. I know where YOU live …. Huh? …. No, really, I know where you live. …. You live “where the cool people live!”. …. All of us live “there”. …. I’ve lived in six metro areas. Everyone of’em had the same collection of demographic stereotype communities comprising the whole. ….. Today class we will study “Geographic Absolutes” and, yes, this WILL be on your final exam.
A buddy and I germinated this theory in one of our all-night IHOP sessions back in the late 70s. He took it globally with “for all of you in Rio Linda”. Left-wing, Right-wing or Hot-wing everyone figured out that Rio Linda must be a suburb in some “metro area” which had a local rep for incredibly clueless inhabitants who were “a few fries short of a Happy Meal”. In fact, Rio Linda is indeed Sacramento’s version of Garner or Gastonia or Mesquite or Snellville.
Whether you live in The Triangle, The Triad, Metrolina, The Metroplex, ChicagoLand, The Valley of The Sun, or “Greater Somewhere” you know all about places like Rio Linda and the people who live there. ….. they are “all abuncha ____ “
I did not grow up in Greater Anywhere. I grew up a town of 20,000 that was a one-day horseback ride from dozens of other towns between 15-40,000. A one-day horseback ride is “about 25 miles”. Look at a map of Eastern NC or about any of the original thirteen colonies and see how the towns are spaced out …. about 25 miles apart = a one-day horseback ride. “Wow, I never realized that.” It gets better.
Not being “a metro area” we did not have a defined SMSA but we DID have a whizbang chamber of commerce phrase – “The Magic Mile”. Thats how far it was down Queen St from The Courthouse to the top of “Queen St hill” where our soap box derby was held each year. Both that phrase and the soap box derby (and me) are long gone now but the Courthouse and “Queen St hill” are still there…. and still “a magic mile” apart give or take allowing for shrinkage due to “global warming”. “There” was THE best place to grow up there ever could be…. IF you were a middle-class white kid which I was.
Although not “in a metro area” our town was, of course, “where the cool people live” and our surrounding neighboring towns (who we played in high school sports) housed a variety of evolutionary throwbacks and cretinous humanoids ….. especially Jacksonville with its “Jarheads” at Camp Lejeune. I have since spoken with natives of Greenville, New Bern, Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Goldsboro, Wilson, and Little Washington and learned those poor misguided shlubs all thought THEIR TOWN was “where the cool people lived”. Imagine that? Wonder if those folks would like to buy a bridge in Brooklyn?
Through the 70-80s the hunter-gatherers & tobacco farmers began to congregate around “big cities”. Sociologists attribute this migration to the realization that sitting on one’s duff and shuffling paper in an air-conditioned office is preferable to croppin’ tobacco in 100 degree heat. Heretofore unknown ailments like acid-reflux, ulcers, carpal tunnel, road rage and corporate back-stabbing soon began to appear as America moved from a rural agrarian culture to a suburban corporate culture.
Another fascinating factoid ….. the growth of “the South” and its sprawling metro behemoths such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston et al was ignited NOT by BBQ, college football, Jeff Foxworthy, or J.R. Ewing ….. but rather by a man named Willis Carrier who in 1902 learned how to condition air. Willis became wealthy and had a dome in Syracuse NY named in his honor.
NOTE: NEVER confuse Willis Carrier with “Atta Boy Dave” Lennox or “the Maytag Repairman”. Trust me …. don’t.
106 years later as you sit in gridlock in Spaghetti Junction, North Central Expressway, Southwest Trafficway, I-77, I-40, or some “beltline” think kindly of Ol’ Willis Carrier …. without whose invention you would be living in a bucolic little village somewhere “where everybody knows your name”. I digress ….
I’ve lived in five “metro areas” ….. Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, Kansas City, and Boston. Yes, that’s seven. It was a test to see who was paying attention. That mélange of life experiences led to the creation of The Four Geographical Absolutes. Pizza, BBQ, and beer may vary from metro area to metro area but the following elements NEVER change ….
- WE have THE most changeable WEATHER. If ya don’t like the weather in _____, just wait five minutes and it will change. ….. and “our local weather guy” never gets it right.
- WE have THE world’s worst DRIVERS. Nobody in ____ uses their turn signal and the first snowflake sends them all into a catatonic stupor. Our local DOT idiots are idiots and time all the traffic lights wrong.
