Since becoming a long distance boyfriend, Lansing, Mich., has become my unlikely oasis.
Last week, I went there on vacation to see my girlfriend, who is studying law there. The first time I was there, I flew into Detroit in the summer time. This time, I flew into Flint in the dead of winter.
The experiences are totally different extremes of Michigan. Driving from Detroit into Lansing the first time, my mind became lost in the endless sea of Queen Anne's Lace and the simple, blue-green landscape, similar to a Bob Ross painting.
Driving back from Flint in the winter, there was nothing to concentrate on but mounds of dirty, gray snow and potholes the size of moon craters.
With the exception of the snow on the ground, Lansing looked about the same as it did the last time.
The blue-green wilderness was a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta.
Due to the weather, I had a lot more time to take Lansing in than I did the first time. There were things I became aware of immediately, once I took the time to notice.
I discovered why Michigan can accurately be called middle America. The economy, the clothing styles, and even the pace of life straddles the median.
While life is not as slow as in the Mississippi Delta, people seem to take more time to understand the people around them than in many other places.
In Atlanta, driving for a moment with your high beams on will generate a barrage of angry return flashes. In Lansing, everybody seems to understand that it is dark. A road encounter with what seemed like all of Santa's reindeer, on sabbatical, reminded me of this.
There are lots of those "salt of the earth" types, people resembling Dan and Roseanne Conner from the television show "Roseanne." However, the service people I ran into were friendly and generally helpful.
They may not try to impress you with their knowledge of soy chai latte and udon noodles, but they will, at least, point you to the bread aisle.
Those simple acts of helpfulness are sometimes hard to find.
I could have done without all the potholes. As many people strap large plows onto their vehicles and take snow removal into their own hands, the road is a craggy, uneven landscape.
One of these cavernous holes put my girlfriend's car out of commission for a large portion of the time I was there.
While the car trouble was inconvenient, we got to spend more time together being townies. I took public transportation and noticed the ridership was representative of the population. I saw "Frost/Nixon" at a local theater and saw that matinees and student discounts were offered everyday, not just on Thursdays between the hours of 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.
While it wasn't the most exciting few days I have ever had, there was an equilibrium in Lansing that was comforting.
It was not a winter wonderland by any means, but it was calm and peaceful, and that is what I needed at the time.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.