• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

03 February 2010

maybe you'll find direction around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you

Here is the biggie I mentioned yesterday. This person (I think) is also the same one who asked about my Saab and my travel dreams. I appreciate all the questions! (Ask another!)

Today, I will answer:
1) How did you become a Grateful Dead fan?
2) Have you been to a Dead concert?
3) Why did you decide to stay in ND (besides going to school) when you enjoyed the cultural opportunities available on the West Coast?

I'm going to start with the questions about the Dead. They're less deep and philosophical than the whole location debate. When I was about 16 I met a boy over the Internet. We became friends and then more than friends. Not going to go in to that whole trainwreck of a situation. One good thing I got out of it, though, is that he was a big Grateful Dead fan. He sent me a tape. I stuck it in the tape player I had in my 1973 VW bug. It had Terrapin Station on one side and Blues for Allah on the other. I played it and played it and played it, for months on repeat. I know all the words to both of those albums (still). And I was hooked from then on.

This wasn't a huge leap for me: my musical loves at the time ranged from my mom's Beatles, Bread, and Doobie Brothers records; to my dad's CCR and Roger Miller cassettes; to whatever I could hear on the local oldies station. But for a long time thereafter, my playlists became just the Dead. I spent all my money on expanding my CD collection. Proof is in a dusty box in the basement of our house, where there are about 50 Grateful Dead CDs. (Their songs reside -- digitally -- on our home server, for iPod access.) Aoxomoxoa, Shakedown Street, Workingman's Dead, dozens of Dick's Picks, tons of others. I have a long list of favorite songs. Examples include Black-throated Wind, Brown-eyed Women, Mexicali Blues, Unbroken Chain, Weather Report Suite (Let it Grow), and Cold Rain and Snow (P.Hubby had them put an inscription from that one on my wedding ring). I have a tattoo of the American Beauty rose. While I do love American Beauty, it's not exactly one of their power-albums. I wish I'd had the balls to get the Blues for Allah cover - I saw a girl with it on her thigh once and man, it was amazing. I think I'm done with tattoos, myself, but I still appreciate a good one. And it my frame of reference, a violin-playing crazy-haired skeleton would be a good one.

ANYWAY, I could go on forever about this. The fact is, I rarely listen to the Grateful Dead anymore. Whenever I hear one of their songs, I get totally in to it, yet I don't really listen a lot. Then again, music has been shoved to the sideline lately too. In ND, I don't/can't walk or bike to school or work, and the drive only take 5 minutes. (Most GD songs are twice that long, haha.) The only time I really listen to my iPod is that the gym, and 40-year-old jam band music isn't really weight-lifting music. To answer your question about the concert, no, I haven't been to one. The Dead I love are the Dead of the late sixties through the early 80s. Given that Jerry died when I was 12, a few years before I even heard their music, going to a concert seems a little odd to me. I've seen a few taped concerts though, and I do have a T-shirt from an '80s concert. I got it on eBay.

me 2002
No, I didn't find a miracle hair-growth vitamin. This picture is old. Really old.

NOW. Let's talk about North Dakota. WTF is this western-educated half-hippie agnostic liberal who is constantly cold doing in North Dakota (aside from killing herself slowly with 500-level classes)? She is living well. That is what she is doing. Let me explain..but first some background.

I moved back here for school, you know this. You also may know that my parents used to live here, and I was raised here (since age 8). They moved away less than a year after I moved back though, and they went east -- 2000 miles east. And so here I am. The plan was to finish my Master's degree in 2007 and then GTFO. But things changed. I had a job, and decided to stay a while -- just a little while. I also met Pink Hubby during this time, and he was in the middle of his schooling. I decided I might get a Ph.D (with a lot of convincing from him). Looking at the schools that offer my discipline, it's basically a choice between either staying here in North Dakota or going to the deep south. I am not at all interested in doing that. I have lived in Florida before. I don't even feel like visiting it most of the time. And Alabama? Just, no thanks. Tennessee? Nope. [No offense to anyone who lives there... I just dislike the south. I don't like to be sweaty and I don't like big bugs or constant air-conditioning. Would rather be in ND than anywhere south of Colorado or Illinois.]

