(This appeared in The Slice on Feb. 25, 1999.)
We're cutting short the reader comment period in the matter of defining "Back East."
We've heard enough. Here's a sampling.
"For those of us from the Great Lakes Midwest, 'Back East' refers to Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., or anyplace within 300 miles of them," wrote Ellen Pierce.
"I grew up in Ohio, which was definitely called the Midwest," wrote Lorinda Knight. "Therefore, 'Back East' must be somewhere east of Ohio."
"I originally hail from upstate New York, so there is no question in my mind what 'Back East' is," wrote John Sayles.
Peter Lucht said "Back East" stretches far enough west to include Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.
"'Back East' pertains to New England or the Mid-Atlantic states," wrote Marianne Kutner.
"I believe 'Back East' does not mean way back to the Atlantic coast, but back in the easterly direction of a prior home," wrote Margaret Ensor.
Mary Testa-Smith recalled growing up in New York City and considering Pennsylvania "Out West." But now that she's in Spokane, she doesn't mind if 'Back East' means anything on the other side of the outlet Mall in Post Falls.
Dee Hilt confirmed that there is plenty of confusion about this. "A number of years ago, I asked a friend at work if she knew where a previous co-worker was now living. She answered, 'On the coast.' I said , 'Oh, I thought she had moved to somewhere in the St. Louis area.' And my friend replied, 'Well, I meant on the East Coast.'"
So, here's our ruling. We agree with the half-dozen readers who said 'Back East' describes any place in the Eastern Time Zone.