cotts a real
sentimental guy, when you get down to it, I thought to myself as we rode
through miles and miles of interstate cornbelt,
him praising the scent of the air, the height of the corn, the blueness
of the sky. He said I can think here. I can think. He pointed out the
way that the red paint was peeling off of specific barns, saying one looked
rustic, another pastoral, another quaint,
another antiquated, another kind of sad, the
forgotten memories it seems to contain. He speculated on the life histories
of entire communities.
Scott was kind of excited to be going back to his little college that
he went to, you could tell. He breathed a lot through his nose and looked
sincere. His eyes had a kind of glow to them. He mentioned a novel that
Jane Smiley had adapted from King Lear.
The drive was long and flat. He told us that he thought Iowa ended up
with all the good parts of the 1950s. He said This is how it used to
be is how it is here. He tried to talk us into stopping at the place
where they made that Field of Dreams movie. But Dirk wanted to
get there, wherever it was we were going, ASAP. He said he was getting
sick of Midwestern driving, that it seemed like everything was the same
everywhere in the Midwest, he said, Ohio is
Indiana is Illinois
is Wisconsin is Iowa is Nebraska.
Scott said, Aw shucks, Dirk, it gives ya time to think. I chuckled,
because I always chuckle when Scott says Aw shucks. We listened to some
Buck Owens tapes. I thought of Frank, and how lucky we were to be able
to make trips like this, on our book tour, while that poor guy had to
slog away at his 9-to-5 way over there in California.
You would think hed miss the seasons, miss the fall, miss the spring,
yes even miss the pungent scent of fertilized miles of cornfields on a
hot summer day. We drove the speed limit. We rolled the windows down.
We passed a magnificent fruit and vegetable stand. We didnt stop, but
the watermelons were enormous. Life was everywhere.
We smoked a joint of high-quality marijuana a friend had grown for us
in a closet in his house. We talked about organic farming. We talked a
little about Flannery OConnor. Scott told us about a 150-year-old abandoned
cemetery he had gone to when he was taking a class in field botany. Out
in the middle of nowhere. Scott told us how it has some wildflowers growing
there that are so rare that they think it may be the only place in the
whole world where they grow, and how he thought it was kind of beautiful,
that all of those long forgotten decomposed bodies were feeding these
rare kinds of wildflowers, in a place where hardly anyone ever goes to.
I saw what he meant. Iowa reminded me a lot of Central
Illinois, but it somehow seemed even flatter. How
does all that corn get eaten?