There were no colleges of interest close to my parents or close to the west coast (and my friends there). Also, I have a GREAT relationship with my adviser here. To have him as my committee chair -- and to be given my Ph.D. by him in the end -- is a wonderful honor for me. And I was accepted, so I stayed.

Now... what was I saying about living well? I lived in Oregon for 4 years, and I was unemployed for half the time and poor the whole time. Eugene is a great place, don't get me wrong. So is Portland. Seattle. Most of California. Vancouver. Victoria. Etc. But don't even get me started on cost of living. In North Dakota, Pink Hubby and I can afford a 2000 square-foot historic house with a 2-car-garage and a big, fenced back yard in a nice neighborhood. We can afford to drive and insure 2 new cars, both attend college, and still enjoy creature comforts like eating out, seeing movies, and buying things we want (within reason of course). With all this, we still can put away over 20% of our incomes in to savings for the future. And we're 26! I don't see this kind of opportunity being possible in most areas of the country, at least not until much later in life. Once the demand goes up, the prices do too.

Obviously, there are reasons most people don't want to live here. The weather is one. It's always windy, and it's unimaginably cold for half the year (current weather at time of writing: light flurries, one degree below zero). It's kind of isolated too - not a lot of live entertainment comes here and we're not exactly a booming metropolis. But we have what we need (Target, Walmart, Macy's (yeah, I need Macy's!) and tons of restaurants), and the Internet can fill in the gaps. And Minneapolis/St. Paul is just a 'quick' 5-hour drive away (and Winnipeg is 2.5 hrs)! The overall attitude of the region is conservative and Christian, also, which can be kind of annoying if you're not either one. But if you can tolerate a few anti-Obama stickers and a hell of a lot of Jesus fish, you'll live. Our city is home to a major university also, so that helps with the tolerance-factor.

blizzard ali

Additionally, Pink Hubby's family is here. He has a big family, and they're all pretty close. It is really hard having no family around - I know this first hand. If we were to move elsewhere, I'm sure we'd go east, closer to my family. That, by the way, is a negative point to a more permanent settling in the upper mid-west: no one ever wants to visit us. Heh. They're afraid we'll make them eat peach jello salad and tuna hotdish helper, dontcha know...

Honestly, when I think about it, North Dakota has been good to me. That's hard for me to say, but it's true. The people I work with (both in my job, and in my degree program) mostly seem to genuinely care. Since I've been here, I feel as though my life has done a 180. I met and married my wonderful husband, I got my finances under control, I found the motivation (sort of) to chase this Ph.D., I established myself at work and on campus, I got healthy... the list goes on. The point is, I am happy here. Happy with my life in North Dakota. Obviously if these things could have all happened elsewhere -- and many just have to do with getting older -- but they did happen here. I 'escaped' this place for Oregon right after high school to try and get my life straight, yet ended up coming right back four years later and doing just that.

On a side note: I read somewhere that Grand Forks is one of the top 10 places to raise a family. The rating was based on safety and crime, the merits of the school district, and availability of activities for children and families. The older I get, the more I struggle with thinking of many more suitable places to raise children.

As much as I do prefer the weather, ocean proximity, free liberalism, and overall 'coolness' of the west, and as much as I miss my awesome friends out there... I just don't see us going back (barring an amazing career opportunity). Let's be real here: I rarely took part in the live shows and other cultural events happening in the west, anyway. I was too busy being a boring old homebody, which is exactly what I still am. Kind of an introvert, I like to stay home and chill. Perhaps the west is better left as a great place to visit. I used to be dead-set on leaving North Dakota, but I'm not anymore. I have either matured, or assimilated. Either way... I am not saying we WILL stay here, but we will see where our opportunities, families and life take us. If we stay here, I can live with that. If we don't, I can live with somewhere new. For the near future though, we're here... I'm waist-deep in my degree and Pink Hubby's starting a new program in the fall too.

If you want to know more about life in ND, music I like (I like a LOT of music) or anything else at all, ask! Next round of questions gets answered next Wednesday (excepting ones like this, which may deserve their very own post).