Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Inland Northwest vs. New England

(Yet another non-Katrina post. I'm making more and more of those. This blog is gradually shifting to a broader focus (politics, religion, other social justice issues, personal musings, etc.), but Katrina recovery is still an important topic I will keep an advocate's eye on. (Yes, Mom, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Love ya!))

I just got back to New Hampshire from my brief “summer break” home in North Idaho. I must say, over the past few months I’ve come to realize just how much I prefer the Inland Northwest to New England. Don’t get me wrong, New Hampshire’s great and I don’t regret spending these few years here for an instant, but I find myself identifying much more with the Eastern Washington/North Idaho/Western Montana region. I may be a native Texan to the core, but Idaho's great, and I wish I'd realized that sooner.

Reasons why I prefer the Inland Northwest to NH/VT’s Upper Valley:
  • Geography/topography: Personally, I find the lakes, mountains, and forests of Idaho prettier than the lakes, hills, and forests of New England. There’s also more wilderness in general.
  • Yankee culture just isn’t for me. The people here are more guarded, more suspicious. The Mountain West is no New Orleans in terms of hospitality and welcomeness, but it does beat New England. The Inland Northwest may lack diversity and it may be a bastion of religious right conservatism, but I do find I prefer its lifestyle.
  • The Western US has a more exciting history than New England. Yes, the original colonies and the Revolutionary War and all that are wonderful, but I prefer stories of miners, loggers, railroads, the Nez Perce, gold rushes, and things of that sort.
  • I think you could make the argument that the Inland Northwest is both more rural and more urban at the same time. Spokane has more urban offerings than Manchester, but the rest of the area is more rural (there’s no Boston just over the ridge – once you get past Spokane, that’s it.)
  • Little things: Spokane has better radio stations (102.3 FM and public radio both), the Spokesman Review is a great newspaper, what few Democrats there are are Western Democrats, and I love Coeur d’Alene’s plethora of coffee shops (much better offerings than the Upper Valley).
  • Above all, I think, there’s just a certain je ne sais quoi about North Idaho. (Many thanks to my splendiforous friend Rachel for telling me how to spell that!) It’s one of those things you just can’t quite put a finger on. I like it more, and do I really have to know why? Taste is taste!

    There’s a lot to like about New Hampshire. Here I am at Dartmouth, and a great university is something the Inland Northwest lacks. Yeah, Gonzaga’s good, but it just doesn’t compete in terms of guest lectures, cultural performances, and library resources. The NH presidential primary is very exciting, my barber shop is great (shoutout to Walt and Ernie’s!), New Hampshire Public Radio has a great Sunday lineup, and hey, the region’s willing to elect Democrats when Idaho isn’t, ha. But all in all, the Inland Northwest’s je ne sais quoi wins out.

    (On a related note, Southwest is a great airline, but the Las Vegas airport, where I had my layover, needs work. The wireless is free, the view of the mountains wonderful, and the bathroom stalls large and clean, but there were slot machines everywhere (almost like the airport was its own casino), the BK Whoopers were EIGHT FREAKIN' DOLLARS, the halls were constantly crowded, and the d├ęcor was cheesy. But hey, free wireless, right?)
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