Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Rust Belt Chic: Iron Range

Rust Belt Chic can turn up in unexpected places. The essence of this culture is missing home and nostalgic feelings. That might be the best way to delineate Rust Belt Chic from ruin porn. Only natives can see the art in the blighted landscape.

Wherever there is a strong sense of place, you'll find Rust Belt Chic. In the Iron Range:

The food on the Range is excellent. Pasties are ubiquitous at all grocery stores, with multiple brands abounding. You cannot easily find a pasty anywhere else I have ever been. Walnut Potica, Souvlaki, and many other ethnic foods exist, making for an excellent variety of taste. ...

... I hope to someday return to the Range as both my parents still live there, and I do miss the woods and the culture. Living on the Range was definitely like experiencing a different culture, a small microcosm of the Rust Belt surrounded by the Great Northwoods. The Iron Range is definitely a great place to live, if you can find decent employment.

One is forced to leave thanks to economic circumstances. They are refugees of the apolitical sort. If times were better, then it wouldn't be the Iron Range. What's ugly to outsiders is beautiful to insiders. The lack of jobs helps to preserve the authenticity, the communities stuck firmly in the past.

Grand Rapids is definitely the milkman’s kid. It doesn’t fit the dynamic of all the other Range towns. It feels like somewhere else entirely. Its not full of bars, people aren’t able to pass toilet paper to each other between their bathroom windows, there are no active mines, property values are ridiculous etc. Do they even have a Bocce Court or Curling Rink? It’s hard for me to even think of it in the same genre.

For us non-Rangers, I'm sure Grand Rapids would cut it as an exotic experience. To natives, it doesn't pass the sniff test. I suspect the thriving tourist business is largely to blame. The city is a base for all the itinerant residents who summer in the Northwoods. Rust Belt Chic lite is more than enough for those just visiting.

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