by jean at 05:05 AM on May 27, 2004
I journeyed to a Mecca of sorts last week the Midwest. I was visiting one friend in Central Illinois (Bloomington), and another in Chicago.
As some of you may know from my comments, I grew up in Los Angeles and live there now. I've traveled places, but never lived anywhere else, excepting ten weeks of summer internship in Washington, D.C. College, although only 30 miles away, was a world away and gave me actual contact peoples and cultures that I'd only read about; watched on TV. I mean people from other parts of the United States. And once I started working, I truly started getting to know The Midwesterners. Midwesterners, especially those from Chicago, hate Los Angeles.
Let me clarify: almost everyone has some sort of grudge against Los Angeles and, often by extension, the West Coast. Southerners are the most content group and don't tend to say much about us, and East Coasters (especially New Yorkers) do sometimes take jabs, but deep down I think both groups understand that as much as we West Coasters (especially Angelenos) can be stereotyped as flaky, bleeding-heart-liberal New Agers, they can be stereotyped as Bible-thumping racists or pretentious Anglophiles. So whatever, right? Glass houses. East, West, and South all live with a bit of the feeling that they differ from some kind of American norm. But when it's time to stereotype Midwesterners, the things that get mocked country music, Wal-Mart, NASCAR are supposed to be the American norm. People think that they're completely American. So the swipes of Midwesterners I feel have always had a little extra sting not only did they claim that they were better, but they would also smugly insinuate that they were more American.
Bastards. So I stepped out of O'Hare feeling pretty uneasy. Even the two friends I was visiting were always lecturing me on how things were and were not done in "the real America." I wasn't sure what I would find. Dale Earnhardt-loving trailer dwellers? I wish the answer had been so easy. I'm not yet sure what I found. I did indeed find a Super Wal-Mart, The World's Largest Dairy Queen (in Decatur, IL... and in between advertising chicken baskets its neon billboard will remind you to "Celebrate Jesus"), and a flat city built next to a lake, thousands of miles from any continental shelf. The continental-shelf thing wierded me out, as did the lack of mountains. How do you find your bearings when there are no mountains? What does it mean when the horizon is nothing but sky? What is life like with four seasons? I thought the people in Chicago were rather grim, yet well-groomed, and I swear I saw three separate people reading Kurt Vonnegut on the El, and one reading Ayn Rand. But does any of it mean anything, or can it all be explained away? I will require further examination before drawing any conclusions. But for now at least I have a little ammunition to use against those who would hate on L.A.
Certainly the regional differences you mention exist. But my roots are in California and I've spent much time there. What has always struck me is the apparent animosity between "snooty, sophisticated" Bay Area denizens and their "hedonistic, shallow" LA counterparts.
by anna at May 27, 2004 7:43 AM
I have spent a bit of time in the Midwest and always got along with the people from that part of the country. They didn't seem pretentious at all and almost always speak their minds. Stereotypes exist for every portion of the country. Being a southerner, I am always amazed when dealing with people from NYC or the New England states. Most, not all, think that since you are from the south it means that you're a) not intelligent b) a card carrying Klan member or c) have posters of NASCAR drivers adorning the walls of your trailer. I have always played the part then took the advantage when I was underestimated. I like the looks on their faces when they realize their mistake.
by Ezy at May 27, 2004 9:44 AM
Being from Pittsburgh I never realized I was from the "Midwest" until I moved to Atlanta. Philly is Northeast/NYC influenced. P-burgh is Midwest, apparently. And when I look at the two places, I agree. Pittsburgh is pretty blue-collar, more traditional, etc. But I think people are nice in the Midwest. I think we are pretty friendly by nature, interested in learning about you, etc. But (Shannon, would you agree?) racism is definitely worse in P-burgh than in the true Northeast, or in the West. It's bad like in the South, except more hidden. I've never noticed this LA scorn... weird.
by Linz at May 27, 2004 10:30 AM
I personally don't have any opinions about LA. Never been there.
As for the Midwest, I feel like there are different stereotypes for different parts. From Chicago? No problem-- it's urban enough. From Minnesota? That's ok.. lots of lakes, but it's got the Twin Cities. Michigan, you've got the whole militia stuff to deal with, and Nebraska, you've got to explain what you do with your spare time. I'm from Iowa, and I'm constantly trying to shake the farmgirl image associated with it. I even get mocked by other Midwesterners for growing up in Iowa.
by Leaffin at May 27, 2004 1:15 PM
It could be worse, Leafy, you could have been born in Missouri.
by mg at May 27, 2004 1:49 PM
True, true. My mom's from Missoura, and we give her a lot of shit for it.
