15 July 2010

A Matter of Perception

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I went to a friend's wedding reception last weekend and had a rather enlightening experience. The reception was held here in Illinois near my hometown and current base of operations, but the majority of the people who attended were from Ohio- mainly around the Cincinnati area. They had all driven to get here and after a 7 hour long drive, they were eager to compare the gory details of their trips. Over dinner, I listened to their disdainful comments which went more or less as follows (my thoughts in Italics):

Ohioan #1: Well the drive down here was long, and there sure are a lot of cornfields here in Illinois, I don't think I've ever seen so many cornfields in my whole life.
Ohioan #2: I know, and it's so flat here. You can see for miles around, but all you can see is cornfields! (I have a friend from CA, so I realize Illinois isn't exactly mountainous, but people from Ohio calling my state flat? We have hills!  And if you go south, there are a lot of them, big ones even!)
Ohioan #1: It's amazing isn't it. (Insert name of somewhat large Illinois town here- I'm leaving it out to protect all of us) must be the largest town for miles around. (It's not- there are quite a few comparably sized towns within a half and hour to an hour away.  My home is by no means the sticks.)
Ohioan #3: It must be. Every time I see the sign for the municipal airport here it makes me laugh. It must be the only airport for hundreds of miles. (I can think of at least five more within ten miles- ever heard of private landing strips?  Or do you not have those in Ohio?)
Ohioan #2: I cannot tell you how many dusty towns we drove through on the way here. What was that one? The one with the strange name?  (Dusty?  It's been raining and raining here for weeks, there is no way you went through a dusty town.  BTW, all major roads and most minor ones are paved here.)
Ohian #1: Oh it was (Insert mispronounced name of apparently hard to pronounce small "dusty" Illinois town here).  (You've got to be kidding me.  Seriously?)

This was the point at which I stepped in and probably rather condescendingly said, you mean (insert correctly pronounced name of apparently hard to pronounce small "dusty" Illinois town here). At that point they all started talking about how pretty rural Illinois is and how peaceful, in an attempt to appease the local yokel.

welcome to Illinois

On the one hand, I found this conversation somewhat amusing, but even though I never run out of disparaging comments about where I live, it irritated me to listen to some outsiders critique. I've been repeating the conversation to my fellow locals as in "can you believe those people from Cincinnati?" but it's really made me think about my own perceptions of places I'm not from or not comfortable in*. I'd like to think I'm more open minded than them. Although more than anything, maybe it's just that I can't believe that Ohio is so different from Illinois- it's the Midwest! It's all about the same!  Granted I've only been to Ohio once and it was in the middle of the night on a tour bus, but still.  

I know I've gone to different places and felt a sense of superiority- ha, my home is better than your home.  Anymore, though especially after starting urbexing and photographing other places, I've realized the value of something different.  It's the whole point of travel.  I want to go somewhere and see something I don't see everyday, to experience something unusual to me.  A few months ago D and I were in another town close by with some of the most beautiful houses...sigh...and I was driving really slowly, very distracted by the sites.  The people who were stuck behind me were not pleased by my driving and gawking at the sites they see everyday that just don't hold the same interest for them as they do for me.  For me, it was new and different and I wanted to take tons of pictures (while driving... hee, hee); for them, they just wanted to get to where they needed to go in their everyday lives.  Everything is perspective.  Lately that simple truth has been emphasized more and more to me everyday.  That is really the whole purpose behind Abandoned Homes and Gardens- to bring a new perspective, to show you things in a new light.  We hope if you're reading this that you enjoy our perspective, because we're sure having fun showing it.

BTW: To any Ohioans I might have offended, my blog co-author, D, whom I love very much is from your great state and we are very eagerly planning our Ohio roadtrip.

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