Exotic Travels: Farmersville, Illinois
A lot of my travel journals here have revolved around so-called "exotic" locations: New Zealand, South Korea, Hawai'i. I now have a new exotic locale to add to the list: Farmersville, Illinois.
We've got a lot of time off between semesters up in Oshkosh - the spring semester begins (...hold on for it...) on Feb. 4th, a revelation that made a number of friends very, very jealous. While we're in theory supposed to be available for meetings in January, it is in practice an opportunity to visit friends and family and, just as important, much warmer climes. When you are in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in January, such an opportunity is one to be not just taken, but rushed at and grabbed onto and kept in a stranglehold.
So we went on a road trip. I tend to think of road trips as something other than travel; "travel" means airplanes and passports, while road trips just mean a car and some gas. It's an interesting double standard on my part, because Farmersville is at least as foreign to me as Rotorua, New Zealand: Same language, very different culture.
Yeah, culture. The One And Only picked up a fascinating "newspaper" in the gas station convenience store next to the hotel. The paper's title was something along the lines of "GUNS ARE GOOD WEEKLY," and the stories were, well, terrifying. "Armed Waitress Prevents Massacre in Diner" and such things. The paper also explained a lot about how George W. Bush still manages to have a 25% approval rating. (Which, yes, is really low, but those 25% are like the one in five dentists who don't recommend sugarless gum. You really have to wonder, You think we should just get sugar all over our teeth? You like what Bush has done with the country? What the hell are you thinking??)
Here's what I mean about it being at least as foreign as New Zealand. The articles TOAO was reading to me sounded like pieces out of The Onion, but the paper has at least enough clout and readership - in, presumably, a non-ironic mode - that it was able to sell advertisement for upcoming sales and county fair events (as well as, of course, gun shows). That makes Farmersville and its environs at least as exotic to me as Seoul, although I suspect that I'd be rather disappointed if I expected Farmersville to be a gustatory equivalent as well as a cultural one. The only restaurant we saw was the abovementioned diner, which was certainly solid and cheap, but the Midwest is not exactly the burgeoning heartland of American culinary invention.
This should not, of course, be interpreted as a jab against cheese curds, that delicacy peculiar to Wisconsin and Minnesota, or as a slight to corn in any of its various forms. Maybe it's just that Midwestern food isn't to my particular taste. I love the spicy. A propos of talking about my two-and-a-half-year-old niece, I was asking my mother when children were able to deal with spicy, hot foods. My mother told me that for a long time she thought that those taste buds must develop late, because when I was a wee tot, my parents fed me food they didn't realize was extremely spicy, and apparently I loved it. As it turns out, my mom - who later became a nursery school teacher - learned from watching other kids that those taste buds did develop, but for whatever reason, mine developed to liking spicy foods. Given that I was raised in Michigan and my family is German, and the German idea of spicy means "Achtung, a touch of ground pepper!," we have no idea where this came from, but the end result of it is that I am not, evidently, built for lasting satisfaction with Midwestern food.
From Farmersville we departed for points south, which meant that we left the Midwest and its food behind for Southern variations, and while fried chicken doesn't thrill me as much as it does TOAO, the promise of true Mexican and real Tex-Mex food in Austin and Houston was more than enough to keep me happy.
Meanwhile, I also am hoping that, over the course of this trip (post-Farmersville points: Little Rock, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Lexington, Oshkosh), I will develop more of an appreciation for travel that doesn't involve passports. Not just because it's cheaper, but because it's important to know what else there is in this country, whether it's Farmersville, San Antonio, Morgan City, or Fond du Lac - in some way, it's all still foreign.
14. January 2008
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