Friday, August 20, 2010

Why I Love Michigan Why I Hate Everyplace Else

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary

By John Galt

So I don’t think I am the first to say it, but California people drive me nuts. Despite what I have heard from the likes of Katy Perry and the timeless Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, it turns out that, in fact, I do not wish they could all be California girls.

In my free time between planning for the zombie apocalypse and inventing an alternative to toilet paper, I have often pondered what it is in me (or more likely what it is in them) that seems to make our general dispositions incompatible. Now I don’t want to sound judgmental, so instead I will just point out all the flaws I can find in California people, unfairly generalize them, and then draw conclusion from those biases. Sounds fun, right?

I suppose it’s possible that Michiganders are the odd ducks. I don’t think it would shock any Michigan expat to say that we are a bit of a different breed than most other people. I, for one, didn’t realize how different we were until I left and saw how… typical other people are. Maybe it’s learning to live with the ever-present threat of inadvertently becoming bear poop in the U.P. that turns Michiganders a little off kilter, or maybe it’s growing up in the unhealthy proximity of that glorious lunatic known as Ted Nugent. Maybe it’s just the naturally occurring Fargo-esque homicidal tendencies of any place with a harsh winter. Or it could be the paint fumes from the factory. So the question stands: are we the different ones, or is everyone else? Naw, it’s not us. It’s them!

I think part of what makes Michiganders unique is that we are a bit tougher because we are used to working for what we have. So much so that we don’t even think of it as uncommon anymore. We battle the winter showdrifts just to start our car. Most everyone I know from Michigan had a summer job in high school. I don’t think any teenagers have summer jobs in California (well, they probably do but they subcontract it out to those lovely Guatemalans).

In all honesty, I think what drives me nuts about California folk is that odd sense of self-loathing entitlement. There’s a head-scratcher --- self-loathing entitlement. It’s the kind of thing that only a skateboarding emo-teen can pull off while he complains about how terrible his terrible life is as his mom picks him up in her Range Rover in the Whole Foods parking lot. No doubt, it’s funny as hell to see for the first time, but after a while, I start to feel bad for them. I kinda get the feeling that these people are …trapped. They have been so convinced that California is the epicenter of cool that they don’t know how to exit when they realize how bored and unhappy they are.

To be fair, this affliction is by no means unique to California. I am sure you can think of a host of other places (*cough cough* New York) that seem to have that same attitude.

Oddly enough, that’s the upside of being an economic expat. Because of the job situation, I have seen more of the country and the world, looked at it rationally and objectively, and weighed the benefits of various places to call home. Only then can I really look back and say with confidence that I again choose to be a Michigander. That through it all, I most want the circle to end where it began: in Michigan. Those are my people. That is my home.

So, am I being unfair to the unChosen People who aren’t from Michigan? What have you noticed in your new compatriots since you left Michigan? Leave a comment below.


  1. I would have to agree. After the newness factor quickly faded out in Washington DC, I found myself seeking out other Michiganders. My circle of friends out here consists largely of fellow Michigan expats who similarly remain down to earth. They aren't concerned where or with whom they are seen with, but are happy anyplace with the Tigers game on and Bells Oberon on tap.

  2. Haha, you captured the CA crowd perfectly with your anecdote about the skater. It's been since Christmas '09 since I've been home, but I am looking forward to getting back for the Fall. In the meantime, I'll keep checking your blog.
    D from San Diego

  3. A while back, I met a young professional from West Virginia who had been working for a couple years in DC. She was from the country in WV, and while she liked DC, she had a 5 year plan. Make as much money as possible in DC and head back to WV with a nest egg. Cost of living is lower and her family was there. I wonder if this is a growing trend for our generation? Work for 5 to 10 years in a big city, and then retire back home.

  4. They don't know how to fix cars, nor do they have the knowledge to NOT TAKE THE CAR TO THE DEALERSHIP!!!!! Unless it is under warrenty, of course. Living in Michigan, we did have to work harder especially when it came to our cars. We had to deal with salt every winter that few other states have to deal with. THat said, and with GM everywhere, we learned to deal with a broken down car, tie it up, screw it here, have your neighbor help you, but not spend your life savings on a new water pump. Also, people in Michigan will actually know what a water pump is, and have tools to fix it. When I moved to Georgia, I carried this Michigan car knowledge and know how with me, however, it was soooo hard to find someone to help you, or who had the tools, or who had even heard of a junkyard, let alone find a junk yard, and Jiffy Lube doesn't count. I will say, though, that Michigan was spared the ever dreaded yearly emissions test which put a lot of poor car owners out of business or driving dirty. I am proud to say, that although junkers, I owned close to 20 cars before I moved out of state at the age of 22.

  5. Enjoying this site. Although I have to say I identify with Flint, where I grew up, far more than Michigan as a state. What does a kid from Flint have in common with someone from Grand Rapids or the U.P.? In many cases, not much.

    And there are probably more former Michiganders living in California than there are current Michiganders living in Michigan. It's always a tricky thing to define Californians. San Francisco, for example, has never had more native-born residents of the city than outsiders who moved there from other places. Never. So non- San Franciscans have always outnumbered the so-called locals who were born there. Go to the Kezar Pub near Golden Gate Park when the Wings are playing, and you feel like you're in Hamtramck

  6. At least 2 of the contributors to this blog are from Flint, but we are not yet 30. Unfortunately, we we just coming of age as Flint was really going from bad to worse. Almost all of what remained of the glory was gone or going, and our memories of childhood in Flint did not include any experiences of Flint being a great city. By the time we were old enough to pay attention, it was pretty bad. I think most Michiganders can at least identify with "going up north," attending Michigan colleges, rooting either for the Wolverines or Spartans, and shaking our respective heads at the Lions. There is also something very Michigan about heading to a Tigers game.

    Glad to see you caught hold of our site, Gordy! I've been enjoying yours for over a year now.

  7. I think the key is that even though you grow up on one side of the state (another Flintoid here) you probably had a chance to venture to other parts of this truly beautiful state. Whether it be the thumb, the west side or the U.P., Michigan has as much beauty as California. I have lived in CA and FL since graduating from CMU in 1984, and I for one, would go back to MI if a position would take me there. Ask most Michiganders and Detroit sports fans, and their answer is it is in the blood. I can't help it, it is ingrained.

    DH (Kearsley '80)