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May 10 2010

Speak to me not of tulips

Saugatuck

Saugatuck, Michigan, you will be interested to know, is a summer lakeside resort for wealthy vacationing refugees from Chicago. Although I am not a wealthy vacationing refugee from Chicago, I was recently obliged to biff off to Saugatuck for a few days, to rally round the sickbed of an aged relative.

Here’s how it all shook out:

My sibling Tidy was in charge of organizing the northward migration of the Faster branch of the family. I had already commenced panicking because I’d just found out that we were going to hit town right in the fucking middle of Tulip Time.

Sad tulips, Holland MI

Tulip Time is a week-long festival wherein the honky citizenry of the adjoining town of Holland, Michigan all put on wooden shoes and pointy lace caps, take to the streets, and clomp their brains out in celebration of their supposed Dutch heritage. They do this against a wholesome backdrop of tulips that were, perhaps, at their most dewy fresh the week prior. The honkys of Holland, Michigan get a big bang out of celebrating their Dutchiness. Thousands of others agree, apparently, and come from miles around to observe the Hollandites’ gaudy display of something called “street scrubbing” that I have yet to figure out what the fuck.

Wooden shoes: a spinster aunt cries, "why?"

Hence my panic. Traveling in general is bad enough (you can’t, it turns out, even get from Cottonmouth County to Saugatuck, Michigan; first you have to go to Austin, then Dallas, then Detroit, and then Grand Rapids, via a series of increasingly improbable conveyances! Seriously! And the whole time the only thing you can find to eat is ‘salad’ in plastic boxes!).

Not only did the thought of crowds of Dutch-loving tulip worshipers strike terror in my lobe, Tulip Time meant that no decent hotel rooms would be left, and that I would be obliged, in addition to all this other bullshit, to put up at some fleabag flophouse or, worse, a quaint bed-and-breakfast.

Perhaps you are one of those adventuresome psychos whose idea of a big time is to move into a complete stranger’s weirdly-appointed, moldy-smelling, creaky old house for a couple of days. Maybe you enjoy sitting around a communal dining table first thing in the morning with six or eight alien septuagenarians each of whom is bursting with such vim that they think nothing of bounding up the 332 steps to the top of Mount Baldy-Head or whatever the hell it is and then telling you all about it over grapefruit garnished with a maraschino cherry before you’ve even had your coffee in a chipped china cup. Maybe you get a charge out of feeling obligated to ingest the ‘innkeeper’s specialty’ — a sort of goopy egg pudding doused with caramel sauce and earnestness — for breakfast instead of your usual life-giving spinach smoothie. Possibly you are a connoisseur of diaphanous 19th century walls and of having to tiptoe around in your room after 8 PM for fear of rousting up the whole house. Fine. Go stay in a B&B with my blessing. But leave me out of it. When it comes to lodging in lakeside resorts, give me privacy or give me a gun.

“For the lovagod,” I therefore said to Tidy, “don’t, whatever you do, book us into a goddam quaint B&B.”

When we rolled up in front of the quaint B&B, a low moan escaped my piehole.

“Talk to the hand, ” said Tidy. After 16 hours of continuous and gruelling travel, 4 of which hours were, I am sorry to say, the unfortunate result of my inadvertently having gotten us lost owing to the similarity between “I-96″ and “I-94″ (I mean, come on!) old Tidy was apparently not in the mood. I had the last laugh when our mother elected to sleep in the same bed with her on accounta Mom’s own quaint trundle was uninhabitable.

But I digress.

Repellnt Dutch kid plaster figures, Holland, MI

Back in Holland Michigan, at one of the 358 or 359 Tulip Time parades down the main drag, I made a few observations.

1. I espied a float, sponsored by the Turning Pointe School of Dance and Borculo Wrecker Service, toting the Holland Area Mothers of Multiples. Nothing warms a spinster aunt’s heart like the spectacle of white women dressing up like LDS wives and getting acclaimed for their feats of reproduction.

Mothers of Multiples

2. No persons of color attended the event.

3. White people in Holland, Michigan, when feeling festive, eat things called ‘elephant ears’: absurd globs of fried dough the size of hubcaps.

Elephant ear

Anyway, now that I’m back in civilization, and it has apparently been scientifically proven that Boobquakes cause earthquakes in Taiwan, I can go back to sneering at regular stuff.

More of my trip photos are on display here.

73 comments

  1. jaded

    So this is how it feels when the world rotates backward on its axis? Thanks for the warning.

  2. annajcook

    Hey!

    Just had to hop on over and say I got a kick out of the fact you just vacationed in my hometown :). Holland’s a crazy place, in an extremely conservative county, but has a lot of awesome people in it (including my parents and siblings!), and even though I got the hell out of there a few years back — and have no plans to return there permanently — I still miss the West Michigan geography intensely. In a lot of ways, it was an awesome place to grow up.

    And my fondest ambition as a six-year-old was to be a Klompen Dancer when I grew up :).

    Never did it, though, ’cause by the time I hit high school age I found Tulip Time vaguely terrifying!

    Cheers,
    Anna

  3. rootlesscosmo

    a sort of goopy egg pudding doused with caramel sauce and earnestness

    In the Bay Area, the earnestness dressing is often invisible, odorless, and tasteless, but can be detected from the hushed reverence of the menu prose.

  4. jojodunc

    Twisty,
    Did you know that Erik Prince, of Blackwater fame and patriarch or all patriarchs, was born in Holland and was also at Tulip Time? See
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/erik-prince-says-his-enemies-are-al-qaeda-taliban-and-noisy-leftists
    I would have thought your obstreperal lobe would have been vibrating!

  5. Alex

    The only good part of this trip is the retelling. And you’re totally right about the fucking quaint B&Bs. Dear Jebus, how I loathe them.

  6. Notorious Ph.D.

    1. Ew.
    2. I have been to Saugatuck, and as far as I can tell , there are no persons of color.
    3. I will hear nothing bad spoken of gobs of fried dough with cinnamon sugar.

  7. Comrade PhysioProf

    That dutchkid statue is fucking scary. I’m Talky Tina the dutchkid. And I don’t like you.

  8. SargassoSea

    Turning Pointe School of Dance. ‘Nuff said.

  9. Hector B.

    I’m delighted to learn that Twisty and I are of one mind regarding B&Bs. The only thing I would add to the list of horrors is that for the price of an overnight stay at what is essentially Grandma’s house, one can usually stay at the local Marriott, replete with widescreen TV, portable massager, indoor swimming pool, etc. etc.

    Had Twisty sent out a call for travel advice, I would have suggested a flight from Austin to Chicago, followed by Amtrak from Chicago to either Holland or Grand Rapids. (In my experience, Amtrak will add cars to the train during peak touristical periods.) The CTA’s Blue Line from O’Hare will drop you off on Clinton, six minutes’ walk from Union Station.

  10. yttik

    Ah, while Twisty suffered the Tulip Festival, I spent my weekend as a tourist of urban art. You have not truly lived until you have lined up behind all the other photographers to take a picture of the bubble gum wall.

    I must speak out in defense of fried dough. It’s a thing of beauty, evidence of our melting pot, whether it be beaver tails in Canada, fry bread, elephant ears, the Italian zappole, bunuelos, etc. People from all lands have discovered the joys of deep fried dough and sugar and I think it may be one humankind’s greatest accomplishments. That and bubble gum walls.

    You think Saugatuck Tulip Time is something, you should come up here next weekend. It’s the annual Lutefisk celebration. I may have to flee to the city again.

  11. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Egads! When I was a charming young lass of 24, I worked with a gal who hailed from Holland, Michigan. She was an enthusiastic, vocal supporter of Nancy Reagan. One slow Friday afternoon, she was holding forth on Nancy’s habit of eating a banana every night at bedtime (she would’ve preferred an apple but didn’t want to wake the President with the crunching.) I speculated on what Nancy could do with the banana before eating it. Things were rather chilly between us after that.

    My friend Kim has a set of those cement Dutch kids in her backyard flowerbed, but hers are representative of her native Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.

    Amorphous blobs of dough fried in grease are tasty treats, but you gotta be careful about the freshness of the grease. (Connoisseurs can discern this by its fragrance.) Otherwise they make a person belch loudly enough to make hoofed animals paw the ground and whimper.

  12. Pinko Punko

    I’m sorry, but this almost makes up for the fact that I live in Bumblehump the year round. Haaaaaaaaaaahland, MI one of my hypothetical favorite lease favorite places on Earthon accounta going to school with Haaaaaahlanders, along with thetical Branson, MO. Can you go there next? Have fun at mini-golf! Here’s a 900 gallon soda!

  13. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Branson! Home of Stuff that Sucks in Ways We’ve Never Seen Stuff Suck Before. Like the Fisty Boys Hillbilly Knife Fight Show.

  14. Hector B.

    fried dough… evidence of our melting pot

    If anyone’s interested, I’ve long thought that From Churros to Chrusciki would be a good title for a book on the theme of the fried dough melting pot.

  15. Judi

    If hell is other people, there is no word for other people before breakfast. Dancing in wooden shoes. With parades of multiple offspring. You’re gonna have nightmares for months.

  16. Triste

    On an unrelated note, you should know that reading your blog has been a major contributor in my recent (over the last year or so) horrible monster transformation from fat butch she-hyena lesbian who nevertheless shunned the radfem in favor of the more permissive brand to fat butch she-hyena lesbian who waits, curled in her dorm room bed, laptop lapped* and open to IBTP, spasmodically hitting F5 for days on end in anticipation of the sexy patriarchy-blaming invective that only you can deliver. Such is my hunchbacked bridge-trollish final paper-avoiding obsession that, upon finding that your latest update was in fact a genuinely charming tale of quaint white people engaging in quaint hatred of women and non-whites, I actually was briefly overcome with a reflexive sense of moral outrage. What the fuck? I thought. What is this “Twisty has a life” shit? I came hear to read about how the patriarchy is mutilating you from the inside out and giving you cancer and kicking your dog and asking to see your tits while it kicks your dog. Jesus fuck, how can I get through another day without your sweet angry blamin’?

    Anyway, then I realized that holy shit do I need to get out more. I’m hoping that if I see Iron Man 2 tonight, it will numb the pain.

    By the way, as a person who regularly confuses things like “left” and “right,” I totally sympathize with your getting lost.

    * Sitting on the lap.

  17. claudia

    You have apparently accrued an entire legion of breathless, adoring fans from the nethers of “the Dirty Mitten.” Though I have hied to points slightly more civilized in terms of vegetarian eats and eco-guilt, I still look at Michigan fondly and think of all the times I couldn’t drive someplace alone, due to my fatal case of bein’ a girl.

  18. Jodie

    Maybe next time you could try couchsurfing. You stay in other people’s homes, but it’s rarely quaint, usually fun, and generally comfortable. And it’s free, so you avoid feeding the tourist megabusiness.

  19. Orange

    Wikipedia tells me Holland’s demographics are thus:

    “The racial makeup of the city was 79.1% White, 1.3% African American, 0.7% Native American, 3.0% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 13.6% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.7% of the population.”

    I have a hunch that the 13.6% “other races” includes people who wrote in “American” or “Dtuch” as their race. The town’s got Latinos, who have enough sense to find something else to do at Tulip Time.

  20. Jezebella

    Indeed, yttik, the fried dough genre is rife with tasty variants. In the Gulf South, we have fry bread, beignets, funnel cakes, and my recent discovery, funnel cake *fries*. What’s not to love about fried dough, I ask you?

  21. Jill

    What the fuck? I thought. What is this “Twisty has a life” shit?

    The blaming service is free, but unreliable.

  22. Hattie

    I share your loathing for the Heartland. Humor can get you only so far when you reflect upon its horrors.

  23. dillene

    Ah, you visited the land of my birth! Dear Grand Rapids, if only you had more gainful employment to offer, and less snow, and were not pustular with far-right conservatives then perhaps I wouldn’t have left you.

    True story: I attended undergrad school in this same Holland, MI. I am about 5’8″, with medium/fair skin and caramel-colored hair (this is pertinent, stay with me). While at college, I took a few semesters of classical Latin. One day, the class was discussing the people of ancient Rome, and our adjunct professor pointed out that the Romans were shorter than modern people, and had dark complexions. “Kind of like dillene,” she said, pointing at me.

    So yes, someone who looks like me is shorter and darker than most of the Hollanders I knew. Have you ever seen “Village of the Damned”- with all those freakay blond children? It’s bit like that. They have a somewhat skewed view of the rest of the world.

  24. Ron Sullivan

    Jezebella, pleaseplease tell me more about funnel cake fries!

    Don’t forget malasadas. They’re the opposite of beignets. Beignets are deep-fried air, wheareas malasadas are more like a deep-fried singularity.

    And dammit, the Pennsylvania Dutch aren’t Dutch.

  25. melanie

    I’m with Ron — the “Dutch” in Pennsylvania Dutch comes from a misunderstanding of the word Deutsch.

    Couchsurfing is definitely worth a try if you can find someone to stay with who isn’t absolutely terrible; unfortunately most of the folks on the site don’t fall into that category. The higher-ups perpetuate a rather misogynistic corporate culture as well, from what I’ve heard.

  26. MarilynJean

    I found myself laughing at this post and the comments. I went to school in Michigan and people who look like me received grave warnings to avoid Holland at all costs. No matter how much we loved tulips.

    Your remarks about B&Bs were also hilarious. I was just researching a quaint place to stay for a quick trip with my ladyfriend and I was appalled by the amount of floral wallpaper. However, I am somehow still in love with the idea of the B&B. Also, most of these places (outside of urban tourist spots) are located in areas where queers and brown people (and brown queers!) are not particularly welcomed. Even when I find a LGBT-friendly B&B, I’m still concerned about the dearth of people of color.

  27. kristyn joy

    “And dammit, the Pennsylvania Dutch aren’t Dutch.”

    Ja, sind, wir kommen aus Deutschland.

    Except with a lot more slangy spellings and butchered grammar.

    (Speaking of slang, butchered languages, and fried food, the other half of my family is Cajun. Bring on the beignets! Just without the sprinkling of perpetual, aggressive misogyny so dominant in that culture.
    At least some of the PA Deutsch, such as those in my lineage, became Quaker — which, as far as religions go, isn’t AS bad as it could be. Definitely ain’t as bad as Catholicism.)

  28. ew_nc

    Thanks Twisty. I now know where to go for creepily tacky souvenir trinkets. And be sure I will enter the establishments that sell the trinkets through the side door.

    Am I the only one that thinks a funnel cake looks like a slice of brain?

  29. bellacoker

    Further proof that 1) white people do in fact have a culture, and 2) we really should replace it with someone else’s appropriated culture as quickly as possible.

  30. Jezebella

    Oh, Kristyn, the Cajuns aren’t any more aggressively misogynistic than your average patriarchal culture. The food and music are better, however. You know what’s freakin TASTY? Crawfish beignets, seasoned with Tony Chachere’s instead of sugar. The savory beignet is truly a culinary wonder.

    Ron, Funnel Cake Fries are handily packaged tubes of funnel cake in a french-fry sleeve. So much easier to manage than a tippy plate full of powdered sugar and grease.

  31. tinfoil hattie

    I gotta have a concrete Dutch Girl. To put next to my Mother Mary statue.

  32. Sarah

    ew_nc, Funnel cakes resembling brains only makes them more delicious.

  33. kristyn joy

    “Oh, Kristyn, the Cajuns aren’t any more aggressively misogynistic than your average patriarchal culture”

    Believe me, Jezebella, I have been to both places and done both things.

    ie, been around Cajuns (I am one) AND lived in patriarchal culture (that I recognize as such).

    I’d say we displaced Acadiens are pretty aggressively misogynist. Until recently, rape was openly legal in the French Triangle, instead of just implicitly legal.

    I go more for t’e sweet fry dough than the savory, me, but do love some ‘tit (short for “petit”, not slang for “breast”) crawdaddy au temp du temp. How about some code-switching with your p-blaming, non?

    The PA Deutsch have their own version of beignet, the Faustnacht Kuechle. The only really good thing (other than Grossemutter’s homemade chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs) that I remember about Eastertime — it’s Kuechle Season.

