As folks who read this blog know, I'm somewhat ambivalent about the Northwoods. I'm uncomfortable with the conservativism, the overwhelming whiteness, and the pervasive religiousity here. I miss museums of other than logging, a variety of familiar landscapes, a variety of foods and people. On the other hand, I'm grateful for a job, a home I can afford on my academic salary, and for mostly good, interesting students and colleagues.
For the past couple days, I've been listening to endless little digs about the Northwoods. Jokes about broken down barns and tiny airports. Comments about two-lane highways. Questions about how people in small towns bear to live there, and fingers pointed at people in blaze orange.
If I unabashedly loved the Northwoods, I'd comment back. But I don't.
If I hated everything about the Northwoods, I'd join in the bashing, I guess. But I don't.
I'm ambivalent, and it hurts to hear my home put down, especially by someone who doesn't live here. I mean, it's one thing for a local to comment on the pervasive deer yard art, but another thing when an outsider does.
To the locals, of course, I'll never belong here. I can never comment on the deer yard art as a Northwoodsian to a true Northwoodsian.
When I was a kid, I had a nickname I loathed. And when I say loathed, I mean loathed, detested, abhored. You get the point. When I was in college, I changed the name I used, both because I also hated my given name, and because I was trying to avert a lifetime of the loathed nickname.
The nickname hasn't really been used for 20 years now.
Except, it seems to have reappeared.
So what's the point of pointedly using a nickname you know someone loathes? I mean, why would you do it to a kid? And why would you do it to an adult after so many years?
Seriously, it's not that funny.
And why do I still loathe the nickname? (Other than that it's butt-ugly? I mean, really, it's hard to think of an uglier combination of sounds.) But I still have the same strong, gut-wrenching angry feelings when I hear it.
There is not enough bourbon. (And yet, compared to most Shakespearean families, mine's a gem.)