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Don't Cry For Me Cincinnati
by Mark Smith
"Up in Michigan's great north woods there's a town where all the locals wear moccasins and drive big boats to work. You can sit above the harbor and eat ice cream all day, while the sun sets lazily between two majestic islands in the great blue distance and the fishing boats bring in the chub. There's a little place on the harbor called "The Cave" where all the locals eat smoked chub and drink cherry wine til the cows come home. But remember, you won't be able to pay for your chub with American Express. So be sure and bring your Visa card, and have the time of your life. 'Cause that's definitely the way to go."

WhatEVER! Hey, do you ever wonder when they'll get around to featuring Leland in a Visa ad? Actually, Leland already is a visa ad. It's just that it hasn't actually been written up yet. Throngs of improbably dressed visitors see us as the perfect getaway place, and many of them manage to actually move here, bringing with them their own special mind set.

Take a look at the cute license plates. Check out the clothes. I mean really, where else in the world could a fat man in shorts walk around smoking a stinking cigar, dressed like that, and not get beaten up? And let's not even get into pedestrian/traffic behavior, please!

Leland is a state of mind, induced by vast quantities of money and a cavalier disregard for reality. In an area where thirty percent of school children are the recipients of free and reduced lunches, there still persists the outside notion that we are living in a state of natural grace, in the slipstream of time and trouble. And even when former fudgies from, say, Cincinnati, "settle out" and become full-time perma-fudge, they retain that idyllic notion that all is indeed well. Which is fine, I suppose, if you believe in the power of positive thinking, but not very helpful for actually communicating with the more indigenous population.

While most communities' civic pride takes the form of self-reassurance, Leland's all too often seems more self-congratulatory. It's a chance for wealthy erstwhile suburbanites to brag to their absent friends from the city, while at the same time reassuring the "little man" inside them that they didn't screw up by moving here permanently. It's almost as if they're saying - "Hey, we've got it all here. Peace and quiet, culture, the "Arts", and some of the best dang lifestyle to be had this side of Minsk. So don't cry for me Cincinnati." This form of boosterism can become very strident. On the local beach you regularly hear comments like, "hey, it just doesn't get any better than this, does it?" Well, I suppose not.

Trouble is, this self-congratulatory stance to your community is a rather shallow way to relate. A recent edition of "Men's Journal" contained an article entitled "You're Moving Where? Small towns, hideouts, secret spots - and how to actually live in them." Here's how the article was pitched:

We set out to find the best hideouts in America (and abroad), where the crush of civilization is at least two hours away, where mountains, rivers, and beaches are right in front of you, and where you can buy a few acres. Our dispatches were filed by honorary locals who have delivered insider dope on the best places to stay, eat, and get outfitted over a weekend, plus practical advice on real estate, jobs, and joining the community.

Good luck with "joining the community" you honorary locals, wherever you are. Featured under the "Midwest" heading as the best little insider secret was one town: Cedarville, MI. Here's a taste of how homely Cedarville is viewed by this honorary local: "Tow your own boat around town, and you'll get compliments on the size of your prop." Or: "You have to love the harmonic convergence of North Woods and water." Or: "Today, a klatch of Fortune 500 CEO's escape to their "secret getaway" to shoot sporting clays with the locals." My question is, where does this guy find his supply of quiche for his hideout life?

So there we have it, the harmonic convergence of local color and money - local color in the form of real people who actually happen to have real, though poorly paid jobs in town, but are ultimately as insignificant as stage props - and money in the form of 500 Fortune CEO's who mix magnanimously with those ever present locals, and give their implicit stamp of approval to the natural beauty of the area, thereby enhancing the overall quality of life. Hey, why keep it a secret? Why not share with the rest of the world? Let's just brag a little, shall we? Next time you drive through Cedarville, don't be surprised to see a Starbuck's next to the bait shop. And don't forget your Visa card.

Copyright 1999 Manitou Publishing Co. & Mark Smith • All Rights Reserved.

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