And Now, For Something Completely Different

by brandt

Why yes, that is an homage to Monty Python.

I’ve lived in Michigan almost my entire life. Ashley has lived in Utah her entire life. And when we found out that our job searching expedition was taking us to Michigan (which I’ll probably write about at a later date), there was trepidation for both parties.

Our first plan of attack was to move back in with my parents. While we will always be grateful that my parents were in a position to take us in, give us a place where we could have our own living quarters (their finished basement), and do little things like feed us while we were unemployed, I think it’s safe to say it was difficult for everyone. However, that wasn’t where my uneasiness came from. Perhaps I’m a bit odd, but it was a weird feeling for me, having moved across the country (and across the world) since I was 18-19 years old for schooling and what not, to come back to my hometown. And not just the hometown, but to move into the house where I grew up. And being the nostalgiac person that I am, it was a flood of really weird memories and emotions.

One of the oddest things I had to come to grips with was living in the hometown where I grew up as a kid and teenager, but looking at it through grown-up eyes. During my teen years, my entire life revolved around the high school. I played sports all 4 years of high school, I worked at the high school, and some times during the middle of winter my day would start at 5:30AM at the high school and not end until 9:30-10:00 at night, still at the high school. When we came back, doing things like just driving by the high school, or going to the local Steak and Shake where all the teenagers used to hang out, or going to the local movie theater gave me a second set of eyes to really see how much of a turd I was when I was 17 years old.

While I don’t want to speak for Ashley, I think she’ll agree with me (and probably change this if she doesn’t), but she was put in a position where she was taken from everything she’d ever known and plopped in this crazy state we call Michigan, in this crazy city we call Detroit, where there’s certain roads you don’t go down, where there’s as much diversity as Ellis Island, and more people on the road than in China (in her eyes). She was bombarded, and on top of all that, she was looking for a job in a city she didn’t know, with little to no networking contacts, and having to comprehend our strange Michigan way of life (“Why can’t you guys turn left anywhere? Why do you always make U-Turns!” “Why do your roads have 2 different names?! I was going to 15 Mile Road, and then it turned into Maple!” “Why do you call it ‘pop’! It’s soda!”)

That girl is a trooper for all the crap I’ve put her through. I think she’s destined for sainthood.

All that being said, we’ve now lived in my hometown for the past 19 months, and because I love lists, here’s a list of 5 things we’ve learned from living in Southeast Michigan.

1. People from outside of Detroit don’t like being associated with the city, except when it comes to sports teams and movies.

There’s so many good things outside of Detroit. For one, it smells wonderful. Second, you don’t have to worry about being shot. Third, the diversity is great (there’s a great Korean restaurant about 20 minutes from where we live, a great Mediterranean restaurant about 25 min from where we live, and Polish Town isn’t very far either). We are much different than Detroit. Don’t make the mistake of characterizing us like that. You won’t like us when we’re angry. We burn couches. And going along with that, I’m so sick of people referring to Detroit as “The D.” There’s 3 people that can get away with that, 2 of them are rappers and one is a rocker. Stupid frat-boy DJ’s on the local top 40 station talking about the NEWEST BUMPING CLUB IN DA D are ridiculous and probably have never been to a real ‘hood. I have. It’s not as exciting/alluring/appealing as they think. As a matter of fact, it is quite terrifying.

2. Ashley hates the snow, but Brandt is like a giddy school boy.

It’s beginning to get that time of year around here, when the weather fluctuates from about 40 degrees upwards of 60 degrees. While it throws many people off, us here in Michigan know that it’s the last push before winter. And winter means overcast skies, colder temperatures, shorter days, and SNOW. I have learned that this is the bane of Ashley’s existence. As a matter of fact, she told me just the other night that her version of heaven involves San Diego, a beach, and sun. I asked her if it also involved a tanned pool boy named Jorge, and she wasn’t impressed. For me, I can’t imagine life WITHOUT snow. No hockey! No sledding! No snow forts, no snowball fights, no skiing/snowboarding, no ice skating, and heck, I believe they don’t REALLY know how to celebrate Christmas in places that don’t get snow (Yes, California/Arizona,Nevada/New Mexico/Texas/Florida, I’m talking to YOU!).

