Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Back from the Midwest . . . oh, the Midwest . . .

My lovely bride and I went back to the Midwest last week, as my mother was in the hospital. Steph and I spent an average of 12 hours per day at Kettering Memorial Hospital in suburban Kettering, Ohio (just outside Dayton).

There's a lot of good news from the trip. First and foremost, my mother is doing really well. Her surgery was extremely successful, and she's doing rehab with a terrific crew of doctors, nurses, and therapists. As you might know, she's been unable to walk for the past several years, but this surgery may allow her to regain some of that ability. She's really in good hands.

So anyway, now we're back in LA, and that's given us another piece of good news. You see, nothing makes you realize how much you like where you live than going somewhere else. The first thing Stephanie said to me as we headed onto the 405 on our way home Monday night was, "I really love it here. We can't leave."

What makes us finally realize this? Well, the return to the Midwest has crystallized for us what that region of the country is all about. You would think that given the fact that I grew up in Ohio, went to college in Illinois, and spent 30 years in that region, that this would have been all clear to me long ago.

Sorry, folks. Sometimes I'm slow.

Here it is. The Midwest as a region? It's:




That's it. That's all of it.

In case you doubt it, I'll tackle this one at a time.


The temperature when we left Dayton on Monday? 28 Degrees. And it was one of the warmest days we spent there. In 10 days, we saw freezing wind, snow, sleet, ice, and all manner of frozen discomfort. Seriously, folks, it's not fit for human habitation. You can tell me all you want that the seasons in that region helped produce generation upon generation of the people that made America great, but frankly, all I saw for miles were red state citizens with frozen snot on their plaid flannel coats.

The weather when we landed in LA? 67 Degrees. That's how it ought to be.


I can't tell you how many uncomfortable prayer circles my wife and I had to participate in ten days. For the uninitiated, that's when a bunch of people get together, grab hands, and pray. The comfort level, as far as we're concerned, is determined by the number of times that Jesus' name is invoked. A one-Jesus prayer circle isn't too horrible. Five or six Jesuses, and my Jewish wife is looking for the nearest escape route. And I'm right behind her.

Seriously. There are a lot of churches in the Midwest. A lot. And there are hospital gift shops that sell books with titles like, "How God's Grace Can Help You Prevent/Survive/Treat/Whatever Alzheimer's/Polio/MS/Cancer/Heart Disease/Rickets/Brain Anyeurisms/Whatever." I'm talking about books that tell you that "God doesn't want you to have Alzheimer's, so if you don't do all that sinful stuff (smoke, eat bad, fornicate, murder, steal, read the newspaper, see movies, whatever), you won't get it.


It's a sad day when picking up one of the "Left Behind" series is the best you can do at a hospital gift shop.


This is no joke. There are nearly a million people in the Dayton metro area. And there isn't a single non-chain restaurant open on Sunday. Or, really, much in the way of any kind of shopping. Blue laws might have been gone for 20-some years, but if you're hungry after the Simpsons, you better have a hankering for a Big Mac or an Applebees Chocolate Chip Cookie shake.

Because otherwise, son, you are shit outta luck. Even the restaurant in the hospital is closed, and it's no great shakes. Even most of the Chinese carry-outs and local pizza joints are closed.

There's nothing more depressing, either, than going from restaurant to restaurant trying to find something open. "OK, honey, we can't get pizza, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Italian, French, American, salads, or bar food. How do you feel about some Long John Silver's?"

Buh, with a capital B.

So anyway, we're back. We can breathe a sigh of relief. And heal our chapped lips and static-shocked fingers. And we can put our winter clothes away.

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