U.S. 31) until January 2012—followed in March by an Avon location and, if things go according to plan, three more by fall.

Its menu features just the sort of high-calorie gut bombs one expects of a burger joint, including the BLT Cheeseburger (649 calories) and the Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges (679 calories). Those with truly ad-venturous palates (and who don’t care about their triglyceride levels) can wash down their entree with a beverage that would fit right in at the Indiana State Fair—the Bacon Shake. Though the thought of a pork-laced drink doubtlessly turns a lot of stomachs, rest assured that there’s no real bacon in it. Just bacon-flavored syrup. Which, come to think of it, sounds even nastier.

Yet The Hoosierist would sooner chug a dozen Bacon Shakes than watch TV commercials featuring the chain’s unsettling mascot, Jack. He (she? it?) is a person in a business suit wearing a headpiece that looks like a gigantic ping-pong ball with a smiley face. This is supposed to be amusing, but he could easily pass for the killer in a low-budget slasher movie. Suggested name: Jack the (Burger) Flipper.

Q: It seems like pretty much every group has a summer festival in a city park these days. What do I have to do to use city property for my own shindig?

Paul O., Indianapolis

A: If all you want is to get your 15 buddies from the Puggle Appreciation Society together to grill a few brats, just show up on the appointed day and look around for an unused grill. But if you plan to advertise the event and/or invite the general public to attend, sharpen your pencil and get ready to fill out some forms. The first will be a special-event application, available from the park where you wish to hold your shindig.

Q: Why is there a giant mural of whales on the side of the IPS Administrative Building downtown? I could see cornfields or maybe a racetrack, but whales? We don’t have those here.

Wendy R., Indianapolis

A: Congrats on noticing it at all. The colorful depiction of killer whales called Orcas Passage may be 153 feet long and 35 feet high, but it keeps a surprisingly low profile due to its less-than-prime location at 120 E. Walnut St. The mural resides on the building’s north face, but traffic on nearby Delaware Street is one-way north, meaning commuters can only see it in their rear-view mirrors.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The artist, Robert Wyland, has made a name for himself painting whale-intensive murals all around the world, from Chicago to Beijing. In certain circles he’s quite well-known—sort of like Thomas Kinkade, except with cetaceans instead of kitschy cottages. In the mid-’90s he decided to do an Indy project, initially picking some marquee masonry at 7 E. Washington St. Unfortunately (for him), the space was already occupied by a ’70s mural called The Runners by James McQuiston. And despite some heavy lobbying by Wyland, public opinion wouldn’t allow it to be painted over. So Wyland had to do his project (which was dedicated on September 29, 1997) on the far-less-prestigious IPS building. The mural’s horrific location consigned it to anonymity but also made it a staple on corporate team-building scavenger-hunt lists.

Q: What’s the smallest space I can rent in the Indiana Convention Center? I know they can do Super Bowls and international conventions, but can they handle my sister’s wedding?

ROY C., Indianapolis

A: You bet they can, so long as your sister doesn’t mind holding her post-nuptial soiree in a facility that’s as intimate as a Costco. Actually, that’s not quite fair. Thanks to the miracle of room dividers, the center can easily carve out space for a snug 50-person social gathering.

If you need a bit more elbow room, one of the facility’s three immense ballrooms can be partitioned to create a space for, say, 200. But before you book a date, remember this. The convention center is in the business of attracting really big gatherings, which means you can’t reserve whatever piddling space you desire more than 14 months in advance. Because how would it look if, say, the International Brotherhood of Misanthropic Xenophobes couldn’t book the Wabash Ballroom because the Lipschitz reception got there first?

Q: My neighbor has had, like, five garage sales so far this summer. It looks like Sanford and Son over there. Do any city rules govern how often he can do this?

Betsy I., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist, who has staged a couple of these himself, can’t imagine how anyone could host more than one per decade. “Early birds” start cruising your street at 7 a.m., your crap-strewn lawn looks like a Walmart puked on it, and some stranger—usually with a nagging cough or an obvious skin infection—inevitably asks to use your bathroom. Yet in spite of all this, some people turn garage sales into an avocation, regularly trotting out their sub-Craigslist belongings for public critique.

If one of these types lives in your neighborhood, you might saunter over there and mention, in a nonconfrontational way, Section 987-202/203 of the Revised Code of the City of Indianapolis. It states in no uncertain terms that “it is unlawful for a person to hold more than two garage sales at the same location during the same calendar year.” It’s also illegal to hold one for more than three consecutive days, sell items specifically purchased for resale, or obstruct sidewalks.

If Mr. Sanford still refuses to close his weekend bazaar, you can always rat him out to the Mayor’s Action Center. Just don’t expect a SWAT van to screech to a stop in front of his house five minutes after you hang up the phone. The police are busy with things like murders and robberies, so it might be a while before someone gets around to telling your garage-sale scofflaw where he can stick his FTD flower vases, dog-eared Stephen King paperbacks, and sweat-soaked weight bench—namely, back in his garage.

>> Have a question about anything Indiana-related? Send it to hoosierist@indymonthly.emmis.com.

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.