The New Indy Must-Do List: Take a Side
By John Beeler
Every few years since the 1970s, Indy mayors and business leaders and tourism bureaus have announced that Indy is no longer “Naptown.”
Thirty years is a long time not to be something anymore. Especially when it’s not really true. We’ve been Naptown for almost a century. African-Americans in Indy have embraced the term since the 1920s, when jazz musicians referred to their style as the “Naptown sound.” Later, it applied to a section of town where basketball superstar Oscar Robertson would grow up. And soul and funk musicians in the 1970s used the name, too.
Occasionally, white folks also donned “Naptown” with pride. In the 1960s, kick-ass, album-oriented-rock radio station WNAP revitalized the name with a vengeance.
Some of the most compelling parts of our city and its history have identified with the term “Naptown.” And the more confident we get, the more we use the name. Hip-hop labels, roller-derby girls, jazz dancers, indie T-shirt companies, chicken-coop supply stores, and CrossFit training centers—you know, cool people—have no problem with the name.
That’s because the problem with “Naptown” has never been the name. It’s that Indianapolis has sometimes been a sleepy, nappy place. The solution, then, isn’t to stop using the name; it’s to stop being sleepy. Which is pretty much the case these days.
Indy has spent so much time trying to tell the world what we’re not. At some point, we have to just be. Now is as good a time as any.
By Philip Gulley
Every now and then, when asked where I’m from, I’ll say “Indianapolis” just to avoid having to say “About 20 miles west of Indianapolis, in a little place called Danville.” That’s more information than the questioner wants; he was just asking to be polite, and he probably doesn’t give a rat’s ass where I’m from anyway. But sometimes, in response, my interrogator will say “Oh, Naptown” in a snazzy sort of way, like a radio disc jockey, in a failed effort to be hip.
I loathe the nickname “Naptown.” It conjures up images of empty streets, of roving Chamber of Commerce members shooting pigeons downtown on Sunday afternoons, of blue-hairs whooping it up in the Ayres Tea Room. I hated the word “Naptown” upon first hearing it, in 1972, when Rusty Martin, the coolest kid in our class, said it. In my estimation, Rusty fell several rungs down the coolness ladder that day. I don’t call New York “The Big Apple.” I don’t refer to Detroit as “Motor City,” nor do I call Chicago “The Windy City.” I do, however, refer to Cedar Bluff, Alabama, as “The Crappie Capital of the World,” which is the best nickname ever given to any municipality.
If the name “Naptown” ever falls out of favor—and I pray it does—I want us to be “The Crappie Capital of the World.” The citizens of Cedar Bluff would be mad at us, but there are only 1,820 of them and 839,489 of us, so I can pretty much guess who would win that fight.
The @AndysNeck beard Twitter account calls it “the best hair in sports.” And some fans have gotten downright superstitious about it, predicting a Colts loss whenever Luck trims his famous tuft.
Even Luck admits that a scraggly neckbeard isn’t a good look— especially for a guy who is the face of an NFL franchise.
The 15 bronze figures were created by J. Seward Johnson Jr., known as the Norman Rockwell of American sculpture, and his work has a similar nostalgic appeal.
Fine art or not, these statues are just plain creepy. Are we the only ones who ima-
gine them coming to life and taking midnight strolls down the Monon?
Thank goodness! Indy is finally embracing eco-friendly transportation alternatives that are good for our wallets and our waistlines.
Remind us again—what’s the protocol when the car and bike lanes cross? We’re scared we’re going to hit someone, and it’s no fun getting flipped off by cyclists who assume drivers still on the learning curve are rude, dumb, or reckless. Sorry, guys! We’re just confused!
So you’ve climbed the Monument, munched on corn at the Indiana State Fair, had your mouth set afire by a certain shrimp-cocktail sauce. But what are the modern-day rites of passage? We have answers: The New Indy-Must Do List.
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue.