The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Midwest Really Is Different

OK, so I wanted to see whether Greenfield, Iowa's town square really is "European Style," as its website proclaims. Google Maps, so. Sadly, the satellite imagery for this area is a joke, so I couldn't answer my question, but I noticed that this little county seat features 240th St. That seemed like an awfully big number, and, indeed, the entire town lies between 230th and 250th. Hmm. So, is there some metropolis 240 blocks to the north, the way nearly all of Dade County is laid out from a point in central Miami?


Turns out that this part of Iowa is laid out with east-west streets that run from 110th up to around 360th or 400th, and then starts again at the next county. Meanwhile, the county lines are demarked by evocatively-named roads such as Adair-Adams St. (between Adair and Adams counties) or Adams-Union Ave.

Good Lord, I just realized that the north-south streets are in alphabetical order, again starting and ending at each county line. So Clover Ave. turns into Orange Ave. because the third north-south road in Union County is the fifteenth in Adair County. Wow.

Now, the rationalist in me - the dork who loves logical systems - thinks this is kind of cool. And it's a million times better than the Utah system, which proves that Mormons really are freaky cultists with their street names like S 100 E St. (and they're all streets! No avenues to distinguish orientation). But when you look at those Iowa roads, those endless, dead-straight lanes leading to and from nothing in particular, it has a chilling feel, as if devised by intellects at a slight remove from our own.

The people, that is, with an outsize say in who our next president will be.



Blogger Rich said...

"The Midwest Really Is Different"

Yes, and thank god.

The people "whose intellect is at a slight remove from our own" would be Deists, the Founding Fathers who sent surveyors west, "enchaining" the Northwest Territories with the Cartesian Grid into Township, Section, Quarter-Section, etc.

The satellite imagery is spectacularly good in that part of the country--Google and peers don't think highly enough of you, though, to make the remote sensing data layers in everyday use at every Midwestern university available over the internet.

And No--they don't have an outsized influence on the Presidential election. You have your one-person, one-vote the same as anyone else--even when you indulge in that self-pitying fallacy.

Don't like the way Iowa or New Hampshire voted? Put your weight behind that 'better' candidate; make a difference. Nothing's stopping any other state from 'righting' that supposed 'wrong' Iowa and New Hampshire makes every four years, by you know, voting.

Face it: if you can't sneak a halfway decent candidate past the citizens of Keene or Des Moines, they really don't deserve to be President. And hell, if being first really mattered, putting a different state's primary first in line only means a different state would have the same outsized influence.

So changing things just repeats the 'mistake' folks cry about. And frankly, better Iowa than say, Florida or South Carolina or California or even Pennsylvania. Or Kansas. Or Rhode Island.

Not every geographical locale can claim that level of logic in the street grid.

10:52 PM


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