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  SIX THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT: INDIANA.  
   
   
  Indiana is innocuous, flat, and, until recently, devoid of Starbucks. When you hear "Indiana," you think, "Indy 500." Or, if you're really on the ball, you think, "Indy 500. Basketball." If you're really really on the ball and have actually driven through the state, you think, "Indy 500. Basketball. Corn." And that's where it ends for most folks. But there's a lot more to the land of my birth. Most of it is not necessarily what you want to share with strangers, but it's time Indiana was associated with new things. So, in the interest of broadening horizons, here are a few -- okay, six -- state secrets.
 
 

 

#1. We Reenact the Indy 500 on Our Highways.

In the very center of Indiana is Indianapolis, the largest city, the state capital and home to the Indy 500. And what better way to celebrate the largest spectacle in racing than by reenacting it every day on your way to work?

You see, Indianapolis comes equipped with a public racetrack for its speed-loving citizens, otherwise known as I-465. I-465 is a gigantic, circular highway that surrounds the city. It's approximately 57 miles around, 6 to 8 lanes across, and wicked fun to drive. The speed limit, ostensibly, is 55 mph, but God help you if you actually stop accelerating at that point. Of course, the cops will pull you over if they catch you speeding, but this is modified by the fact that the other cars will run you off the road if they catch you not speeding. Example: The last time I was home, I was on 465 doing around 70 mph, 15 miles above the speed limit. Very naughty. And I felt mischievous. But, apparently, I had been out of state for too long. Because, as soon as I hit my way-above-the-limit cruising speed, I was passed. By a church van.

 

#2. Bobby Knight Can Do No Wrong.

Look, Bobby Knight won basketball games, okay? Lots of them. In 21 years as head coach of the Indiana University Hoosiers, he took the men's basketball team to the NCAA tournament 16 times. They won the title on three separate occasions.

Yeah, he swore a lot. Sure, he threw chairs. OK, he screamed at the players. But we respected him for it. He was whipping them into shape, making them be the best they could be. It was a badge of honor; if you could survive playing for Bobby Knight, you could survive pretty much anything. His birthday was celebrated as a holiday.

And then he choked some kid and it was caught on tape. So he was fired. And let me tell you, there was blood in the streets that night. Or, rather, drunk college students. The students at Indiana University rioted, taking to the streets to protest the unfair termination of a basketball legend. He wins us games! Let him choke who he wants!

Now Bobby is at Texas Tech, and many an IU fan has purchased Texas Tech paraphernalia in support of their chair-wielding, obscenity-screaming, student-choking, random-salad-bar-incident-starting famed ex-coach. The love affair will never die.

 

#3. In Indiana, Time is Relative.

This is the land that Daylight Savings Time forgot. We have never, and will never, change our clocks. Changing clocks twice a year is for those fancy-types on the east and west coasts. That is, those without cows. Yes, we know that other states have cows and still manage to change their clocks twice a year. But they're just giving in to the pressure. We in Indiana, we don't give in.

The official explanation: back when daylight savings time was instigated, Indiana farmers lobbied against it, claiming that they

 
 

preferred more light in the morning and less in the evening, so they could get their work done early and get home at a reasonable hour. Plus, it was less likely to disrupt the cows. So Indiana decided not to change. Half the year, we're with New York; the other half of the year, we're with Chicago. It makes a basic kind of sense.

But we couldn't stop there. We couldn't stop with sense. Because, you see, certain counties in Indiana exist in close proximity to major metropolises in other states. These states, of course, abide by Daylight Savings Time. Now, this means that people in these Indiana counties have decided that they, too, will change their clocks. So the people who live near Chicago, Louisville,

 
 

Cincinnati and -- for some unknown reason -- Evansville, Ind., get to change their clocks. BUT NO ONE ELSE. We have to draw the line somewhere, and that line is all the counties touching the few counties that are allowed to change their clocks. Now, all this means that Indiana can have as many as three time zones existing in the state simultaneously. Yes. This is much less confusing for the cows.

 

#4. We're Taught Nonsense... And Tested On It.

