Friday, November 7, 2008

I like "the"

When I think of places I've been, or places I'd like to go, some have a quality that makes them stand out in my mind: having a "the" in front of their name.

When I lived in Alaska, I could take a weekend trip up to the Yukon; drive the Alaska Highway, or the Dempster Highway, or the Klondike Highway, or any number of other "the" roads; go for a hike near the Mendenhall Glacier; etc.

I still get nostalgic when I occasionally look at weather forecasts for places I've been in Alaska, and see the National Weather Service's regional forecast for the Upper Tanana Valley and the Fortymile Country. "The Fortymile Country"... that sounds so awesome to me.

Here in Duluth, as I've noted before, "the" is overused on everyday places and roads that don't merit the designation. But that doesn't mean there aren't legitimate "the" places - the Iron Range, the Gunflint Trail, the Arrowhead, the Porcupine Mountains. Again, all places that call to me.

Then I think back to the year I spent in Manitowoc, Wis. - a year that just wasn't all that good for me, for a whole lot of reasons. I have great affection for pretty much every place I've ever lived, but I'm indifferent to "Manty." It just never got to me. Could it be, in part, the complete lack of "the" places? I can't think of a single one in the immediate vicinity. The closest might be the Kettle Moraine, but that's a stretch - it's closer to my hometown than it is to Manitowoc.

So I'm happy to be in a place within a day's drive of so many "the" places. And maybe someday I'll be able to visit the Fortymile Country once again.

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