"There is just one place
That can light my face.
Not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome, but--
My home sweet home."
Lyrics from the Music Man
When I was a kid I saw the movie, Music Man, a number of times. It was one of my father's favorites. It is all about the sweet wholesomeness of a small town and how it brings out the best in a man of bad character. Since I grew up in Seattle and Los Angeles, this was my only encounter with Gary until recently.
Living in Chicago as a young adult, I came to regard Gary as a place to pass above (on the Skyway, an elevated toll road) on the way to the Indiana and Michigan Dunes, great sandy hills on Lake Michigan. No one that I knew ever went to Gary. It wasn't considered a destination.
Gary has repeatedly been called the "murder capital of the country." It has earned the title by having the most murders per capita of a city of more than 100,000 people. This number was 58/100,000 in 2005.
I would have never have considered going to Gary but my fellow urban photographers kept posting wonderful pictures of the Gary area. In my wanderings on the south side of Chicago I keep moving farther south and the next interesting stop appeared to be in Indiana. I had a child-free day and there I went.
Honestly, Gary has some lovely architecture and the first neighborhood I passed through seemed relatively prosperous and well kept. I truly loved the homes which were a mix of brick and stone, each unique and elegant.
Closer to downtown Gary I saw the parts of town that generated the negative reputation. Gary seemed more desolate than the worst parts of Chicago I have visited. There were hardly any people out on this cold day, but there seemed to be almost no place for people to go to. I saw a few young men on the main street but didn't stick around to chat.
Gary is a city that has great architectural bones. I hope they find a way to revitalize it, to bring back jobs, safety and hope to its residents. I'm glad I'm not the mayor, though. I wouldn't know where to start.
I know it is a lot to ask, but as the new president is inaugurated today, I hope Obama remembers his "community organizer" roots and figures out a way to help those Americans who live in the direst of poverty in these pockets of violence and despair.