  34. Pinko Punko

    True story: we’re at the farmer’s market enjoying a funnel cake (that is how they do it SLC, UT style). Sure there are vegetables, but you go for the fleeting chance of mini-donut man, fresh squeezed lavender or mint lemonade and funnel cake. Anyhow, we’re gathered round the funnel cake as a family and this individual busts in and takes some. You see this person thought they were at Costco and that of course this was but a free sample.

    Great fried doughs of the world:

    Funnel cake
    Navajo fry bread
    Beignets
    Fresh mini donuts
    Donuts

    Pretty much everything.

    Can somebody please sponsor Jill to ride “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland for at least a couple of times through? I predict an animatronic massacre.

  35. Margaret

    Writing here from the country of Holland, which prefers to be called The Netherlands, I was momentarily appalled by what I thought was going to be the slandering of tulips. Whew.

  36. janna

    Malasadas are one of the best fried dough concoctions in the whole world. I also love beignets. My grandmother is from New Orleans, and every now and then she and my grandfather get the urge to go on a beignet making spree, so when you go to her house, every inch of the countertops are covered with delicious fried dough. Also every year, the area Italian-American community has a bazaar on the first weekend of August, and there is a booth of pizza frits, which, as far as I can tell, are meant to be deep fried leftover pizza dough topped with powdered sugar. I don’t know whether anything like that exists in Italy, as all of the Italian-Americans around here are about 3 generations removed from Italy, but you can’t really go wrong with fried dough.

  37. skreader

    Other tasty fried dough thing = You Tiao (direct translation = “oil stick”).

    Very yummy – more often savory than sweet.

    Often served wrapped in rice-noodle wrapping
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhaliang

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_tiao

  38. awhirlinlondon

    Ha! Try fleeing Krakow and beginning the long trek back to London the weekend of President’s funeral while the god of Iceland continuously spat hot ash into the airplane-osphere AND the train station was shut down in honor of the Pres. and there was apparently no other fucking way out. Try it in a series of train stations in a series of Eastern European countries and languages, none of which you speak. Try it when the one person you find who speaks any of the languages you do shrugs and says “Maybe ticket somewhere West on Thursday.” Smell me no tulips indeed.

    There must have been sweet fried bread somewhere along the 1,000 mile journey, but all I saw were giant, doughy pretzels.

  39. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    *I* know the Pennsylvania Dutch aren’t Dutch. They’re Pennsyltuckians. Kim *still* has those figurines in her flowerbed.

  40. speedbudget

    janna, that is a real thing of which you speak. Zappole. I could eat them all day.

    My mom used to make us what she referred to as “Indian fry bread,” which is the Navajo fry bread of which Pinko Punko speaks. Gawd that shit was good. She used to make it only very, very rarely, I suspect in an attempt at intermittent reinforcement of the rare weekends when all three of us were being pretty decent. Oh, those shiny, glittery weekends still stick out in my mind, licking fingers after eating honey-drenched fry bread and sitting, full stomached, in front of cartoons.

  41. Ames

    Every summer on my way to or from Fest, I enjoy a stop in Holland to give the locals the opportunity to stare at a butch dyke, hairy legs and all (watching them closely while they attempt to maintain a pleasant and helpful mien). The main part of town indeed abounds with Cute and Adorable, but is horrifically devoid of decent espresso. The surrounding area is rife with expensive manors, the domiciles of wealthy troglodytes, last ascendant in the great age of Ronnie. During my first trip I happened to notice the amazing nature surround and decided to trek toward the more beautiful area, which happens to be at the end of a path that one has to get permission to be on. A guard of sorts, with the pasted smile of someone who was remembering his manners, told me that I could use the path, but he didn’t recommend camping nearby. When asked why, he said, “you wouldn’t be comfortable around here.” In return, I do my part to make a few of those Michiganders just a little bit uncomfortable every August.

  42. ew_nc

    “ew_nc, Funnel cakes resembling brains only makes them more delicious.”

    You zombie, you.

  43. feral

    “Give me privacy or give me a gun.” This is my new favorite quotation. Glad you survived the trip, Jill.

  44. Linda Atkins

    Ah, a mention of my beautiful green home state. I trust you fully appreciated the water feature in the McNamara Terminal at the Detroit airport (unless you were in the other terminal; then never mind). That water feature was designed by the same guy who did the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the world’s tallest water fountain, in Dubai. It is splendid.

