Sorry for no update last night. Note to self: Don’t get home from weekend fun at 10 p.m. when you have a 3:45 a.m. alarm. It really ruins your blogging time.
Now that that’s done, though, let’s let ‘er rip. I have one question for the assembled today: When the hell did everybody in the world get so ugly?
I’m indebted to our Turkish friends Fatih and Idil for an expression we use in our family. One day, while discussing a trip to Istanbul we’d like to make next summer, I wondered whether a secular American like myself would find parts of the city a little too Muslim for comfort, if you catch my drift. Oh no no no no no, Fatih said; Istanbul is a sophisticated world city. It’s only when you travel farther east that the going might get a little weird. “Eastern Turkey,” then, became our shorthand for any place where the natives make us feel like we’re on the other side of the world.
So Saturday we went to the Branch County Fair in southern Michigan, the quickest trip to Eastern Turkey I’ve yet made. It’s been a while since I’ve felt entirely at home in a crowd of my fellow Americans — about since piercing and tattooing took off like twin rockets from hell — but man oh man, you’d think Michigan wouldn’t be so strange and off-putting, like a trip to prison. Nothing like passing close by a man wearing matching cotton-jersey camo, the shirt emblazoned “Bobby Labonte” to make you wonder where your cosmic ship had washed ashore. How about a 300-pound man with a shoulder-blade-length curly mullet, shaved bald on the sides? His wife smoked a cigarette as long as my arm and nursed what appeared to be a one-gallon flagon of Mountain Dew. Teenage boys wore the sorts of clothes you can’t imagine any female finding attractive — those enormous pants, shirts that showed off armpits and man-boobs, and of course that mutant baseball cap made to be worn backward and pulled down to the tops of the ears.
And the T-shirts! Don’t piss me off, I’m running out of places to hide the bodies … Blondes do it better (this on a woman sporting five inches of roots proving she’s anything but). Tattoos on necks! And everywhere, 50 extra pounds of pudge, bulging over EZ-stretch waistbands and (why? why?!) low-rise jeans.
“When did Michigan turn into eastern Turkey?” I asked Alan.
“Oh, this is the midway,” he said. “And it’s mud-racing night. You go back to the farm buildings, it won’t be this bad.”
And it wasn’t precisely that bad. No, back by the farm buildings you could watch the “Hillbilly Daze” music and comedy review, watched by a knot of veiled Muslim women and their stern-looking menfolk, no doubt enjoying every minute of this immersion in American culture. We’re all in eastern Turkey now.
But a lovely weekend it was, otherwise, except that the cold Kate came down with last week has now moved to Alan, and will probably get me by week’s end, too. We spent the weekend at the lake, enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. Kate’s friend Sophia came over from Ann Arbor, and we took her home Sunday, which made for lots of driving but also the chance to get all moony with yearning for my spiritual hometown. We also saw Fatih and Idil’s new baby, their Yankee doodle dandy, before they head home. Talia is a week old and today’s milestone is Baby’s First Passport Application. You might be wondering, will she have to have her picture taken? Why yes, she will. I can just see the scene at immigration now:
“This isn’t this child! This is Winston Churchill!”
Bloggage: In case my brief meditation on how young people look these days wasn’t depressing enough, you can read this WashPost story about the state of one 26-year-old soul and get even more so.