My Broken Midwest Memories

My grandparents raised two kids in a cement block structure with dirt floors and no indoor plumbing. They all used an outhouse, even through bitter Southern Indiana winters. When their third baby came along, my mother, they decided it was time to move.

My grandma was sitting on her “davenport” in her home when she told me this four years ago. I was there on a visit with a former boyfriend to see my family for the first time in a long while. We were gathered around grandma as she told her stories. I’d never heard that one before.

Later on, I called my mom on the phone to confirm it. She said it was true, without much interest. To me it felt like a revelation. It filled in gaps in my understanding of my mother and shined light on cracks in my own identity.

I was born a Hoosier, but it’s been more than 20 years since I lived in Indiana. We moved a lot when I was a kid. The first time we left it was for Virginia, when I was five. We came back, to Indianapolis, but left again when my dad got a job in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was eight or nine years old.

After our plans to move overseas were made public, I made up weird stories about it to my classmates. It mortified my mother when she caught wind because a parent had fallen for it. She was having her own tough time, grieving in advance for the friends, family, church, and city she would lose. This all happened in the 1990s, but she still talks about this period like it was yesterday.

We lived abroad for less than a year before we came back to the States — but not to Indiana. Under palm trees, not corn stalks, my identity formed under a blazing hot sun in the forge that is Florida.

After undergrad, I moved a lot on my own, too, to Brooklyn, San Francisco, and even to Gothenburg, Sweden. I kept my home state in the back of my mind all the while as the potential future site of my settling-down. You can buy a four-bedroom house in Indiana for $150,000—a very nice back-up plan, indeed, I thought.

It was with that naive vision of the state that I’d set out on my road trip in 2013. I booked a room in a funky inn in a historic town nearby for $60 a night. The owner wanted to speak over the phone first. He had lots of questions. Well meaning, I thought.

The last time I’d visited that particular town I was a pre-teen with my aunt and mom. I dug through bins in an antique shop while they browsed. I remember I bought a Superman comic in which he marries Lois Lane, because I thought it might increase in value.

When we arrived, the cute inn I’d booked was a little rundown. The bed dipped in the middle and the room smelled moldy. The town was nothing like I’d remembered. I’d pictured shops filled with local crafts. People outside and walking on the sidewalks. It was a ghost town. My aunt told us they’d closed an important bridge across the Wabash in 2012. It was the town’s connection point to Illinois. It’s just too hard to get to now.

After dinner and a couple of beers outside at my cousin’s place, my ex-boyfriend needed a cigarette. He’d been keeping it a secret from my family all day. I told him that around those parts it was not a good idea to stop off on a road in the middle of someone’s cornfield. It would look sketchy.

Maybe two minutes after he lit up, a pickup came down the road, a plume of dirt kicking up into the air behind it.

All through our trip so far, the people we ran into — shopkeepers, waiters, and so on — wanted to know where we were from. Over time, the phone conversation I’d had with the inn’s owner made sense. “Where are you from?” is the Midwest version of a longer sentence: “You are not one of us, we all know it, and we want you to know that we are watching.”

A man got out of the truck and asked us a few questions. He was friendly enough, but I knew what his “friendliness” meant. I gestured in the direction of my cousin’s house and told him we were visiting family. Then we got out.

There was a Whirlpool factory on the side of U.S. Highway 41, on the way to my grandma’s house. Its gleaming blue facade and the swooping motion in the big logo on its side looked so modern to me as a child. It was my landmark that told me we were getting close on car rides. A beacon of industry and things to come after miles of relative nothingness. It shut down in 2010, despite protests. Hundreds lost their jobs.

My mom had never been on board with my idealization of Indiana, and now I know why. The town she grew up in had a population of 500 at the time. Though it had a brief blossoming, after 1970 that number began to shrink. There was never anything for hardly anybody there. There’s even less today.

My secret deep longing for Indiana had more to do with people, time, and childhood than the state. Some things I missed I could probably find elsewhere. The sound of the cicadas, for example, along with their spooky shells that cling to trees in the summer. Hummingbirds at a feeder in the backyard. Cold drinks on a hot porch. I can’t recreate the wonderful feeling of eating Miracle Whip and bologna sandwiches with American cheese on white bread. Those were forbidden in my house, but OK to eat at grandma’s. There’s Canasta played at a kitchen table with my family, too. Even if we all played now, I’d no longer be the youngest trying to hold my own with the grown-ups. (Plus, we’d all have our digital distractions.) I realize I wanted to visit thosethings. But like the factory jobs and traffic flowing across the river from a neighboring state, they’re gone.

Tech Starts To Get It Right

Tech touches the lives of many, even those who can’t afford it. It is woven into the fabric of every American citizen’s day. Tech has real power to influence our jobs, our relationships, and our personal freedom. But in 2017, tech companies are not particularly known for doing the right thing.

When it comes to ageracegender, and economic equality, the track record isn’t stellar. Tech’s poor attempts at resolving its cultural problems are too often echoed in the way its content moderation teams handle abuse (or don’t). This week has been a turning point. Just maybe, tech is waking up.

Social media platforms, domain registrars, and hosts have booted high-profile white supremacists from their services after the horrific events in Charlottesville, VA, that killed three people. Their reaction is a glimmer of hope for those who have begged tech to do better for years.