  45. slythwolf

    Tulip Time is precisely the kind of shit that takes on absurd levels of importance when your state’s manufacturing-based economy plummets into the toilet, thus transforming into a tourism-based economy. You should see the stupid things we get up to in the winter when nobody but snow-loving winter sports enthusiasts is marginally willing to set foot in the place. (Those of us who actually live here, and can manage it, fucking leave in the winter. These people are called “snow birds” and apparently 97.8% of them wind up in my mother’s neighborhood in Florida.)

    Elephant ears are common at county fairs and other carnival-like events all over Michigan. They are essentially a sugar-and-cinnamon delivery system. I prefer the cotton candy, but nobody cares.

  46. Aster Medallion

    Did anyone else notice that the float with the uber-fertile females eerily resembled a burial plot with tombstone?

  47. Bretta

    It is “Holland Tulip Time” never Saugatuck Tulip Time! Saugatuck has the Waterfront Film Festival. Its neighbor, Douglas, has Family Week in July–the kind of event my loved ones could attend with pride http://www.rfgl.org/

  48. niki

    Yikes, all of these fond childhood memories of sugar coated fried dough are making a teacher, occasionally of children who enjoy these substances regularly, very nervous.

    I have had to tell parents ‘No Twinkies before I come over to tutor or it’s just going to be an hour of Scrabble.’

    One can, if one wanted, purchase a deep fried Twinkie at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in N. California. I wouldn’t advise it though.

  49. kristyn joy

    “One can, if one wanted, purchase a deep fried Twinkie at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in N. California. I wouldn’t advise it though.”

    Deep-fried all manners of confectionery are available depending on where one goes. Oreos, Snickers bars, Twinkies …

    Apparently it’s big in England; those blokes will even fry pizza, although I suspect as a joke about Americans.

    I admit to a deep and unholy curiosity about the deep-fried Snickers bars, though, and haven’t enjoyed a Snickers bar since childhood.

    Also, haven’t had a decent Faustnacht Kuechle since childhood, and kind of wonder if they’re as good as I recall. Basically triangular, raisin-studded doughnuts coated in cinnamon sugar. The best ones are crispy on the outside and very fluffy, even creamy, inside, not thick or chewy.

  50. yttik

    I let the kids try a deep fried twinkie. Best to get such obsessions out of your system. They couldn’t finish it, hopefully proving that too much of a good thing, isn’t a good thing at all. Second daughter may have taken it to heart, because she can lead you across a city sampling vender foods in small delights, sweet and sour veggies on a stick, an almond cookie, a shot of espresso. She maps her way around with this method, which makes her directions completely useless. Take a left at the BBQ pork, go a block past the fudge shop…

  51. leficent

    Delurking to suggest a few locales just in case you have to come back:

    Detroit: oh yeah. The food. The casinos. The breweries. The Eastern Market. The suburbs of Royal Oak and Dearborn.

    Ann Arbor: despite being filled with young people being all young.

    Houghton: I am not going to say that there is nothing up there but quiet, alcohol, and trees, but those are all very good reasons to go. Also: the Keweenaw Bay and all the old wood houses with widow walks.

  52. Paula

    I am so glad to see other folks hatin’ on the B&Bs. I’ve never been a morning person (hell, I’m barely a 2:30 in the afternoon person) but the idea of making small talk with strangers before I’m fully conscious squicks me.

    Tinfoil Hatty – does your Mother Mary statue come with its very own bathtub?

  53. rootlesscosmo

    @yttik:

    Second daughter may have taken it to heart, because she can lead you across a city sampling vender foods in small delights, sweet and sour veggies on a stick, an almond cookie, a shot of espresso. She maps her way around with this method, which makes her directions completely useless. Take a left at the BBQ pork, go a block past the fudge shop…

    Directions you can get from Google, but a tour guide like that is rare and wonderful. And that mental map will evolve into a stock of memories–the old Ratner’s on Second Avenue and Sutter’s Bakery on Greenwich near the House of D and the fudge sauce at Schrafft’s are a lot of what I remember about the New York of my childhood and youth, and, like my childhood and youth, are all of them long gone.

