When I was in high school, I saw a hilarious cartoon. It was a map of the United States ostensibly drawn by a New York teenager. Basically, it was a giant map of Manhattan, with all the various neighborhoods marked and Central park in the middle. Then it had a carved out portion that said “Brooklyn,” off the coast, a pointy pistol shaped form way at the bottom which said “Grandma,” (Florida), then way on the other side it said “Hollywood.” In between, there was nothing. No, literally, it said “Nothing.”
But I was always curious about the nothing. I can remember my first weeks of college being filled with walking that fine line between curiosity and offensive.
Like “Oh, you’re from Georgia? Do you eat a lot of peaches?” Okay.
“Texas, huh? How many black people have you shot?” Less okay.
What? I had questions.
Two of my closest friends in law school were also mostly geographic pickups.
Veronica was actually raised in Las Vegas! (Do you gamble all the time? Did you high school have slot machines? Have you ever seen the ocean?) I hounded her for years until I finally got invited out to spend a week with her and her mom. My first morning, I jumped out of bed and woke up her up thusly:
“VERONICA, THERE IS A MOUNTAIN IN YOUR BACKYARD! I SAW IT THROUGH THE WINDOW.”
Oh, yes, all caps. At six in the morning. I’m pretty sure she punched me in the head. Though she swears I passed out on my own from the elevation. (Incidentally, that was also my first time in California. My college roommate had moved out there, so after a week with Veronica in Vegas, I took a commuter flight to San Diego. There it was poor Helen’s job to explain that Hollywood was very far from San Diego. She did take me to Disneyland, though.)
My other big geographic find in law school was my friend Pearatty, representing the fine non Martin Luther King Day holiday having state of Arizona. She spent a good portion of a bus ride from New Hampshire to Harlem repeating the phrase “Arizona isn’t racist.”
I remained skeptical, but she baked the best cookies, so…
Anyway, as I planned my midwest getaway, I kept crashing against the giant wall of stuff I didn’t know.
Things that looked thisclose, were actually separated by 20 hours of driving. Apparently there are two parts of South Dakota and you can’t just walk to the other side. Wyoming and Wisconsin are *actually* two different places… not just “technically” different like Virginia and Maryland!
Thankfully, Mike, a poker playing troublemaker, was willing and adept at translating reality into “Stephane.”
“Sure, you can do Denver and Milwaukee by car! How many months are you going to be out here, again?”
“You can leave your ruby red slippers, Oz isn’t real. If a twister gets ya, you’ll be dead.”
“A twister’s NOT going to get you. Probably.”
Well, I never.
Given my broad parameters for the trip 1. I wanted to see the big President’s heads and 2. I wanted to come to Iowa to punch him in the head, he mapped out a route that Mary and I could do in about a week.
We flew into Denver, drove North through Wyoming to South Dakota, then East through Minnesota to Iowa and down to Kansas and Missouri. And somewhere in the middle we darted across to Nebraska for breakfast. 8 states, nine days.
And no, no one died.