Friday, October 06, 2006

dispatch from state college, 2

I gave my talk today unshaven and in my shortsleeve shirt and jeans. The talk was a comment on a paper about evolution, and I made some comment about my luggage not having evolved enough to understand that the shortest path from Boston to State College was connecting through Kentucky. Every other male who spoke wore a jacket and most wore ties, and I hadn't planned for or packed either, so perhaps it is just as well that rather than being somewhat underdressed I raced to the bottom and wore the clothes that had adorned me through a long travel day the day before. If you are going to dress down, dress down to the ground, Rogaine.

The talk went okay. I did the thing where I talk too fast, but the coherent version of that habit, not the incoherent version where I am mostly just a frustrated twitchy word puddle by the end.

My luggage had not arrived after my talk but did arrive after I returned from dinner. Hooray, shouts a collective olfactory chorus.

Penn State's campus is pretty, but the Nittany Lion Inn has the most confusing layout of any small hotel I have ever been to in my life. It reminded me of being stuck in some "You are in maze, with twisty passages all alike" computer adventure game when I was a kid, where you just wander around without even the aspiration of forming a mental map of the place. The hotel staff are all college students who are almost unsettlingly nice, which undermines my belief that Midwesterners are the most authentically well-meaning people in the country, and would yours as well if you weren't one of those people who thinks Pennsylvania is part of the Midwest.

24 comments:

A+ said...

I seem to recall Astrid Jane getting into an argument with someone about whether or not PA was part of the midwest. But I can't remember who the person was, and I also can't remember who thought what. Was it you, Jeremy?

Lucy said...

It's confusing enough that the midwest itself is barely west; how the heck is PA supposed to be anything other than eastern?
I'm glad the talk went well and you got your stuff back.

Anonymous said...

Midwest begins west of Columbus, Ohio (IMHO)

TheInternetDog said...

Pennsylvania has direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and was one of the Original Thirteen Colonies. In no possible is it part of the Midwest.

Gwen said...

I always thought the Midwest starts once you cross the Mississippi. Am I alone on this? It never occurred to me to lump states like Ohio or PA or Illinois in that category. But then, I come from one of those families where anything past the eastern Oklahoma border is "back east" and therefore laughable.

Anonymous said...

Western Pennsylvania is already the Midwest, as is all of Ohio, and much of western New York state. Drive all the way across Pennsylvania sometime and you'll see. The boundary is around Altoona.

You can tell by the willingness of strangers to make eye contact and conversation.

Barry

Anonymous said...

I agree with Barry on the mid-PA boundary. For example, just look at data from the Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy: http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html
Most midwesterners (and those in Western PA) say "pop." Most easterners (and those in Eastern PA) say, "soda" ("soda," obviously, pleases the gods).

I think the Nittany Lion Inn is quite old and has had additions built onto it rather haphazardly over the years.

Tom Volscho said...

That sounds like a typical Jeremy Freese presentation. A bit disheveled, but always many good points, high-quality logic, and other tidbits of information I never would have thought of.


the western p.a. thing seems true to me as I have driven from ct to sw pa about 11-12 times in the past 4 yrs

Hazy Dave said...

If it's not the Midwest, what the hell is Penn State doing in the Big 10? Somebody's got some damn explaining to do.

Anonymous said...

Don't nobody tell Hazy Dave there's 11 teams in the Big 10 either.

Would blow his mind.

Anonymous said...

Why is it Penn State? Pennsylvania isn't a state, it's a commonwealth. Should it be Penn Commonwealth?

dorotha said...

i wish all of you northeasterners would just shut the hell up. the problem is that "midwest" is used as a pejorative term. like everyone in the midwest is a hick. here's the thing: there are places in the midwest that rock the freaking hell out of places in the northeast. chicago, for example, is better than 10,000,000 connecticuts combined. i was born in connecticut and, though my parents always called me a connecticuter, my friend henry got it right when, after i told him that new haven was a dump, he started calling me a dumpling. yeah, i was born a dumpling but raised a texan. and my grandmother called me an expatriate when i moved out to new haven again as an adult. jonathan richman may miss the land where he was born, and that is all well and good with me. i think, unless we loathed our childhoods, we all tend to like our homes.

point: i don't like new haven, but some people do, so i should shut it. afterall, i had some awesomely awesome eggplant parms when i lived there. and you can't get those in texas.

Anonymous said...

I thought all hicks came from Texas.
-New England Native

Anonymous said...

All five sexes live in Texas. -Anne Fausto-Sterling

the jeff said...

everything east of California is the midwest. There are some concessions made for Las Vegas, but besides that...it's all midwest until you get to PA or NY. It's science, and therefore cannnot be questions.

Oh-- and the staff is unsettlingly nice because they will get fired if they aren't. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

"You are in maze, with twisty passages all alike"

Are you referring to Zork, Jeremy?

Anonymous said...

And then, just think how far you must travel to reach the mideast. Then you get to the far east and must go farther east to reach the west, which is California. And go farther east and you're in midwest again. Twisty maze all over again ....

dorotha said...

New England Native - some people do think that all hicks come from texas. some people think all assholes come from new england. my point is that all of those people are wrong. anyway, weigh in if you like.

by the way, i've been told by people from maine that connecticut is not part of new england. if there is a distinction, it is lost on the rest of the country. it is also lost on the people who writewikipedia articles. as someone who may or may not be a Native New Englander, i'm kind of confused. does anyone who is a New England Native want to weigh in?

dorotha said...

ooooh. i forgot to mention that, in addition to freaking amazing eggplant parms, new haven has some great pizza. and i fully support the claim that new haven invented the pizza.

i don't, however, understand why one burger joint near campus served a "texas burger" that had a fried egg on top of the meat. i swear we don't eat that in texas.

rps said...

In Holland, there is a line of frozen pizzas that includes the "Texas Pizza." In this case, "Texas" indicates simply that it is very, very big.

Anonymous said...

Dorotha:
And you BELIEVED them? Ay-yah .... (groaned, with hand to forehead).
Native New Englander

Anonymous said...

Much of CT is a suburb of NYC and, thus, not New England. Eastern and northern CT can be considered New England. If I was the Mainer who told you otherwise, apologies.

Based upon my countless trips between Maine and Chicago/Madison/Milwaukee as well as significant time spent in upstate NY, central PA, and southern OH, I've developed the notion that, on the I-90 route, Cleveland starts to feel like the east Albany is decidedly eastern but it isn't New England until you're through the Berkshires. On the I-80 route, I always feel I've entered the Midwest when your crossing leaving PA and coming down into Youngstown and you're really descending and you can see miles and miles of flat and rolling open space below and before you. Oh yeah, Cincinnati and Indianapolis are the south.
-islander

Anonymous said...

Indy ain't the south.

Anonymous said...

As a western PA native, I can say that with a fair amount of certainty that it is not part of the Midwest, although it admittedly shares some characteristics, including landscape, population, climate, and likelihood of appearing in a Springsteen song.

It's a hodgepodge of mid-Atlantic, Appalachian, Polish immigrant, and NY state sensibilities, cuisine, and grammatical ticks that don't quite match the Midwest.

If you've ever heard someone talk with a Pittsburgh accent or eat a peanut butter sandwich with a bowl of chili, you know what I'm talking about.
-Mary