Happy Thursday. Hope things are well with you and yours.
I’m sure you have a big team of people vetting all of Amazon’s HQ2 applications, but I thought I’d write to you personally—you know, CEO to CEO. I wanted to bring to your attention a few things I love about Indianapolis.
For one, I’m sure you’re familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, one of our city’s favorite sons. (At this writing, Vonnegut is #53 in Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction.) Vonnegut once said, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.” He also wrote, “Indianapolis, Indiana is the first place in the United States of America where a white man was hanged for the murder of an Indian. The kind of people who’ll hang a white man for murdering an Indian—that’s the kind of people for me.”
Now, personally, I’m against the death penalty. So was Vonnegut. But you get the point. We have a proud history of progressive ideals in Indianapolis. You might remember that RFRA thing a couple of years ago, but we got rid of that right quick. Our annual Circle City IN Pride Festival is huge and growing. Our beloved Butler University (my alma mater—go ‘dogs!) was founded by the abolitionist Ovid Butler. Our U.S. representative, André Carson, is one of just two Muslim members of Congress. Believe it or not, every two years, we give away the world’s biggest animal conservation prize. Etc.
That’s not to say we don’t have problems here, or that we’ve always lived up to our high ideals. We deal with crime, homelessness, poverty, hunger, and inequality, same as you do in Seattle.
But we’re also not sitting on our hands. We’re having serious discussions about race and power and equity. We’re focusing on peace and justice. We’re fostering diversity. We’re working on the flaws we see and bringing to light the less obvious, more insidious ones so we can work on those, too.
Look: You’re going to have a lot of cities throwing a lot of goodies at you, and everybody’s going to assert their claim of being the perfect place for HQ2. They’re going to tout their riverwalks and their high-tech incubators and their tax breaks and their restaurant scenes. I’m guessing that, at a certain point, they’re all going to blend together into one big chamber of commerce pitch.
So here’s what I really want to tell you about Indianapolis:
A couple of Fridays ago, I hopped on my bicycle and rode from my home on 10th Street up to Tinker Street, our favorite neighborhood restaurant, to meet My Beautiful Wife and a friend for a glass of wine. They were walking to the theater; I was heading down to Fountain Square for the Fountain Square Music Festival. It was a gorgeous fall evening, and I rode through Downtown Indianapolis on the Cultural Trail, our one-of-a-kind urban bike and pedestrian path I’m sure you’ve heard of.
At the festival—literally around the corner from my office—I saw great performances by Real Estate and Dr. Dog and the fine Nashville-via-Indy singer-songwriter Brandon Whyde. I ran into a lot of friends. I talked with some of the guys putting on the show—the promoters, the sound engineers, the musicians—who worked their asses off to make lots of music-loving fans happy. The good vibes fairly flooded the neighborhood. By the time I got back on my bike to ride home, I was feeling pretty dazzled.
I rode home up Virginia Avenue, through Fletcher Place, where Bluebeard and Hotel Tango and Rook and the Dugout were buzzing with people having their own beautiful evenings, seemingly oblivious to the music festival just a half-mile back down the trail. I passed Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, where Garth Brooks was entertaining thousands more, and the Old National Centre, where Theory of a Deadman was ramping up as Food Truck Friday was winding down. The Mass Ave scene was jumping. I rode another couple of blocks to my home in the historic St. Joseph neighborhood.
In fifteen minutes of biking, over about two-and-a-third miles, I’d passed through four distinct restaurant, bar, and entertainment districts and five diverse urban neighborhoods. I’d ridden past the corporate headquarters of Eli Lilly and Anthem and Salesforce and Cummins’s stunning new downtown campus; the new Julia M. Carson Transit Center; the City Market; three (3!) YMCAs; dozens of public art installations; and thousands of people, young and old and in-between, all races and cultures and political persuasions, enjoying this enchanted evening.
And that made me happy.
This place is not perfect. No place is. This is America, not heaven.
And you might say, well, that’s one Friday night. Not every night is like that.
But it kind of is.
It’s a pretty great place, Indianapolis, and there are thousands of people here who are working in myriad ways to make it even better. We’d be honored to be home to fifty thousand more.
Thanks for your consideration, Jeff. Hope we’ll see you here. Drop me a line when you’re in town; I’d be happy to buy you a cup of coffee at Milktooth.
P.S.: There are lots of cool new apartments in Fountain Square and downtown. Amazon’s people are really going to like it here.
P.P.S.: For what it’s worth, my favorite cities in the world are Rome (#3), Seattle (#2), and Indy. I’m not just saying that.
Indy panorama by Hawkeye Aerial Media [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Vonnegut photo nicked from deathpenaltyphoto.org.
Fountain Square Music Festival photo nicked from fountainsquaremusicfest.org.