Why Christopher Ingraham wants to be one of us

Christopher Ingraham, the Washington Post reporter who gladdened the hearts of Minnesotans by wanting to become one of us, is back with a more complete explanation of why he’s giving up life in the big city of Washington to move to Red Lake County, a county he once wrote was the ugliest county in the United States.

In a post this morning on his Washington Post Wonkblog, Ingraham, who apologized for his original column and then was personally introduced to the beauty of the county last year, offers a little more explanation into the decision, which I wrote about over the weekend.

He says he just couldn’t stop thinking about Red Lake County.

People who’d shown kindnesses small and large — from a friendly handshake at the bar to an entire cake baked and decorated with cartographic precision as a map of the county — to a stranger who they only knew from a line of snark he’d tossed into a news story.

I kept dreaming about big skies. Broad rivers. Flat roads running to the horizon and towns that smelled of wood and grain and dry prairie air.

The I-95 corridor was starting to lose its charm, he writes. He spends more than 15 hours a week commuting; that’s something he won’t have to worry about in Red Lake County, where he’ll be able to work from home.

He says he should be able to buy a bigger house with more land in northwest Minnesota.

It doesn’t appear he’s going into this blindly. He acknowledges asking the same question most metro Minnesotans even ask when visiting other parts of the state.

If you live in a major metro area, you’ve probably had the experience of driving through the country on the way to the beach, or to visit relatives in other states, wondering, “what do these people do for a living out here?” Were we capable of shipping off to Minnesota and becoming one of those families ourselves?

Many people I’ve discussed the move with tell me how it sounds like a lot of fun, but they can’t imagine living without all the amenities of a city — the culture, the restaurants, the general bustle and abundance of things to do. But with a 15-hour commute, these things have generally been an abstraction to me — activities other people did that I didn’t have time for.

Then, the weather. It’s cold up there in the winter, sure. But we’re from upstate New York! We know from cold. I’m itching to experience a proper winter after years of living in the mid-Atlantic, where the season typically brings three months of 40-degree drizzle and an abundance of mud.

But he says the tools of his trade are a phone line and “a good Internet connection.” That’s a potential problem although there are several broadband providers in the area.

He’ll still be able to rub elbows with Washington bigshots. Sen. Al Franken, for example, is already looking for a vote.

Ingraham says he hopes he can make a difference, too, by providing a Minnesota perspective to his national column.

That could be the most important part of his decision to live the good life in Minnesota.

  • MrE85

    I’ll be talking with Ingraham soon about ethanol, I’m sure. 😉

  • X.A. Smith

    Everyone knows that if DC was a county, not a district, it would be the obvious choice for ugliest county.

  • wjc

    Welcome, Christopher! I moved to the Twin Cities from Chicago almost 40 years ago and I have loved it ever since. Maybe a little less at -15F, to be honest.

    I’m not sure I’d want to live in Red Lake County though. I am still a city-boy.

  • Leann Olsen

    I cannot be objective about this story. I bet he will have no trouble selling his house in order to move to the ideal place to raise his children. Barf. He’ll probably turn this into a book deal and make even more money. No. I do not think I’m a good person for thinking these things.

    • One more artist/author in the state wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Especially if it gets us to stop providing team non-stop coverage every time Prince or Bob Dylan do something.

      • wjc


      • Khatti

        I’m still waiting for Dylan to do that Cole Portor tribute album.

    • wjc

      I did have the same thought about a potential book deal.

    • Khatti

      The dude writes for a living. He has to write about something. Would you prefer he start cooking meth to pay the bills?

  • Khatti

    I have to ask all you urban types; do you really spend that much time hanging out in museums? Two or three times a week? It’s the first thing that comes up when people talk about how they can’t leave urbanity behind.

    • PaulK

      I am an urban type (for the past 20 years or so after moving off the farm and heading to college), and rarely do any cultural events anymore. When my kids were young, we’d do the Children’s and Science museums with some regularity. Now I’m lucky to socialize at my local gaming store (Source Comics & Games). That would be the only thing I’d miss about urban life, besides easy access to a wide variety of retail stores.

      • If I had the money, I’d buy a small farm with a house and a wrap around porch and a small runway carved out of the corn field for the J-3 Cub which is in the weathered barn. Maybe I’d write a book about the move; maybe I wouldn’t. But I wouldn’t give any rides to the locals wondering what my angle was.

      • Khatti

        One country boy to another, the thing about town was always that you went there to do stuff and then you went home. I want to hear the MSO live someday, but I don’t feel I need to move to the Metro to do it.

    • Joe

      We go to museums regularly, but not 3 times a week. Members at the Walker, we go maybe once every other week, plus to plays and films they show. We go to the MIA, Children’s Museum and Science Museum’s once a month apiece. Visit smaller galleries a few times a year. If you throw in theater, we go to maybe 6 plays a year. So that averages out to about 5-6 trips per month. So it’s obviously important to us, and we’d miss it if we moved outstate. But I get why others wouldn’t care.

      But the actual reason we live here is the closeness to everything. Can walk to the park, the bakery, the butcher shop, the coffeeshop, the bar, the bookstore, the library, etc. Can bike to friends, work, museums. Can bus/rail anywhere in the winter. My “commute” to everything is minimal (and I never have to drive if I don’t want to do so). And of course we sacrifice space to do so. We have a smaller house and a smaller yard and less privacy than we’d have outstate. And many other things I’m not thinking of right now I’m sure.

      • fromthesidelines21

        Just a friendly FYI. Those of us that live in Greater Minnesota really do not like the term “outstate.” Trivial I know but it’s one of those things that sets our passive aggressive nature off.

        • Joe

          I was going to write “the rural hinterlands” but I thought that might not go over well either. 🙂 But thanks for letting me know. How do you like to be referred, if you want to be lumped in together at all? Non-metro Minnesota? Rural Minnesota?

          • Joe

            Oh, Greater Minnesota. I see that now. Haha. I’m slow.

          • fromthesidelines21

            Rural is fine with me. It really shouldn’t bother us but it does. Along with the feeling that metro folk seem to think the state ends at St. Cloud. 🙂

          • Everybody knows it ends at Rogers.

        • Don’t we know it. I’ve heard the complaint for years. I prefer rural Minnesota where appropriate. Greater Minnesota is loaded with passive aggressiveness, imo.

          • fromthesidelines21

            I can see that. I suppose it is just a local extension of Minnesotan’s in general feeling like the rest of the country doesn’t appreciate us. Which is why Ingraham’s move make us puff up so much. We probably need some collective counselling for our need to be validated.

          • Khatti

            This whole conversation is convincing me–again–that everyone should work as a bouncer at least once in their lives.

        • Khatti

          Really…I have no problem with outstate.

      • Khatti

        Well I do live in a small town, and am four blocks from work. However the family kept the farmsite on Lake Hanska, one of the few things in life I truly love. I do spend a lot of time in a car. It doesn’t bother me, I’ve been driving one thing or another since I was Ten, but there is the expense and the pollution.

  • EC

    Can somebody ask this dude if he either ha or is looking for a book deal? Because if he does write a book about it, that changes the story from kind of charming and funny to not at all charming.