Here’s a list of technology companies that have recently announced a new amendment to their Terms of Service regarding hate speech or the specific enforcement of such existing policies.

Airbnb canceled a number of accounts and bookings associated with the “Unite the Right” rally.

Apple has cut off Apple Pay services to websites selling Nazi apparelIt’s also collecting donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League, and other groups.

Cloudflare stopped providing its service to The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi and white supremacy publication, to counter the site’s assertion that the company shared their views.

Discord announced that it banned so-called “alt-right” groups.

Facebook removed an event page for the “Unite the Right” rally and Mark Zuckerberg released a statement regarding the company’s plans to crack down on posts that promote hate crimes.

GoDaddy removed The Daily Stormer, citing a Terms of Service violation.

GoFundMe has removed fundraising campaigns for James Fields, the man accused of killing Heather Heyer and injuring others in the attack in Charlottesville.

Google/Alphabet, Inc. announced that it, too, would revoke The Daily Stormer just a few short hours after it migrated there from GoDaddyIt also removed The Daily Stormer’s channel from YouTube.

MailChimp announced an update to its Terms of Use that makes hate speech violations more clear.

OKCupid announced that it banned a white supremacist “for life.”

PayPal reinforced its commitment to its Acceptable Use Policy (after the SPLC posted about uses of the payment processor by hate groups).

SendGrid suspended service to The Daily Stormer.

Spotify removed white supremacist music from its platform.

Squarespace removed a group of white supremacist sites, including that of Richard Spencer, citing its Acceptable Use Policy.

Tucows stopped providing services to The Daily Stormer’s founder.

Twilio added a hate speech prohibition to its Acceptable Use Policy.

Twitter has recently removed a handful of white supremacist accounts, including two associated with The Daily Stormer.

WordPress took Vanguard America offline, citing a Terms of Service violation.

Zoho revoked The Daily Stormer’s access to its services, citing a Terms of Service violation.

The Cost of Our Move from Brooklyn to Jersey City

When my husband and I signed the lease on a new apartment earlier this year, I was really excited, but hated the idea that it would have to involve spending a bunch of money just to relocate our belongings across a couple of bridges.

We both knew we couldn’t deal with the entire move on our own, though (not to mention the drive through Manhattan!). So we hired movers, but together the two of us tried to go about every other step strategically to avoid excess costs.

Here’s roughly how much it cost us to relocate two peoples’ stuff from a one-bedroom walk-up in Brooklyn, NY, around ten miles to a new elevator building in Jersey City, NJ.

Supplies

  • Scissors: $3

  • Eight-pack of Sharpies: $5

  • Six rolls of Scotch Sure Start shipping tape: $23

  • Five rolls of bubble wrap: $74

  • One cardboard poster tube: $8

  • One vinyl records storage box: $14

  • 20 small bankers boxes: $40

  • Eight medium bankers boxes: $32

  • Three wardrobe boxes: $40

Total: $246

Our box costs were pretty low because we reused boxes shipped to us in the mail. If you use Amazon as much as we do, we recommend this.

It’s eBay Time

There is no point in moving things you don’t want. If you pack it up, you’re both adding to your costs and only delaying the inevitable need to figure out what to do with it. After moving day is over, it should be the end of all of that stuff and time for prettying up and enjoying your new place. A lot of our things got thrown out along the way during our packing process. Anything we didn’t want that also happened to be manufactured by a recognizable brand got cleaned up, photographed and listed on eBay.

A lot of the smaller items fit in envelopes. A big pack of padded envelopes was $6.50. Between the two of us, we made almost $900 on eBay after fees.

We also listed some other bits that were too bulky to ship in a local Facebook group and had people pick them up. That brought in around $100.

Donations

We unearthed five pairs of old eyeglasses while we were packing. Nobody needs that many backup frames. We decided to donate them and, after a little bit of searching, I found New Eyes. It happened to be based out of New Jersey, which sounded serendipitously nice. So, off some of our old frames went to New Eyes (in one of those padded envelopes, of course). Shipping our frames was less than $10, I believe, and it’s tax deductible.

Moving Day

We found a well-rated moving company that gave us a fair and logical estimate. They also responded quickly to emails, which is important to me. [Side note: One mainstream moving company had sent me a cheery email with a quote of more than $2,300 for an “interstate (long-distance) move.”] Our new building in Jersey City required a Certificate of Insurance, for which the movers charged $50. The move itself, plus tip, was about $500.

Cleaning Day

It turned out that our landlady wasn’t too picky about the cleanliness of the place after we left, but since I knew about things going bad with landlords around this topic for other people (and because I wanted my deposit back), I booked a move-out clean with a cleaning service. Cost: $150, tip included.

Other Stuff

We took our most valuable personal belongings with us in a car service over to the new place on moving day, while the movers were headed there in their truck. Cost: $50.

I’m going to assume I also missed a few items in my supplies list. Cost: $20.

The Total

I had hoped that our successful experience with eBay and getting rid of other stuff through Facebook would have meant we broke even, but I guess we did wind up paying. Total costs, if you factor in eBay profits? $32.50!!!

Packing and moving from BK to JC: $1,032.50

Profits from temporarily turning ourselves into eBay/FB machines: $1,000

I hope this post helps someone avoid paying ridiculous moving costs. ❤

I’m pretty happy with how this process turned out for the both us. I might even call it… A++, Good experience. Very appreciated; Would do again!