Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Along the road to Detroit--Ft. Wayne, IN

 (At the end of the post you can click on a link to see all the photos.)

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for sunshine all the while

--John Denver, lyrics, Sunshine On My Shoulders

I never gained an attachment of any degree to Ft. Wayne. From my first trip there to all that followed over the next four decades. To me, there was a somber dinginess about it. The buildings plain and earthy colored. Its residents struck me as routine and lackluster, little more than cows lumbering and grazing in a pasture. I have relatives there, by marriage, (my mother-in-law, now gone, was born and raised in the city) and know these words will not settle well with them, or any others who find Ft. Wayne’s area to be the opposite, or any degree improved over my portrayal. To all those people, I apologize and will add that I found a revived and attractive city during my recent visit (although I still gathered no attachment). But back in the sixties and seventies (and since) I would bet those Hoosiers had the same plan for life as us Buckeyes—put in forty years, then jump on I-75 and drive faster than the speed limit toward the south, where condos and mobile homes were waiting to be plucked like citrus, where retirees could float on a bay in a gilded boat with silken sails.

Perhaps part of the reason for my early-developed impressions was because the hour ride westward always seemed to be through an overcast and dull heaviness, regardless of the season, or the weather conditions when the trip began. Plus, once we reached New Haven the roads were more pothole than blacktop. Something else has occurred to me, as I think back. During the first journeys, with my grandmother, she would often stop along the way to buy fresh corn, beans, cabbage, or whatever might be offered by farmers along the route. 
I had an awakening, a growing appreciation for the macroscopic view of the world. Where I used to see a farmstead with barns and silos and fields, I suddenly had interest in things as simple as the thick curls of paint on the wooden legs of a fruit stand, the rust-eaten hinges and hardware on a barn door or the texture and color range of corn tassel. These yanked at my curiosity and begged to be touched. I obliged. I carried that awakening down the road to our destination and along the road of my life. So, for this, thanking Ft. Wayne would be appropriate, rather than setting its residents out to pasture. I suppose the tendency would have developed within me anyway, and maybe already had, but the blandness of that place and time is where the buck stops.

Like the cliché goes, old habits are hard to break and on my November trip I glommed onto the bits and parts and pieces, rather than seeing the large. Yes, I did mention above that the city is revitalized and clean, but, my attention was diverted to the macro. I noticed arcs, arches and angles, with the whole of the buildings blending into the sky. I admired branches and leaves as the trees stood on the sideline. My gaze attached to crisp shadows rather than the casting objects. And, yes, at 57 years old I still touched and felt some of the things that were within reach. And, yes, I daydreamed about the things not within reach.

More and more, I am finding that the rot, the mold, the algae, the collapse of the once sturdy and firm always pulls me in. I am no longer disgusted by atrophy and decay. Perhaps it is my way of reckoning with my own decline, and the strange thing is that I am seeing an increasing amount of beauty in the dwindling of existence.
All in all, Ft. Wayne is still a palette of drab, but on that recent November day there was a blue sky, a strong and warm blue without clouds. Kind of like the place was offering an apology for all the bleached out wrongs it committed against me. But, I am an old fashioned guy who believes in long courtship and moving forward slowly. There will have to be more than blue sky and those free cookies the docents hand out as you enter the terminal of their airport. 

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1 comment:

  1. Steve: have you read "Road Scholar" by Andre Codrescu?