Indiana Wants Me, Lord, And I’m Back Here

I’ve always liked that R. Dean Taylor song “Indiana Wants Me.” Like a lot of songs, though, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually paid attention to the words. That’s a dark song, man. The law is coming and this guy is writing a love song? I’m thinking he should pay more attention to driving and worry about maudlin sentiment later on. (You can remember the song here.)

It might surprise you to know that Indianapolis is different than Hamilton, Canada. Whereas Hamilton, when I was there two weeks ago, was a veritable united nations of languages, dialects, and restaraunts, near as I can tell, Indianapolis has steak houses and Irish Pubs. And everyone speaks English. Or at least everyone I’ve run into so far.

Is there a whiter inner-city in America? (There was a street concert with a white woman and an African American guy singing. The first song I heard was Jimmy Buffet. Really? It’s a black guy outside in the 49 degree temperature singing Buffet? These two were really good by the way. Shout out to her, in particular. Long, soulful voice. He sounded a bit like Keb’ Mo’ when he wanted to.) Was anyone surprised that Indiana went for Romney in a big way? He carried the old white guy vote. (If you were surprised, you might also be shocked to hear California voted for the liberal. And, I have this bridge to sell you.) Based on my walking through town, there seem to be a good bit of those old white guys in town. Maybe it’s just the conventioneers.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Indianapolis (and I have nothing against old white guys, by the way). John Mellencamp is my favorite musician. Axle Rose grew up in Indiana. Larry Bird. Reggie Miller (Yes. I know he’s not white). Corn. I love all those thing.

I was here once already in January of this year in the 19 degree (that’s just stupid cold), snowy weather. Yesterday morning I left home in the warmth (winter in West Texas at 85 degrees) and it is 34 here this morning. The city is clean, well laid out, and the night life is pretty hopping. They have the open air concert, a mall in the middle of town, restaraunts, and I even saw a few incredibly polite bums panhandling. Truly, the heart of America. Heck, they have White River State Park right next to the NCAA Hall of Champions.

And food. It’s not a city filled with variety but what they have is tasty. Walk down Washington and turn to Meridian to find the famous St. Elmo Steak House. I was going to eat there until I saw the prices. The place was packed. Clearly, Indiana folks make good money. (Another feather in their cap.) Standing down on Washington or Maryland and spit any direction and you’ll hit an Irish Pub. That’s not a bad thing. I had the Dublin Chicken at Claddagh’s. Lightly breaded chicken breast with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. If Romney could promise me such meals, I would have voted for him, too. (Try the Dragonfly IPA with the meal.)

For breakfast this week, I’ll head over to Patachou’s for french toast or an omelette. I might not have to eat again the whole day. If I do get hungry, I’ll hop over to the Indianapolis Colts grill for lunch and find a steak for supper.

But, it’s still Indiana, home of the Hoosiers, a nickname that means something like country  bumpkin. While in theory I applaud the willingness to seize the derogatory term and take ownership of the word, I also can’t imagine why a whole state wouldn’t find a different nickname. (It reminds me of the old Oklahoma slogan they put on their license plates: Oklahoma is OK. Hey, way to sell your state! Let’s go to Oklahoma for an OK vacation! Then we’ll head up to Indiana and hang out with the country bumpkins. Good times.) But, then again, this is a state who chose its name by looking around. Hey, there’s indians here. Let’s call our selves Indiana.That extra “a” on the end will pretty the word right up.

Indiana seems stuck in a weird liminal space. They joined the country as a frontier area full of divesity, but they are something like 88% white today. They aren’t truly in the north or the great lakes region but they aren’t in the south either (despite the NASCAR events.) They have major research universities here, a pro football team, a pro baasketball team, and house the NCAA. Indianapolis is the 12th largets city in the country. Yet, they are still hoosiers. It’s still Indiana. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone yell  out–let’s take a road trip to the hoosier state! Maybe it’s just the people I hang out with.

In the meantime, I’ve got to figure out what the guy in that song did to make the cops so mad.


About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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