" ...which Motel 6 check-in clerk gets to announce my room number, complete with directions, just as a crew of traveling rapists approaches the front desk?..."
Wolves Are My Weakness, April 7, 1998
"I'll go with the pig."
These are the words an Indiana bride might utter to Home Depot's interior decorator when asked to select a theme for the house. Pigs are popular, as are cows, ducks and, to a lesser degree, frogs. Picking an animal is often a Midwestern wife's first household decision, and one she's likely to commit to for life. Antique fairs, garage sales, craft boutiques- she is comfortable in any retail figurine setting once she knows what she's looking for. One never combines animals, unless one is of the Nouveau Kitsch.
"They must be from California," a Fran or a Patty will whisper across the fence, tsk tsk tsking the clutter of frogs, deer and cows in a new neighbor's front yard. "I bet you're right," a Sue or a Terri will sass back, tucking a Garfield t-shirt into borrowed sweatpants, "plus, you'd think a Californian would be able to afford a miniature windmill. I guess you can't buy taste."
Urbana is in Illinois, not Indiana. I was corrected by several appalled audience members during both shows. Oops. Who's idea was it to put the "I" states next to each other? Lewis and Clark should have slid Mississippi between them, so that a New Yorker like me (ahem) might have a shot at geographical accuracy. Besides, and I hope this doesn't sound area-ist, but all the "I" states look alike. Indiana, Illinois, Iowa- what's the difference? I propose we combine them into one flat state, Indinoisowa.
"I'll take a large."
After you marry your man and your animal, (no, they are not the same) you'll want to order an American flag, (and do it quick, before Puerto Rico crashes the party). Bigger is better, in both husbands and flags. You'll want a flag that survives a tornado, so that when CNN comes to interview the family after the house explodes, your patriotism whips in the wind behind you, bringing a tear to the nation's eye plus federal disaster funds.
Next, you'll want a flag proclaiming your animal. Strangers passing through town on a killing spree ought be assured by your porch that they are strangling gas attendants in both the United States of America and duck friendly territory. Do not let the love of your ceramic animal stop you from hunting, cooking and eating its flesh and blood counterpart. In fact, if you can serve pork or bacon on pig-themed china, you will be feared and respected. Frog lovers, you are exempt from this maneuver. Be warned: serving frog legs at a Fourth of July picnic will mark you as either disgusting or European, or both.
Two dark nights between Urbana, Ill and Lafayette, Ind. Decisions, decisions. What town wants a few extra evenings of Laurie? Which Motel 6 check-in clerk gets to announce my room number, complete with directions, just as a crew of traveling rapists approaches the front desk. (pretend that you have downloaded Real Audio and listen for the drumroll)... Congratulations Urbana, it's a girl comic! My ongoing fantasy of moving somewhere- anywhere- and getting a job and a life as if I am normal swells to unmanageable porportions when I am left alone and showless in the Midwest. Opportunities tempt me at every turn. I looked within to examine my character, since followers were encouraged not to apply at an Arby's off of I-74. Team leaders only! said a stern billboard.
Urbana's Jazz Cafe offers a talent Showcase. Poets, comedians, singers and rappers, "you've seen the Apollo, now check out the Jazz Cafe!" Three performers are pictured on the flyer and they make six the number of black people I have seen in three days of Urbana, which turns out not to be too urban after all. Urbana, I christen thee Suburbana, and dub thee capitol of Indinoisowa.
Ashamed of their big-city ambition, the larger Plains trees bend forward at the top, assuming a crouched position so as not to break the horizon's yawning yellow line of grass and grain. Railroad tracks have more crossings than pedestrians and I caused nice heartland people to swear and honk by stopping to look left then right before driving over each one.
Tracy Smith, a comic I worked with in Muncie said, yeah but this is a great place to raise kids. Right. That's what they said about Jonesboro. Besides, neither of us has kids. We need a place that's great for a single woman, the type who hates quilts and apple butter but loves to rent Say Anything.
A piano played at the Radisson in Muncie, and I felt like I was shopping at a Nordstrum's. As for the so-called crime in New York City, the week I was working in Birmingham, a Satan worshipping teen stabbed four family members to death with a pickax, and Friday, upon landing at the Indy airport, I read that two local teens shot and killed an Amish guy and three others (i.e, electricity whores) off an Indinoisowa interstate. One then killed himself, (I'm always thankful for small favors) while the other is in custody. Goodness. I hope I am not the X factor, bringing death and Court TV crews wherever I go, like a bitchy, pierced Jessica Fletcher.
That was my animal, a wolf. I'll decorate my spread with real ones, douse unwanted visitors with a splash from Carrie's prom bucket and watch the fun from my flagged and hummel-figured front porch.