EmpowerYou Podcast Host Kibwe Cooper talks with Tina Gasnarez about her new book 'Martina Gets A New Home'. Listen to the conversation!
There’s an area in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana that I am convinced is the 8th Wonder of the World. There is no use trying to talk me out of it. Just hear me out! The area is at the intersection of Broadway and Taylor Streets, and it’s an eclectic district made up of an array of businesses -- a popular brewery-pub, a realty company, a tattoo shop, the international grocery store where I have shopped for over 30 years, and a mix of historic homes --some well-maintained and some dilapidated-- are sprinkled near the businesses.
The people who visit this unique space come from around the city, and they are as unique as the Taylor-Broadway neighborhood; there are the locals who live on the next block, the panhandlers, the homeless, the businesspeople, the suburbanites, and everyone in between.
While I have waited for the light to change at the intersection over the years, I have caught myself observing business folks getting out of their parked luxury cars. One day, I spotted a sleek, black BMW parked at George’s International Market’s busy lot, and I watched a casually dressed man hurriedly walk across the street for lunch at Mad Anthony’s Brewery.
Will a deal be made over lunch?
And in my car at the intersection while I waited for the green light to give me safe passage through the intersection, I glanced into the littered bus hut that sits dangerously close to the road, and I saw men and women dressed in their warmest coats huddled together inside as they waited for the next bus to arrive.
Where are you headed today?
Darting across the street on Broadway in between the stopped cars (I’ve almost run over a few) waiting for the green light, I wondered where the three young men with tattooed faces in their ultra-baggy clothes and smoking cigarettes were headed in such a hurry. Their slower companion had his hands buried in his bag pants pockets as he strolled a few steps behind his friends to the other side of Broadway, his cigarette balanced between his lips.
Where are you going?
As I sat in my car at the intersection that faced south on Broadway on my way home from work one afternoon, I looked to my right, and I saw an old man stumble out of the tiny bar and he walked west on Taylor Street. The little building he left is so narrow and close to the road that when the bar’s door is open, I could see patrons sitting at the bar nursing their drinks. I thought to myself that it is way too early to be leaving the bar in such a state, and then I hoped he has a safe, warm home waiting for him.
Did you make it home safely?
As I crossed the intersection at Broadway and Taylor on my way home, I decided to park in the massive parking lot and shop at George’s International Market’s for my usual Mexican food staples. After I parked the car and walked towards the large front entrance doors, I saw a group of old men standing outside of the liquor store two doors down, their laughter filling the frosty air, and maybe they reminisced about past adventures in their youth.
Next door to George’s, I spotted a sophisticatedly dressed woman who walked out of the bakery next to the grocery store with an armful of freshly baked loaves of bread. A blast of freshly baked pan dulce greeted me as I walked near the grocery store as a reminder to pick up a few when I was finished shopping.
A special meal for a special someone?
Once inside my favorite grocery store, as I slowly pushed my shopping cart in the Greek aisle, I found myself stealthily follow the tattooed couple with matching dreadlocks and piercings as they shopped for what looked like the makings of a dinner for two in their shopping cart -- pasta, butcher paper-wrapped meat, bell peppers, a bottle of Balsamic vinegar. They intimately whispered in the other’s ear. Their words were not for me to hear.
What are you celebrating today?
Nearby, in the produce aisle, I heard a father speaking rapid-fire Spanish as he tried to corral his little ones as they circled the shopping cart while the mother searched for the best Roma tomatoes and serrano peppers. I couldn't help but smile at the brown-eyed toddler with the jet-black hair who sat in the cart.
What’s for dinner tonight?
As I left George’s with my arms full of groceries, I waited on the curb for the young man in the older model car with the new blue paint job and flashy tire rims to pass by as it sent pulsating beats into the early evening air.
Did I notice you?
As I walked through the store’s bustling parking lot on my way to my car, an elderly panhandler approached me timidly and asked if I had any spare change. I told him I do not. Before I got into my car, I paused and watched the old man as he shuffled across the big parking lot in the wintry air toward the sleek, black BMW of one of the businessmen who was enjoying a meal in Mad Anthony’s Brewery.