Read the full article below (the one in the paper was shorter due to editorial constraints).
Little did the Atlanta airport official handing me back my passport with a ‘Welcome to America,’ realize how long I awaited to hear those words. Picture the montage scene from Indiana Jones, the red line ricocheting across the globe.
The pandemic turned what would have been a simple flight from London into an odyssey, months in anticipation and planning. From the olive groved shores of southern Europe, into Mexico city, and up through a Covid ravaged central America.
En route. I had time to examine the map of Indianapolis, appearing a circular sprawl of suburbs, names familiar merely through conversation: Noblesville, Westfield, Carmel, and Zionsville. With peculiar lakes throughout the area, which I learned later were the ornamental ponds of expanding housing estates.
Finally, by December I touched down over the international endzone and I relished the first month. Westfield lacks the skyscrapers of the circle and the grand Statehouse of the inner city, though it certainly makes a heart-warming impression.
Downtown Westfield – a part of Indianapolis I’ve spent most time in – is built around a crossroads and makes a fitting metaphor for Indiana and this state known as the ‘Crossroads of America.’
Barbers, bars, restaurants – a microcosm of everyday life. Flags over wooden verandas, Christmas lights strung along rooftops, tree lined paddocks, and white picket fences. All making the first impression of this city one with a nostalgic air of confidence, with Grand Park – the new sports center – the flagship leading ahead economically and culturally.
There are certain sights which to a local must seem commonplace, that to me are charmingly American: the yellow school buses weaving their way back and forth (seen only during movies in England). Or bright red fire hydrants and the green street signs, bringing to mind the opening of the children’s classic, Sesame Street.
Sat with friends and family I’ve been inducted as a Colts and Pacers fan. Learning important local life lessons like: We don’t talk about the Bulls or the Patriots. While a list of people and places to see keeps growing. With the famous children’s museum up next.
I was told hospitality is a big deal in the Midwest and I can testify it to be more than a tourist board sales pitch. Of all my experiences, it is the people who have made the greatest impact. Indianapolis is attractive, yet is the everyday folk, who in politeness, good humour, and wit, I appreciate most.
The weather may be cold here now in midwinter, with a foot of snow – certainly a little cooler than the vineyards I left behind in southern Europe – yet I have learned that the heart of the Hoosier is a very warm place indeed.