Steve from Michigan

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Mark interviews Steve Yenik, a friend and co-worker of his, who lives in Kyoto, Japan. In it, Steve talks a little bit about the Midwest of the United States, the orignial thirteen colonies, and his hometown of Owosso, Michigan.

Mark: I’m just sitting here with my friend, Steve – my friend and co-worker, Steve Yenik, and we’re in Kyoto, Japan. Steve, what year did you come to Japan?
Steve: Uh, 1969.
Mark: Right.
Steve: Uh, let’s see, 1969, yeah. That’s how many years ago, forty? No, thirty, more than thirty years ago.
Mark: 59, 69, 79, 89, 99…79, 89, 99, 209 would be forty.
Steve: Thirty five, say.
Mark: Right.
Steve: Thirty five.
Mark: And you’re from the States?
Steve: Right, Michigan.
Mark: Michigan, yeah?
Steve: Yeah, Michigan. Michigan is famous for lakes. It has many lakes – the Land of 10,000 Lakes. And uh, Winter Wonderland, too. Winter sports – very, very popular.
Mark: Michigan’s up on the Canadian border.
Steve: Right, right, right.
Mark: The Northeast.
Steve: Yeah, yeah, yeah. North – well, Midwest. It’s called the Midwest.
Mark: But it’s the Northeast of the country. Why is that?
Steve: Well, originally the West – the country wasn’t so big. And so Michigan was not quite all the way west, but it was pretty far west, yeah, when it became a state.
Mark: Hang on a minute, hang on a minute.
Steve: Yeah?
Mark: What do you mean “the country wasn’t so big?” The country’s always been the same size, hasn’t it?
Steve: No, no, no. It started off real little. It was just a little strip on the East coast, and it started kind of, uh, spreading like, uh, like a fungus or a virus, or something. And it spread across. And when Michigan became a state, it was pretty far west, but it wasn’t all the way west, so they called that part of the country the Midwest. And uh, the other parts out there would be the Far West, and California was just something altogether different, I guess.
Mark: So, the idea of ‘west’ shifted gradually west, with time.
Steve: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah, originally, uh, you know, the Appalachian mountains would’ve been the west side of the country and now, it’s way far east. And uh, yeah, the Frontier. That was called the Frontier. It was a big deal.
Mark: When you say America was a thin sliver on the East Coast, where did it start? Was it New York or Philadelphia?
Steve: A bit north of there, Massachusetts.
Mark: Massachusetts.
Steve: And a little bit north of there even, actually, uh, New Hampshire. It started from there and went down to Georgia. And there were thirteen original colonies. I could name them.
Mark: Go on.
Steve: Uh, maybe. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. I did it!
Mark: Wow, good job! Virginia and Carolina, which – were those states named after queens? Or…
Steve: Yeah, Virginia after queen Elizabeth – the virgin queen – so they called it Virginia.
Mark: And Caroline – Carolina?
Steve: That I don’t know. It’s probably King Charles, or something like that. I’m not real sure, but they cut his head off, so, um.
Mark: In Australia, a lot of the place names are Aboriginal names.
Steve: Yeah.
Mark: What American states are Native American or Indian names?
Steve: Lots of them. Um, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Dakotas, North and South Dakota, Utah…
Mark: Iowa.
Steve: Iowa, Kansas…
Mark: Illinois.
Steve: Illinois, uh, Missouri, uh, Arkansas…
Mark: Seattle
Steve: Oklahoma maybe.
Mark: Seattle, but not Washington?
Steve: Uh, not Washington, no. Seattle, I don’t know what that is.
Mark: That’s the name of Chief Seattle.
Steve: Oh yeah? Chief Seattle. Well, there’s all those states and then when you get into cities, there’s dozens of cities. I grew up in a city called Owosso, for…named after Chief Owosso. So…
Mark: How do you spell Owasu?
Steve: Oh, it’ll be an O-W-O-S-S-O. Go Owosso – O-W-O-S-S-O.
Mark: Wow.
Steve: Yeah, yeah. Makes a…you can make a nice rhythmic chant out of that one for football games.
Mark: Wow.
Steve: O-W-O-S-S-O. Owosso! Go Owosso! Something like that.
Mark: How many people were there when you were growing up?
Steve: Where?
Mark: In Owosso.
Steve: Owosso. Oh, I don’t know. 20,000 maybe, or 25,000 or something.
Mark: Wow.
Steve: Not…not terribly big.
Mark: I grew up in a town about the same size: Mt. Isa, in Queensland.
Steve: Yeah, well….
Mark: How’s your tea?
Steve: Good.