Leafy? Never been called that before...
by Leaffin at May 27, 2004 2:11 PM
Speaking of being called things, someone I associated with in a "professional way" (a professor at school, not a hooker you perverts), called me "MG" in an email the other week. It totally freaked me out.
by mg at May 27, 2004 2:15 PM
Does he read the site or was it just a random thing out of nowhere?
Farm girls are cool ;-)
by Ezy at May 27, 2004 2:46 PM
Because of your name and my dirty mind, I read that as Farm girls are Ezy. = )
by Linz at May 27, 2004 3:18 PM
It was a thing out of nowhere. I think. I never mentioned it again. How do you ask that sort of thing? I kind of think it wasa random usage since she also used just her initials to "sign" her email.
by mg at May 27, 2004 3:22 PM
Hey, what's wrong with Missouri? At least it's not Arkansas!
by MrBlank at May 27, 2004 4:05 PM
I'm (still) on my exchange year to the heart of the Midwest (Lafayette, IN). I've honestly seen very little of the rest of the US, aside from two NY trips. Thinking I'm going to do some travel at the end of my visit -- hard to believe it's not all like this though. (What do you mean - there's no Super Wal-Mart in LA? Bleh. The scary thing is that most people who live here are barely more aware of the rest of the country than I am.)
by Andy at May 27, 2004 5:27 PM
I'm always a little taken aback by LA people. This guy Dave I've mentioned repeatedly came from there. He took one look at us and pronounced that none of us would ever get laid because you all act like you're interested in getting in chicks' pants. He figured chicks hated that and wanted guys with other interests. From the results I'd have to say he was right. Then again, somebody threw the smartass off a shrimping boat.
by anna at May 27, 2004 7:00 PM
I'd just like to point out that most of the worst offenders, Beautiful People-wise, in NYC aren't even from New York. For that matter, the rudest people that I meet in NYC aren't from New York either.
by Adam at May 28, 2004 1:22 AM
Well, it's comforting to hear that others are getting flak, too. Iowans are down on Missourans? Why can't we all just get along?
Adam, I firmly believe the New York thing holds true for L.A. too. Most of our social troublemakers-- like the silicone-enhanced trendoids that swarm the Sunset Boulevard clubs-- aren't from here.
Andy, there are no Super Wal-Marts near me, although come to think of it there may be one down in Orange County. But the Super Wal-Mart in Bloomington had Band-Aids in a collectible camouflage pattern tin, which was definitely trippy.
And Anna, I think that the Bay Area-on-Los Angeles hate is pretty amusing. Many of the Northerners feel they're more sophisticated, but we have the better orchestra, museums, and opera company. I will give them props for having City Lights Bookstore, but even so, we do have Bodhi Tree.
by jean at May 28, 2004 3:47 AM
My hometown, of what used to be 10,000 people, is under a severe assault from people migrating from NY, NJ, and Boston. It seems that you can sell your shack in any of those places and buy a freakin mansion in my hometown. Some of the old timers there are calling it the second invasion of the south which I thought was pretty funny. I say come on down, the more diversity the better but one thing irks me. I hate being in a store or somewhere and hear how backwards things are because they aren't just like NYC, NJ, or Boston. Well, duh. Did you happen to notice that you aren't in NYC, NJ or Boston anymore? Also, if you want things that way and things are so great there then why the hell did you leave in the first place? Idiots.
by Ezy at May 28, 2004 11:30 AM
Jean, I love your webpage. I had to write and tell you that you’re not wrong about the Midwestern bias against Californians; some Midwesterners are TOTAL JERKS!
My wife and I are 3rd generation Californians. We love this state and wouldn't think of living elsewhere. We worship at a Lutheran Church, Missouri synod. The senior pastor is hell-bent (yes, we can say hell, damn and other things), upon showing his weekly disrespect and loathing for Californians. Of course, the people from the Midwest are the "normal" people, and their customs are much preferred over we California heathens. The congregation picks-up on this and follows suit. My wife and I have made a second career of cataloging the comments from pastor and congregation, and compiling them into a database. After 20-years of thinking, "well, maybe they're just misunderstood here on the West Coast", we've decided that Midwesterners are not misunderstood, they're rude and obnoxious people. I’ve suggested that our senior pastor might be more confortable in his home state of South Dakota, but he thinks we’re too sensitive about our misfortune of being born in California (the nerve). Despite the data we’ve provided to him, and regardless of the tounge-lashings delivered by the other Californias, he persists on dissing us. We’re looking for a new church this weekend.
by CV2 at August 25, 2005 11:39 PM