Finding 'the good life' in Fort Wayne: Coffee, music, yoga, & more

When I said my friends left San Francisco and headed for greener pastures, I didn’t know how true that really was until I arrived here in Fort Wayne.

The amount of green in the summer here—from the trees in bloom, to the endless rows of perfectly manicured front lawns—is truly more than I have ever seen in a city in my entire life. And the sky—what is it about your sky, Indiana? The clouds seem somehow more 3-D, and the sun feels stronger, and the sky itself does not seem to end. I smell freshly cut grass. There is a lot of space here.

I’ve arrived in Fort Wayne from San Francisco this summer, and I’ve got a couple of weeks, an open mind, and a knack for adventure. I’m ready to explore anything and everything this city has to offer someone like me, and see if I can make it work for my San Francisco lifestyle.

I already have a list of plenty of things to check out and things to do, but I’m starting with the very basics of what usually keeps me happy and feeling alive on a regular basis (in no particular order): Coffee, Yoga/Fitness, Bars and Restaurants, Dancing/Music/Nightlife, and Ease of Getting Around.

First stop: The Brass Rail, Fort Wayne’s popular music venue/dive bar.

The Brass Rail is a popular haunt in the Fort Wayne music scene.

It’s gritty and lively, and it’s where my friend and I happened to catch a punk band on stage playing as part of a benefit for Planned Parenthood. What? Yes. And—it turns out the bartenders are super friendly, and the crowd wasn’t so bad either.

Speaking of not so bad, can someone please help me understand this “Fort Wayne: It’s Not That Bad” saying I keep seeing on T-shirts and other inscribed memorabilia around town? Is this your motto, Fort Wayne? I don’t know if I’m supposed to read it like, “See? It’s not that bad,” or more like a humble understatement spoken by Midwesterners about something that’s actually really great.

I found an outdoor “Brews and Yoga” event where I did some yoga outside a brewery and got a beer at the end as part of the ticket. I took advantage of a couple of yoga studios’ introductory/first-time student deals.

Bend & Brew yoga happens on the fourth Saturday of the month at Hop River Brewing Co.

To be honest, I was battling my own prejudices before I even stepped foot in either one of their doors—not only for yoga, but for pretty much just about everything I approached. My inner San Francisco Snob was saying, "Sure, you might find something decent, but there was no way any of it could possibly be cool."

However, I was pleasantly surprised (and perhaps a bit humbled) to find that the people of Fort Wayne are just as familiar with their Downward Dog as anyone in San Francisco.

I checked out Conjure Coffee, where I enjoyed an air-conditioned respite in its large, semi-industrial building with cement floors and modern white stools at the live edge wooden pour-over coffee bar drinking my CBD-infused black cherry sparkling water and Iced Lavender Latte from a reusable metal straw. So, you know. Like home.

Drew Getz works behind the sleek Modbar setup at Conjure Coffee.

I’ve had a surprisingly great cocktail at Proximo, and a nicely done Seared Ahi Tuna salad at Mad Anthony’s. There is certainly more here than meets the eye.

There’s something that’s been bothering me, though. Since I got here, I’ve noticed this creeping sense of anxiety, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. There’s certainly not anything stressful about these leisurely pursuits, but I find myself worrying that I’m missing something--though I don’t think it’s anything at home I fear I’m missing out on.

This isn’t the FOMO I know—the kind that forces you to go to a party even if you’re tired and would rather not because you’re worried that you’ll regret it later after you hear all about the fun your friends had at an event you didn’t go to. This feels different, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from yet.

Jille Eikenberry is a writer from San Francisco who spent a few weeks in Fort Wayne during the summer of 2019. During that time, she blogged about her experience. Since Input Fort Wayne is on a weekly publishing schedule, some of her blogs are being published after the conclusion of her trip.
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