1. That “White Christmas” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be
Snow has a really good PR man. I’m talking Don Draper good. What you don’t see in the movies is that yeah, it’s pretty for the first day or so — then it gets pushed to the sides of the road and piled in the corners of parking lots in ugly, heaping grey mounds, and what’s left on the pavement soaks up filth from the treads of countless tires and turns into gruesome brown sludge that sucks at your shoes and stains the cuffs of your trousers as you mince your way through it on the way to your front door. And furthermore, since most places of business don’t give their employees the day off when it snows, it’s a sure bet that every single time a decent snowfall hits a few dozen people die just trying to make it into work. Let’s not even talk about what the aforementioned brown sludge does to the upholstery in your car.
And with snow, of course, comes cold. Sure, they’ve got it worse in places like Alaska or the North Pole, places where the sun only comes up twice a year. But it’s pretty damn bad in the flyover states just the same. I’m not talking about chilly, maybe-I-shoulda-worn-my-heavy-coat-after-all kinda cold; I’m talking hard, painful, bitter cold, the kind that makes your fingers turn to ice, leeches the warmth out of ‘em right through your gloves, after five minutes, and leaves them red and raw and stinging at the touch of warm water after ten. The kind of cold that freezes your car doors shut for days on end, and turns a bucket of hot water thrown in the air into snow and ice by the time it comes sprinkling back to Earth.
2. And about those amber waves of grain…
Ah, the pungent odor of manure emanating from the corn fields as you drive down a stretch of country road between the next sign of civilization and the last one. And watch out for that massive piece of farm equipment, by the way, its green and yellow bulk blocking both lanes as it lumbers ever so slowly down the highway. That ten-minute drive to town just got a whole lot longer.
And you’re no better off living in town, by the way. The wide place in the road where I grew up had a dog food factory just outside the city limits, and that place emitted a sickly-sweet caramel odor that started to sink into your pores after a while. To this day, I can’t go near anything butterscotch.
3. It’s true what they say about hillbillies.
John Deere caps. Chewin’ tobacco. Pick-up trucks. Confederate flags and Romney signs flying on every front lawn. Billboards on the highway quoting Bible verse, while fifty-foot crosses and flaming hundred-foot Jesus statues promise hellfire and damnation.
Whoever called the southern swath of the Midwest the Bible Belt wasn’t kidding. This part of the country is deep red. I leave the room whenever President Obama appears on the television, because I know somebody’s gonna start bitching. Everyone I know went bugnuts when that guy got fired from Duck Dynasty for comparing adult, consensual gay sex to bestiality. My mom still believes Barack Obama is a Muslim — or a fanatical anti-white Christian, depending on the day. She also wasn’t too thrilled when he invited that black dude and the white cop who harassed him to the Oval Office for tea.
4. It’s not much better in the cities.
We don’t have the big cultural centers like New York or London or L.A., but we’ve got Chicago and Minneapolis; an aging giant or two, like Detroit; and a few respectable mid-sized cities, places like Cleveland and Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Kansas City and St. Louis. The cities are better — you’ve got shopping malls and restaurants and movie theaters, book stores and coffee shops, and even the occasional Obama sticker glimpsed on the back of a windshield as a car drives by. And you hardly ever get stuck driving behind farm equipment.
There are still trade-offs, however. Most of the downtown areas are economically depressed; every major city in Ohio has a “downtown [insert city name here] partnership,” a bunch of cookie-cutter little nonprofits dedicated to trying to revive the downtown business districts. Too bad most of the existing businesses can’t be bothered to get involved. The city I’m from, Dayton, even has a program where they offer folks big discounts to open up businesses downtown, just for the sake of filling some of those empty storefronts, but most of the shops close after a month or two. There’s just not enough business.
Ultimately, the Midwest is just not the stronghold of solid Middle American values portrayed in shows like Smallville, nor even the fount of colorful characters seen on the likes of Picket Fences, Twin Peaks, or Northern Exposure. It’s a bland place populated by bland people, many of whom are absolutely terrified of anyone or anything that happens to be different than they are.
Also, there are no jobs.