Midwest Musings

September 23-Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri

by Lenny Hughes

To paraphrase Johnny Cash, we've been everywhere, man.

Now we find ourselves (literally speaking, of course) sailing through Missouri, on our way to Iowa.

We've been so busy in this whirlwind month, I haven't had time to keep you informed, and the fans have been clamoring for more of these fabulous travelogues. One of them even bribed me with chocolates. Who knew anyone read these things?

We haven't had time for the usual recreational activities along the Open Road. Where are you, Walt Whitman?

We did get a chance to hit Lew's favorite roadside attraction: the Cracker Barrel. I think that was last week in Ohio.

Cracker Barrel in Ohio

Anyhow, last time we talked, you may recall he and I had stopped at William Faulkner's house in Oxford.

He wasn't home.

But it was an amazing experience. We were like Shelby Foote and Walker Percy, who got up the nerve in their younger days to pay their hero a visit. Foote went right up to the door and was invited in for an audience; Walker stayed in the car, too shy to take the chance of being rejected for appearing unannounced at the icon's homestead.

But from what we saw, Faulkner was more down-to-earth than you might expect from a Nobel-Pulitzer-prize-winning artist. Or tour guide told us his favorite TV show was "Car 54 Where Are You?" And he became good pals with its star Fred "Herman Munster" Gwynne when he wrote screenplays in Hollywood.

Our next southern exposure landed us in Texas. In Austin, we were at the Paramount Theatre, just down the street from the state capitol building. I spent a glorious day in the 100-degree trailer doing inventory for our fantastic new credit-card-merch-calculator machinery.

Austin Capitol

On to San Antonio the next day, where I made my obligatory trip to the Alamo, and got to spend time with my great friend from my days at the Post, Matt Hood, and of course his lovely wife Angie.

The Alamo

Our last stop in Texas was Houston, so sadly close to New Orleans, but it was naturally a great show.

A week ago, we started out in Toledo, Ohio, then on up through Michigan.

Lewis and I had a fantastic lunch with our old high school buddy Cary Engleberg, who has been a successful, overworked physician and professor at the University of Michigan. So great to hash out memories and arriving at a consensus that the last five decades haven't been as bad as they could have been for the three of us.

Ann Arbor

High school buddy, Cary Engleberg

It's rather like Frost's poem, which concludes (contrary to popular belief) that you may brag about taking "the road less travelled," but the choices you make are really capricious and arbitrary.

The Ann Arbor show ended in fire works, as a couple in the audience shouted obscenities at Lew and were thrown out on their arses to the delight of the crowd.

Another great pal from the Post was there. Allan Lengel, who now has an online paper called Deadline Detroit, chronicled the event. Read the article.

The last show, in East Lansing, was a bit more calm.

So, here we are in Missouri.

Springfield is a fantastic place, it turns out. As I flew in over acres of woods and farms, I wondered where the audience would come from. But the show was basically sold out. The town itself is in the throes of a renaissance. Lots of successful local businesses (include a neat little used bookstore, the Book Mark), fine eateries, and scores of renovations. But the rebuilding is being done with intelligence, as they use the older structures instead of the usual tear-down-and-scorch-the-earth, which you often see when developers are only looking for a quick profit.

The show was great, the people were fun-loving and generous, and it was almost sad to leave this morning.

But Des Moines beckons.

Yer pal,