Monday, March 16, 2009

Old Town, New Town

When we first moved here, I started a list of things that were different about our new community. I just found this draft and figured I'd better post it before we start feeling like natives! (In mid-May, it'll be one year since we moved.)

One of the big differences we noticed right away is how WINDY it is here, compared to the far western suburbs of Chicago. It can be a fine sunny day with mild temps, but you still need a jacket because of the wind! Of course, Kenosha is right on Lake Michigan.

Speaking of the Lake, it's quite the selling point of our new community, and we barely realized it until we moved here! It's great to be so near it. Moonlit walks on the beach, hot summer days in the sand, the ever-changing colors and moods of the waves--it's like a vacation destination any time you have a spare hour. (Just don't get IN the Lake! Very chilly.)

In contrast to these beautiful lakefront areas, in the downtown area of Kenosha there are older, ghetto-like areas which make even the worst parts of DuPage County look decidedly middle-class. Most middle-class neighborhoods in the city proper would be described as urban rather than suburban--small houses on small lots, very close together. There are relatively few subdivisions here, and they're either far south, near the Illinois border, or out west, by the tollway. (I don't want to give too much away about our exact location, but we feel like we have an ideal mixture of desirable elements--not too urban, suburban, or rural.)

There seem to be way more cigarette smokers, mixed-race couples, and teenage moms in the stores, restaurants and gas stations of Kenosha than we saw in similar establishments back in the old country.

By contrast, there are areas of Kenosha that are so rural, you can hear packs of coyotes howling at night. The first time I heard them, far off in the distance on a night when we had all the windows open, it woke me out of a sound sleep, thinking it was Bantam4 or Chicklet6 crying!

Back in the western suburbs, we all knew the roads where you were likely to lose your connection if you were talking on your cell phone. How annoying to have to redial to resume your conversation. Here, we compare cell phone companies with our neighbors to find one that has service at all, by the Lake or in the more rural areas!

Back in Warrenville, visitors always told us we needed a bigger house. Here, everyone tells us, "Wow, you have such a big house!" (It is bigger, but it would be unremarkable in our old stomping grounds.)

Back in DuPage County, when people heard we had six kids, they would tell us about other large families that they knew of. Here, people say, "You have SIX KIDS?"

When we say "back in Illinois...," people here say, "Oh, where?" And you tell them, and they nod knowingly and say: "Oh, my cousin's family lives in Elmhurst." Or: "We used to live in Downer's Grove." It seems like everyone here was either born in Wisconsin, or they used to live in Illinois. And if they don't fall into one of those two categories, then they're married to someone who does.

Wonderful advantage, especially for large families, in Wisconsin: No sales tax on food!!! Back in DuPage, it was around 8%.

Ridiculously bad thing about Wisconsin, or maybe it's just Kenosha: BAD roads. And I mean potholes the size of kiddie pools and sunken sections of pavement that give an old van's frame such a death-jolt that you imagine ty rods shattering, axles loosening and the crankcase cracking loose from its mounting. Every time. (I am working on memorizing the locations of certain bumps....)

(Once Blondechick16 was trying to sleep in the car on the way to theater class in Illinois, and a few moments after we crossed the state line, she murmured, without opening her eyes, "Oh, good, we must be in Illinois now.")

So, as you can see, it's been an adjustment! But there is much to love about our new town--especially the people in it--and I think we are all pretty happily embracing our new identity as Kenoshans.

("Cheeseheads," no. We're still too close to Illinois for THAT nonsense.)


Anonymous said...

That's so funny about the potholes. I grew up in Appleton area, and I've ALWAYS hated the Illinois roads. Wisconsin roads (esp. highways) are SO MUCH BETTER. But I've never been to Kenosha.


wonderloveandpraise said...

Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it? When we leave WI heading south and cross the state line, we say 'UGH. Illinois highways. I can't believe they make us PAY do drive on roads that are SO BAD!!!!'

lifelong wisconsinite,
ps - the city roads in Kenosha ARE particularly bad, aren't they??

Papa Bear said...

The roads improve when you leave Kenosha in *any* direction. And we call the Interstate highway by its number, or simply "the I". There are no toll roads in Wisconsin. Paying for the same road twice! We wouldn't stand for it!

Sales tax on groceries? Did they tax prescription medicines, too? We were surprised to find sales taxes on these items in Missouri but, to be fair, they were taxed at a lower rate than other goods.

I was born in Michigan, but married a lifelong Wisconsinite. She was born in Waukegan, but only because it was the nearest hospital at the time, even though it was across the border. You might become one of us yet. Just don't refer to anything east of the I as "country".