Last days in stupid city.

The mover called today, and we have a date, and suddenly time seems to be galloping forward as opposed to easing in that direction, so I may not be here much over the next few days. Tonight I plan to clean out the liquor cabinet, hic. We have bottles in there left over from our wedding (in 1993), and it’s time to face facts: The only place people still drink Cutty Sark is in Martin Scorsese movies, especially when there’s Macallan in the house. Into the recycling bin with you, Mr. Cutty.

In the meantime, the nation’s newspaper weighs in on the infamous America’s Dumbest City designation. I’ve refrained from saying anything about it, being loudly and repeatedly on the record as believing such designations are the junkiest of junk news, intended to please lazy editors and TV news directors, as well as get the name of the designator into print as often as possible. I’ll stand by it, even while I enjoyed this remark, by a former resident widely believed to have been run out of town by dumb people:

But Gerry Prokopowicz, who served as Lincoln Scholar for nine years at Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Museum, says more needs to be done to get the city out of the dunce corner. “Some people in Fort Wayne are aware that the steady diminishment of its intellectual capital is directly connected to the town’s stagnant economy and are trying to do something about it,” says Prokopowicz, who teaches history at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. “Unfortunately, they face a strong current of anti-intellectualism mixed with complacency and ignorance that characterizes much of the local business leadership.”

Prokopowicz says what discouraged him most about the study was a quote he read from a Fort Wayne official who said he didn’t pay much attention to these things.

“Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to these quality-of-life issues,” he says. “Maybe it’s not always the messenger’s fault.”

No duh, prof.

But this is no longer my concern, is it? I’m en route to America’s Fattest City. (Last year, anyway; Houston reclaimed the crown for ’05.) I hope it’s a move in the right direction.

Posted at 1:25 pm in Uncategorized |

15 responses to “Last days in stupid city.”

  1. James said on January 20, 2005 at 2:15 pm


    As someone who’s spent time in, and then left the Hoosier state, let me give you some advice… Try not to giggle and hoot until you actually cross the state line, otherwise you might offend your neighbors.

    (Our time in Indiana was fine… but we were so glad to be back in Atlanta…)

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  2. alex said on January 20, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    As someone who’s lived in cities large and small, I think I’ve got things in perspective. No place holds a corner on stupidity. It’s a constant in human populations everywhere.

    That said, the prof is certainly correct as regards Fort Wayne’s provinciality. Yeah, you’d think this place is backward to look at its newspapers since Knight-Ridder took them over. And some of our politicians and business leaders make us wonder how on earth they ever got to be where they are. The climate is anti-intellectual, sure. Where, except for the biggest cosmopolises or smallest college towns, isn’t it?

    Fort Wayne has one of the best library systems anywhere. We have a symphony�unheard of in a town this size. I listen to people trashing this place all the time and wondering why I’d want to move back here. I suspect these are unhappy people who’d be unhappy anywhere. I voted with my feet�and that’s despite my contempt for the politics of this state.

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  3. brian stouder said on January 20, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    All I would quibble with, Nance, is that Dr P wasn’t “run out of town by dumb people” – except to the extent that we seem to be losing Lincoln National Life Insurance Company by degrees – and unless I see something to counter the impression – LNC trimmed costs at the good ol’ Lincoln Museum when Dr P was shown the door.

    Lots of less intelligent people have gotten the same treatment from big employers around here over the years…11,000 union workers ‘downsized’ out of Harvester, for example.

    Choose your poison – “brain drain” or “brawn drain”…

    but the point remains, this region – with a few notable exceptions – has lost and continues to lose very good jobs, both manufacturing and white collar.

    Gerry’s (who I have met, and who is a genuinely nice fellow) criticism of this area is somewhat convenient, in that regard.

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  4. juan said on January 20, 2005 at 5:27 pm

    Well, Ms. Nancy…

    If Detroit inexplicably tops the “stupid list” next year, you are going to have some ‘splainin to do!


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  5. ashley said on January 21, 2005 at 2:15 am

    I wouldn’t let comments from that bastion of investigative journalism, “Men’s Health”, bother me that much. Personally, I always thought that Men’s Health targeted the closet homosexual with their “build up uber-pecs!” type articles.

    First of all, let’s look at weather. Minneapolis ranks #1, Denver ranks #3, and St. Paul ranks #4. Now, personally, if you ain’t got sense enough to come in out the fargin tundra cold, you ain’t close to bein’ smart in my book.

    I don’t how large a city has to be to be in this “study”, but I always thought that Oak Ridge, Tennessee had to be the smartest, at least in terms of doctoral degrees per capita.

    Why do Nobel prizes only count in physics and medicine? Why not chemistry? And why only where the laureates were born, not where they live or where they studied?

    I think that the best criteria for intelligence of a city would be the lowest per capita subscription rate to “Men’s Health”.

