Written by Nicholas Murphy
A lot of people have this image of Indianapolis as a very generic, all-American city, with Midwestern values and not much in the way of culture and diversity. Indeed, for the longest time, the city had the nickname of “Naptown,” mainly because the downtown was one of those where it seemed like the sidewalks would roll up after 5 p.m.
When I first moved to Indianapolis in 1993, I was very much the country boy moving to the “big” city. Of course, I had never really felt at home in the country for things that came screaming out of the closet later, but for me, Indianapolis was home from the very beginning. Of course, at that time, the “Naptown” derogatory was very much in effect. The downtown was dreary and pretty desolate, with some shining spots, but in 1996 all of that began to change. Not only is that the year I told my best friend that I was gay, but that was also the year that Circle Center Mall opened in downtown, which marked the beginning of a makeover that has remade Indianapolis into a shining example of downtown revitalization.
Before that, when I was just a young guy coming to grips with his sexuality, I had heard of places in and around Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave), gay bars and other establishments, where people like me could go and be themselves. Of course, at that time, my idea of a gay bar was pretty much the Blue Oyster Bar from the Police Academy movies, but still, it seemed like this exotic idea. Luckily, since I was underage at the time, there was a coffeehouse, The Abbey, at the corner of Mass Ave and College, which was a hangout for gay youth. So, with my school books in tow, I went down to study and take it all in. That was my first foray in to the gay life of Indianapolis, and while I was still an outsider looking in, it was great to be able to see people younger than me be so comfortable with themselves.
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