The Hoosierist: Smoking Section

Billowing smoke shops, park theft, and popular library books. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: Why does Broad Ripple have so many tobacco- and pot-themed businesses? I thought smoking was out of fashion these days.
Brandon O., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist also finds this concentration of smoke shops peculiar. Of course, the Village, with its numerous brewpubs within easy staggering distance of each other, is widely known for its recreational drinking. But the cigarette/cigar/marijuana thing happened much more recently—and stealthily.

The air seemed to thicken several years ago, when a head shop called Headlines Smoke Shop opened across Broad Ripple Avenue from Magic Bus, long the city’s premier bong bungalow. At first, The Hoosierist attributed their proximity to some sort of cloudy stoner logic. Perhaps the guy who started the new place thought, “Hey, let’s open a head shop—get this—right across the street from another head shop! That would be awesome!”

Since then, however, the Village has become a one-stop shop for smokers of every persuasion. A third head shop opened on College Avenue, joining (based on The Hoosierist’s admittedly unscientific count) a cigar place, two hookah bars, and an electronic cigarette emporium. So while the rest of Indianapolis is on an anti-smoking binge, Broad Ripple is literally lighting it up.

Though it’s hard to say why all these establishments opened their doors in Broad Ripple, it presents an opportunity for a very un-PC publicity bonanza. Perhaps the neighborhood could stage a music festival called Rock and Roll (A Big Fat One), or a 5K Monon Trail walk called Wheeze on Down the Road.

Q: What are the Indianapolis Public Library’s most checked-out books?
Vivian E., Indianapolis

A: The library has been around for more than a century, so the staff can’t exactly say (without spending a great deal of time sifting through their records) what their most popular tomes of all time might be. But if you want to know what’s hot these days, they can find out with just a few keyboard strokes.

“Self-help books are always big,” one librarian whispered to The Hoosierist. “Also diet books. Especially the low-sodium ones. And The Great Gatsby and World War Z when those movies came out.”

The nonfiction most-borrowed list includes three cookbooks, all of which sport huge titles explaining how they’ll take you down several belt notches. The Hoosierist’s favorite (based on the name alone) is The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting. The nonfiction list also includes, for some reason, Guinness World Records.

When it comes to fiction, kids rule. While there are several grownup-sounding titles such as Inferno: A Novel (in case you thought it was a potted plant or something), five of the top fiction slots are occupied by Diary of a Wimpy Kid installments. The Hoosierist thinks it bodes well for the future that children drive so much of the library’s lending. Let’s just hope they’re not checking out those low-sodium cookbooks, too. 

The neighborhood could stage a music festival called Rock and Roll (A Big Fat One), or a 5K called Wheeze on Down the Road.

Q: How can we get IMPD to enforce the traffic rules? The intersection at Michigan Road and DePauw Boulevard is a nightmare every afternoon as commuters clog the crossroads.
Brent B., Indianapolis

A: The folks at IMPD assured The Hoosierist that—in between hunting for murderers and chasing bank robbers—they also try to keep an eye on the roads. And they sure are sorry that Brent has been inconvenienced, and they apologize for not parking squad cars on every single street corner to prevent the tens of thousands of petty automotive infractions that occur every day.

No one, Brent, wants to trivialize the very real trauma you must feel about being delayed by the admitted nimrods who clog intersections when the light changes. But Lt. Chris Bailey from IMPD’s media-relations office advises keeping a bit of perspective. Because this is a pretty trivial situation, and one that would actually get worse if the cops cracked down.

“If we start enforcing traffic laws up there, traffic will back up even further,” Bailey says. Mainly because the one surefire way to clog a busy intersection is to add a few cop cars and pulled-over vehicles. It’s the automotive equivalent of trying to clear a slow-running drain by stuffing it with rags.

Q: My kid wants to collect acorns at Holliday Park for a school project. What are the rules for that? I know you’re not supposed to take stuff out of parks, but it’s not like this is Yellowstone.
Ashley P., Indianapolis

A: The folks at Holliday Park (and other city greenspaces) aren’t too concerned if the occasional acorn or fallen leaf turns up missing. So go ahead and nab some nuts, as long as you don’t get greedy. “If you’re just getting a few, we don’t mind,” a Holliday Park staffer told The Hoosierist. “But if you’re going to be filling baskets with them, don’t.”

That admonition hardly seems necessary. What sort of jerk would try to haul baskets of anything out of a city park? Well, you’d be surprised. At Holliday Park, those baskets are usually filled with illegally harvested cress, a fancy salad green that grows wild on the grounds. To add insult to injury, animals from the displays inside the nature center, such as a box turtle, have been pilfered.

About the only on-the-books rule is a city ordinance prohibiting visitors from monkeying around with trees, shrubs, or plants. Pulling up a seedling may prompt a ranger to give you one of those stern “Is there a problem here?” queries that lets you know in no uncertain terms that there is a problem, and you’re it.

Illustration by Shane Harrison

This column appeared in the September 2013 issue.