I have always relied on the kindness of strangeness, so 24 hours of shrimp cocktail, beer and whiskey in Indianapolis required a stumble to the dark side, with some nice folks along the way. As a city on the competitive eating circuit, Indy has often confounded me.
In 2002 at X-Fest, a thrash death metal concert, I was slated to eat oysters before Mudvayne played. I took to the stage and was immediately pelted with cellphones, sneakers and full beers -- all objects I assumed the five thousand mosh pit fans would need to get through the day. Later in the evening, MLE MC Rich Shea and I tried to find, "the regular bar," but were befuddled by each downtown bar having strobe lights, a dance floor and a crumbling disco vibe.
Finally, two years ago on the Hooters circuit, Gravy Brown, who had lived in Indy for five years, brought me to the promised land of wonderful dive bars. I am at a loss for the name of a single one, but the Fountain Square area seemed to have several worth quaffing local brew and hanging out with toothless bartenders and hippie girls. I was also introduced to Indianapolis' native sandwich, The Pork Tenderloin. If a traditional Weiner Schnitzel is a Blu Ray, then the Tenderloin is a Cassingle (for those readers of a certain age, a "cassingle" is a cassette single song, played on boom boxes to keep the Dinosaurs away). The Tenderloin has a following, indeed, documentaries and blogs exist, but my sampling left me extremely disappointed. The Tenderloin is a flattened cut of pork, breaded and deep fried, served overhanging in a burger bun. The one I had was similar to eating a Dr. Scholl's foot insert and not a new one out of the package, but one used by a recreational jogger with gland issues. As someone who tries to never give Philadelphia any credit whatsoever, the cheese steak kicks the Tenderloins' ass.
I returned to Indy for the St. Elmo's Steakhouse shrimp cocktail eating contest, preceding the Big Ten National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. The stadium has a roof, leading Ohio State and Michigan State fans to under dress in jerseys only, The Mejier Trail Greater party on beautiful Georgia Street, does not have a roof. Indeed, the low teen temperature might be great for shrimp, but for humans, it was the coldest outdoor contest in MLE history. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut said after that he had to visually inspect his hand to see how many shrimp he was holding because he couldn't feel his hand. Despite the fact that shrinkage is not limited to a guy in a Speedo winter dipping, Joey's stomach showed no sign of cold contraction, as he ate 9 ¼ pounds of St. Elmo's shrimp cocktail in ten minutes. I ate a respectable 4 ¼, finishing third, and staved off hypothermia by relying on the six ounces of shrimp cocktail sauce in each 1 pound bowl. St Elmo's cocktail sauce is 50 percent horseradish, leading two amateur competitors to suffer a Brassicaceae belch, removing them from competing. Indeed, their sauce channels the 80's movie (no relation) as truly, St. Elmo's Fire.
I cannot say enough kind things about our St. Elmo's hosts. When their 1933 Lounge was overcrowded, they let us use their conference room, complete with a rolling keg-o-later. Like the movie, "Slacker" where one follows one character into each scene and leaves with another, the MLE eaters followed the keg-o-later to a kind beer distributor's suite inside Lucas Oil stadium (due to NCAA rules, suites are the only place one can get booze). I may have been a division three, 2nd string punter, but I am still a collegiate 1st team all-American drinker. With a goblet of Macallan, I enjoyed a Spartan's upset among the company of the owner of Brad's Brass Flamingo, a venerable peeler joint (oddly enough the owner's name is Jerry. I never met Brad). Jerry insisted that we have a night cap at his place of business. We had a four hour night cap without a tenderloin sandwich in sight. I was deposited at the airport just passed 4 am. Thank goodness for the kindness of the Delta rep who woke me for my 6 am flight with the words, "Are you on this flight, or do you need to go directly to the morgue?" The Indy kindness was the kinetic energy that allowed me to live 24 hours on solely shrimp cocktail, beer, and whiskey, a diet that would kill most people, but one which Neitzsche and I revel in. Indy, you are my kind of town. Please mail my liver back to NYC and send me some St. Elmo's cocktail sauce to put on my breakfast cereal.
Crazy Legs Conti can be reached on Twitter at ColemansBandG, where he is taking tenderloin sandwich recommendations.