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Published: Sunday, 2/20/2000

What's going on in our town? Plenty!

BY ROSE RUSSELL
BLADE ASSOCIATE EDITOR

What!?! Toledo's boring? There's nothing to do here?

Well, tell me then, why am I always so worn out?

There's plenty to do in Toledo to satisfy a variety of tastes, ranging from the conservative, the liberal, the young, the old, and for men and women.

More than 20 years ago I lived in one of the most depressing towns ever - at least that's how some described Jackson, Mich. I, however, never found that to be so. A place is only as dull or as exciting as one makes it, and I don't find Toledo dreary.

Now and then when I talk with smy Toledo high school classmates who have moved and have never returned, or when I see those who have come back after long absences, I can detect a sort of a "Are you still in Toledo?" curiosity full of pity.

Why, yes. I am. At this point in my life, I have little intention on making my home elsewhere. While I make no apologies for that, family has played a role in the decision to stay. But the transportation options that are available make it easy enough to get from one locale to another without much trouble, so relatives are not a hindrance.

But why knock a town where one can get from one end to the other within minutes? It beats spending half an hour or more on expressways in some big metropolis just trying to pick up a prescription.

In Toledo, though, one has to be sure to pause when traffic signals turn green, given the disregard that area motorists have for traffic lights. There's a reason Toledo can't shake its notorious image of bad drivers: Most of us are indeed terrible drivers.

So what's to life in Toledo besides bad traffic and family? Plenty. I've found more than enough to fill my date book since returning here after college and job stints elsewhere more than 20 years ago.

At that time I had more energy and time for professional and social organizations and the church activities. Always there was a professional meeting or fellowship, as folks in Christendom like to call church-related functions.

Yet that was BH and BC - before husband and before children. Even so, there are no blank spaces on my calendar. One doesn't exactly need step-by-step instructions for how to get along here. But I understand that society has become accustomed to sitting back and being entertained, and that's what's preferred.

So come along on a little trip through my very own Toledo . . .

Because I am a downtown dweller, at the top of my list is life in the downtown, or the downtown Toledo life that is being revived. Long-time Toledoans tend to compare the district with what it was 25 or 35 years ago, when it bustled with young and old shoppers and movie goers.

We're not there yet, but development on both sides of the Maumee River is making the center business district far more interesting than what it has been in recent years.

Lunchtime walks alone or with a friend through downtown are more pleasant than they once were. Today a stroll by the beautifully restored Valentine Theatre or on the waterfront helps break up a day at work. In the warmer months, a quick snack at a nearby restaurant and a breeze coming off the murky Maumee are invigorating.

Toledo area metroparks offer serene settings for family picnics, solo or group walks, or a place to get away and sit on a swing and enjoy good weather and ponder the issues of life. I prefer Wildwood and Swan Creek metroparks, and no matter how many times I go to the Manor House at Wildwood, each visit is pleasant.

I still cannot get used to calling the Toledo Botanical Garden the Toledo Botanical Gardens. In our house, it's Crosby Gardens, diehards that we are. It's a great place to introduce children to the plant life, from the soft lambs' ear plant to the river birch trees, and to let children view water lilies in the pond from the gazebo.

Outsiders and insiders alike may get weary of references to the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art as our jewels. They are, and that's not likely to change.

Today, the Toledo Zoo hardly looks anything like it did years ago, and that's good. The expansion, attractions, and improvements make a trip to see the animals and exhibits a full and worthwhile visit.

The museum is first class, all the way. As an elementary and junior high school student, I took weekly art classes there. I don't recall the grade I was in when a class performed on stage at the Peristyle, another of Toledo's gems.

The diversity in many neighborhoods adds to Toledo's multicultural flavor, which is something that one can literally sample at various ethnic festivals each year. They help to make Toledo a nice place to live and to spend one's years, even before and after rearing a family.

By the way, word has it that Toledo is a good place to rear a family. It is, although the assortment of schools to select from is often wanting for minorities. However, some of that is changing with the growing number of charter schools, and sooner or later, depending on the state Supreme Court's ruling, voucher schools will widen the options as well.

Yet Toledo is quite a poor place too in terms of relationships among its people.

That's particularly so on the racial front, a fact that has been stark lately, given sundry news events. How unfortunate that residents here, black and white, must endure this smut.

Yes, I like Toledo, and while I realize that there is a measure of racial discord everywhere in these United States, I also realize that it's worse in some locales than in others. Toledo has a long way to go, I'm sorry to say.

As development continues downtown and as city officials continue to show off the jewels, some consideration must be made toward bringing the thinking of the residents into the 21st century.

Until then, the bright and the talented will keep packing their bags for other cities, where the aversion to diversity is far less intense than it is here.

 

 


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