Friday, September 24, 2010

The Geography of Fiction

Recently, my fiancee Jenny purchased two seasons of Roseanne, the sassy 90s TV program. I'll admit that I watched once-upon-a-time but didn't really recall much about it. I'm sure you've all seen it, but if you havn't, go back and watch it again. It accurately portrays life in the barren, semi-rural Illinois town of Lanford1.

And, being the nerd I am, this is where I run into questions of fictitious geography. Now, I understand creative interpretation, and I also understand that Lanford is an amalgam of similar, real-life Midwestern communities. But the nerd in me won't let the concept go that Lanford is supposed to be a pseudonym for a real place. Being that I'm possibly from the area where the Connors reside(d), I thought I'd take a crack at it.

What we know about Lanford2:

A) Dan Connor played football, which typically is only played at larger high schools. As such, it should be safe to assume that the city in question has at least 5000 residents3.

B) Dan Connor is seen to read [fictional] newspapers with titles referring to DeKalb County and Sycamore.

C) The town is approximately 90 minutes from Rockford.

D) The town is approximately 1 hour from Elgin

E) The town is approximately 5 hours to Iowa, although this is never clarified which part of IA, so this is kind of a moot point. If they mean the Quad Cities, then none of their travel times makes sense (which is pretty apparent anyway).

F) The town is approximately 2 hours from Chicago4.

Here are my list of possible cities; the reasons for and against each will be displayed below:

1) Canton, IL
2) Ottawa, IL
3) Sandwich, IL
4) Woodstock, IL or Huntley, IL
5) Elburn, IL
6) Sycamore, IL

1) This is drawn from a direct reference when the area is given as "Fulton County," where Canton is the biggest city5. However, a quick Google maps search will tell you that Rockford and Chicago are each 3+ hours from anywhere in Fulton County.

2) Ottawa fits pretty nicely into some parts of the travel time. It is roughly 90 minutes to both Rockford and Chicago, although it's nearly 2 hours to Elgin from there.

3) Sandwich again fits nicely into the travel times picture, like Ottawa. It's 70 minutes to Elgin and 90 minutes to Rockford, although only about 80-90 minutes to Chicago. Most of Sandwich is in DeKalb County.

4) Woodstock/Huntley are about 90 minutes to Chicago, an hour to Rockford and 45 minutes to Elgin. The times are a little short, so Woodstock may be a little too far north?

5) Elburn may be a little close to the suburbs, as it's only 40 minutes to Elgin and 70 minutes to Chicago. It's also 75 minutes to Rockford. Elburn is near but not in DeKalb County. Also, it is a small city, but several nearby towns form Kaneland High School, which sports a football team.

6) Sycamore runs a little on the short side, too, with 90 minutes to Chicago, 45 to Elgin, and an hour to Rockford. It is, however, related to the aforementioned newspaper and is the county seat of DeKalb County.

So there you have it. Keep in mind that the travel times don't really seem to balance anywhere that makes sense. Any place that's 2 hours from Chicago, 1 hour from Elgin, and 90 minutes from Rockford is most certainly not in DeKalb County and probably doesn't really exist at all.

Dear readers, I ask for your input. What city is Lanford, Illinois, supposed to be? (Comment below with your answer)

1 Lanford is commonly referred to as "the suburbs" in Web-related materials, which is pretty odd. I guess it depends on your definition of suburb.

2 While I'm familiar with some tenants of Roseanne, I got some help from this forum topic, which I consider inconclusive, on a Blues Brothers message board, of all places.

3 There are exceptions to this of course. Kirkland High School is very small yet has a football team. Also, Earlville High School in rural Illinois once had a football program.

4 Another episode claims that Lanford is halfway between Rockford and Chicago, which is actually pretty close to Elgin. So that doesn't make a damn bit of sense.

5 This comes from a radio report claiming a tornado is ravaging the county or something.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm back...kind of...

Hey, I'm still alive and will be posting here again soon. Sorry for the delays.

In the meantime, watch this.