  54. TwissB

    Jill – Having marveled at your adroit capture of the essence of funeral parlors and B&Bs, I suggest you might produce a guidebook to both genres titled “Don’t Go There.”

  55. Melanie

    Kristyn Joy–I know you aren’t going to start speaking some German up in this thread, because I just made an A+ in that class and I am so ready to let loose with the utterly nonsensical declensions.

    Here we have no Tulip Time; here we have the International Barbecue Fest. As a vegan I usually stay away, but Ralph Stanley played last year and I just had to go. Strange beyond words. But really, as f’ed up as these odd displays can be, there’s something endearing about them that I just can’t put my finger on.

  56. kristyn joy

    “Kristyn Joy–I know you aren’t going to start speaking some German up in this thread, because I just made an A+ in that class and I am so ready to let loose with the utterly nonsensical declensions.”

    Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch, and it’s all really bad. So, by all means, the language is all yours. I only ever use it, as I use Cajun French, for the joy of code-switching.

  57. Jill

    as f’ed up as these odd displays can be, there’s something endearing about them that I just can’t put my finger on.

    I believe what you are referring to is the temporary suspension of focus on pornography while the citizenry wash over all sentimental about their culture. There is an indoctrinational quality about wholesome traditions observed en masse. Cultural norms are reinforced. And what is culture, except a set of behaviors and ideologies the assimilation of which is required by unwritten law, lest there be consequences?

  58. mearl

    Damn you all! I can’t sleep now because I so desperately want a hubcap-sized glob of fried dough. My one-track mind can’t sustain thoughts about the shittiness of touristy cultural shams when YOU POST A PHOTO OF FRIED SUGARY DOUGH.

    There used to be a ‘Beaver Tails’ kiosk in my city, but it got shut down and now I can only get these things twice a year: once when the Red River Ex comes through town and I get so drunk that I’ll eat food made by carnies, and again at Folkfest, where they call them ‘Whale Tails.’

    I’m not sure which is more traumatising: eating giant fried things that are served up by carnies, or encountering giant fried things while being bombarded by tulips and psychotic honky klompen dancers. Either of these activities requires sustained inebriation.

  59. Saphire

    Jill that last comment was awesome.

  60. kbmcg

    Hilarious. Now I stopped in here for conjecture on Elena Kagan’s sexual identity. If you are not going to pony up, then I’m going somewhere else.

  61. slownews

    WTF? It’s like reading that Mohammed has visited Disneyworld.

  62. dillene

    I’ve witnessed some klompen dancing in my day. Sometimes those wooden shoes break apart mid-klompen and fly out into the audience. You’ve gotta be ready to dodge.

  63. Larkspur

    Ooh, deep fried everything. When I was just a wee tadpole, growing up in a grimy little factory suburb of Detroit, the family and I looked forward to being taken out to dinner by grandpa. Grandpa, as I realized long after the fact, was the one who kept us afloat financially, since my parents didn’t believe in budgets.

    Grandpa would take us out to some of the finer Detroit area restaurants, which, since we are talking about a very long time ago, do not look very much like the very fine restaurants of today. I would always order the Fisherman’s Platter. It was an assortment of seafood, all of which had been dipped into batter and deep-fried. Fish, clams, shrimp, scallops, everything. Naturally the potatoes got caught up in the deep fryer net, too. So so delicious.

    My grandfather would let me order a Shirley Temple cocktail. The entire dining room would be hazy with cigarette smoke. Nobody drank wine. We didn’t know about wine. It was all Manhattans and whiskey sours and Coca Cola.

    Then Grandpa would drive us home in his large American auto, and we would admire the lurid yellow sunset. I thought our sunsets were pretty. I didn’t know they were often so pretty due to the high level of air pollution on any particular day.

    I suspect cancer has been chasing me around for decades, and is really mad at me for having evaded it for so long. I mean, after all that prepwork, it doesn’t want me to escape its clutches. Fuck off, cancer.

    I loved my grandpa. Last year was the 100th anniversary of his arrival at Ellis Island at age 11.

  64. Hedgepig

    I’m starting to wonder if “Larkspur” is the nom de net of Harper Lee.

  65. Hector B.

    Ethnic festivals are not so obnoxious when the ethnics are not smug f’ing Calvinists, in my opinion. The Michigan Dutch are close kin, religiously speaking, of those wonderful folks who brought us apartheid.

