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You didn't know that President Benjamin Harrison was from Indiana? That's okay; Indiana has sexier local heroes, celebrities whose very names make grown Hoosiers weep. Better yet, they feel compelled to honor their heroes in wondrously strange ways.
At age 17 John Dillinger was sent to jail for ten years, got released in 1933, and immediately thanked the “corrections” system with such an energetic bank-robbing spree that, by the time he was shot dead just one year later, he'd become a legend. This being the Great Depression, plenty of people hated the banks, and thousands of them showed up at Dillinger's funeral to mourn him. Moreover, this was no one-day love affair. People continue to visit the gangster's gravestone at Indianapolis's Crown Hill Cemetery, one of the largest burial grounds in the United States; in fact, so many of them have chipped mementos off the granite marker that the family has had to replace the stone. Twice.
The new monument to legendary basketball coach John Wooden at Georgia and Meridian streets is one of the oddest public sculptures I've ever seen. I invite – nay, urge – readers of this blog post to comment below so we can better understand this statue's subtext.
Who needs subtext when you're cute? Meet Butler Blue (the Third, I believe), mascot for the Butler University Bulldogs.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., left Indianapolis for New York City, but like Salzburg, Austria – another place whose local hero (Mozart) left town – all is forgiven. When Indy commissioned 46 public murals to celebrate Super Boxl XLVI, this painting of the compassionate novelist was one of them. What's more, there's now a Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in town. It's a modest affair in a hipster neighborhood storefront, but it would be worth the trip if only to see Vonnegut's artwork; had he not been a writer, he could have been a damned good illustrator.
Note to the Missouri school board that has tried to ban his books: For a better use of your time, read Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Welcome to the Monkey House, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater....
Dan Akroyd has sat in with bands at the Slippery Noodle Inn, and a Who's Who of other celebs have made pilgrimmages here, too. True, the Blues Brothers were supposed to be from Chicago, not Indianapolis. But the Noodle, Indy's oldest bar, doesn't just serve up great burgers, brews, and bands; it also has a killer collection of Jake-and-Elwood memorabilia. The sculptures shown here reside upstairs, where there used to be boarding house bedrooms and a brothel.
When I asked owner Hal Yeagy how he'd managed to acquire so much great Blues Brothers stuff, he said, “If I see something, I buy it.”
Ed Wetschler is the executive editor of Tripatini, whose parent company, EnLinea Media, is dedicated to multilingual online content, marketing, and social-media management. Ed is also the Caribbean editor of Recommend magazine.
All photos by Ed Wetschler.