South Bend, Indiana = Columbus, Ohio in the Bizzaro World

Jerry Seinfeld was right, there is a Bizzaro World that parallels our own but is different in strange ways. Take South Bend for instance. Like Columbus, there's a big university here (although OSU is 4 times the size of ND). Both schools are known, among other things, for their football programs and their football coaches. Both schools have huge followings and a massive impact on sports nationwide. But unlike Columbus, where OSU has such a felt presence in the middle of the city, ND has no effect on South Bend. There might as well not be a school here except during the fall, when everyone gets their flags out. See, it's a bizzaro version of Columbus. There are lots of similarities, but they have exactly the opposite functions. Let me run down a few for you: (1) strangely, they're in different time zones for only part of the year. (2) Columbus drivers are terrible during the winter, they fishtale all over the road in only a couple of inches of snow. South Bend drivers are terrible most of the year--they only gain control of their fishtaling cars when there's a couple of inches of snow on the ground. (3) Columbus has Cup o' Joe and Stauff's. South Bend has Lula's. Lula's doesn't make their own coffee but it has nearly the same staff as the Columbus coffee-houses: young white men and women tattooed and pierced almost up to (and in some cases including) their eyeballs and generally rude. But whereas in Columbus these are cool people with a killer social scene (I've heard), in South Bend, these are the rejects that have nothing better to do than serve coffee to a bunch of students like me who can't pierce their eyeballs because they want to get a "respectable" job in academia someday. (4) Both Columbus and South Bend are strip-mall cities. In Columbus, they build massive Wal-Mart, K-mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Target rings around otherwise interesting full malls like Easton. Here, they tear down the defunct regular malls but still build a ring of strip-malls on the formerly unused cornfields surrounding what is now a pile of dirt and debris. (5) With so many nice older areas of town, you'd think that Columbus and South Bend would have no need of the sprawling, cheaply constructed M/I type homes that seem to crop up in massive developments daily. With Columbus' huge commercial and light industrial base, many executives want to escape what they perceive as the "troubled" city by heading out to these large cardboard houses sitting on farmland. Indiana has the same development patterns, but no economy to speak of. In fact, only the farmers can afford these 3,000 sq. ft. "country style" homes that take up 2/3rds of their 1/8th acre lot, plopped down a good 20 minutes from any town. (6) At first glance, people look and sound the same here as they do in Columbus. But there are a couple of additional idiosyncracies that would seem out of place in the real world. In Bizzaro World, however, South Bend-ites drag their 'r's ever so slightly. It must be a hispanic influence of some kind because it's the closest thing to a rolling 'r' I've heard in the States: "hey you, let's go forr a rride in my carrrr." (7) NPR is actually better in South Bend than it is in Columbus. Part of the reason is that they don't play any music during the day. When they do play music, you wonder what freaking station you turned to that would play this crap and you long for WCBE instead of WVPE. (8) Unlike Columbus, no one in South Bend has ever heard of U2. But, also unlike Columbus, everyone is interested in DATA and that guy, Bono, who runs around doing stuff for Africa. Doesn't he, like, wear glasses or something? And, like, sing? Or something? (9) "Notre Dame" is obviously a French name. And, interestingly enough, Northern Indiana was originally settled by French Jesuits. Many of the street names are French: Lafeyette, LaSalle, Champaign, Napoleon, etc. What ethnic group constitutes 85% or more of South Bend residents? That's right: the Polish. Why is Notre Dame called "the fighting Irish?" No one knows. Most undergrads are from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, California, and Wisconsin. No one's from Ireland. Or Boston. And just like there are no really great Italian sections of the town named for the greatest Italian explorer after Marco Polo, there are no Irish areas of South Bend--no "little Dublin", "Paddyville", "Mic-town", etc. Bizzare.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your comparisons especially since I was born and raised in Northern IN but living in Westerville OH for the past 10 yrs.
#10 - SB folks drive 35 miles east to visit "amish country" and Columbus folks drive 80 miles NE to visit their amish country. They all want to live in the fast paced city, but think it is so cool to see how the amish live and manage to not change much in the past few hundred years.

Duane Yoder (how's that for an amish name :))

5/16/2005 1:56 PM  
Blogger lucas said...

E, your post was great. It makes me truely appriciate Columbus, and the fact that it was you and B that God called to South Bend and not me and Jen. But we still miss having you around...

5/17/2005 7:53 AM  

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