Sometimes I wish I was shinier and smoother and cooler and groovier and had what they call panache and lived in a newer house and a higher tax bracket and was swooping around the country in a gleaming tour bus. I wouldn’t fight it if it happened, by the way. Just take one look at me and you can tell I could do with some better hours and easier miles.
And then I find myself standing at a podium telling stories in a high school gym in northwestern Wisconsin, and midway through the one about Tom and Arlene’s kitchen, I am reminded for the fifty-seventh time just how fortunate I am. I have to hit the road and plow through the snow to the next job in Northfield tonight, so I can’t polish this up, but for now, my scattered thoughts:
– I get to talk about art and literature with people who care about and support both but who also laugh without irony at old chestnut jokes like: A farmer wins the lottery. “Whaddya gonna do with all the money?” asks a reporter, and the farmer says, “Just keep farmin’ ’til it’s all gone.”
– I was sent on my way with homemade cookies.
– Many of the people in attendance put their time, reputations, and checkbooks on the line to bring me to town.
– As I signed books beforehand, a woman came in and asked the person beside me, “Who’s got a Ford pickup with a mail carrier sticker on it?” Six people within hearing distance all said the same name at once, and the woman said, “Well, tell her the dome light is on.”
– I packed in a rush and forgot my “nice” pair of logging boots (I wear them because I like’em, but also so that no matter where I am I can look down at my flat feet and be reminded that people like my brother the logger are working for a living). I realized this in the motel room as I was getting dressed to go speak in the gym. Then I put on the only other footwear available, my camo-print deer hunting boots, realizing with relief that there is no place I am am scheduled to speak during this tour at which those boots will violate anyone’s dress code or fashion sense, and furthermore, they may elicit a little envy among some of those assembled.
– Last night I stayed in a hotel room in teensy Luck, Wisconsin. Out my hotel window I could see snow, tagalders, and a parking lot that looked grim in the way only a remote, late-winter, sparsely-vehicled parking lot can. Out front was parked a log truck. And on the wall in my room? Two Robert Mapplethorpe prints. Talk about working both ends of the cultural spectrum…
Bottom line: This isn’t about some naive caricature of quaint small towns and bucolic rural life. Nor is this about “common folk” united and living in goldang-it harmony. I can tell you for a fact based on conversations, handshakes and outerwear that not everybody in that room last night votes the same. No, what fills me with the feeling that I am fortunate–lucky in Luck–is that for all the good things that have happened to me, I still spend most of my time operating close to the ground, and that is good for me.
That said, and just so I don’t sound too shucks, I’m still holding out hope for a tour bus.
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