Every child who attended school in Indiana in the 80's and 90's has had this phrase forever burned into their brain: "A baloo is a bear, to wuzzle means to mix, a yonker is a young man"

This phrase comes from the ISTEP, which is short for the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress. You take the ISTEP in third grade, sixth grade, and again in eighth grade. Like all educational testing, it's fairly disruptive. When I was in school, I always noticed the teachers becoming increasingly cagey and nervous as the testing date approached. Which was understandable, seeing as their worth was about to be evaluated based on how well a room full of eight year olds filled in circles.

So taking the ISTEP was relatively stressful, which could be why childhood memories of it are so acute. Specifically, this phrase from a sample vocabulary question: "A baloo is a bear, to wuzzle means to mix, a yonker is a young man." As I remember it, you would read this phrase, go answer some other questions about something totally unrelated, and then return to the vocabulary section. You would then answer questions that said, "What does 'wuzzle' mean?" to see if you could remember. It's a bit strange, but not freaky enough to warrant being remembered for the rest of your natural life. No, the reason that phrase stays with you is that it was the sample for the vocabulary section of EVERY test EVERY time you took it. By the eighth grade, you knew you were going to get at least three questions right.

 

#5. We Fight Over An Oaken Bucket.

Indiana University and Purdue University will forever be locked in a mortal struggle to determine who will ultimately possess the most treasured prize in the land: the oaken bucket

My Dad touched it once. The oaken bucket, that is. His fraternity brothers stole it from Purdue, who were its rightful owners for that particular year. They paraded it through the streets of Indiana University, and were thought of as very cool.

The oaken bucket is, well, a bucket. Made of oak. In 1925 the alumni clubs of Indiana University and Purdue University decided that their football games just weren't interesting enough. "How can we make them more interesting?" they wondered. "Hey!" some random guy yelled, "Let's dig a bucket out of the ground somewhere and put metal Is and Ps on it and make it a trophy!" "Brilliant!" everyone else replied.

And so, in 1925, the oaken bucket was taken from a well and turned into the weird-ass trophy it is today. From it dangles a long chain of Is and Ps, representing the respective wins of Indiana University and Purdue University over the years. Basically, it goes down like this: one balmy fall day the teams of Purdue and IU meet. They engage in the game of "football." Whoever wins, owns the bucket for a year. Whoever loses, tries to steal the bucket for that same year. Because, ultimately, whoever has the bucket wins. Wins everything. Everything bucket-related, that is.

 

#6. Indiana: Birthplace of Socially Awkward Celebrities.

Indiana has more than its fair share of celebrities. Considering the size and relative importance of the state as a whole, we're the home to some pretty big names:

  • Shelley Long
  • Axl Rose
  • David Letterman
  • Marc Summers
  • Jimmy Hoffa
  • John Dillinger
  • David Lee Roth
  • Dan Quayle
  • Shannon Hoon
  • John Mellencamp
  • Janet Jackson
  • Michael Jackson
  • LaToya Jackson
  • Jermaine Jackson
  • Tito Jackson
  • All of other Jacksons

Besides the state of their birth, all of our celebrities seem to have something in common: they're socially awkward. Shelley Long? Left Cheers for… something. No one really knows what. Axl Rose? Went into hiding for years, came out on the receiving end of some very bad plastic surgery. David Letterman? Funny guy, wouldn't want to be stuck in an elevator with him. Marc Summers? The former host of Double Dare has obsessive compulsive disorder. Jimmy Hoffa? Allegedly a sociopath, supposedly killed people. John Dillinger? See Jimmy Hoffa. David Lee Roth? Bleached hair, Hawaiian shirts, puffy pants, possibly still thinks he's famous. Dan Quayle? Has trouble talking, spelling and chewing gum. Shannon Hoon? Sung the bee girl song, killed himself. John Mellencamp? Wears a pompadour, lives on a farm, survives on a diet of burned toast, coffee and cigarettes. The Jackson family? No explanation necessary.

I don't know if it's in the air or the water or the corn, but people from Indiana aren't well-equipped to handle fame. Maybe they're too nice. Maybe they're too shy. Maybe they're too freaked out from visiting numerous other states that actually change their clocks twice a year.

 

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