I’m not really a provincial person and I love to travel. I love new things, I love new people, and I will eat my way through every exotic beach if I absolutely must. That being said, I’m of a slightly different mind when it comes to things within my own country. The United States is a vast landmass, full of everything from metropolitan Massholes to mountain-dwelling Mormons. Some of it is enjoyable, like the Liberty Bell and New York Restaurant Week. Some of it, including the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City and the Baptists in Birmingham, is not.
For this reason, I’ve come to one simple conclusion: For total life fulfillment within the United States of America, it’s not really necessary to leave the Northeast Corridor — unless it’s to head south to Miami or west to California, Oregon, and Washington, where liberated and fact-driven sanity still rules the roost. This might seem classist or arrogant, and I concede that it probably is. In the interest of backing up my opinion, I’ll present some justifications that I feel really make my case.
Defining the Northeast Corridor: The Boundaries of American Sanity
First, let’s get one thing straight: The northeast corridor does not encompass the entire northeastern region of the country. there are crazy people in southern Delaware, religious fundamentalists in Western Pennsylvania, and right-wing Republicans in Upstate New York. The northeast corridor comprises only those cities along the Northeastern Corridor rail line, as well as the satellite cities and suburbs that lie in the wider metropolitan areas that are served by at least one rail stop. A good visual representation of this can be seen by checking out this image. Alternatively, those unfamiliar with the rail line can reference Wikipedia’s page on the synonymous Northeastern megalopolis to more fully understand the geography.
Within the bounds of megalopolitan corridor are the following characteristics, amenities, and cultural offerings that make this a self-sustaining, why-bother-leaving region when considering domestic American life and politics.
All but Pennsylvania and New Jersey recognize the full legality of gay marriage, gay adoption, and the necessity of anti-discrimination laws for LGBT individuals. Several states within these boundaries also have trans-equality laws and protections for gender identity that are beyond what can be found anywhere other than California.
I wish we had more than one viable party in this country, but we don’t. The northeastern part of the country is governed by sane, liberal Democrats who understand the needs of their people. To that end, some of the states in this part of the country also offer universal health care coverage, individual care mandates, and other social welfare programs that bring us in line with Europe, Canada, and others.
Go to Kansas and try getting around without a car. Hell, go to North Carolina and give it a shot in any city but Charlotte. Outside of the northeast, it’s virtually impossible to go to work, back home, and to dozens of other cities without getting into the car. Exceptions exist for places like southern California, Denver, Portland and Seattle but, by and large, this region of the country is the only one where cars are decidedly optional.
We have it. Most other parts of the country don’t have it. I have no idea how people live their lives without being a short drive from the sand.
Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies have a headquarters in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, or Washington. Many companies have headquarters in all of these cities. Global corporations, major banks, and both venture capital firms and startups live within our bounds but could never make it in many other parts of the country.
Arizona is trying to build a fence, but in the northeast we built statues honoring our immigrants and have turned whole islands into monuments that celebrate diversity. For this reason, we also have another leg up on the competition…
Sure, they might grow the ingredients for our meals in the flyover states, but only in the Northeast and on the West Coast can Americans (or visitors) find the best cuisine in the world. Real Italian food made by real Italian people, or Mexican cuisine made from scratch by people who could never live a good life in Arizona, Texas, or elsewhere.
It’s Just Better Here
The northeast is home to Ivy League universities, major employment centers, major beach vacation resorts and ski destinations, cultural attractions and monuments, excellent food and fine dining. What else do you need? Whatever it is, if you can’t find it here, you’ll have to do what the rest of us do: Get a passport and go global. Because you aren’t gonna find it in Utah.