This weekend, the MetroDad family is leaving the safe confines of Manhattan to embark on a journey to the Midwest. One of our friends is getting married in Indianapolis on Saturday so BossLady, the Peanut and I have decided to make a long weekend out of it.
Now, contrary to what one might expect from this denizen of the urban jungle, I'm actually a huge fan of the Midwest. Yes, I've experienced Southern hospitality. I've enjoyed the Frontier friendliness of the Wild West. And I lived in northern California for years so I know all about Pacific-coast passivity. But for me? I'll take the Midwest any day of the week. There's a genuinely wholesome and sincere niceness about Midwesterners that I always look forward to experiencing again. Maybe I'm just a cynical New Yorker but, in a way, Midwesterners always remind me of those really nice but naively innocent kids at camp...the boys who would never try a cigarette, the girls who never let you kiss them. I love that about them!
It's funny because the BossLady always makes fun of me for being a Manhattan snob. And I have to admit that she's probably right. When we were looking for an apartment years ago, I refused to even consider any of the outer boroughs. Even now, I venture into Queens only to watch my beloved Mets, eat Korean food or go to the airport. And the only time I ever visit Brooklyn is for my bi-annual visits to the world's greatest steakhouse. But though I may be a Manhattan snob and shun the outer boroughs, I have nothing but the warmest feelings for my fellow citizens in "that whole middle part of the country place."
Coming back from any visit to the Midwest, I always feel like a nicer person. Maybe it's due to the fact that day-to-day life there doesn't involve being shoved on the subway, getting cursed at on the streets or spending 20 minutes looking for a taxi. Dinner reservations don't need to be made a month in advance and road rage seems more like an aberration than a way of life. Unlike in other parts of the country, I always felt that Midwesterners were better able to appreciate the differences in people's lives. They seem to be less judgmental but, at the same time, moderately progressive. Also, aside from their general kindness, I always felt that Midwesterners were great at making you feel as if you were home. They truly are hospitable people. I love that about them. In fact, I like a lot of things about them. And while I might not be able to put my finger on it exactly, I know I always enjoy spending time there and I always look forward to going back.
I'll tell you a brief story about my father that might help explain why I think Midwesterners are the paragons of American idealism. Back in 1949, my father was essentially a street urchin on the streets of Korea. As a teenager, he had run away from home when his father informed him that since he was going to be a farmer, there was no use in continuing his education. My father, not wanting to live the life of a farmer and more than a little tired of getting his ass kicked by his father every day, decided he had no choice but to leave. Therefore, he became a teenage runaway. When the Korean War broke out, the South Korean government rounded up all the teenage street urchins and shanghaied them into the armed forces. My father was able to avoid them for weeks by hiding in the fields. But he was starving and eventually he needed to get some food. When he came out of the fields, he was caught and immediately forced to fight for the U.S. Army. Within 4 years, he actually rose through the ranks and ended up earning a Silver Star for his actions. But then the war ended. The U.S. troops were pulling out of Korea and my father was going to be forced to fend for himself again on the streets of Seoul. However, a kind and generous U.S. general from the Midwest took pity on my young father and decided he was going to do everything in his power to help him out. He arranged for my father to come to Iowa and become a U.S. citizen. My father was to live with an elderly woman in Des Moines and attend Drake University on an army scholarship. For my father, it's safe to say that this was a seminal life-altering event. At the time, he barely spoke any English. He'd never had a truly formal education. And he didn't have a single penny to his name. It must have been like landing on an alien planet for him. And though he struggled mightily and suffered deeply, he persevered and has achieved great success here. But without the kind-hearted generosity of a handful of Midwesterners, he (and subsequently I) would not be where he is today. Not only did they save his life but also they gave him the opportunity for a better one.
What more could one ask for? God bless the Midwest!