    There are some Dutch who are not hateful, but they stayed in the Netherlands.

  66. Ruby Lou

    Righteous props to Twisty for the accurate travelogue of southwest Michigan. I was born there, and lived there for some years. The lakes are gorgeous and the woods too, however the dominant culture is turgid hard-core patriarchy, with its gleaming polyethylene overlays of oppressive cheer, cleanliness and relentless phony Christianity. Twisty, you frekken nailed it with the airborn klompen dancers, the sniggering window-ledge boys, the plaster-vampire Dutchkidz figures and (my personal favorite) the portrait of a woman holding a freshly cauterized elephant ear with a look of dubious appetite on her face perfectly expressing the prospect of actually putting one of those suckers in your mouth and swallowing it. Grand Rapids, Holland, Battle Creek and even the hopelessly progressive Kalamazoo (Paris of southwest Michigan, where Kalamazoo County embarrasses the ruling elite by routinely voting blue) comprise a zone where it’s not unusual for Norma VanderNormal, at the helm of her Ford Expedition, to cut immediately into oncoming mall traffic with a big blonde smile on her face and a wave that says ‘It’s okay, I’m a VanderNormal!’

    There are persons of color in this region, a ton more than there were in say, 1965, the year they repealed laws against washing your car on Sunday or buying an alcoholic drink at a public bar (you had to buy a membership). They are mostly Hispanics who came up north to pick the fruit crops that grow along Lake Michigan, and stayed. But as noted, they aren’t much for Tulip Time. They’re on the south side of town, listening to texano and waiting for the berries to come in.

    It’s a serious challenge to one’s sense of reality to live in a place like this, tends to sort of bend your mind, so it is awesomely gratifying to behold the presentation of an actual sane human giving righteous testimony about the white folks of southwest Michigan. Sorry about the B & B, I got a load of the leopard-print hunting lodge room, dang, that’s some regrettable stuff right there.

  67. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    Here in Georgia we have fried coke. http://www.ehow.com/how_5557181_make-deep-fried-coke.html

  68. kristyn joy

    Holy hay-ul, Virginia. Georgians really do take the cake on everything.

    Here I thought I was hopelessly Southern because I just had to explain to my (white, uber-privileged, super Yankee, male) roommate when he drank (my) tea and complained it was too sweet, “It’s sweetea! It’s gotta to be sweet. Otherwise it’s just ‘tea.’”

    The Midwest sounds like a vortex of evil. No more so than other regions, just a different KIND of evil.

  69. Azundris

    Some things just don’t get better when you update them.
    http://ifshoescouldkill.com/2010/04/13/crazy-shoesif-youre-going-to-skate-skate-fabulous-2/

  70. Katherine

    Twice recently I have been hit with the utterly different meaning “B & B” has in the US to the UK (here and, of all things, on the Gilmore girls – I loves me some strange coincidence!).

    Over here, they’re usually just like small hotels – slightly cheaper, slightly fewer amenities – no requirement to share tables with other residents or partake of conversations with quirky owners.

    Now I will know, should I ever venture back over the pond, to stay away from them. Thanks for the service!

  71. Larkspur

    Katherine, what you’re describing sounds to me like what I’ve always thought of as “pensions”, which we don’t have here in the US, unless someone’s been hiding them from me. I’ve stayed in them abroad, and they can be very pleasant, and not twee in the least.

  72. Hector B.

    Katherine is quite right. When B&Bs started spreading in the US I expected them to be cheap, decent accommodation (shared toilets and baths, one TV in the lounge, etc.) featuring a hearty breakfast as I had experienced them in the British Isles, not premium priced lodging with chatty intrusive strangers at breakfast as they developed here.

    (I miss the Full English breakfast with grilled to-mah-to. One place we stayed for a few days, along with eggs, bacon, and endless racks of toast, alternated a Tang-like orange drink with cornflakes as an appetizer.)

  73. Katherine

    Well, Hector B – nowadays you are quite likely to get your own bathroom and a TV in your room too – but they do still keep up the charming tradition of advertising on boards outside that there are “coffee and tea making facilities” included.

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