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  6. ashley said on January 21, 2005 at 2:18 am

    Oh, Nance, you set me up:

    “By moving to Detroit from Fort Wayne, you’re raising the average IQ of both cities.”

    Sorry, but I had to. It’s an old line that I rarely get to use.

    Oh, and how any city is fatter than New Orleans just astounds me. There, when your fries get cold, they rebatter and re-fry them. Then add gravy. Then stick it on a po-boy. With mayonnaise. Mmmmmmm, I can feel my arteries harden just thinking about it.

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  7. Pam said on January 21, 2005 at 9:01 am

    You might be too young to remember this….Dad had a boss when he worked for State of Newburgh who used to stay at our house whenever he came to the midwest to check on Dad’s territory. Charlie and I (and I suspect, Mom, too) didn’t like him. Well, he used to just rip through the booze, to say the least. So Dad emptied out a bottle of the good scotch and replaced it with Cutty Sark and swore that he wouldn’t know the difference. And he didn’t! Dad thought Cutty was only for drinkers who drank to get drunk, not to savor the flavor! And Ashley’s comment about New Orleans….too true. It was a destination for girls vacation one year and we made a pact that we wouldn’t eat our way from one end of New Orleans to the other! Hah! If you don’t voluntarily eat, they make you! We went to The Chez one night (great place) and were practically begging them not to bring any more food. It wouldn’t fit on the table!!

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  8. Michael G said on January 21, 2005 at 11:42 am

    Wait a minute, wait a minute. In weather Minneapolis ranks #1 and St. Paul ranks #4? Huh? Ranks how? In degrees of rankness? Is somebody really contending that Mpls has great weather? And how do you tell the weather in St. Paul from the weather in Mpls? I mean how is one several ranks better or worse than the other? Are we talking about weather for masochists? Did anyone tell the folks in San Diego about this? Oh,and what town ranks #2?

    And by the way, Nance, while I will admit that Cutty is not the best scotch out there, pouring it down the drain is a sin. At the least you can serve it to the in-laws. That reminds me of my uncle who was a Catholic priest. He used to drink Vat 69. Claimed it was the Pope’s telephone number.

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  9. ashley said on January 21, 2005 at 11:54 am

    Michael: I was referring to Nance’s link to the USA Today story about the Men’s Health article. They rank the top 5 smartest as: Minneapolis, Boston, Denver, St. Paul and Seattle.

    My point was that you can disqualify at least 3 of them (and probably Boston as well) simply because of their Irkutsk-like weather. If you were “smart”, you should be smart enough to get yo’ ass outta there and go somewhere warmer.

    My bigger point was bad analysis techniques with non-scientific methods makes for bogus conclusions.

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  10. Nance said on January 21, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    Alex takes the time to point out what I’m too impatient to do anymore, having done it with enough editors in the past who were seduced by the presence of our very own city on some list in a national magazine. It always seemed to be the utter confirmation of rube-ness (rube-osity?), taking such obvious bait.

    And Michael, I’d serve the Cutty to my in-laws if they ever drank anything stronger than Pepsi. I opted to pour it — about a third of a bottle — down the drain, but kept an unopened bottle of Lauder, which may be even worse than Cutty, and now goes on the when-bad-guests-drop-by bar. As for my own preferences, about 10 years ago Alan and I visited London and had about 90 minutes to kill in the duty-free shops before our departure. A nice lady buttonholed me outside a liquor store and poured me a neat shot of Macallan (or “the” Macallan), a single-malt. It was…a revelation. I bought a liter on the spot, and have bought about one a year for either myself or a gift ever since. And I still drink it the way the lady served it — neat at room temperature (but in a nicer glass than the plastic thing she used).

    Vat 69 as the Pope’s phone number — where did those priests go? The funny ones? The tight-asses who comment on Amy’s blog make me think my old church ain’t what it used to be. And I’m sure it isn’t.

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  11. Michael G said on January 21, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    Gimme a break on the weather riff. I caught your meaning, I was only trying to be funny.

    Nance, as you say, the Macallan is fine stuff. I don’t know if there’s a Trader Joe’s in the Detroit area but TJ has an excellent selection of single malts for very reasonable prices.

    As far as priests are concerned, I haven’t talked to one in years. I’m a recovering Catholic.

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  12. Carmella said on January 21, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    I had a priest once tell me how they make holy water. They boil the hell out if it.

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  13. alex said on January 21, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    And then some of them gargle with it.

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  14. Bob said on January 21, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    Maybe Kevin Leininger spoke more truth than he realized. His “statistics” indicate that people vote Republican because they don’t know any better.

    What other excuse can there be for the guy in the White House, who can take a decent speech written by a capable speech writer and make it sound like the rant of a well-primed redneck in a bar at closing time?

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  15. Phil Nugent said on January 23, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    I’m frankly stunned that New Orleans isn’t still America’s Fattest City, a distinction that I know it held for the longest time. They must have slipped down the chart soon after I moved. I’d prefer not to consider the ramifications of this.

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