September 2011


The Upper Midwest (Almost to 48!)

Ah, it occurs to me that I will soon visit my 48th state, and before I do, I want to knock off my key memories of the rest of the country.

So, starting with Wisconsin, my main memory is visiting the site of Little House in the Big Woods, another Laura Ingalls Wilder stop – I went there with my Mother and Father – its just outside the town of Pepin, Wisconsin. I think the books play such a huge role in my memory because, as I remember, the Little House in the Big Woods was the first book my Mom made me read aloud to her. Going and seeing the actual site of the book was a big thing – and comparing the description to reality, well – it helps me appreciate the world that I live in today.

Realize this: as much as we might complain about the service and comfort of flying from Berlin to the United States – in the amount of time it took me to get from Berlin to Indianapolis last week, had I been living when Laura Ingalls Wilder was a kid, the trip would barely have started, and it certainly would have been a lot more expensive.

Meanwhile, for Illinois, there are a plethora of memories: going to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry with my father as we travelled between Denver and upstate New York and visiting Springfield. None of my memories really leap out at me as being huge – rather I have, generally speaking, a really positive impression of the state—but not its government.

Next door is Indiana, where I am, right now. Needless to say, I have a lot of memories. Not sure which is most vivid, but I do sort of remember the night that Bobby Knight was fired – and later seeing the infamous (at least then) video of the protest at Showalter Fountain where one of the chants was “Tits for Bobby” – and then girls would flash. Those were the days.

Michigan has relatively weak memories—I crossed the state several times with my Dad, but I don’t remember much. I also have been to the Detroit/Wayne County Airport more times than I care to remember, but I only left the airport once, with Mike. We had dinner and then he returned me to the airport.

Ohio is another state that I crossed – as a kid I remember going through Cleveland with my Father, but we never stopped – what I do remember is that there was a point on I-90 where the highway made a very sharp, almost 90-degree, turn. I wonder if it’s still there. The other clear Ohio memory is in Cincinnati, where I visited the National Underground Railroad Museum, only to realize the next morning that the museum hadn’t taught me anything.

Going east is Pennsylvania. Early memories consist of driving up I-90, past Erie, to New York with my Dad. More solid memories are of a recent trip to Pittsburgh, where I learned a ton about Andy Warhol (hadn’t realized he was from there), and realized that the Pittsburg of Queer As Folk fame didn’t match reality. (Well, I knew that before I got there!)

Maryland is a state I’ve had limited experience with – I’ve taken a train across it (the so-called high-speed Acela from DC to New York), and driving across the southern part of it going from Virginia to Delaware.

And… of course, Delaware. I’ve been to Dover—and driven around. I know I visited something there, but I cannot remember what. Going to Delaware was more just about saying I’ve been there.

Going north is New Jersey, which, when I was a kid, my Father informed me was essentially asphalt from edge to edge—despite having the nickname, “The Garden State” – nothing I’ve seen since has convinced me that my Father was wrong.

And last, for this segment, is New York: I’ve spent a lot of time there. New York City is an amazing place—I couldn’t even begin to do justice to my memories of the city—and upstate New York has some amazing places. My grandparents had a summer home north of Albany and I spent time there. I remember using my Grandmother’s manual typewriter one summer to write something – I think that my typing skills today are still quite harsh on keys, mainly because I started with the manual typewriter.

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