3. Save Them Bottles!

I cannot belive I forgot. Living in Idaho for such a long time trained me to just recycle the bottles we had. And because we were living in student apartments, recycling wasn’t top priority. I’m embarrassed to say, we just pitched them. However, you would never do that in Michigan. Why?

Because Michigan has a 10 cent bottle return! While they do tack an extra 10 cents on to your drink of choice that comes in either bottle, can, or glass, those bottles add up. So you’re really not making any money, but it’s suprising how many people just toss the bottles, losing their 10 cent deposit. When I was a boy and wanted some money, I knew my parent’s would either not give it to me, or give me a list of jobs to do and they would pay me. However, the other option I had was to hop on my bike, bring a trash bag, and go through the houses being built and collect bottles and cans. We had a very new developing subdivision, and most of the contractors left at about 5:00 or 6:00. Depending on how long I was out collecting, I could legitmately come home with 10 dollars worth of bottles and cans (about 100). For an 11/12 year old kid? It was like I was a millionaire.

4. Animals and Roadkill and Roads, OH MY.

Without being too graphic, the big thing we have to worry about here is animals on our roads. I think we can both deal with stupid drivers who are talking on their phone, drinking their coffee, putting on makeup, shaving, and eating Chinese food at the same time. They’re easy. They have the mental ability to swerve and not purposefully run directly into you.

Animals have a vendetta.

As a matter of fact, because of the amount of deer in Michigan, there has to be PSA’s about wildlife on the roads, and how to avoid them (hint: don’t swerve, just keep going straight).

When we first got out here in May, Michigan was just about offically out of spring. The animals were coming out of hiding. They were getting bolder. And Ashley made mention to me multiple times that the animals were all suicidal here because there was so much road kill EVERYWHERE. Deer, possum, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, voles, you name it. I’m not saying the sides of the roads were lined with roadkill, but it was uncommon to take a drive anywhere and NOT see it.

And then there was the time that we were both heading to work in the morning. Ashley had left a little before I did. Usually, I’ll say my goodbye when I leave for work and not hear from her again until about lunch. It’s uncommon for her to call me in the morning. But about 15 minutes after we left, my phone rang. *Warning: Graphic Mental Image Ahead*
“Hello?”
“Did you see that!?!??!?!?!” she asked frantically.
“Yeah….that’s not what I want to see at 7 in the morning.”
“What was it?”
“A deer.”
“It looks like someone sacrificed an animal in the middle of the highway. That’s gross.”
“The worst part was it looks like it was just blasted to pieces. I mean, you just see hunks of meat, you can’t tell what is what.”
“I think the deer might have swallowed a bomb.  Wait….is that a leg?  Yuck. Yuck. Yucky. I’m hanging up now.”

Looks like the economy got so bad here, even the animals want out. Go ahead and cue that rimshot for me there, Youtube.

5. Michigan has been kicked and beaten up. We know that. But don’t mess with us. We’re tough as freaking nails.

I do love this state. As a matter of fact, who doesn’t take pride in their home state.

But Michigan has been through some rough times. Back in the 2000’s, when the auto industry was doing well, Michigan was a great place to live. But once that industry started going down, it started taking a lot of other pieces with it. Michigan’s economy is based on the auto industry, especially in southeast Michigan, and so we had to endure the bad name that a company like GM was getting. All the companies that depend on the auto industry were drying up, packing shop and getting out. Then the unemployment started in Michigan, and it hit the cities hard. And it turned a good blue collar place like Michigan into kind of a depressed ruthless dump, especially in the cities.

But don’t count us out. We’re Michigan. We know about our issues. But kind of like a family, only we’re allowed to talk about it. People not from here, who haven’t lived here, can’t really talk about Michigan and how bad it is. And it’s not just the economy. Yes, we’ve seen the University of Michigan’s storied football team take a huge tumble. And then there’s that other football team in the area that went 0-16 a few years ago. We know.

The most impressive thing about Michigan is our work ethic. Look at Ford. Look at General Motors. Resilient little buggers, aren’t they? That’s one of the best parts about this state. We may be down, but we’re not out.

Michigan T-shirt taken from Zazzle, bottle image taken from Wikipedia, hand image taken from Reware Vintage

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