Whut Up Doe? From Chaldeans To Coneys, What I’ve Learned After 1 Year In Michigan

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On June 7, 2011, my best friend and I crossed the Ohio-Michigan border on I-75 and finished our two day drive from Vermont to Michigan. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned in the 366 days since.

“Whut up doe” is a perfectly acceptable way to greet someone, as opposed to “What’s up?” or “How are You.” An acceptable response is “Hey man, YaRight?” which is basically a contraction of “You all right?”

“Michigan Lefts” are perfectly normal traffic patterns. For those not familliar, instead of turning left at a busy intersection, you turn right and basically make a U-turn. I’m told they refer to these as “jug handles” in New Jersey, but I’ve spent a total of 2 days of my life in New Jersey, and that was more than sufficient.

If you fail to understand the concept of the Michigan Left, and get pulled over enough times, you may find yourself having to get your license NOT at the DMV, but at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Chaldeans are people (first or second generation) from Iraq and the Middle East, but are Christian, not Muslim. Michigan has one of the largest Chaldean communities in the world outside the Middle East. And it always comes as a suprise to Michiganders that the word “Chaldean” exists in VERY few places outside the Mitten. Okay, “bro?”

The Mitten – the lower part of Michigan is shaped like a mitten, with Port Huron being the thumb. It is perfectly normal to ask someone where they are from, and if you haven’t heard of the town, you hold up your hand, like a mitten, and point.

I’m not sure why Canada “Dry” uses “Dry” as a selling point in Ginger Ale. Vernors is where its at. And Faygo is everywhere, not just something sprayed on crowds at Insane Clown Posse shows (which is what I thought before I moved here).

When describing a location, it’s always cross streets. For example, I live at “12 and Orchard.” The station is at “12 and Halsted.” And as someone who grew up just outside Boston, can I just tell you how easy the grid system, and numbered roads, makes it to navigate a new place?

I love my Nissan, but had I known I’d be moving here, I definitely would have gone Big 3.

Speaking of the Big 3, the Rouge tour is a must see, but even cooler is the Henry Ford museum. The car JFK was shot in, the CHAIR that Lincoln was shot in, and the Rosa Parks bus all under one roof? As a history minor in college, that’s worth the price of admission and then some.

Also cool is the gi-normous GM showroom at the Ren Center. Then go outside and look SOUTH across the river at Canada. Yes, Michigan is the only state in the contiguous US that’s north of Canada.

I don’t care how many nights you’ve belted out Journey while drunk at a bar (or a game). There is no such thing as “South Detroit” – that would be Windsor, Ontario. In fact, a few months ago, Steve Perry admitted that he wrote “Don’t Stop Believin” in a hotel room looking out at Detroit. And he used “South” because he thought the word sounded better in the song than “North,” “East,” or “West.”

While I’m partial to the history of Fenway Park because I grew up there (as many people here are partial to Tiger Stadium), Comerica Park is beautiful and an excellent place to catch a game. And in the middle of the 8th, while Boston has “Sweet Caroline,” Detroit has “Don’t Stop Believin.”

Also, it’s typically still light out in the middle of the 8th. By all rights, Michigan could probably be in the Central Time Zone, but because it’s on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone, the sun doesn’t set here until extremely late, especially in the summer time. Once you get used to it and are no longer disoriented, it’s awesome.

Because I grew up in Boston, I thought there were nothing worse than Yankee fans.  Then I found out about Ohio State fans.   What to Michiganders say about directions to Columbus?   Drive south til you smell it, then east til you step in it?

That said, the only thing cooler than Michigan-Ohio State at the Big House is being on the field for it.

After a year in Michigan, I know how to pronounce Gratiot and Schoenherr, and will always laugh about the fact that Exit 69 off of I-75 is “Big Beaver Road.”

I will always fear for my life while driving on The Lodge, mainly because people like to do 30 in the left lane and 90 in the right.

My interns have taught me that while partaking in certain college-type activities, while you “smoke someone up” back East, here, you “smoke someone down.”  Which doesn’t make sense to me, because if you’re getting high, wouldn’t you be going UP?

I also refuse to call it Pop.   That’s the one thing I will never cave on.  It’s SODA.

While we drop R’s in Boston, Michiganders add S’s.   “Meijers and Krogers” for example.

As opposed to asking where someone lives, sometimes it’s “Where you stay?”

A hotdog with chili, etc. on it is a “Coney.”  Which is funny because when I lived in Vermont, they referred to one as a “Michigan.”  Ironic, huh?

A “Coney Island” serves Coneys, but is essentially a 24 hour diner.   I was once ridiculed by co-workers when I asked for a menu.  “Dude, it’s a Coney Island!”

I have not yet tried Lafayette or American – I know, I know.   I also haven’t been up north, or out on one of the many lakes here.   I need to find friends that have places Up North and/or boats.

I’m now familiar with all things Kwame, and also the sad history of using Eight Mile as a dividing line.   That said, I’ve never lived in a state where so many people of so many different backgrounds all come together, joke around, and respect each other’s heritage.

“I feel like” is a perfectly acceptable way to end a sentence.  “That’s kinda rude…I feel like.”   Also, elongated vowels.  Here, John is “Jaaaaaahn,” I feel like.

American Jewelry and Loan is even cooler in person, and Seth Gold is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

And finally, because I grew up on the East Coast, I never realized that people in that part of the country are RUDE!  It’s all I ever knew.   But in the last year, I’ve been welcomed by some good ol’ fashioned Midwest Hospitality.   And Michigan is a pretty damned cool place to live.