Indianapolis Monthly — Fun fact: In addition to hosting the Largest One-Day Sporting Event in the World, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway holds the Largest One-Day Volume of Chicken Tenders Put in the Mouths of 300,000 Humans. There are untold regions from which to obtain chicken tenders here: There are tents devoted to them, and concession counters flush with them. I’m pretty sure you can get some from Letterman’s luxury box. Today, on Fast Friday, I am simply sitting in Pagoda Plaza in the midst of a chicken-tender Fantasyland that would paralyze my children with joy.
But I am here in search of OTHER FOODS, the non-vaguely identified poultry parts that make up the culinary options at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To do so, I wandered the Pagoda Plaza and drifted down Georgetown Road like a creeper, circumventing the entire outside of the oval and doing my due journalistic diligence while pre-emptively working off turkey legs (HA. Just kidding; to do so I’d need to walk 3,499 more laps). Sure, IMS houses plenty of traditional concessions—your tenders-on-a-bed-of-waffle-fries ($10), your burger-esque objects ($10), and your Indy Dogs ($5), which are like regular hot dogs, except made of pollen. But my assignment was to wander a bit off the track (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) and see what I could find.
Indianapolis Monthly — GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE: The ’80s-era metal gods in Iron Maiden are still amazing, like you can’t believe how amazing they are, it’s ridiculous, especially since they’re all like, what, 60? Singer Bruce Dickinson even had throat cancer a few years ago, but he worked his voice back and sounds perfect now. Did you know he had to get specially certified to fly the band and crew around in the band’s special 747, the one with the huge Eddie decal on the side?
I did know that, and I’m glad I did because it makes keeping up with Ed Rudisell significantly easier. We’re tucked in a post-lunch-rush corner of Rook, Rudisell’s sleek third restaurant, ostensibly to discuss his portfolio of Indianapolis eateries, his forthcoming Fountain Square tiki bar, and the manner in which he’s sniffing around potential involvement in the legalized marijuana industry (if Indiana ever gets around to doing that). But frankly, we started with Maiden and moved quickly to other relevant topics, like his take on Indy’s death-metal scene (it’s way bigger than you think), age-appropriate nostalgia for cassette mixtapes (Spotify makes curating a playlist convenient—and boring), and ability to recite the entirety of Slayer’s classic Reign in Blood album (guitar solos included), all in about 15 minutes. This is how he talks, bringing up and tearing through bands and liquors and books in a bang-bang-bang flurry of Stuff He Likes, a delivery system that only gets faster if you stumble into a field of shared interests, which you probably will.
GQ — Late last year, the former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses propped up his camera phone, pressed the record button, produced a cherry-red coffin-shaped box and put its contents directly in his mouth.
The box contained a tortilla chip—one single chip—made from the dust of the Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper on Earth, designed solely to obliterate the senses. In the video, the guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, places the shard of fire on his tongue as his wife of 27 years, Jen, does the same. Incredibly, Jen smiles. Bumblefoot, meanwhile, looks like somebody hit self-destruct on his face.
“If you like pain, you’re gonna like this,” he says, through breaths that grow increasingly panting. “It’s still burning. I’m feeling kind of sweaty.” He grimaces, forces some smiles, the fire inching back up his throat. A few minutes in, he absently brushes his right eye, which, because his immune system works, immediately swells shut. “I no longer have use of my eye,” he says, half-laughing through tears and mucus. Jen, next to him, continues to seem totally fine. A guy who spent eight years with Axl Rose as his boss is getting slaughtered by a tortilla chip while his wife is like, eh, whatever.
This episode goes on for six minutes. Bumblefoot excuses himself to flush his eye with water—which obviously doesn’t work—until the fire finally dies down enough for the couple to record an outro. “Paqui chips,” he says, sweating and one-eyed, “Thank you very much for destroying my life for the next half-hour.”
GQ — The Olympics are a showcase for peak physical magnificence, a relentless Tinderfest (you think you don’t stand out in a bar? Try navigating a village full of gymnasts and swimmers in Rio de Fucking Janeiro), and proof that we are surrounded by golden sports gods and goddesses who can totally swim in emerald-green water and not die. So it’s a little weird that they’re all losing their shit over free Big Macs.
Indeed, aside from Biles, Ledecky, Bolt, Phelps, and the Slovakian canoe slalom team (REPRESENT, MY PEOPLE!), the clear winner in Rio this year is McDonald’s, which established a fully functional calorie tent in the Olympic Village to offer free Big Macs, McGriddles, and dirt-cheap loaves of meat to hungry Olympians looking to kick-start just a littttttle bit of body decline.
The one on the left we made up. Everything else is fair game.
GQ — So, a New York bar has created a gourmet pizza that’s topped with Cheetos; it’s a fancy blend of cavatappi pasta, Béchamel sauce, a “signature cheese blend,” and the number-one reason your video-game controllers no longer work. It looks, well, delicious—let’s not be elitists about it. But it was hardly 2015’s only curious kitchen mash-up. We’re not sure what’s up with this game of culinary one-upmanship being waged by basically every restaurant that the Omnivore’s Dilemma buzzkill might have whined about, but a lot of the results make Cheetos pizza look like an organic-kale quesadilla wrapped in Volt brochures by comparison. See if you can tell the real food-flavored objects here from the very, very fake.
GQ — As if we needed further evidence that the whole secret menu craze at fast-food restaurants has jumped the shark, yesterday a latte enthusiast named William E. Lewis Jr. ordered himself a very much off-the-menu XXXXL cup of coffee including 101 shots of espresso and 17 pumps of vanilla syrup.
