Thursday, September 10, 2009


Stuffed raccoons for sale in an ice cream store
in a place called Michigan. Pure Michigan.
There are still places that can slow the world down just long enough for us to catch our breath. Reconnect with what really matters at one of over 11,000 crystal clear Michigan lakes, thousands of rivers and streams, and more freshwater coastline than any other state in the country. Find out what pure feels like on your Michigan vacation.

Have you heard these radio advertisements extolling the virtues of my home-state, Michigan? Here in Chicago we are bombarded by them. The narrarator sounds like George Clooney and he describes a near-Nirvana that you can find in Michigan. Sometimes I wonder what the hell he's talking about. His Michigan is magical, mystical, and full of wondrous beauty. My Michigan is full of wondrous beauty but after that, not so much. I have to believe he has never set foot in the state. For one thing, he pronounces the town I was born in as Yip-silanti, when it is really pronounced Ip-silanti. For another thing, he almost never mentions the stuff I think of when I look back fondly at the state I grew up in and still visit frequently.

So here, with apologies to my friends and family who still live in Michigan, is a more realistic advertisement for Michigan.

Cue the background music:

There's a place just 90 minutes from here where fancy cars give way to beat-up Ford trucks with charming bumper stickers that say clever things like "Gun control is holding it with two hands." A place where old cars are never sold or disposed of but are merely set up on blocks in the front yard for the neighbors to admire. Where you can keep your haute cuisine and just enjoy a coney dog.

In this magical place, everyone wears a University of Michigan or Michigan State sweatshirt even if they never set foot in a college classroom. Yes, school team loyalty is a passion sprung up no doubt in the absence of any decent professional team in a place called Michigan.
In Michigan there is a special time called hunting season which is so revered that auto factories simply shut down on the first day of deer season. In a place called Michigan, you can take the animal you shot, stuff it and hang it on the wall and it is considered fashionable decor.
Yes, in Michigan, pure Michigan, every major event is celebrated by opening the garage door, putting the lawn chairs out, and renting a keg from a place called a "party store". And at every graduation or birthday party in the garage, your uncle is sure to have snuck venison into the sloppy joes and then say proudly, "Bet you didn't even know that was deer meat, did ya city girl?"

In Michigan, pure Michigan, when you ask someone where they're from they don't need a map, they simply hold up their left hand and show you. And if you drew a line from the base of your pinkie to the base of your pointer (that would be Muskegon to Bay City) anything above the line is a wonderful place called "Up North."

Up North is a wonderful place full of bars where men wear baseball caps with the names of farm equipment manufacturers on them and women who should not, wear tube tops. And in the winter at these magical Up North bars, the height of fashion is to wear your unzipped half-hanging down snowmobile suit.
Up North is where everyone you know has a cottage (never a lakehouse or a cabin) and you are always welcome there where you can be sure to play Euchre and drink beer while it rains the entire weekend.
Yes, there's a magical place and it's waiting just for you, a short drive from here.

It's Pure Michigan.


  1. The narrator is Tim Allen, a Michigan native. I absolutely love those commercials. We are struggling as a state, but we are Pure Michigan.

  2. Bravo, Judy! Another triumph. That's MY Michigan. Pure.

    Anonymous MM

    why do we have to capitalize "Euchre?" Just curious.

  3. I don't know why we capitalize Euchre. Maybe it is a game thing--like we capitalize Monopoly or something. A better question is why I insist on misspelling narrator. I can't believe that voice is Tim Allen! I just heard another ad and that does not sound like him. But the ad agency website says it's him. He is a good Michigan boy, ow on earth could he not know how to pronounce Ypsilanti, I wonder?

  4. Well, my former father-in-law, practically a life-long Detroiter, always said "Yipsilanti"
    And I always wondered why...


  5. OMG, I'm so sick of hearing about Pure Michigan (and esp how we MUST FUND it because tourism is so important to our economy, OR how we are WASTING STATE MONEY funding these dumb ads when we can't afford to keep state troopers on the roads.) Anyway, I now want to know which ad to listen to to hear Tim Allen say YIPsilanti. But I really had to laugh at your portrayal of Michigan. The truth, of course, is somewhere in-between the two extremes. We DO have some fabulous wineries and cool culture. and NEITHER of the Michigans (the "pure mich" ad or your parody) even begin to touch the Detroit area, which now that I work for a Detroit Rep, has become much more vivid (good bad and ugly.) INterestingly a huge number of Detroiters never get out of the city and are as mystified by those "pure mi" ad descriptions as any out-of-stater. Whew, that was long, sorry!

  6. How is it that despite the fact I'm not a hunter, fisherman, snowmobiler or wearer of caps - I'm still pure Michigan.

  7. We get the Jeff Daniels commercials for Michigan-can't say I have heard the Tim Allen ones but then I usually have the sound off AND don't have local stations on my sat dish.