Weekend update.
I ask you: who just walks into the projects?

What a great (reading) weekend.

I had a great weekend.  I had one of those great weekends where everything I read seemed to connect to everything else, and I learned new things about places where I've never been, which always feels (to me), physically, like never-before fired synpapses in my brain are activated for the first time.

I LOVE that. 

Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of GlobalismSo how did it all connect?  A week ago I finished Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day (more on that later), which is a fantastic book about how Venkatesh, while in grad school at Chicago, literally walked into the projects to ask the residents questions about living in urban poverty.  That book was a glimpse into a whole other world, and was in the back of my mind this weekend when I read Caught In the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism, by Richard Longworth.

Caught in the Middle is a fascinating book,* if sad, about the changing economics and population patterns of the Midwest, from Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, to the northern halves of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio (including a fair bit about cities like Chicago and Detroit).  Everyone who lives in the Midwest should read it, immediately.  I particularly enjoyed his thoughts on the collective character of Midwesterners:

"In other words, Midwesterners are tolerant, narrow-minded, cultured, crass, sophisticated, and naive in pretty much the same measure as other Americans.  What makes them unique, though, is their isolation, especially from each other.  Rural villages, immigrant towns, factory cities, all battle the problems of globalization in isolation from each other, unaware that other people in neighboring states are fighting the same battle.  By nature, Midwesterners can be aloof and uncooperative.  That nature is hurting them now." (p. 23.)

I followed that up by starting Made In Detroit, a memoir by Paul Clemens, a white man who grew up in Detroit (the city proper, not the suburbs).  Further bulletins ahead on that book, but it also nicely dovetailed with the other things I was reading (and is fantastic in its own right).

Unfortunately, now it's Monday.  Time to stop reading for a moment and try to make some money in the global economy coming to the Midwest.

*In it, I also learned that Dayton, Ohio, has more patents per capita than any other American city.  "The cash register was invented here and so were microfiche and the bar code...People in Dayton invented the parking meter, the movie projector, the parachute, the gas mask, and the pop-top can.  The stepladder was born in Dayton."  (p. 28.)  See?  Interesting.