What’s next? We got to guessing. Below, the eight next secret-menu items we expect to see:
Burger King: America Burger. It’s just a regular burger, but every time you take a bite an air horn goes off and the chorus of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” starts playing.
GateHouse — I am not a big eater of fair food, which you can probably tell, because I am not dead.
I am also not a very big rider of fair rides, which you can also tell, for the same reason. There was an annual fair that came through my Indiana hometown every year — it had to, because it was an annual fair, and if carnies are known for anything it’s their strict adherence to contractual obligations — and I would go every year, because it was either that or play fantasy baseball with my friends. And here is this only time this sentence will ever be written anywhere on Earth: The county fair was the much stronger option for possibly meeting girls. (It was also a much better option for eating funnel cakes, which was the far more likely outcome.)
This happened when I was in my teens, in the mid-1930s according to my hair and posture, back when my unformed adolescent body could do things like consume three consecutive funnel cakes without collapsing into a heap of convulsive stomach-clutching. (By contrast, if I eat one whole glazed donut now I must run four miles to destroy the attendant calories, which is hard, as I don’t really have the two hours to spare.)
And it is a DARNED or possible GOLDANGED good thing, too, because if I were a teen hitting up the Lake County Fair now I would have all manner of newfangled (and newdanged!) fair foods to consume while not meeting any girls. (Can I tell you that I have never understood the idea of fair foods anyway, and not just because of my aversion to throwing up into a Crazy Ball game, but because I cannot fathom why, when you’re going to be hitting 8 Gs in a rattletrap spinny contraption that was built in 1956 and contains most of its original rivets, you definitely want your waist parts jammed full of unregulated dough prepared by undocumented gypsies. God the kids are going to LOVE going to the fair with Fun Dad in a few years.)
GateHouse — You hear a lot about pink slime these days, because frankly, pink slime is an a-MA-zing turn of phrase. It’s a writer’s dream, a lyrical, almost onomatopoeic slice of verbal sleight-of-hand that grabs your brain and demands it to conjure up an image, requires you to stop what you’re doing — eating a hoagie, feeding your baby, delivering a baby — to consider it. Frankly as soon as someone coined the phrase “pink slime” it was over, stick a fork in it. Actually that wouldn’t work because sticking a fork in an industrial-sized vat of gelatinous goo wouldn’t be practical and actually probably really frustrating; maybe you should go with a spoon in this scenario. Or an ice cream scoop. Ooh, soup ladle!
We think about pink slime for the same reason most people think about pink slime: Because we are writing “Ghostbusters II.” But also we think about it because with a meaning that evocative, especially in an age where headline value is measured by the level of instinctual milliseconds it takes someone to click on something distracting while they’re supposed to be working and/or driving, it’s perfect. It’s like “swine flu” or “SARS” or “Newt Gingrich” — your brain can’t help but think “THAT SOUNDS JUST AWFUL AND UNELECTABLE YET I CANNOT STOP MY HAND FROM CLICKING ON IT,” and there, before you know it, you’re 12 pages into pink slime material on the web and vowing to never eat beef, or slime, for the rest of your life.
GateHouse — I don’t know about you, but I spent New Year’s Eve getting hammered at White Castle. Ha! That’s a joke, of course — as I’ve somehow ended up with children living in my home, what I actually did was nothing! Well, at least nothing that required me to apply pants that aren’t operated by a drawstring.
Now, first of all, why this is needed is a mystery. White Castle, of course, is a brand that needs no improvement, no upgrading, no bridge to the 21st century. White Castle is built on the idea of shoe closet-sized restaurants that serve construction paper-thick burger-type objects on synthetic breadsubstance, all delivered to you in an environment that would suggest you are eating the food of kings and queens, if your royal subjects were all 400 lb. NASCAR fans or on their way home from the bars and think they’re in a Taco Bell.
Obviously, this is not a negative. This is what White Castle does, and it does it magically. Seriously if they started serving “salads” or “shrimp” or even burgers that were made of burgers I would be the first to lead the nationwide uprising. Ron Paul-college-volunteer style. “BRING BACK OUR WHITE CASTLE!” I would shout into a megaphone I stole from a hippie, “THESE NEW MENU ITEMS ARE DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO FOOD.”
GateHouse — When you see the phrase “Indiana entrepreneurs re-launch” at the beginning of a sentence and you are from Indiana, a few thoughts rocket immediately through the parts of your brain not dedicated to inventing increasingly desperate excuses for why IU hasn’t won a championship since ’87:
“Mellencamp’s giant robot will soon rise!”
“There must have been tremendous increases in the production of rickety hoops which can be attached to barns.”
“Whatever it is, Peyton Manning is shooting a commercial for it in the morning.”
“Automated Mitch Daniels-hitting device”
Ha! I kid Indiana because I love Indiana, except its stupid approach to time zones, which is such that when my cousin asked me last week what time it was in my current location I CACKLED WITH GLEE FOR TEN MINUTES because that’s literally the first time the question has swung that way in 35 years. I’m still cackling. I think I’ll take a small cackle break right now. Ha HO! Oh, it feels so good to laugh when you’ve spent 12 years calling people at incorrect times for interviews, such as that one time I woke up “Weird Al” Yankovic’s baby. Still feel bad about that.
Writer: GQ, Men’s Health,
the Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Indianapolis Monthly, Golf Digest, Vice, BruceSpringsteen.net,
the Indy 500, Fatherly, etc. Proud owner of a Bruce-related Guinness World Record. Even longer bio/clips.