Once again this Christmas season, Northwest Indiana will celebrate native satirist Jean Shepherd, whose stories of growing up in Hammond were immortalized in "A Christmas Story."
The Indiana Welcome Center is currently hosting its exhibit, "A Christmas Story Comes Home" with events planned throughout December. A play based on "A Christmas Story" is being performed at Munster's Theatre at the Center.
As much as we celebrate "Shep," the guy didn't care much for the Region, "a place people never really come to, but mostly want to leave," he once wrote. Shepherd himself left and never came back, only revisiting memories of his hometown for his popular stories. In describing Hammond, he wrote, "It clings precariously to the underbody of Chicago like a barnacle clings to the rotting hulk of a tramp steamer."
And yet, the ascendance of "A Christmas Story" into a holiday classic has become a distinct point of pride for Northwest Indiana with every leg lamp sold. The joke is on us, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Take the current trending Twitter hashtag started by local social media satirist @RegionRatRants -- #RegionThanks. The effort quickly morphed into a heartfelt exercise in self-deprecating humor and an accounting of the beloved dining spots that contribute to our collective girth. Local politics, pollution, traffic, weather all became large targets for our Twitter community's collective sarcasm.
Look deeper, however, and you'll see more than just jokes.
Underlying all the complaining quips is pride. Others may have left, but we're still here -- defiantly. Our toughness and resilience is built from everything our environment dishes out. But we're also underestimated by outsiders, who miss the massive potential in our location, resources and people.
When it comes to the rest of the state, we're ignored, except when Indiana is looking for infrastructure to sell off. We're not the sophisticated, shiny city across Lake Michigan or a snooty North Shore suburb.
We're Northwest Indiana and we know exactly who we are. You can't insult us, because we've already crafted that joke in a far more clever manner.