Fifty years ago this week I was scrubbing pots, mopping floors and wrapping silverware for United Airlines on the night shift at the Honolulu Airport. Two months earlier I hadn't been west of Chicago. My escape from the Midwest was a decisive one. I needed a challenge and I wanted out from under the constant scrutiny that comes with living close to hundreds of relatives. I was allergic to Michigan air, freshly cut grass, ragweed and my stepfather (who I think was a descendant of ragweed). Ocean air, Desert air and Mountain air have all been very good to me since I left behind the humid, pollen-filled Midwestern air.
Don't get me wrong, I love visiting Michigan and all of the hub-bub that goes with such trips...but no, I wouldn't want to move back there. I can breathe in the West. I can be a little different (liberal). I don't own air conditioning or a land line, I still commute to work on a bicycle. I survived thirteen years without owning a car. I didn't decide to have offspring until I was thirty-nine. I was a "strange duck"... a big kid who had no interest in playing football, shooting guns or snagging fish.
I was the first in my family to graduate from high school or college. I took no scholarships or financial aid packages and I didn't go to college to avoid going to Asia to shoot at "Communist sympathizers". My number in the first Draft Lottery was 366...last, beyond last...no pressure to stay in college. I went to Grad School, got an advanced degree in Education while working several part time jobs. I don't think I would have been given the space to do that had I remained in working class Michigan...there would have been too much pressure to get a "real job".