The Hoosierist: What Happens if the Orangutans at the Zoo Fall?
Daring apes, perfect festival weather, and food deserts. Ask the Hoosierist.
Q: The orangutans at the Zoo climb around on ropes 80 feet off the ground, but I don’t see a net under them. How sure is the Zoo that they’re not going to fall?
A: While the eight-story drop is more than enough to give The Hoosierist the willies, it’s not an issue for the orangutans, who swing hand-over-hand along the Hutan Trail (the name for those high cables) with aplomb. There aren’t any nets under them, but the folks at the Indianapolis Zoo assert that doing something like that would be the equivalent of putting guardrails next to human sidewalks. “To them, climbing and swinging back and forth on cables is as simple as it is for us to walk down a street,” says the zoo’s conservation public-relations specialist, Melanie Laurendine. “It really is the orangutan’s sidewalk in the sky.” Oh yeah, it’s just like a sidewalk. Only the last time The Hoosierist tripped and fell on one of those, he didn’t have to be scraped up with a spatula.
Q: I hear the Penrod Arts Fair takes place the first week in September because that’s when it’s least likely to rain. Is that true?
A: Well, sort of. The idea that the event’s first-Saturday-in-September date is somehow meteorologically blessed is such a part of Penrod’s lore that they’ve trademarked the slogan, “Indiana’s Nicest Day.” But is it empirically provable? Not really. “The founders chose that weekend because it’s the best time of year in Indiana,” says the event’s public-relations co-chairman, Mark Boston. “We needn’t bother with empirical data. It would just confuse the issue.” Nevertheless, The Hoosierist (who loves both empirical data and confusing the issue) looked into the matter. Indy Septembers do average a paltry 3.12 inches of precipitation, making it one of the driest months. It’s not as arid as February (2.32 inches), but holding Penrod then might mean changing its slogan to “Indiana’s Iciest Day.”
Q: Everyone talks about the city’s food deserts. What are those?
A: The Hoosierist lives in Broad Ripple, where there are still roughly as many grocery stores as bars. But a few places in Marion County aren’t so spoiled. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an urban food desert is a low-income area where at least a third of the population lives more than a mile from a supermarket. This assumes that if you’re poor, you don’t have a car, which makes schlepping a mile or more on foot (or by bus) to the nearest store a major ordeal. USDA maps designate about half of the east side of Indianapolis as a food desert, along with large sections of the rest of the county. So if you have easy access to groceries, don’t bellyache about the busted carts. Just count your blessings.
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