By Dan Haag
Recently, I had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend on Facebook and I came to realize what many before me had: sometimes you can’t go home again. This person had once been as close to me as a brother and now it seemed we had little in common.
As I was navigating his page, looking at his pictures and perusing his ‘likes’ list I glumly realized that this is now a person I might fake an illness to avoid. I became even gloomier when I realized he probably thought the same about me after seeing my ‘likes,’ which include such stand-outs as ‘pie’ and ‘naps.’
I noticed he had a link proclaiming “I am from Minnesota; therefore I am automatically cooler than you!” That’s a powerful statement and my first thought was: “Geez, he sure looks goofy with a beard.”
My second thought was deeply profound and much more to the point of this column: does being from one place actually make you cooler than everyone else? Facebook seems to encourage this line of thinking, but I was skeptical. I decided to launch a thorough fact-finding mission of at least 10 to 15 minutes.
My life has been two halves, geographically speaking. I spent my first 20 years in Minnesota – the state now questioning my ‘coolness’ – and the next 26 on the North Oregon Coast. I have the perfect objectivity to tackle this question and put it in perspective. Plus, I own a computer. So I present to you the ultra scientific coolness factors comparing my former home to my current home.
Mosquitoes: Minnesota lists the state bird as the loon. This is a lie: it is actually the mosquito, commonly referred to as plasmus drainus. It is a vicious flying piranha that has carried away small children and de-boned livestock. The mosquitoes of the Nehalem Valley are docile sprites that only seem to bite my wife.
Fish: Minnesota has a game fish called a Walleye. It’s horribly ugly but can be decent eating drenched with a gallon of Tobasco. The Nehalem Valley has the salmon: sleek, beautiful and utterly delicious, even without seasoning. Have you ever heard of a Walleye stir-fry or a Walleye soufflé? I didn’t think so.
Hunting: In Minnesota, hunters have to lug all of their gear for miles into the deep, cold woods to shoot their favorite game. If you don’t hunt, you have no incentive to go along. Here, it seems that most of my neighbors who are hunters simply lean out their front window to bag whatever game they’re after.
Job Attire/Schedule: In Minnesota, my friend wears a suit and tie to the office and works the traditional eight hours a day, five days a week. In the Nehalem Valley, I have worn the following to work: tie-dye, flip-flops, shorts, 18th century mariner costume, jeans, hiking boots, Hawaiian shirts, and flannel. The work schedule here is 22 hours a day and seven days a week during the summer, and perhaps three hours total between January and May.
Weather/Climate: Minnesota’s winters are legendary: mammoth snow-drifts blocking driveways, tongues sticking to flagpoles, birds freezing in mid-air. Nehalem Valley winters are wet, gray, and sloppy. Coastal residents have the option to run away to Hawaii and Mexico, something you can’t do if you can’t get out of your snowed-under driveway. I was torn when considering Midwest tornado warnings versus Oregon Coast tsunami alerts. In the end, I gave the coast the tiebreaker only because in Minnesota no one ever brings wine to a tornado drill.
Dogs: Dogs are pets in Minnesota. They are used mainly for looking cute in Christmas card photos and chasing the paper boy away. In the Nehalem Valley, dogs are family members with their own insurance plans. They ride in the front seats of cars, wander through stores, tour museums, and lay on your feet in restaurants. And, like potato chips, you can’t have just one.
There you have it. As you can see, the Nehalem Valley is a far cooler place to live when the key factors are presented. So Oregon Coast friends, the next time you’re on Facebook, avoid the ‘automatically cooler than you’ links and remember where we live.
It really doesn’t get any cooler than this.