- OUR LOCAL POLITICIANS in ____ are THE worst bunch of dummies, crooks, thieves, brigands, nincompoops and no-accounts on Earth.
- OUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER in _____ is THE worst excuse for a fishwrapper I’ve ever seen. They never get it right and they keep screwing around with the comics. (NOTE: This Absolute will soon go away as newspapers go away)
The Corollary to the above is the “Where We Used To Live” Absolute. “Where We Used To Live” had none of the above problems plus the pizza, BBQ, bagels, and local sports teams were MUCH BETTER than “here”. Overcoming this corollary is a major step to achieving a fictitious mental state known as “enjoying your life”.
I have heard the four absolutes delivered in a southern drawl, a midwest twang, and a Boston brogue among others. If I moved to Seattle, Minneapolis or Denver tomorrow I’m confident I would hear it again. ….. and every mutha-lovin’ one of those areas “has a Rio Linda” all its own.
Not only do they have “a Rio Linda” they have the following metro demographic communities (in no particular order):
- Where the hoitty toitty live ….. the multi-generational “city-father” establishment (aka The Silverspoons!). Their neighborhood is “an enclave” and “their country club” has a longer waiting list than for Packer season tickets.
- Where the hoi polloi live. Hoi Polloi and hoitty toitty are very different species but often confused due to the duplication of “hoi”.. “Hoi Polloi” are Average Joes & Janes …. White collar working class yahoos who burn midnight oil wearing corporate shackles hoping their children might turn out to be hoitty toitty or maybe marry one…. State guvmint “workers” tend to be hoi polloi.
- Rednecks & NASCAR People …. Self explanatory and usually adjoining “Rio Linda”. “Rio Linda” is like the “them idgits over there” to the NASCAR people. “These people” would be “the great unwashed” if you were a hoi polloi. The hoi polloi AND the NASCAR people (and everyone else) are “the great unwashed” to the hoitty toitty.
- The Nuthouse …. We call it Derm. You call it something else. It’s where all the weird bizarre crap happens. If the headline in the local metro fishwrapper says “Satanic Ritual Gets Out of Hand” or “DA Takes His Guitar and Leaves” or “Local Skank Named City Manager” …. The dateline is ALWAYS “over yonder in ____ “
- The Nouveau Riche …. Tacky City proving that even if one can afford a silk purse, one can still look like a sow’s ear. In Charlotte it’s called Piper Glen. In The Triangle its Wakefield. Back in the glory week of the dot-com phenomenon these areas sprung up like toadstools after a summer rain. Amway Double Diamonds, Lottery Winners, Pro Athletes and Colombian Drug Lords reside side by side with dueling 5-car garages, ostentatious yard art and lots of non-regional vegetation in little random pods. The kids drive Hummers and the faux-tanned trophy wives sip mojitos while gazing lustfully at the Honduran pool boys.
- Where “the damn Yankees live” …. This segment is regionally specific to “below the Mason-Dixon Line”. Homeowners Associations are in constant constipated conflict over shades of beige and mailbox designs. “They” truly are “all abuncha ___” and stick out like exactly what they are when they visit The Farmers Market on Saturdays to mingle with “the Mayberry people”. Up North “where the southerners live” is called “the South”.
- Where you and I live ….. aka “the best of all the rest” somehow know to assemble around us like swallows to Capistrano. “Cool people” have an inner GPS that directs them to other “really cool people”. If you have to ask you probably don’t really belong. It’s Lake Woebegone …. “All the men are handsome & successful …. All the women are June Cleaver or Donna Reed…. And all the kids are well above average …” If we’re not all in church on Sunday it’s because we’re “at da beach”. Lots of chocolate labs named Trevor and everyone has a flat screen and everyone is an alum from “a cool school”. Welcome to My World. (except we have a cat instead of Trevor The Lab).
For all you folks in Rio Linda …. “Lab” is short for Labrador which is a breed of dog and also someplace “up north somewhere”.
Where is Spaghetti Junction?
The Culligan Man sold water softeners. I never understood the concept of “soft water” …. nor how to “tack” a sailboat. I am content that I probably never will.
Wow …. Did Cocoa Puff impress those Euros or what! Such discerning adulation they usually reserve for mega-stars such as David Hasselhoff and Jerry Lewis.
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