The midwest requires a different conception of distance than most of the rest of the country. I grew up in Missouri, and on the day I turned 16, I skipped school to get my license. I had to drive half an hour to go take the test. Most cities with stop lights were at least that far away. College was a two-hour drive on the weekends. In the spring before grad school, I commuted three hours each way to work up at Mizzou and teach at SMSU. Over the past two years, I've relished the 12-hour drive back and forth between Pittsburgh and Dixon.

Still, reading Ilan Brat's "Strangers on a Train" in the WSJ last week gave me pause. There are people in Chicago literally crying about being forced to take public transportation. They're devestated about the loss of what I have to admit seems like a bedrock principle of midwestern culture; our cities are designed around the automobile, and that makes it our right to drive.

I've adapted pretty well to San Francisco. I love my 10-minute bike ride into work. My shoes are well worn, and the Muni or BART take me pretty much everywhere else I need to go. I feel sorry for my Acura though. It feels like I've abandoned a loyal friend.

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