limon1This week’s listmaker: Alex Mattingly. Alex is a copywriter and feline enthusiast who talks to fridges. He’s also a regular Punchnel’s contributor of fiction and nonfiction. He blogs about you at

Let’s face it. Indy’s east side gets a bad rap, to the point that in some quarters it’s considered newsworthy to live there. For many, it’s a land of mystery and intrigue, but not every mystery is worth solving. As a resident East Sider, then, I thought I’d identify a few of the most important questions lingering over Indianapolis’s least-understood side of town.

Mystery #1: That Abandoned Bag of Cheetos I Saw. Seriously, what the fuck? It was like a full bag of Cheetos, just lying there on the sidewalk, little orange puffs spilling out into the street. And not just a couple. This was definitely a full bag that somebody dropped and completely gave up on. I could understand not picking up the Cheetos themselves–the five second rule can hardly be contorted to apply to a public sidewalk, even by the most liberal court justice–but to just give up on the whole bag like that?

I’d expect that kind of opulent waste from a Carmelite, but when it turns up on the East Side it’s time to ask a few pointed questions.

Mystery #2: The Continued Survival of Family Video. Goddamn do I love rentingScreen Shot 2014-07-13 at 3.01.10 PM movies. I don’t even care that I have a Netflix subscription: There’s nothing better than walking a few blocks to the Family Video on 10th, picking up a copy of last season’s big blockbuster, and stopping off at Ball Park Pizza for a large pineapple and onion pie on the way home.

But, look, the question lingers: How have they survived? Nay, not just survived, but thrived; the store I frequent regularly advertises new franchise openings that are actively hiring managers and staff across the country. How did they endure when Blockbuster so grandly imploded?

Conventional wisdom says the answer is porn, but I can’t accept this. For one thing, their “adult section” is little more than a storage closet, and there’s a giant security mirror on the ceiling so that nobody can get too creepy or weird. That also means that on my weekly visits I can monitor who’s in there, which is almost always no one. In the age of limitless internet pornography, am I supposed to believe that this lone company has its future staked on adult cinema on DVD? And (most damning to this thesis) am I really supposed to believe Blockbuster was so staunchly anti-porn that their shareholders would rather see the company destroyed than allow their customers to check out the occasional copy of Debbie Does Dallas?

There are greater forces at play here.

CHILDREN PLAYING FOOTBALL IN THE STREETMystery #3: What is So Much Fun about Throwing that Fucking Ball Over the Street? Seriously, children, you’re giving me a heart attack every time I drive down the street and you’re passing a basketball from one sidewalk to the next. It’s not even that great an accomplishment! What are you even trying to prove! In my day, it wasn’t considered a feat of strength unless you could throw a ball over the roof of your house. Even then, if that ball hit a gutter on the way down you had to run like hell before your dad came out and realized you were physically destroying his home.

Are you intimidated because your houses are two stories high? The house I grew up in was a ranch style home, and I’ll be the first to admit this gave me a competitive advantage, but that just means your eventual taste of victory will be that much the sweeter! Or play something else, I don’t care. Take your cues from the girl a few homes down, who regularly patrols the neighborhood in a tutu while brandishing a laser gun. Consider it your civic duty! Think how much safer visitors to the East Side will feel when they see patrols of Space Ballerinas on the city streets!

I’m losing my point. But if you throw your ball over my car one more time I AM KEEPING IT.

Mystery #4: I Have Not Yet Been Murdered. I would be hard pressed to name a creature comfort I like better than the combination of an egg salad sandwich, a tallboy, and a pack of Camel lights, preferably all from the same gas station (I call this “one stop shopping,” a philosophy I adopted from my days as a Meijer cart-boy). If I’m enjoying this particular grouping, you can probably find me on my front stoop, sitting on the stairs or the concrete railing, staring into the middle distance and trying to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong. It’s also probably 3 a.m.

Yet for all the times I’ve gone outside in the wee hours of the morning, for all the strangers and groups of strangers that have walked past my doorstep, the only time anyone so much as acknowledged my existence was a woman who asked for a cigarette. And even this was only taken in exchange for a psychic reading (spoiler alert: I did not have a baby last year, so she was actually a bit of a fraud). I’ve never been assaulted, robbed, or murdered, nor have I seen anyone else assaulted, robbed, or murdered.

I realize I’m inviting a bit of Cosmic Irony into my life by saying this (LOCAL IDIOT SLAIN, PUNCHLIST VIEWED AS ACT OF HUBRIS BY ANGRY GODS), but isn’t the East Side meant to be a dystopian nightmare of murdercrime? Shouldn’t a man who slept under a pterodactyl bedspread until he was 23 be a little, well, too soft for this part of town?

Actually, yes. The answer is definitely yes. But bigger than any of these mysteries is the question of how a person knows when he’s home. Whatever your answer may be, I can tell you that, for now, I’ve found mine on Indy’s East Side.