Thoughts on the Midwest, Spring 2012

Expensive olives and a European pop made my picnic outside Fitzgerald's home.

Expensive olives and a European pop made my picnic outside Fitzgerald’s home.

In the past five days, I’ve eaten one of the best pork products I’ve ever had; I’ve spent six hours alone in a car with NPR, the Indigo Girls, and silence. I drank beer alone in dirty, Pittsburgh-style bars and thought a million times of my dear friend Carrie Hagan who should live in Milwaukee.

I had one of the best days of my career in an archive of department store records that had memos and handbooks and blueprints I only could have dreamed of. Box after box of correspondence from the president to branch stores, the lion’s share from the 1920s. The amount of stuff I hauled out of there was shoulder aching. Mine sure did, but also from the 8 lbs. of cheese I bought from two charming young men who helped me sample some local beers and sent me on my way to Brady Street.

And now, I am in St. Paul, home of F. Scott Fitzgerald and everything I needed it be. I woke up in the expensive sheets of my lovely hotel after ten, uninterrupted hours of sleep. Got a coffee, finished my PowerPoint presentation for the conference, headed to the local St. Vincent De Paul.

In many ways, I come and go from Fitzgerald. His letters of apology for nights ruined and mean spirited pranks done for attention, soured me. I’ll never forget the day at the Firestone library that he fell out of favor. The literature remained unscathed and I teach a novel of his in nearly every one of my classes. But the person had lost his shine.

St. Paul is bringing it back.

“If you need to know if you’ve weathered the storm of cruel mortality, 100 years later I’m sitting here living proof.”—Indigo Girls