Monday, March 28

North Dakota


Last night I returned from two very busy and extremely short weeks in North Dakota with my husband. I didn't take any pictures of our new house or the bruises I got or the massive amounts of empty beer bottles that filled our kitchen after St. Patrick's Day, but you'll be seeing plenty of that in a few months. For now I just want to share a bit about the town I'll be living in. Again.

Grand Forks, ND is a small town just north of Fargo, ND (of Cohen bros. fame) and just south of Winnipeg, MB (of some other fame :L). It's hard for me to describe Grand Forks. I want to say it's the same as any small agricultural/Canadian tourist destination/college town that's covered in ice nine months out of every year, but it's not. And that wouldn't even make sense.
There isn't a lot to do in Grand Forks, but even if there was it's so often so bitterly cold that you don't want to do anything anyway. I'd say the most popular activity in Grand Forks is getting drunk. Watching hockey and eating ranch dressing on things are close runners-up.
North and east of town are two factories that process potatoes and sugar beets respectively. Their smells often fill the air. At best the smells are like hot french fries or peanut butter spread over burnt toast, and at worst they are just like farts.
The town has a way of making you feel deeply lonely, even if you're not alone, or even if you're only alone for a minute or two while the person you love the most goes to get you a glass of water.
Trains pass through town, and at night and in the early morning the sound of their whistles contains completely the feeling of loneliness. Even if you're not lonely, even if the sound makes you feel good or less lonely, it's still always a knell.
Sometimes you'll be late because you'll get stuck at a railroad crossing or, in the summer, behind some large, slow piece of farm machinery that resembles an insect. I've heard of people getting stuck behind snow plows but oddly enough I've never had that misfortune.
It's often cloudy in Grand Forks, but warm, sunny summer days are crisp and somehow sunnier and warmer than any other summer day you'll ever know. People make great efforts to enjoy good weather.
Most of the girls in Grand Forks are blond, and people are surprisingly tan considering how little the sun shines. It is appropriate in Grand Forks to wear your pajamas and a snowmobile jacket anywhere.

I spent my 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays in Grand Forks and despite the city itself, the weather, the people in their terrible clothes and their orange tans, the lack of everything, literally everything (sometimes I can't even find certain vegetables), I don't hate it. Almost all of my favorite people in the world grew up in Grand Forks and live there now, and more than you'd think you would, you catch yourself feeling magical and uncanny. There's more to Grand Forks than snow and hockey and hangovers, you just have to work for it a little harder than you would anywhere else.
Grand Forks is a challenge. It's too easy to get stuck in a rut, to spend too much money on beer, to hole up in your house watching SVU marathons and wishing you were dead. I'll be living there again soon and it's important above all things that I not get used to what's easy. That's how I spent my 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st years and I'm not doing it again. I don't like not having money for anything except ways to make myself feel sick, and I don't like the 20lbs that comes with that, and I especially don't like wishing I was dead. SVU is okay.
At the beginning of this year I made my goal to Be More Amazing. I think moving back to Grand Forks is just about the best opportunity I'll ever have to really make something of that goal.

1 comment:

Elucidarian said...

This is one of the better descriptions of Grand Forks I've ever read, not in a comprehensive way, but from its personal truth. It's honesty well writ.

My 22nd and 23rd years were a similar collection of sheltered ambitions toward amusing myself in small town fashion. The social fracas of the moment sustained my lackadaisical mindset. Of course, I didn’t see it that way at the time.

I didn’t and still don’t hate or regret those years past, but I’m glad to have left them behind. Now, I look at the benefits of raising kids in a safe community, holding a stable job, and enacting plans that satisfy my adult sense of creative achievement.

I know people who’ve gone on to more exciting places, not all of them better off in the long run. So, it’s largely relative. GF is a good enough place to establish yourself and lead a life worthwhile. In short, welcome back.