Important Information For Visiting Fort Wayne, Indiana

There’s an unassuming sign on Main Street at Fulton for Henry’s Restaurant, and if you happen to open the door you will find inside perhaps the best bar in America.

There’s a light that shines over the city at night from the gigantic manufacturing complex on Broadway, a kind of beacon of industry flexing its might, and if you don’t look too closely you won’t notice the building atop which it rests has sat more or less vacant since the early part of the last decade.

There’s an old fort worth checking out, the aptly-named and titular Old Fort Wayne, because once upon a time a place this big surrounding by so much else that is so small just had to have been front line of something, or perhaps an outpost of something else.

There’s an art museum downtown that stays open later than you would expect.

There’s a surprising abundance of beautiful old buildings downtown, so many left intact rather than so callously demolished the way they do in other places, as though enough people here recognized that there could be value to history or utility to preservation.

There’s a railroad platform along Superior Street, even though the trains don’t stop there anymore.

There’s a certain familiar rhythm to all these streets and landmarks, all having names like Main and Henry’s and Broadway and Fort and Fulton, and Superior because there are countless others just like them, and because there are countless other cities like this one, each using the same parts to tell their own version of the universal American story. To go to Fort Wayne is to go everywhere.

Fort Wayne, IN / June 29, 2014

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Verbs Of Los Angeles

Forget everything you thought you knew about this place.

Remember everyone who left home, because they’re all here, all around you in this colony of beautiful pilgrims.

Think about yesterday, and how you shivered, and how here and now there is no choice but to walk in the sun.

Understand immediately what drew all these people to this place.

Look away from everything else: the traffic that doesn’t move, the sprawl that never relents, the strip malls on infinite repeat.

Admit that it’s not terrible.

Remind yourself that you have seen worse.

Realize you are becoming one of them.

Leave. Now.

Los Angeles, CA / March 28, 2014

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Two Foreigners

Near Dearborn and Congress, the woman flags me down while asking something in an obviously Asian (or perfectly Asian-sounding) language. White winter coat, black hair, pointing south down Dearborn and showing me her cell phone, its screen displaying something in what I assume is that same obviously Asian (or perfectly Asian-looking) language I don’t understand but also with the English numeric “62” couched in the middle of it.

There is a Number 62 bus. There is a Number 62 bus whose route runs along that stretch of Dearborn.

I know what she’s asking. I have no idea what she’s asking.

I point towards the bus stop at Dearborn and Harrison. “Yes, you can catch the 62 right over there,” I say.

I think she understands me. I have no idea if she understands me.

She asks something I don’t know how to decipher, this time out loud and with “sixty two” right in there and again pointing south. Or maybe not south but slightly southwest. The 62 runs down State, onto Archer and slightly southwest into Chinatown. I don’t want to assume she is asking if this bus is the one that goes to Chinatown. I shouldn’t assume she is asking if this bus is the one that goes to Chinatown.

I wave my right hand around above me, drawing a kind of circle in the air. “It goes north,” I say, pointing up Dearborn, “then turns around and heads south down State Street.”

She hands me the phone now and makes a motion towards it, this being what we both know as the universal sign for Here, type whatever you’re saying into my telecommunications device.

I oblige, typing into the apparatus that The 62 bus runs north on Dearborn Street, then turns around and heads south down State Street and onto Archer Avenue. and she presses the big blue button with the foreign-looking symbol on it and, like magic, my nonsense becomes useful.

Her face lights up, she visibly relieved and me a little relieved, too.

“Ah,” she says. “Archer! Chinatown.”

Never guess until you absolutely must. Never assume unless you’re absolutely sure. Stay as informed as the times allow and always, always know where the buses are going. Do that, and sometimes the rest will take care of itself.

Chicago, IL / February 20, 2014

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