The Hoosierist: Talking Turkey

Artsgarden fears, airborne mall cops, and a very popular Thanksgiving dinner. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: How many people volunteer for the Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving-dinner thing? I was thinking about doing it, but someone told me there’s actually a waiting list.
Francis I., Fishers

A: If you’re just now thinking about helping out, you may indeed be out of luck. For years, the Mozel Sanders Foundation’s Thanksgiving-dinner program has been the go-to event for people who want to do something slightly more constructive on Turkey Day than stuffing their faces and watching television. When it began in 1972, it fed only about two dozen people. Today, it prepares and distributes some 40,000 meals from 45 locations across the city.

That’s where all those volunteers come in. It takes between 2,000 and 2,500 to make this happen, but the roster fills pretty quickly. Perhaps because the event gets a lot of media coverage, making it the only place where being spotted ladling green beans into a Styrofoam bowl could be considered “cool.”

If you’ve already missed your chance to sign up, here’s a suggestion. The Thanksgiving blowout may be booked, but The Hoosierist is absolutely sure that there are other, equally worthy charitable events just begging for help. Mostly because they’re not as high-profile and telegenic. For instance, the Mozel Sanders Foundation does lots of non–turkey-related work, none of which draws nearly enough interest to necessitate a waiting list. Volunteer coordinator Katrina Stovall welcomes inquiries, as long as you’re patient about getting a response. Stovall, a volunteer herself, is often stretched mighty thin. “Sometimes there’s not enough manpower to oversee the manpower,” she says.

Q: Why is Military Park called Military Park? It doesn’t look all that “military” to me.
Chase W., Indianapolis

A: Compared to the rest of White River State Park (of which it is part), this flat, undeveloped bit of downtown greenspace seems boring and irrelevant. Kind of like the fourth floor of Circle Centre. But looks can be deceiving. The sod-covered flyspeck is the city’s oldest park, deeded by the federal government shortly after Indy’s 1821 founding. It’s also the best-protected, because the state constitution forbids its resale in perpetuity—a special consideration only it, Monument Circle, and the Statehouse enjoy. Originally used mostly as a military training ground, it staged the city’s first documented Independence Day celebration in 1822; hosted soldiers headed for something called the Blackhawk War in 1832 and the war with Mexico in 1846; and, in 1852, presented the first Indiana State Fair.

All that was just a warmup for the park’s tour de force role in the Civil War. From 1861 to 1865, it was a bustling camp/training facility/marshalling yard called Camp Sullivan. How busy was it? Imagine the biggest Rib America Fest crowd of all time. Then triple it, take away the ribs and music, and replace it with thousands of armed men in itchy wool uniforms. The park was re-landscaped after the war, with a massive shelter house (the same one that’s there now) added in 1903. These days, the spot is undeniably less action-packed, but that’s okay. After all that Military Park’s been through, it has earned a rest.

Q: Could the Artsgarden collapse? Is this something that other people worry about, or am I just being paranoid?
Susan Y., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist can’t speak for “other people,” but he definitely feels a bit leery when driving under this circular, levitating behemoth straddling the intersection of Illinois and Washington streets. Who wouldn’t be? Should it ever collapse, those beneath it would eat approximately 1.1 million pounds of steel, 32,000 square feet of glass, and who-knows-how-much concrete. Still, on the big list of Things That Might Possibly Happen, it probably occupies a spot between “Peyton Manning Returning to the Colts” and “Sharknado.” The seven-story-tall structure sits on a set of extremely heavy-duty, 185-foot-long steel plate girders that span the intersection in a massive X. Those beams are buttressed by eight support columns, each roughly as thick as a sequoia trunk. Barring a massive earthquake, the Artsgarden isn’t going anywhere.

And don’t hold your breath waiting for that quake. The largest recent Indiana-based temblor was a 4.6-magnitude event near Evansville in June 2002—a record for this vicinity, but barely enough to knock a plate off of a shelf. Of course, if we ever get a New Madrid–style Big One, we might regret suspending all that tonnage over a major downtown intersection.

Q: How often is that security booth on a scissor crane at Castleton Square Mall actually staffed? Whenever I visit the mall, it’s empty and pushed off into a corner of the parking lot.
Madison P., Carmel

A: You’re just not there at the right times. The booth is routinely carted around Castleton’s vast parking lot and extended, granting instant, bird’s-eye views of large expanses of blacktop. Management won’t say exactly when and where it’s deployed, because that would inhibit its crime-fighting usefulness. Kind of like Batman publishing an itinerary. However, it’s a safe bet that if you hit the mall on Saturday, you’ll see it unfurled, looking like a toll booth for low-flying aircraft.
The reason it’s moved around so often is to cover the entire lot. The Castleton security folks usually place it on whatever bit of blacktop draws the most perp-related activity. When the Security Guard in the Sky sees something fishy, he notifies his earthbound brethren, of which the mall employs about two dozen. And just in case the criminals aren’t fazed by, say, the sight of a smallish uniformed woman trundling toward them on a Segway, a cadre of uniformed IMPD and Marion County Sheriff’s Department officers are on hand to put a bit more oomph behind those “move along” requests.

Q: It seems like a solicitor knocks on my door almost every night. How can I stop this? Is there an in-person version of the do-not-call list, or do I have to chain my Rottweiler out front?
Susan P., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist was surprised to learn that his own first line of defense, posting a No Solicitors sign on his front door, remains pretty much the only practical option. There is actually a city ordinance declaring peddlers to be a “nuisance.” But since being a nuisance is pretty low on the cops’ priority list (somewhere between “overdue library books” and “spitting on the sidewalk”), don’t expect much help from the Law.

Andrea Newsom, chief deputy corporation counsel for the City of Indianapolis, offers this suggestion: “If I were a private citizen, I might consider calling the company that sent the solicitor and lighting them up,” she says. “I’d say that I’m not happy and my neighbors aren’t happy.” Newsom also favors the trusty No Solicitors sign.

If the problem gets really ugly, you could always file a lawsuit. This isn’t as loopy as it sounds, because a salesman who repeatedly enters your private property uninvited could be found guilty of trespassing. But a lawsuit is a huge pain, and it only takes care of one solicitor. So what’s to stop another one from pounding on your door today while you’re on the phone with your lawyer, getting ready to sue the guy who harassed you yesterday?

Nothing. Except, perhaps, a Rottweiler. 


Illustration by Shane Harrison

This column originally appeared in the November 2013 issue.