I left Indianapolis for New York City. Flying home for holidays, I never thought I could live here again. A nice place to grow up, Indianapolis gave me those wholesome Midwestern manners, recalled whenever a New Yorker asked, “You’re not from here, are you? You’re just too nice.”
Indianapolis also gave me a successful career start, circa 1982. My partners and I later sold an OfficePlus location to a group in Manhattan in 1997. They invited me to move and create an international company-and a thrilling phase of life began.
What first was intimidating soon became intimate. “New York City is just a bunch of neighborhoods,” a friend assured me.
Yes, every square block was a neighborhood unto itself. My dry cleaner, pharmacist, coffee shop “barista,” Italian trattoria waiter, shoe-repair guy and tailor knew me and greeted me. And everything could be delivered, from prescription refills to shoes. “Do you live in the neighborhood?” I was asked on my first shopping Saturday. Later, refreshed from walking in Central Park, I found my treasures with the doorman. Oh yes, I belong here.
There was so much about the city that dazzled. The parade of people from every corner of the world, glittering windows of Madison Avenue, the grandeur of the Metropolitan Opera, provocative theater one can’t experience anywhere else.
But I was getting tired, the kind of tired that doesn’t depart after a week of spa treatments. With another messy merger approaching and an obligatory move to Dallas, I told the CEO, “My hair isn’t big enough to live in Dallas.” I said I was taking a sabbatical.
I bought a one-way ticket to Italy, renting a villa near Florence. I lived there almost six months. I wrote a book, which was published in 2005. A nationwide tour ensued, and the place that kept calling was Indianapolis.
I held the book-release party at the Columbia Club, where my grandfather, Otto Faenzi, was chef for 35 years.
Indiana organizations were generous in their support due in large measure to equally generous people who opened doors for me. So I started spending more time here.
I saw inspiring theater at Civic, Theatre on the Square and the Phoenix. Indianapolis Opera’s production of “Madama Butterfly” was superb, better by far than the one I saw at the Met. I fell in love with the neighborhood around Massachusetts Avenue. I frequented independent restaurants like R Bistro, The City Cafe and 14 West. I was delighted to find the radio program on WICR-FM 88.7, “Too Many Cooks!” which promotes local cuisine. This was not the Indianapolis I thought I knew.
I moved into a condo that once was space in a warehouse, telling my New York friends I found my SoHo loft, only it didn’t cost $5 million. My urban spirit fills when I walk down Mass Ave for a cup of coffee. I am now greeted by Amy, the florist, the Tegardens of Nestle Inn, Rick at the local video store and those wonderful people who run Global Gifts. I’m not in a hurry to buy a car, although I do find myself wishing mass transit was “at the ready.”
The downtown renaissance plays out in front of me every day. City Market, where I remember visiting Italian vendors with my grandmother, promises to bring the past to a new generation. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail will unite neighborhoods and get people out of their cars.
I will always be grateful for what New York gave me and I’ll go back for a fix occasionally. But I want to live and work here, make a difference here.
Marcel Proust said, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
I have discovered Indianapolis, really for the first time in my life, and I like what I see. Oh yes, I belong here.
Faenzi is the author of “The Stonecutter’s Aria.” She is a commercial real estate broker and motivational speaker, and runs a consulting firm specializing in cultivating leadership and creative potential for women. She may be contacted at [email protected]