Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Minnesota 25.5.02: Buckle Up Blvd., A Gallon of Blood

Drove to Grand Forks, North Dakota, today. Along the way, in a ditch—rather, on the side of the ditch facing the road—a large American flag. Above it, Mickey and Minnie Mouse cavorting and pointing down at it.

Midwesterners tickle the hell out of me. In any other culture, this “patriotic” display would be considered ludicrous, or playfully subversive and ironic. But I feel absolutely certain those who created it intended it as a serious and attractive display of patriotism. Not an ounce of irony in these bones, no siree.

In Grand Forks, we saw a restaurant on the main highway (Buckle Up Blvd.) called Fire Island. I told Steve I was quite sure the owner had no clue what Fire Island was all about—perhaps, had no inkling a real Fire Island even exists.

Steve later asked some of his relatives about the place. One who is gay told him that at a recent conference about being gay in the rural upper Midwest, a number of attendees went there, assuming it was gay-owned or gay-friendly. The owner had not a clue.

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Sentences you don’t hear every day: Steve’s mother today, “I have a gallon of blood in the freezer. Should I cook up some blood sausage?”

Mary Ann also said today she and John had been good to accept Louis’s partner “into the yard.” This reminds me of the German word Hof, which I’ve heard used in much the same way. In fact, I wonder if Mary Ann’s use of “yard” here is one of those many Germanisms that linger in Steve’s family’s speech. I can recall one of her Schindler cousins in Germany who lives in the house and on the farmplace from which Steve’s ancestor emigrated referring to when their common ancestor Vity Schindler established the Hof there.

The image I get when I hear it used that way is of the enclosed inner courtyard many German farms have—the yard—where house, barn, and work buildings form a kind of enclosure private to the farm. Something very primitive in this use of Hof/yard: our little space, a guarded one, that we open to strangers only with some forethought.

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