The city was completely, finally thawed out by Sunday afternoon, with only a few stray slush piles where just a few days before stood fearsome heaps of snow.

Sure, it's only February and we're destined to get another snowstorm or five, but the temporary meltdown seemed to put people in a better mood for now.

Indianapolis is a city that has historically freaked out whenever there's a big snow. All it takes is for Kevin Gregory to talk about an approaching snowstorm and the shelves of Kroger get emptied. People hoard milk, bread and eggs for no apparent reason, even after it becomes clear there's no snow coming.

Then when it actually snows, and they realize there's a 95 percent chance that they're not going to get to work on time, they really panic. If the streets don't get plowed very well, or not at all, as has happened lately, that panic turns to anger.

Woe is the mayor of Indianapolis who doesn't do a good job of keeping the snow off our streets. We the citizenry don't really ask for much from the mayor. But we do kind of request that we be able to at least get to work without sliding into an 18-wheeler or a soccer mom's van.

Mayor Greg Ballard may very well have good explanations for why the snow removal has been so poor under his administration. But when Meridian Street near Monument Circle looks like a ski resort, we don't care what he says.

So it doesn't bode well for the mayor, who lucked into office and who has done little to fix public transit, public safety or the homeless problem. The city will forgive him for that. But poor snow removal?

We remember that sort of thing.

I have never met Mayor Ballard, but people I know who have tell me that he's a stand-up guy and not nearly as much an egomaniac as most politicians. They don't doubt that his intentions are good. I take them at their word.

But I get scared for the future of our city when I drive on Keystone Avenue south of 38th Street and see dozens of blocks of boarded-up houses and depressed-looking people who look like they have nowhere else to be.

The same is true of College Avenue, where the economic boom times of the ''90s never quite reached. There are pockets of progress - nice-looking condos here and there. But parts of it look as burned-out and blighted as any ghetto in the city.

If we're really in for worse economic times before things get better, then I'm not sure how much longer the city can continue to deteriorate before people start to be permanently as angry as they are when the snow doesn't get cleared.

It's refreshing to finally have a president who cares about Indiana and wants to help. And I'm starting to see many more mom-and-pop businesses spring up, small restaurants and hair salons, roses growing from the urban concrete.

This feeds the spirit of hope and ambition that our president has helped lift in the country. I hope it will be enough to tide us over until the better days that we have been promised finally get here.

You look for little things in the city to keep you going when times are tough. Spending every day downtown makes me appreciate the public arts projects we have, especially the Julian Opie-designed electronic structure "Ann Dancing," which sits at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Alabama and Vermont.

Ann dances endlessly on four LED screens, 24 hours a day, swaying her hips back and forth. Depending on the time of day and what's happening in the neighborhood, her never-ending performance takes on different contexts.

Like all art, you either like it or you don't, and some people, including Lou Harry of the Indianapolis Business Journal, find the sculpture irritating. Other people are perplexed.

Ann and I have become good friends in the past year or so. I've come to the conclusion that, while I don't pretend to understand her motivations, I'm happy that she keeps on dancing.

Which dovetails with my overall point. Snowstorms come and go. Bad things happen and unfortunate events occur. Our city has a mixed record of dealing with them, to say the least.

But, like Ann, most of us just keep on dancing whatever strange dance life has assigned to us to perform. I hope I never stop dancing and I hope the people of Indianapolis keep on dancing, too, no matter what happens.

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