First, moving to the Twin Cities. I was a life-long Hoosier, not because of any great love for the place but mainly due to inertia. Central Indiana is an okay and extremely inexpensive place to live. The people are nice enough, although there's a decided lack of education and respect for intelligence among many. There's also little to no arts scene, and in Indiana, Republicans rule. So there wasn't much to miss when I moved, other than friends and family.
The Minneapolis/St. Paul area is definitely a much larger and more sophisticated metropolis than the Indianapolis area. Lots of great restaurants, a terrific music and arts scene, just a general big-city vibe that Indy aspires to but has never reached. The people up here are, perhaps, nicer than the folks in Indiana, although I suspect that what they call "Minnesota nice" is really just an advanced form of passive-aggressiveness; they're really nice to your face, but they talk a lot behind your back. Still, it's nice to be around nice people.
That passive-aggressiveness comes out in their driving, however. Nobody up here can negotiate a simple roundabout (not that there are that many up here, especially when compared to Carmel, Indiana, the roundabout capital of the U.S.). Half the time they enter the roundabout then stop halfway through to let someone from the outside in. I want to get out of my car (and I have time to, since traffic has come to a halt), pull them out of theirs, and beat their little pasty white heads against the pavement. I guess I haven't gotten into the Minnesota nice thing much, myself.
The arts scene in the Twin Cities is terrific. My wife and I have seen more music in the past year than I saw in a decade in Indy. They love and support all types of music up here, jazz especially, and the Dakota is the best jazz club I've ever seen. (Better even than Indy's Jazz Kitchen, which I still love.) In the past year we've seen Nanci Griffith, Brian Wilson, Booker T. and the MGs (twice), John Pizzarelli (also twice), James Hunter, Gordon Lightfoot, Manhattan Transfer, Irma Thomas, Ruthie Foster, Lura, and Sophie Milman. (There's so much good stuff up here, I get annoyed at the acts we have to skip because we can't fit them into our schedule.) All were good, but the very best were Brian Wilson and Nanci Griffith, both legends of their own type. Hearing Brian and his wonderful backing band do "God Only Knows" brought a tear to my eye, it was just so perfect. That moment alone made the move to Minneapolis worth it.
Of course, the real reason I moved to the Twin Cities was to get married. My wife Sherry came from Indy, originally, but has been living up here for the past twenty or so years. We've known each other since high school, but hooked up again about three years ago and did two years of very long distance dating. (I put a lot of miles on the old convertible...) I finally talked her into making an honest man of me, and so we got married a year ago April.
Married life is a bit of a change for a 50 year-old bachelor. Not only am I sharing my (new and bigger) house with my wife, I'm also sharing it with her dog, her teenaged son, and, during school breaks, her college-aged daughter. As an added bonus, her younger daughter is going through a divorce, and she and her two toddlers are also living with us. I originally thought a five-bedroom house would be overkill, but now I sometimes wish for even more room.
Room aside, I kind of like having a full house. I really like the grandkids, two year-old Collin and his one year-old sister Hayley. Collin and I are great pals, and he likes to do just about anything he sees me doing. Yeah, Sherry and I spend a lot of time babysitting that we could be spending doing newlywed-type stuff, but I wouldn't give up the time with the kids. After spending a half-century alone, I treasure every single minute with my new family. (For those interested, pics of the grandkids can be found here: Mike and Sherry's Family Pictures)
Sherry has one more child, a daughter who is married and living in Winona, about two hours away. (That's also where the other daughter goes to college, conveniently enough.) So there's one more grandkid in the mix, with a fourth on the way. I wish we could spend more time with little Alethia, but the distance precludes this. Again, I treasure the time we spend with her.
It's a big lifestyle change for me. Friends say I'm either a saint or a crazy person; I admit to the latter, but don't find anything wrong with that. It's a different life, but one I'm trying to live to the fullest. There's less private time, but a lot more love.
What do I miss about my previous life? My Indiana friends, of course. But also the little things, like Cajun food (none at all up here) and my old coffeehouse. During the month of May I tend to miss the goings on at the Speedway, but that hasn't been the same for a decade or more, anyway, so there's less to miss. I don't miss the thickheaded rednecks in my old hometown; I do appreciate the more liberal bent up here, as well as their great enthusiasm for all things social and political. (And Norm Coleman should just give it up and go home, already.)
All in all, it's been a good year. I hope to have many more with my new friends and family here in Minnesota -- and with my old ones in Indiana, too.
But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.