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The city with low self-esteem

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2005-01-10


While in Borders months ago, I asked a clerk if they carried the Village Voice. He went to his computer and looked it up, but it wasn’t there. I continued to browse. Later, at the counter, he asked me, “what’s someone in Fort Wayne Indiana doing reading the Village Voice?”

“Because I hate Fort Wayne Indiana,” I replied.

He paused. “Yeah, there’s something about this place. Since I’ve moved here my brain has turned to oatmeal.”

I guess I’m lucky -- I grew up here, so my brain turned to oatmeal a long time ago, but sometimes I feel sorry for the big city folks who end up here. It would be one thing if the conservatism here were linked with a more elegant culture, like I assume it is in Virginia and assorted New England states. More sophisticated, I guess, where people play polo and fox hunt. You know, old money WASP-types that get their pictures in Town and Country.

But no, this is Indiana, where the conservatism takes on a decidedly more redneck tone. We have that Ku Klux Klan guy up in Dekalb County; and to the south, we have Elwood Indiana, another Klan magnet.

And Fort Wayne, well, as one person I spoke with said, “this town has low self-esteem.”

The city really isn’t all that bad. It isn’t Detroit, where the downtown is spooky and the way to Canada isn’t well-marked. It isn’t Washington D.C., with its strange mix of part Third-World country; part loony bin. However, businesses looking to expand seem to pass us by for towns that are more ... what? Sophisticated? Forward-thinking? Open to new ideas? Fort Wayne needs to emphasize what draws and keeps people here: cheap real estate.

Oh, you could probably get cheaper somewhere else. But would you be living in a city with an orchestra, ballet, hockey team, baseball team, indoor football team, several colleges, fine dining and a downtown that is finally getting its act together? Would you be living within four hours from Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and Windsor, Ontario Canada? Would you be less than an hour from an international airport? Probably not. And Fort Wayne, for all its faults, could be a really cool place to live, if the right people are allowed to develop and promote the city the way it should be.

Of course, there are the people whose personal motto is: “if you don’t like it here, leave.” If something is worth improving, it should be done. To be so disgusted with a place that you have to leave it in order to be happy is not a pleasant undertaking. But then, that describes the workplace of lots of people. If you can’t change it you probably have to live with it or leave it. But a city, particularly a town with the amenities Fort Wayne has to offer, shouldn’t suffer from low self-esteem or businesses passing it by for other midwestern cities.
Or cause anyone’s brains to turn to oatmeal.

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