Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
On October 15th, downtown Indianapolis hosted a very special convention of sorts. The “Hoosier Homecoming” was a celebration held at the Indiana State House in honor of Indiana’s 200th birthday, with a host of well-known local faces in attendance, an opportunity for self-guided tours of the State House, and the closing ceremonies to the Indiana Torch Relay, a 37-day event in which a specially lit torch — not unlike the Olympics’ own, but inspired by the torch on our state flag — traveled through all 92 Indiana counties by various transportation methods until its final stop in Marion County at the Homecoming.
Before the Indiana Bicentennial Torch arrived at the ceremonial stage, Anne and I availed ourselves of the opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the Indiana State House, our capitol building, where all our most intensive statewide management, decrees, and rulings happen. Some offices were locked and kept off limits; several were open and welcoming to us simple citizens, including but not limited to the Office of the Governor. American voters nationwide may be familiar with Mike Pence, its current occupant, but dozens of men have worked here since 1888, when the State House was completed.
That conference table was easily the most eye-catching furniture of all. The handiwork of the carpentry shop at Westville Correctional Facility up in northern Indiana, the table was commissioned in 2007 by then-Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) and took six months of skilled assembly using material from trees on the prison grounds.
(And you can check out more works like this online at finewoodworking.com!)
Here’s where the gubernatorial magic happens and constituents’ complaints begin their life cycle, whether by pen or by phone: the Governor’s desk.
I’m sure some of these displays were carefully curated and cleaned up for public ogling. I imagine this desk is normally weighed down with metric tons of paper stacks and countless loose paper clips, all of which were probably thrown into the nearest hall closet by a herd of trusty interns, who were then ordered to put everything back where it goes on Monday.
The first desktop accessory to catch our eye was, of course, the red hotline. We’re told Pence had this installed as a direct line to his wife Karen, and only she knows the number.
The walls of the Office and its smaller foyer are adorned with paintings of select governors throughout Indiana history, beginning with William Henry Harrison, first Governor of the Indiana Territory in 1801 before we were rewarded with statehood (forty years before the fateful illness that cut his resumé short), all the way up to…well, I don’t recall seeing a Mitch Daniels painting offhand, but they definitely had a painting of his predecessor Joe Kernan (now retired from politics).
A few paintings don’t depict governors. One thematic exception is philanthropist and businesswoman Madam CJ Walker, who lived in Indiana for six years a century ago, but whose legacy still resonates.
Governor Pence himself wasn’t there for the tour, but showed up later to our surprise at one of the presentations out on the State House grounds. We’ve never met him in person, but we’ve shared tangents with him. Several years ago we attended a large-scale pro-life charity benefit at which he was the opening act for another, much larger name. In 2011 we walked around downtown Anderson, IN, as part of my wife’s one-day birthday road trip and chanced upon his Congressional office. No one was there on a Saturday, but I like to pretend that counts for something anyway.
Pence will only be occupying this office for a few more months. By accepting his new sideline gig as Executive Trump Apologist, he missed the mandatory filing deadline for attempting a second term as Governor. This means if his boss loses the 2016 Presidential election, he’ll be going into 2017 having lost out on two jobs at once. There’s no way to know if his successor here will be quite so welcoming for future State House tours, assuming that both states and governments remain a thing and that America remains alive and unharmed after the election dust settles.
So we tried to pick up on all the little things we could while we still had time. Regardless of what’s been going on beyond its outer walls, it’s a pretty nice office.
To be continued! This has been Part Four in a special six-part MCC miniseries. Other chapters to date:
Part 1: Adventures in Local Government
Part 2: The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay Finale
Part 3: Bicentennial Cosplay!
Part 5: The Art of the Indiana State House
Part 6: The Indiana Bicentennial Bonus Bric-a-Brac Bonanza