Thursday, March 3, 2011

Living In the Mitten

I have lived in Michigan virtually my whole life. I really like it here, even with the bad economy (which, it must be said, hasn't always been the case). Up North, where I mainly grew up, it is really quite beautiful, with abundant beautiful lakeshore scenery (and the corresponding beautiful beaches), and wooded wilderness. Northern Michigan has one National Park - Isle Royale, in the middle of Lake Superior (it's actually considerably closer to Canada than to any land in the US) - and two National Lakeshores (which, apparently, don't quite rise to the level of being National Parks) - the Pictured Rocks, along the Lake Superior shore, and Sleeping Bear Dunes, in the northwest Lower Peninsula, on Lake Michigan.

In actual fact, Michigan can be roughly divided into three parts: the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, which is the most urban/industrial part of the state, but also the most agricultural (over 90% of Michigan's population lives in the southern Lower Peninsula, and nearly half in the three counties around Detroit); the northern half of the Lower Peninsula, which is mostly wooded, and has a heavily tourist economy, especially along the lakeshore (a hundred years and more ago, it was a lumber-based economy, but not anymore); and the Upper Peninsula (UP), which is even wilder and more sparsely-populated than the northern LP. Once upon a time, the UP economy was built on copper and iron mining, and lumber; there's still some mining going on, but the economy is way more tourist-based than it used to be.


We Michiganders (or Michiganians; we haven't really decided which), at least us denizens of the Lower Peninsula (the Yoopers call us 'trolls', 'cuz we live 'below the bridge' - ie, the Mackinac Bridge, which spans the strait between the two peninsulas; get it?), have an odd habit. Because of our state's unique geographic shape, we've taken to using the back of our left hand (or, conversely, the palm of our right; just so long as the thumb is to the 'east') as a handy (nyuk!) pocket-map of our state. Detroit, for example, is roughly at the base of the thumb; Mackinaw City is the tip of the middle finger; Traverse City is the little notch between the tip of the pinky-finger, and the ring-finger; Lansing is roughly in the middle; and so on. Jen's hometown is roughly the first knuckle of the thumb, and mine is the first knuckle of the index finger.

(Lest my Yooper friends feel all slighted, I should add that it is also possible to do a half-decent map of the UP with the palm of the left hand, if you fold the pinky finger over, and turn your hand sideways, so your fingers run 'east/west'. Then the Keweenaw Peninsula is the thumb, Marquette is roughly the base of the index finger, Whitefish Point is the tip of the index finger, Sault Ste. Marie is near the tip of the middle finger, and St. Ignace is near the tip of the ring finger.)

All of which, as far as I can tell, is just completely bizarre to residents of other states. When my family moved to the Chicago area two months before my high-school graduation, my fellow-students at my temporary new school were eager to learn about the 'new kids'. "Where are you from?" they'd ask.

"Michigan," we'd tell 'em.

"Where in Michigan?"

And we'd hold up our left hands, palm facing away from us, and we'd point to the first knuckle of our index finger. "Right there," we'd tell 'em. And they'd look at us like we'd just said we were from Uranus. "What the hell are you doing?" was not at all an uncommon response.

And so we'd tell 'em that, you know, Michigan is shaped like a mitten, and so it's handy (nyuk!), and kinda cool, to use our hand as a map. And they'd nod, and say, "Oh; yeah, I guess it is." And then they'd say, "that's really weird; don't do that anymore."

Well, you know, excuuuuuse me. . .


So, last summer, when I came across this T-shirt, I just had to have it. . .


And Happy Birthday to me! (and to Suldog, yesterday)

Sweet 55 and never been kissed (OK, that last part isn't really true. . .)


  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! And high five. A mitten high five. :)

  2. Have you seen the mittens with a map of the state on them? Kind of fun.
    Happy birthday!

  3. Flutter - Thanks! And a high five back atcha!

    For a while I thought it was gonna be you and me and the crickets. . . ;)

    Schweeney - Wow, a blast from the past!

    I don't think I've seen those mittens. But, it's kinda an obvious idea, isn't it?

    Thanks for stopping and saying hello!

  4. Happy birthday! Yay, to MI, as well- excellent shirt, too!

  5. Sailor - Thanks! Of course, now it means that I'm closer to 60 than I am to 50. . .

    And, hey, Schweeney - are these the mittens you were talkin' about? Pretty cool!

  6. could have sworn i read and commented on this but it seems to be gone now. a blooger mystery.

    anyway, happy belated birthday. LOVE the shirt. while i am proud to be from PA i have to admit you have a state shape that is way more fun!

    looking good in the shirt :) here's to many more happy, healthy birthdays.

  7. Hi, Lime! Aw, shucks, thanks for the b-day wishes. . .

    Well, you could do a kind of sideways hand-map of PA, with a short stubby little 'thumb' where Erie is. . . ;)

  8. Ok, what the heck is going on with Blogger? It's showing me a Lenten post which doesn't appear and so I head over to your blog and I never received notice of this post!

    Anywho....HAPPY BELATED Birthday! Hope it was a happy one! And I think that having a state in the shape of a mitten is a very handy thing. Esp. in winter :*

  9. Bijoux - Sorry - I was putting together the 'Lenten' post last night, and checking to see how it would look in 'final' form. But that should only have lasted a few minutes, and gone away 'til next week. And I noticed that a few blogs that update their blogroll never put this one at the top of the list. So, I'm as mystified as you are. . .

    But thanks - it was a very good birthday. Since it was a weekday, and people had multiple conflicts in the evening, we had all the kids (including the three who don't live w/ us) over for breakfast. It is an ongoing source of joy for me, to see how much our kids enjoy being together (I'll sorta gloss over how much they fight/bicker). . .

  10. Hey Craig,

    They were kind of like that but the cool part was that they had retractable mitts so you could free your fingers for higher level tasks if need be. They also listed MI cities. I googled but didn't find a precise replica. I still rue the day I misplaced them. Very handy.
    I should surface more often, but I'm always lurking, I enjoy reading your blog quite a bit.

  11. Well, Hey, Craig! Happy Birthday!

    (All the best folks are born in early March.)

  12. Schweeney - Lurk all you want. Surfacing is even better. . . ;)

    Suldog - See, that's what I'm sayin'. My Grandpa and one of my sons (3M) were also born in the single-digits of March. . .