Sunday, July 18, 2010


"The Great Great Plains" is an article in my current Newsweek, with a map of 860 Midwestern cities with over 10,000 people.

I'm remembering my one-night-stand tours -- the great plains -- roads, hours and hours of driving, different times of the year -- rain, snow, summer, spring -- the utter tedium getting to each city -- the hectic confusion of arriving, finding accommodations, and setting up a show.

Skimming the names on the map, I'm picturing ... the theater, hotel/motel, diner, restaurant, stage-crew, party, committee that brought me there, and people -- sophisticated, friendly, old-fashioned, dull -- the way they talked, how they looked.

The Newsweek article discusses how these cities are getting to be more metropolitan, offering big-city clothes, theater, museums, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, education -- all the life-style capabilities of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

The Em Atlas is "experiential" -- each place is vivid, a real place to move to, if you want to do ... what? Maybe you want to grow, expand, be challenged, or perhaps you just want to adventure forth.

Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee -- noisy, huge theaters, boring hosts, expensive ... Columbus, Kansas City, Fort Wayne -- hard to navigate -- I got lost.

Nice-guys, good car-repair shops in St. Louis, Akron, Lansing, South Bend ... Cold, nasty weather in Green Bay, Davenport -- stuck in a snow drift in Des Moines -- driving during a tornado in Wichita.

Too many, too-too expensive motels/hotels in Peoria, Dayton, Bloomington, (Illinois & Indiana), but decent tourist homes in Rockford and Grand Rapids ... Don't know why, but I felt like an alien in Sioux Falls.

Friendly deans and college presidents in Michigan; also good shopping for shoes and tires ... Ann Arbor, Purdue (in Lafayette), everything overly computerized ... Bad show in South Bend, but bravos, hoots and whistles in Gary.

And more, more, more -- Fargo is great -- don't move to Muncie, or Fort Wayne -- Omaha is dusty -- skip Skokie and Evanston -- they're not what they're cracked up to be.

Consider spinning the globe and pointing -- heading where your finger lands. You make the mood. You make the possibilities -- but pick a college town -- that's where you'll find new ideas and old ideas, and much more communication.

My favorites in the "great great plains" -- St. Paul, Madison, Appleton, Dayton, Ann Arbor, Fargo, Iowa City, Columbia (Missouri), Lawrence, (Kansas).

(Montana, Idaho, and Colorado are great too --great looking, great feeling, great states to explore if you don't like the Midwest).

Do I really know all the cities on the list? Yes.

(Out of 100, I knew 73; applying the same math, I figure that out of 860 I'm reasonably expert on 645. I'm an excellent atlas -- been there -- done something-or-other there.)

Ask me, name a town and I'll give you my opinion.
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