We All Scream

Out-of-shape Colts, our state pie, and shady ice-cream-truck drivers. Ask the Hoosierist.

Q: I caught a glimpse of the guy who drives my neighborhood’s ice-cream truck. He’s so sketchy looking, it made me wonder what else they sell out of that van. Are these people vetted?
William E., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist thinks that painting an entire class of workers with one broad, derogatory brush is both demeaning and small-minded. But on this occasion, he admits you have a point. There was a time, decades ago, when ice-cream men all wore white suits and soda-jerk hats. These days they’re as likely to sport ZZ Top beards, ratty concert T-shirts, and more tattoos than teeth. It makes you want to run away from their trucks.

As you might have guessed, the folks handing out Bomb Pops and ice-cream sandwiches to your kids aren’t vetted by anyone other than their employers. The Marion County Public Health Department inspects ice-cream trucks for cleanliness but rarely takes note of the people staffing them (unless, possibly, they spot one with an obvious case of Hepatitis C). Likewise, the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement has little to say about these operations, beyond banning them from the streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Still, The Hoosierist can’t help feeling a little sympathy for these frozen–moo-juice jockeys. He’s pretty sure they’re not pulling down dot-com money, or even night manager–at–Village Pantry money. Perhaps they started out as smiling, friendly people with perfectly coiffed hair and immaculately ironed clothes, only to be driven mad after driving around for weeks inside of an old vehicle blaring “Pop Goes the Weasel” from its loudspeakers.  

Q: The start of Colts training camp got me wondering: How out-of-shape do the pros get during the off-season?
Jack T., Fishers

A: The succinct answer, according to sports blogger Brad Wells from sbnation.com, is “not very.” Long gone is the era when NFL players spent the off-season smoking Marlboros and drinking beer, and then rolled into training camp 20 pounds overweight and hacking like coal miners. “The old days of people showing up and using training camp to get in shape are, I think, over,” Wells says. “If you’re a wide receiver and you show up out of shape, you might lose your job the first week of camp.”

The old Bill Polian regime was famously intolerant of off-season sloth, and that attitude seems firmly in place with the new management. The only folks who get a pass, sort of, are interior offensive linemen, who can weigh as much as minivans. Back in the Polian days, lightweight linemen weighing a comparatively svelte 290 were all the rage. But the new regime wants bulk. Which means this might be an excellent time for any Anderson-based all-you-can-eat buffets to close up shop. Just until the Colts leave town.

Q: I understand that venerable Bush Stadium is being turned into apartments. Are there any souvenirs available from its glory days?
Naomi W., Carmel

A: If you’re looking for things like old programs or team trading cards, The Hoosierist recommends trolling eBay. But if you want something a bit more substantial, get in touch with the folks at People for Urban Progress. This local group has made a name for itself by “repurposing” the detritus from old Indy athletic venues and events. Among a great many other things, they market purses sewn from pieces of the RCA Dome’s roof, and wallets fashioned out of Super Bowl XLVI banners.

Unfortunately, Bush Stadium’s moldering hulk yielded nothing that could be turned into trendy fashion accessories. But the group did salvage the park’s roughly 11,000 seats, which it plans to recondition and resell. You might have already seen a few around town, serving as unconventional seating at bus stops. PUP also plans to sell them to the general public in the near future, so keep an eye on its website. And remember that once these seats are gone, they’re gone forever. Think of it as Bush Stadium’s final sellout game.

Q: Recently I heard that Indiana adopted the sugar cream pie as its official pie. Really? Who says? I’m from Indiana, and I prefer pumpkin.
Vicky S., Mooresville

A: Sorry, pumpkin-eater. The Indiana General Assembly officially elevated the status of this humble dessert in 2009. Actually, when it comes to ordaining “official” things, the state legislature has gone on a tear recently. Everybody knows the cardinal is our state bird and the Wabash our state river. But did you know that in the past few years we have, for some reason, acquired a state soil (a brown silt loam called “Miami”); a state firearm (an early-19th-century shootin’ iron called the Grouseland Rifle); and even an official beverage—water. You read right. In 2007, the legislature saw fit to designate good ol’ H2O as Indiana’s official drink.

Donald Gjerdingen, an IU law professor (and sort of a student of this topic), says making something “official” can be accomplished via resolution (as was the case with sugar cream pie) or statute. And while taking precious public time to designate a state pie sounds flaky, and elevating water seems fishy, Gjerdingen cautions that things could be worse. When compared to other states, our principality possesses neither the longest nor the weirdest roster of honored objects. “For Indiana, the list is relatively short,” he says. “Some other states have official toys, crustaceans, dinosaurs, mammals, and tartans. Indiana has a long way to go.”

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

This column originally appeared in the August 2012 issue.