It was by accident that Ashley and I fell in love with Louisville. Having freshly graduated college, we were desperate for a vacation – an adventure, we called it. With little money to spend, we settled on Louisville. It was both far enough away to provide us with an adventure, yet close enough to appease our pockets. We didn’t know what we would do in Louisville, but we traveled nonetheless, anxious for a getaway and time to explore a place we didn’t know. And we loved it.
For three years following that trip, we came to Louisville when we could and longed for it when we couldn’t. We felt silly, like we were isolated, falling for something that we shouldn’t have, something that would lose its allure as other things had. On rare occasions, though, it called to us – a cup of coffee from Quills, pizza from Wick’s – and we’d travel down from Indianapolis, if not for anything more than a quick meal or a night on Bardstown Road. These nights were rare, but, with each one, we felt more a part of this city than we did our own.
It was on one of these occasions in August of 2011, on an impromptu trip to WHY Louisville, that I stumbled across the first issue of The Paper. I bought it and that night on the ride back to Indy I read “A Love Affair with Louisville.” Something clicked. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it was. But I soon realized that we weren’t isolated, that Louisville was full of bold people who loved their city and passions enough to step forward, to take a chance, and to give it their all. That first issue taught us that Louisville was for us and that we had to act.
After that issue, we spent the next year saving our money and looking at homes. We purchased a house near Audubon Park, if not for any other reason than to force us to move, to take that plunge. And, in June of 2012, we quit our teaching jobs and moved into a home we couldn’t afford to furnish.
A lot of people questioned our actions.
“Indy’s the same size,” they’d say. “You have good jobs there.”
The idea of dropping our lives for a city – much less purchasing a home in one – seemed foreign to them. To the outsider, it didn’t make sense to throw away what we had for a place. But they hadn’t been to Louisville.
For four months, though, they were right. We couldn’t find jobs. But it was in this displacement that Louisville introduced itself to us. Lacking money to pay an Internet bill, but needing to apply for jobs, we wandered to Heine Brothers some days and Quill’s others. We didn’t know a lot about coffee at the time – and we couldn’t afford to order any some days – but the staff didn’t judge us. This doesn’t mean that other places we lived were mean, just that Louisville was different. People here, regardless of how little we knew them, made our transition easier.
But it wasn’t always easy. There were nights and mornings spent sitting on our front porch or basement floor, talking about how we’d make it and wondering if we’d made the right decision.
It was in Heine Brothers that we discovered Waterfront Wednesdays and WFPK. We didn’t know who the artists were, but we wanted to go to a concert and, once we discovered it was free, figured it was as good as any. And as Sean Cannon or Duke Meyer spun tracks on the radio, despite our joblessness, we knew we felt right here. We just weren’t sure if we’d make it.
As our displacement continued, we kept exploring. In many ways, it was by submerging ourselves in Louisville that we reaffirmed our decision to move. We’d hang out at Nachbar for a cheap beer. We’d walk Joe Creason Park to take a break from the monotony of job application after job application. We’d browse books at Carmichael’s, prints at WHY Louisville, and CDs wherever we came across them. On some weekends, we’d treat ourselves to the Flea Off Market or wander the streets of NuLu. These things seem inconsequential now, but, in a time when we weren’t sure if we’d be able to stay in Louisville, the city gave us reason after reason to believe otherwise.
My wife found a job first. Mine came about a month later. Neither of us ended up in teaching and, while this was initially discouraging, we found comfort in that too. We had enough money to get by, time to explore a city we’d fallen in love with, and the stability we needed to stay here. It was tough, but, in many ways, our months of joblessness allowed us to throw ourselves into the Louisville we didn’t even know existed – one composed of luscious parks, a loving church, and stores and shops that were wonderful to explore in and of themselves.
Three months later, after things had settled, I gave The Paper a holler and pitched a couple ideas of things and people who I thought gave strength to the pulse of the city that had nurtured us when we needed it most. In much the same manner that The Paper had called out to me by bringing this city to my attention, it likewise gave me a chance to call out to others about the people who make the city special. People like Michael Carroll, who went from restoring old bikes in his living room to opening Old Bikes Belong. People like Rob Jenkins and Don Rogers, who started a hockey program for adults who had never played. People who took a chance. People who make Louisville magical.
We didn’t know it at the time, but, in those months of scariness, we were reminded of that first issue of The Paper and what it meant to us – that Louisville is full of bold people who don’t just love their city, but love their passions. People who have the strength to put it all out there, to attempt greatness when the rest of the world may think otherwise. While our budget has loosened and allowed us to stumble across new places, it’s the smaller things – a PBR at Nachbar, a cup of coffee outside of Heine Brothers, Duke Meyer on WFPK – that remind us of how we came to live here and how this city made us feel at home.
Simply put, Louisville took care of us, if not in any other way than us stumbling across the first issue of The Paper. It showed us that it’s a city where the possibilities are endless, where, if you trust it, you’ll end up where you belong. It may have worked out differently than we planned, but, in the end, it brought our lives better things than we could have otherwise imagined.
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