Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Love Indiana

There. I said it. Technically, as those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I have now said it twice today. And I'll say it again. Like Buddy the Elf, "I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it!" I have spent most of my life hating my hometown and making fun of all that it and my state have to offer. I have recently realized, though, that while there is certainly plenty to make fun of, Logansport and, more broadly, Indiana, are actually pretty darn great.

It all began a few days ago when, as per usual, I was hanging out in my RA's room. The omnipresent crowd of girls was there, making cards or watching Friendzone or doing something equally girls' dorm-y. To fill a silence that had emerged, I was telling the latest ridiculous story to come out of my hometown. When I finished, my RA said something that surprised me but that immediately earned my agreement: "You love Logansport." I responded that I do indeed, and the conversation carried on. The exchange got me thinking, though. I cannot even begin to count the number of times, primarily (though by no means exclusively) in high school, that I have said, "I hate Logansport." Unquestionably, there is a lot there to arouse feelings of chagrin. Stories of meth addicts and idiot criminals frequently grace the pages of the grammatical-error-ridden Pharos-Tribune, each successive senior class is home to at least a large handful of teen moms, cowboys are shockingly common, and even the classy folk consider The Buckle haute couture and a trip to Myrtle Beach the ultimate in vacation luxury.

At the same time, though, there are many things about LA (consider the middle-school pun on "Logansport Area" resurrected) that, as my RA was apt to point out, I'm pretty obsessed with. For one thing, our mascot is the Berries. The Berries, people. Think about that for a minute. The best part about that - aside from the fact that our actual physical, costumed mascot is, inexplicably, Felix the Cat - is that there's an actual story to it (as there is for Felix, but whatever). It's a pun, see? The Loganberry is a real fruit! Logan Berries is, like, super clever! I cannot get enough of explaining that story to people. I also love the opportunities Logansport affords its residents simply by being a small town. I recall seeing a few  tweets lately from the whiny high schooler crowd complaining about Logansport being a "name game town." While I could understand frustrations with the honest drawbacks to such a system if they existed - which, I regret to inform you, they do not in this case - I LOVE that. I love that, on any day of the year, I can come home to Logansport and bring up the same names I've known since birth, with the same results. I love the fact that certain names will always be associated with basketball prowess at the various county schools and that certain families will almost always produce valedictorians or, alternatively, felons. I love that, according to an incredible genealogy website I recently discovered, my name appeared in the Pharos-Tribune over 100 times before my fifteenth birthday. I love the Shriners riding around on their little shriner-mobiles at every parade for the last 80 years. I love Voorhees photography, and B&K hot dogs, and All Saints Catholic School, and churros from the Panaderia. And yeah, I even love that my upbringing has provided the small-talk fodder of a sub-80% graduation rate, a seemingly plus-80% teen pregnancy rate, and a senior class from which probably half go to college. [Note: these statistics are coming from my own mind, they are not actual data of any kind.] Because how many of my Notre Dame classmates can say they went to a high school like that?

In short, the answer to that question is "not many." Tonight, though, I went to a meeting with a few who can. For another great thing about Logansport is that it's small enough to allow a student like me to earn an incredible scholarship that sent her to the school of her dreams. And for about 40 other ND students, Indiana did the same thing. I met tonight with some of the students here on the same merit scholarship as mine, and I left practically beaming. They reminded me of my love of the state of Indiana. I sat there and listened as we talked about the IU-Purdue rivalry, our respective hometowns whose locations, for once, no one needed to explain, and our high school's FFA Appreciation Weeks and Ride Your Tractor to School Days (note: LHS had neither of those, thank God). Indiana, as non-Indianan writers from Parks and Recreation to 13 the Musical have latched onto actively, is a model "country state." We're not as obnoxiously southern as an Alabama, and not quite as hopelessly rural as a Wyoming. We're just kind of there. At the same time, though, we casually have a top 20 university, the twelfth-largest city in the Union, one of the most universally respected Senators in history (it helps that he has in fact been in the Senate for most of the nation's history), and the right to claim celebrities from Michael Jackson to David Letterman to Cole freaking Porter as our own. (The absence of women from that list is a problem that will be ameliorated once I write my best-seller and/or become the next Chelsea Handler.) I love all the actually cool things about Indiana, and I love that I can say that I've achieved all that I have despite the fact that I've had to endure all the terrible things about it - including 7 or so years of attendance at the Indiana State Fair, which I am quite certain is akin to Chinese water torture. I'm confident that the only three football teams I will ever remotely care about are the Berries, the Fighting Irish, and the "how-did-this-happen" worst team in the league, the Colts. My home will forever be here on the banks of the Wabash, and, frankly, I'm happy about it.

In summation, the state of Indiana and the city-town of Logansport are probably two of my favorite things in the world. Much like yours truly, they're ridiculous and they're wonderful all at the same time. There's a good chance that the career path I plan on pursuing will more likely lead me to New York City than to New Albany. But if anyone ever tries to tell me I'm not as cool or as talented as a Californian or an east coast prep-school grad because I hail from the Hoosier State, I might just punch them in the face. After all, there's more than corn in Indiana. There's Indiana Beach, and there is Sarah M. Cahalan.

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