I’m not sure if tumblr can really prepare you for the reality of this. Don’t think it’s just some oddball thing that comes up every now and again. Everyone in Michigan does this, and they do it constantly. If you can get through a week of talking to Michiganders without at least one person doing this, I would be surprised.
I do it constantly. I cannot talk about my position in the world in any manner without mapping it onto my body, and I think this habit actually has influenced the way I think about bodies in relation to space. I also use my hand to show/think about geography in Flint (if you close your thumb, it’s more or less the same rectangle).
I can map the dirt roads on the tips of the U.P.’s fingers. I can show you at least ten notable ghost towns on my palm. I can trace the migration of the major strains of Mexican-American and Guatamalan-American migrant workers into the hand. I can show you how far up your fingers the Great Chicago fire spread. I could probably color the whole thing in to show population density by memory. I can outline the regions that have Halo Burgers and the regions that have Nationals. I can tell you where in your palm it starts to get seedy fulla white supremacist militiamen. I can pinpoint the three or four most terrifying spots in Michigan that I’ve ever been. Between the left index and middle finger was the spot that I felt the most isolated I’ve ever felt and I grew up in Nevada. I can name so many of the islands that your hand can’t show. (Did you know one of them is called Squaw? Yeah.) I can tell you which interstates specifically were designed to erase which neighborhoods of black people (at least in Lansing and Flint). I can show you where the first Catholic, Anabaptist, and Lutheran churches in Michigan were. I can tell you about the Finns or the Lithuanians or the Croatians or especially the Franconians. I could stand to know a little more about the Dutch. I feel weird that Muskegon is shown here but Saginaw and Jackson aren’t.