Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Michigan Diaspora

It seems like I had some much to say, and then all of sudden I ran out.  I am not sure what is the cause of this latest drought.  I am sure it is just temporary and then I will again fill everyone's in boxes with numerous posts.  I have been thinking of a few thing, but nothing that would really fit together into a concise post.  Perhaps I should just make everyone suffer through my scattered braininess at times.  I am not sure.

I am from Michigan.  I have lived in Ohio for around 16 years.  Perhaps it has even been a little longer.  It seems no matter how long I live here, that I am still a Michiganian in my heart.  I would say that I am a member of a sadly growing phenomenon.  I would call this the Michigan Diaspora.  Diaspora essentially means scattering.  It was used to describe the state of the Jews after the exile, and the Irish after the potato famine.

During the heyday of the automobile industry, Michigan drew people from all over to man the assembly lines.  The auto industry has suffered an immense decline, and they was never anything to replace those jobs.  With the loss of jobs, the people of Michigan seem to be fleeing in all directions.  This is what I would call the Michigan Diaspora.  I have spent some time thinking about what it means to be from Michigan.  Each state has a character all its own.  I have been wracking my brain trying to think of the things that make Michigan different.  Is there a Michigan culture?  Will Michiganian transplant culture to the other places in the country they have fled?

There is definitely a distinct culture for residents of the U.P.  They commonly referred to as Yoopers, and live a completely different life than those of us from south of "the bridge".  They seem to even have their own language.  They have a unique way of talking, that you will not find in the lower peninsula.  Can the same be said about us trolls.  By that I mean those of us that live under the bridge.  I am not sure.  There are definitely a few thing that we do differently than they do here.  I will try to mention a few.

Michigan has a bottle deposit.  It may not seem like a big deal to full-grown adults, but for an economically disadvantaged youth it is a huge deal.  Bottle deposits are what allow kids who grew up like me to savor the good things in life.  By that I mean pop and candy.  I never got an allowance.  We never had a lot of money.  If the serious lack of funds wasn't enough, then there were four of us kids, and my only sister seemed to get more than her share of what money there was.  I suppose that is subject for another time.  Before all the Ipads and video games, we had bikes.  We would spend the majority of our summer break outside, and on those bikes.  You can really only ride around the same neighborhood so many times, before you get very bored.  We went pop bottle hunting.  We would ride the streets in our tiny little town, and wade into nasty ditches to fish out our treasure ten cents at a time.  We thought we were the greatest pop bottle hunters in the world.  When we had loaded bags of bottles, and had no way to carry any more, then we would head to the little party store in town and count our booty.  We would take the little bit of money that we had earned.  I mean earned, because sometimes we would pedal quite a ways from our house in our expeditions.  We would immediately blow through our treasure.  If we were lucky, then we would have enough money to get some ice cream bars, but if not then a nice NEHI would also really hit the spot.  Perhaps the problem of childhood obesity could be addressed if all kids spent every waking moments searching for pop bottles like I did as a kid.

Living in the Lansing area, we were not to far from either Lake Huron or Lake Michigan.  In the early spring, these delicious fish called smelt, will run up the rivers to spawn.  Intrepid sportsman will stand in those icy cold rivers with metal nets and fish them out by the garbage bag full.  A little cleaning, breading and frying and you will have a delicious Michigan dinner.  There has to be a science to smelt dipping.  It is a real hit or miss sport.  They seem to move in mass inland to spawn.  If you are early then you will come back wet, cold and hungry.  I remember my dad and his good friend decided to go smelt dipping one year.  I am pretty sure my dad had to purchase all his equipment for this particular trip.  That would include a pair of hip waders, a large metal net, and a fishing license.  The best time to smelt dip is in the early morning hours.  My dad and his buddy set out to one of the streams that drained into Lake Huron.  Two families stayed home and could not wait for a delicious meal of smelt the next day.  The next morning, the two of them returned.  We went out to meet them and to see just how many smelt they had brought home for us to clean.  We watched as the unloaded all their gear.  You could tell they were frustrated and tired.  The moment arrived.  They were finally ready to reveal the bounty of their harvest.  My dad pulled out a gallon milk jug.  They had cut the top off of it, and it was able to hold all of the fish they had caught.  With the look on their faces, we knew it was probably not a good idea to point out how few of us that amount of fish would feed.  The trip was a bust.  They had missed the run, and came back virtually empty-handed.  It was only a week or so later that my mom was in the store near our house.  A man came into the store and asked if anyone liked smelt.  My mom announced that she loved smelt.  The man led her to the back of his truck and gave her three kitchen bags of smelt.  When I got home from school we set up a card table in the front yard and cleaned fish until dark.  I don't think I ever want to clean a smelt again, but I will eat a ton of smelt.

I grew up in the Lansing area.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  I was not a fan of that other school.  I refer to it as Moo U, or little brother.  I was a Wolverine fan.  Perhaps it was because I was in the heart of enemy territory that I never got too worked up about the Michigan-OSU rivalry.  The only game that mattered to me was in early October.  The game when Michigan would prove repeatedly why they are so much better.  In many ways, I saw this game as a dividing line.  Pitting brothers against each other.  There was really only one important question to answer each and every fall.  Michigan or State.  Your answer could very well win you friends or bitter enemies.  Many people may watch no more football, than that one single game.  They will put all of their pride on the line.  I wonder the number of marriages and families ruined because someone cheered for the wrong team.  In the early stages of courtship, the most important question is not do you want kids, or how many, but Michigan or State.  I am sure many passions have been successfully extinguished, because a lover has been a fan from the wrong side of this great divide.  Ohio doesn't really have a in state rivalry like that.  Still bitter that Michigan let them steal Toledo, the Buckeyes transfer that bitterness every November to the grid iron.  There is just something very exciting about having your bitterest enemy live so incredibly close to you.  I think that Ann Arbor is a mere 90 some miles from East Lansing.  If you were to ask me some of the things that I miss about Michigan, then I would definitely say that bitter rivalry, and being in the midst of it come October.

Those are just a couple of things that have been running through my head.  I realize that it is a little off from my usual topics.  I just wanted to get something written.  Sometimes a block can be overcome by just writing and see where it goes.  If there are more out there that would classify themselves as part of the Michigan Diaspora, then I would love to see in the comments below your ideas of the things that make us different from the rest of the country.  I hope you enjoyed this.  God bless.

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