Saturday, April 05, 2008

5 April 2008: Indy

To my surprise, and as hinted at the end of the last blog, we've ended up in Indiana.

This is a state I knew almost nothing about, prior to arriving here. The sum total of my Indiana knowledge amounted to the following:
  1. Indy 500 is a car race that takes place in Indianapolis and the cars look a little like Formula One cars but they're actually different.
  2. There's an NFL team called the Indianapolis Colts.
  3. Rich Mullins was from Indiana.
  4. I once must have gone through the top of Indiana on a Greyhound bus from Detroit to Chicago but frankly I don't remember anything about the state: I just know it must have happened out of geographical necessity.

So, it would not have been somewhere I'd have thought we'd end up. It wouldn't have been somewhere I thought about at all. Except for the fact that my previous employer in the UK (the one that required me to go to London early in the mornings) has ties to a roughly equivalent firm in a small Indiana town called Kokomo, and put me in touch.

A few interviews later, here we are: in a land where the locals call themselves 'Hoosiers' and constantly tell me that Indiana is a "basketball state". I've discovered the Indiana is largely flat, gets a bunch of snow in the winter, features a good bit of corn-growing (along with strawberries, I'm informed) and generally chugs along mainly with the manufacturing industry - particularly motor vehicles - providing the economic backbone.

Kokomo itself is a strange town, a town where it's clear things used to be bigger. Back in the day they (whoever 'they' are) discovered a large amount of natural gas sitting under Kokomo. Not sure if it's as much as the Barnett Shale (a big seam of natural gas sitting under west Fort Worth back down in Texas, which apparently is making the region quite recession-proof down there), but they did an interesting thing with it: they said to businesses and industries: 'If you move here, you can have free gas'.

Unsurprisingly, lots of businesses did, particularly large manufacturing firms. There's still a hint of that in the town today - Chrysler is the biggest employer in the town, followed by Delphi Electronics and then Haynes International (business set up by local hero Elwood Haynes), but most of the big factories have moved on. The legacy is interesting: you can tell the era of the boom by the fact that there are loads - I mean loads - of disused rail tracks criss-crossing the town. Indeed, two blocks away from us is a disused passenger rail station complete with tracks and even a signal box standing high above what is now a road. The town now boasts a population of around forty-six thousand, and chugs along slowly, relying on Chrysler and Delphi probably more than is healthy for a town the size of Kokomo.

More to follow as I get time about where we live, photos of the place and things that happen here. Meantime it's Saturday morning, we're in Indianapolis (an hour south of Kokomo) for the weekend and there's football on the internet. Plymouth Argyle 0-0 with Charlton at half-time, and that after Charlton's keeper was sent off. I've not figured out the anonymous proxy thing yet to get UK-only radio streams, but the boys at Pasoti are keeping me nicely up-to-date. After that, we're off to White River Park, and tomorrow we meet with one Matt Jolley, a friend from my Queen Mary days (the Uni of London college, not the boat or the monarch), who lives just over on the east side of Indianapolis.

Maybe he can give me tips on where to get good English bacon over here.


Struan said...

Elwood Haynes is pure Simpsons.

Rob said...

Following your bacon link lead me eventually to a 'British breakfast sampler box'.. where the soundbyte reads 'What better way can you spoil yourself and family? It makes a great gift too?'

Are they unsure about the giftworthiness (yes i made that word up) of a good ol' fry up!?!

McDoug said...

Yeah, bacon means gammon there (sort of) so the common cuts and curing are different .

I find that Canadian bacon does the trick in Baltimore, though they tell me that a bacon sarnie comes with marmalade there? call the queen, we need the keys to the tower.

I do my best to suppress the outrage, marmalade??? surely that's treason? the only other legal combination is HP sauce and that's only because it has a picture of the Houses of Parliament on the bottle.

Col. Sanders said...

and don't forget the second ever KFC