Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Detroit different than rest of midwest

Not for any mysterious reason, just because of geography. I should say that Detroit and Ohio are different than Illinois and Wisconsin, because that gets to the heart of the matter. The thing is that although Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are all on the Great Lakes
Chicago and Milwaukee are on Lake Michigan, with Madison being sort of not that far away from Milwaukee , although not really close, while Detroit is on the other side of the state from Lake Michigan, being on the Detroit River, which in turn flows down from Lake Huron. Detroit's close to Lake Huron while Toledo and Cleveland are located on Lake Erie. So naturally this gives rise to a different sort of cultural interchange. Milwaukee and Chicago are fairly close, and the area between them is pretty well populated. Between western Michigan north of Indiana on the Lake Michigan side of the state and Detroit there's virtually nothing. Grand Rapids is the only major city in western Michigan, and that's really isolated from anything going on in eastern or southeastern Michigan. On the other hand, Toledo is just an hour's drive from Detroit, with Cleveland being a very easy drive and Pittsburgh being less than five hours away.

Using the crystal ball of MapQuest I see that Rochester New York and Detroit are about seven hours drive away if you use the U.S. route around lakes Erie and Ontario. For comparison, I used to drive nine hours from where I lived in Florida to New Orleans, and I didn't really think that was over doing it. Mapquest tells me that it's only five and a half hours from Rochester to New York City, so in other words it's more than possible to have a leisurely drive from Detroit to Rochester, stay the night, then start out at nine and get to New York at three in the afternoon.

Because of all of this Detroit is closer culturally to the east coast than is Chicago and parts north. It's not the east coast or even the same culturally as western New York and western Pennsylvania but is kind of a mix between what people think of when they say midwestern in the sense of the Great Lakes region and the eastern states. For whatever it's worth, when people were thinking about where they ultimately wanted to wind up after high school when I was in the thick of it New York City was the place they discussed, and I went to college in New York City right out of high school, although I dropped out.

The most interesting question I've gotten about Michigan, from someone up here who knew a lot of people from the Great Lakes region, was if I considered it part of the Midwest. It's sort of its own thing. A tidbit related to the culture that I'll sneak in here is that Michigan was originally settled by people from western New York State, who pressed on from there down the side of the great lakes on up into the Detroit area, which had a large pre-existing French population.

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