Want to be a n00b? A pariah? A goddamn tree-hugger?
Move to Detroit. While you’re at it, tell your friends– or, better yet, the supermarket managers– that you want to eat raw dairy. Maybe even a grass-fed cow. WTF? GTF out of here, you uppity fucking hippy.
This isn’t to say you can’t find animals or vegetables to eat in Detroit. You can, absolutely. You won’t even get crazy looks. Paleo is absolutely, 100 percent possible in the midwest–or, I daresay, anywhere in the world (more on Taiwan later)–and Detroit does in fact have grocery stores just like every body else. But in Detroit, healthy and unique foods are either 1) hidden gems or 2) completely absent. Some things that can never be found include: coconut products, coconut oil, a single iota of unpasteurized anything, locally raised animals, or grassfed beef. There are, moreover, no seaweeds, no unique cuts of beef, nor avocado or macadamia oils. Not a single person clamoring for them, either. It is a Faygo world, here between the Ohio River Valley and the Louisiana Territory, and there’s no telling how long this is going to last.
Fitness in Detroit leaves something to be desired, as well. Sure, metropolitan Detroit is scattered with Anytime Fitness gyms, but the midwest lacks what I’ve come to view as a uniquely coastal adventurous edge. YES, people in northern Michigan snowmobile, and Minnesotans hunt (wahoo!), and in the summer midwesterners out in the country spend some pretty solid hours rocking contentedly on their back porches, but no one explores anything new in the outdoors or in the fitness world. There exist two REI stores in Michigan, twenty-six Crossfit affiliates (compared to sixty-one in New York: not too bad a difference, all things considered), and perhaps six hiking trails. That said, the midwest is a little bit stagnant, in food and in the outdoors and maybe even in life, and unless you live in an especially wealthy or liberal area, you’re not going to find anything more exciting there than a scene from Everybody Loves Raymond.
Which is perhaps what my trouble with living in Detroit has been all along. Ever since I was a very young girl, I knew I needed to flee. I didn’t fit. I began collecting brochures for distant colleges the second I finished the multiplication tables. When I realized that I wanted more than what Wal-Marts and movie theatres had to offer, I had no choice but to extend my reach by several hundred miles.
Why is it that the midwest has so much inertia, relative to the rest of the country?
Beats me. Does it have to do with fundamentalist religion? Maybe a little bit. But I find this to be unlikely. As much as fundamentalism colors the deeper parts of the midwest, such as Dubuque, Iowa, it certainly isn’t much more than a fly on a horse’s back in places as urban and suburban as Detroit.
Does it have to do with the relative lack of urban centers? The decreased population density? Hm. Yes, maybe. It’s only three hours to Cincinatti and five to Chicago, but beyond Chicago it’s another ten to St. Louis, and then where to? Minneapolis? Twenty hours and five tanks of gas later, sure. This hypothesis, however, jives with the fact that places such as San Francisco and Bend, Oregon are equally as distant from other pillars of civilization, and they are practically drowning in liberal thinkers.
And what about socioeconomics? Here, perhaps, we are getting warmer. I know that coastal areas are rife with poverty, and my heart breaks for that fact, but they also contain, I believe, critical masses of people who have the luxury to explore different lifestyles. The majority of people living in suburban Detroit are lower-middle class, with a fair share of working class and middle-middle class thrown in. These conditions, coupled with political conservatism and fundamentalist-type religious views, make for very little interest in uppity hippy fads.
All in all, this is pretty frustrating business. Change always happens in the midwest last. (Unless you were a woman at Oberlin College in 1833!) And it does have a lot to do with money and with politics and with religion, and with a general stubbornness I sometimes loathe with a fiery passion.
However, it also has to do with a general sense of contentedness. The one thing I used to hate about the midwest is now something I totally dig. Midwesterners don’t make wild changes to their lives because they’re pretty happy with what they’ve got. Why fuck with a good thing? Midwesterners love themselves some beer and gunracks and McDonald’s. This means that they’re not exactly the healthiest kids on the block. But they have families they honor, and they have hometowns to which they have great loyalty, and this speaks to feelings acceptance and peace that I really admire and aspire to.
Religion scholar Huston Smith argues that cultures with more traditionalist, home-based lifestyles are ultimately the happiest. Perhaps he is on to something. The midwest is full of contentedness. There’s no change here. No questing. Or, as they would see it, no bullshit. Only life. And, so long as I am no longer living there myself, I think that’s a really beautiful thing.Tweet