Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Posts on Small Towns, Cities, and Sunday

But we'll pretend it's not Sunday.

SO. Onto the small towns and cities part. Well, as you've noticed, we've had the running 'setting' theme this week! I've lived in a lot of different places. A small city-island in Michigan, a medium sized charming town in Michigan, a beach house in Connecticut, a medium sized town in Connecticut, aaaand an itty-bitty village quite close to a medium-sized city in Illinois (I've lived many places. Did I say that? I have).

Basically I'm used to small-medium towns and I am quite familiar with the Midwest. For this setting post, I'm going to talk about where I live now, which is the tiny village right by a medium-sized city (Peoria) (which, as Wikipedia says, is the largest city in the Illinois River Valley and the seventh largest in Illinois). We've already had posts on small towns and beaches and the such, so I feel a Midwestern city will be a bit of a change!

Okay, starting with my tiny village. It's about 900 people. It has a post office, a couple of restaurants, a gas station, a small library, a tea room, a shut down coffee place (SAD), one high school, two middle schools, and four elementary schools. Why we have four elementary schools for 900 people will be explained later (because right now that sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it?). Everything is pretty much within walking distance of each other, and the village is no larger than a total of 16 blocks, or 0.4 square miles.

The majority of the village is just houses and the people that live in them. Surrounding the village, as most villages and towns and cities, in Illinois, and other states of the Midwest, is corn. Lots and lots of corn. Did you say corn? It's all over. Everywhere. You can't escape it. Not that it hurts or anything. Though there's also soybeans occasionally, too. And cows. In fact, right next to one of the middle schools and the high school, there is a cow pasture. It smells like cow manure and you can often hear the low rumbling of cow 'moos' before and after school.

However, back to the reason as to why there are so many schools in my town. Which would be Peoria, that city I mentioned before. The school district in my tiny village actually extends into the city of Peoria, and therefore, it takes in more school students than the actual population of the town. Last year, my high school had almost 1200 kids in it. And the schools are expanding at a very fast rate because of the city and the jobs it has. Peoria is home to Caterpillar, Inc. headquarters (which, if you didn't know, is that company that makes all the construction stuff. That sats 'CAT' or 'Caterpillar' on it. I know you've seen it), which brings in a lot of new people and students every year.

And that's pretty much it about the tiny village. Moving onto the city. The city has around 115,000 people living in it (over 300,000 in the total area). There are three movie theaters, one of which has IMAX, and countless restaurants. There are chains, private owned restaurants--almost anything you can think of. There are two major malls (one of which is quite new and one of the furthest points from the main part of the city, and about ten miles from my tiny village). One is an outdoor mall that is still expanding and being built onto, and the other is an indoor mall. There are several large roads that go all the out of the city and all the way in, apart from the interstate. 

The main part of the city is like most other cities. It's comprised of alternating one-way streets and has tall buildings. Most of the tall buildings are corporation centers and hospitals (there are two major ones in the downtown area). As Peoria is, as I said earlier, the largest city in the Illinois River Valley, it is right on the Illinois River. There are several bridges that cross the river, and more of the city is on the other side, and then branching into other towns and cities within the metropolis area. The river is quite large, and therefore the city plays into that. There are several riverboat casinos and many restaurants in the downtown area are centered around the riverfront. On the 4th of July, fireworks are set off on the riverfront.

Most people that live near the city or in it complain that there isn't much to do, which may be because they're used to it, or are a three hour drive from both Chicago and St. Louis. To someone who has just moved to the city, though, there is a lot to do (hello two malls and countless restaurants).

As for the weather. Well, Midwestern weather, in my experience, is about the most untrustworthy, fickle weather you will ever run into. It can never make up its mind. It will literally be 72 (Farenheit. All my degrees will be in Farenheit) one day, and snowing the next (I'm not making this up. It really happened). Most of the winters bring mild amounts of snow (unless you live in Michigan, like I used to... that's a lot more snow than Illinois). However, in Illinois, the weather was a bit colder and drier because of a lack of lake water and a flatter, prairie-like terrain. In the winter, the weather can drop down to about -20, the average is usually around 10, however. Spring usually comes around mid to late April, and it can be very hot by the middle of June. On average, temperatures will be in the upper eighties during the summer. As Illinois is near tornado alley, and has that praire terrain, tornado watches and severe storms are common. 

Once again, though, the weather is subject to change in the blink of an eye because it's the Midwest.

On to people and dialect! People in the Midwest are usually pretty friendly. They tend to make friends with their neighbors and help people out. Though there are always those who aren't. And teenagers have cliques, as expected. The further south in the Midwest you go, the more conservative it tends to be. Unless you're near a larger city, it tends to be more liberal (such as Chicago).

As for the dialect, it is said by linguists that the Midwestern accent is the clearest form of spoken English. It's the accent used by national TV journalists and the like. Though, if you start to head to the more southern parts of the Midwest, the accent has a southern, hick-ish sling to it. S sounds sound more like a Z (instead of greasy, it's 'greazy') and the I vowel sound tends to sound more like an E (See--KT's endless teasing of her father's southern Illinois accent).

Well, that's pretty much the gist of it. A tiny village next to a medium city in Illinois = lots of restaurants and stuff to do if you don't mind a ten minute drive, and lots and lots of corn.