Essay-ish: America’s Horse with No Name in Warsaw, Indiana

There’s a little Indiana town I always drive through on my way to and from Ohio.

It looks like all the other little Indiana towns, which look like all the little Ohio towns, which probably look like all the little towns in the midwest. I’m assuming. I’ve never driven through them.

But it’s sweet and quaint. Green with life and dotted in small sheds, gas stations, food stops and dusty well-meaning billboards. The working-man homes pop up like stitches on an embroidered quilt, passed down from generation to generation.

I don’t know why I note it on my drive, back and forth back and forth, but I always do. Probably because it’s called Warsaw.

It was named after *that* Warsaw. So titled in 1836, in homage to the Polish capital, a place with a history that dwarfs everything about this one.

On my last trip home, “A Horse With No Name” came on the radio while in Warsaw. Maybe this is also why I mentally tick off when I’ve hit it during my drives. Its oldies station is a bright spot in a long trip of landing my radio dial on songs I love only to be hit with an accompaniment of static right when it gets to the chorus (always the best parts to sing with the windows rolled down).

I wait for the song to end before I pull over for gas.

I park my car and think why don’t I live somewhere like this?

The thing about small towns is that they’re really lovely. Mine is just not a soul that sings best in their bounty. I like the city. I particularly like this Chicago city, blue collar grit with grassroots culture—a place where I can be a horse with no name as I figure out what I want to do next.

But I get the appeal of small towns. I grew up in one and I miss it sometimes. Small town communities and all they represent were long the American Dream for a reason.

I lean on the hood as fuel chugs into my little car, my baby blue horse for the day. An old man in overalls waves and wishes me a good day. I light up and give the same in return. With my particular background, I can be a chameleon. I can fit in at a rave or in a hog barn. I know how to handle both, and some part of me longs for both lifestyles. And I really do enjoy all the different situations—city or country—I can be placed in as long as I can leave both whenever I want.

There was a grieving I went through in my twenties after college. A loss I sensed of a childhood home I knew I’d never go back to. I am fortunate to have the choice and ability to land wherever I want, but it’s still a loss to know you may never have a big backyard for your own children to play in or that you won’t be able to hop over to a sibling’s house to catch lighting bugs just because why the hell not, it’s Wednesday. No matter how close I am to my people at home, there will always be a distance and some part of me, the part that basks in the glow of concrete and skyscrapers and the potential for something new and exciting to happen, will always feel removed… understood and cherished only by me.

In that distance I’ve learned a lot about what it means to make a space for yourself where you know no one. And because of that, I know my chameleon quality extends beyond my personality and life experience. It can also be attributed to my gender, my age, my whiteness. It’s easy to fit in everywhere when you are trusted immediately. What a gift. A gift that so many people don’t get to experience. A security, safety and peace that so many will never know.

Today I’m back in Chicago. I don’t know my neighbors and I don’t really want to because I have work—creative, life-affirming, must-get-it-out-of-me work—I want to focus on without distractions for a while. We’re stacked on top of each other. It’s hot and it’s tight and it’s fucking brilliant.

I like to go and sit on the harbor and take a break to watch the water sometimes. It strikes me how I can see this huge body of water bouncing rhythmically like some apocalyptic force is moving underneath it, yet only hear the lapping of the water right beneath me.

Life feels like that today. Sometimes we get too lost in ourselves and our own experiences. We can’t hear the rest of those around us, even though we’re all moved by the same force. We don’t consider those who don’t live like us because it seems so far away.

Human history is all of ours to consider. It hurts, but we need to hear it. We need to keep listening even when we’re exhausted. Right now, my experience in America is getting to live in a place where I willingly have no name, where I don’t want to be known as I work and I know I’m probably safe regardless.

But others don’t have that.

We remember their names — names like Warsaw, like Alton Sterling — for a reason.

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