September 2021


I am not a Hoosier.

I’m fresh back from a trip to the USA, where paranoia about Covid is on a whole different level from Germany. Excluding Monroe County, Indiana, only three shops enforced a mask mandate: REI Fort Collins, REI Denver, and an art gallery on the court house square in Spencer, Indiana.

In some shops I was the only person wearing a mask.

However, that’s not what I want to babble about here.

Rather, I noticed on this trip that despite the fact that I vote in Indiana and maintain some aspects of my life in Bloomington, Indiana, ultimately I really do not care about the state. There is no emotional bond with my Hoosier brethren, no need to sign “Back Home Again” as I walk off the jetway into a humid and hot Indianapolis.

I arrived late on a Thursday evening, drove to a nearby hotel, and fell asleep as soon as I lay down in bed. The next morning I got up early and drove down to Bloomington – a brief stop where I met a friend for breakfast at the IHOP (which used to be Long John Silver’s) across from the Dunkin’ Donuts (which used to be a Steak ‘n Shake and, before that, Mustard’s).

It was along this drive down State Road 67, cutting through Martinsville, to State Road 37 (I mean, I-69), where it dawned on me that Indiana really is a state that lacks any redeeming characteristics that make me care about the place.

It is the state, after all, that gave us Dan Quayle and Mike Pence. In the same genre, Indiana also gave us Jared Fogle.

Which is to say that if Chicago were to announce that it had purchased Newton County, Indiana, and was going to install a garbage dump there, I wouldn’t have any strong objections; though I would passively hope to visit Beaver City in order to laugh at the town name in person before it was covered with trash.

About the only thing in Indiana that I like is Bloomington.

But not the Bloomington of today, the Bloomington of 20 years ago. The Bloomington with Long John Silver’s and Steak ‘n Shake as part of (but not really) Eastland Plaza. The Bloomington with a functional movie theatre downtown, a couple blocks away from the Laughing Planet Café (RIP, Covid Times) and Howard’s Bookstore (apparently closed in 2013!).

It’s not to say that today’s Bloomington is bad – it is actually the nicest city in Indiana, complete with a walkable downtown, infill construction filling in gaps, and a rails to trails path stretching through the city that is exceptionally nice. Ultimately these qualities make today’s Bloomington property of those living there today – the memories that will bring today’s undergraduates back in 20 years to attempt and relive their fond memories only to find that the city now belongs to the kids of 2040.

My travels south to Evansville involved driving down I-69 (a highway and a personal claim) – the highway is nice, but nobody uses it: 99% of the traffic took the exit for State Road 37 to Bedford. Basically it’s a faster way to get to Evansville, but only marginally so and at great expensive (both fiscally and environmentally). I’d go so far as to say that I-69 was a complete and total waste of money; the roads that were there were good enough (though they could use repaving).

I did stop at a few places, but I was more tourist than local. Some of the stops were duds, some were fun. I did not have an emotional connection to any.

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