David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Time To Move On

July 31, 2011:  Time To Move On

As I get ready to move to my third city in three years, I can't help thinking about places.  Sadly, I know that none of my family will particularly miss the Caledonia/Grand Rapids area.  That is due partially to not having been here long enough to form some significant bonds, but in part because of actions that don't reflect upon the community, but become associated with the community.

"Manchester, so much to answer for," sings Morrissey in The Smiths' song Suffer Little Children.  It seems a particularly unfair statement to a community that simply housed the children killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.  Still, it's a sentiment I can understand.

Caledonia/Grand Rapids will forever be the place where a well-known local businessman decided to address children bullying issues by insulting my family and telling us that "this [asking the schools to watch out for specific bullies] is not how we do it in West Michigan."  I can only assume this was his attack on the fact that my family had the audacity to move to West Michigan from metro Detroit. 

Grand Rapids has a fascinating self-image.  When Newsweek reported Grand Rapids as one of America's "top-10 dying cities" (or shouldn't that be "bottom-10 dying cities?"), citizens responded with absolute outrage, eventually submitting a music video.  I have to admit it was kind of cool; on the other hand, I wanted to say, "who cares?  It's just the stupid opinion of a stupid popular news magazine." 

Maybe it's easy for me to say this since I have lived in Morgantown, West Virginia, frequently the home of a top 5 college party school. Every time a couch gets lit after a WVU win (or loss), you can sense the residents tensing up as national news jumps all over that image.  Still, the same thing happens in East Lansing, Storrs, College Park (MD), Columbus, and even in Canada (Vancouver).  Bad human behavior transcends communities.  Somewhere, someone is muttering "Olso, you have so much to answer for."

Heck, if you really want to find a city permanently scarred by rioting, just look at Detroit.  We're coming up to the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots that may always be associated with the city.

Truthfully, I felt more akin to the city of Detroit than I did to Livonia, where we lived for about a dozen years after Detroit.  Detroit had abandoned homes built in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Detroit's abandonment speaks of people.  Livonia had abandoned businesses built in the 80's and 90s, and yet continued to grovel at the feet of any local business person who yearned to put up a new business.  Livonia's abandonment speaks of commerce.  

And now I move to a community pretty much known for its schools.  Edwardsburg has almost nothing else, as people travel 5 miles to Elkhart and Granger, Indiana, to do much of their shopping.  It is the epitome of a bedroom community.  When younger, I would have thought an association with a bedroom community was kind of alluring; now, it just sounds depressing, as if the only reason to live there is to sleep well.

I suppose I should take all these random thoughts and tie them up neatly with a bow.  However, I have more concrete things to pack.