“It’s Funny to Say But I Think Mishawaka Has Gone Soft”

So I guess my hometown is like big sh** now thanks to Mayor Pete Buttigeig becoming the first openly gay presidential candidate [1]. I’m living back up here in the area now and I have to admit some things have taken a turn for the better — there are a couple of new bar and restaurants opened up downtown and in general the area of land between downtown and Notre Dame is probably less “ghetto” than it used to be (it only had one direction to go from where it was), replete with more student housing, cafes, eateries, etc. Well, rent has skyrocketed. We’ve accomplished that, on an indisputable level.

And obviously the whole thing’s kind of hard to gauge right now with the coronavirus having shut down most of the nightlife in downtown South Bend, leaving pretty much South Bend Brew Werks, which closes at 10, and Cheers Pub, a karaoke dive, leading the pack in the way of tavern antics. For some reason, Mishawaka, the neighboring town which is kind of like a “suburb” that holds a majority of the commercial clout of the metro area, seems to have looser restrictions, because the bars there are open and you don’t even need a mask to get in them.

With this being the case, and with me actually having a car for once which is sort of stunning and amazing, I end up spending a decent amount of nights going into a bar in Mishawaka for an hour or so, just to relax. And I mean, not to sound like a whiner, but I have a lot of problems in my life. Like yesterday I spent two hours attempting to order a $4 copy Euripides’ The Bacchae on Ebay, a site which used to furnish the alternative vendor half.com, but now apparently just wallows in its own bloated faux-authority, and my debit card just wouldn’t work.

Well I got through work yesterday line cooking at Morris Park Country Club, probably the best job I’ve ever had in my hometown, had been the fosterer of a pretty surly headache for about the last three hours of the shift and for this and other reasons decided to hit up The Phoenix in downtown Mishawaka for a brew or two (finding $2.50 domestic talls, much to my delight). And a lot of what I’ve found, which I’m settling on with precarious to confident certainty, is that da**, Mishawaka is a bunch of hippies. One of the songs they played on the PA was “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead and there was this happy-looking black dude with dreads sitting at the bar, sort of hamming it up and apparently engulfing himself in this sort of pervasive peace and contentedness once unheard of in this municipality.

There was this myth about “born and bred Mishawaka dudes” my friend used to propagate, he himself having grown up with me in South Bend at the East Side public schools but then migrated over there for a Catholic high school. It was like all they did was “drink, roll [2], fight and fu** bit**es [3].” But here I was with the curvy, 25-year old bartender gravitating to this dude with long hair and this baby face who kind of started sneeringly laughing when I nodded my head along to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping,” like as if everything about the ’90s is just automatically funny or whatever (just ask the venerable The Onion). When I left, he was standing right in the doorway talking on his cell phone and I said, “You shouldn’t stand in the doorway,” when I left. And again, all I got was this goofy sort of laugh and smile, where in prior years and eras the dude might have at least in some way got an attitude with me, said something along the lines of “I stand wherever I want,” blown cigarette smoke in my face (another relic of a bygone tavern era), or issued SOME sort of intimidation. I more got the sense that I was just hurting this guy’s feelings.

A couple other observations, anyway, are that guys don’t roll in groups as much anymore, and if they do, they’re more likely to subvert themselves to the ideas of women who might be present too, rather than just spew misogynistic tidbits of sexual harassment at them. And I suppose this is a turn in the right direction. Anyway, my experience trying to find a place to hang out downtown in South Bend was peppered with some racial slurs from this 14-year-old black kid on a bike (this was about two days after the George Floyd incident, I think), so I guess it’s Grateful Dead for now.


[1] Michael Che had a pretty funny bit on Weekend Update a week and a half ago about how you KNOW there’s been a gay president and it’s just a matter of which one… he had the theory it was Abe Lincoln because he got killed in a theater.


[2] This is a perhaps antiquated slang for taking the drug Ecstasy.


[3] Marijuana is apparently then relegated to “pu**y” status, from what I can surmise.

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