I have spent, for someone who doesn’t live in it, a great deal of time in the Midwest of the USA. I can recall the words of dear departed Vancouver country swing legend Ray Condo, ‘If you get the hearts of the Midwesterners, you’ll have them for life.” And it’s true. Most of my touring career centred on and around the Canadian west and the USA Midwest, and I’ve never been disappointed by the populace there. Friendly, kind, and enthusiastic as you’d ever want an audience to be, they have also proven to be die hard loyalists to their genre films. This is displayed in the majority of social intercourse I’ve had with them throughout the years, and always left me thinking that I was, perhaps, in Canada South, and it has always made me feel like a home away from home when I find myself drawn away from my coastal habitat to the heart of our continent.
To be fair, it’s not just the people (though that is a large contributing factor) that makes this region so great. I’ve always found the landscape to be charming. From the wooded areas of Minnesota to the rolling gum drop hills in Wisconsin, there is a sort of poetry to the way the landscape doesn’t have the stark contrast of my own native British Columbia. It kind of sighs and shifts thus easing you along rather then having mountains rear up under you abruptly, or the stark change from arid desert surroundings to major urban cityscapes as I find in Nevada or California. The scenery of the Midwest is as polite and accommodating as it’s denizens which lulls you into it’s sensibilities. Even the chain stores and and retail outlets which cling to it’s arterial highways like remoras to shark’s bellies don’t bother me the way they do in other spaces that intrude on the personality of the major cities and larger towns. It’s a strange thing.
I think the strongest picture I have in my mind about these places is from a tour I was on a number of years ago. The other dancer on this particular sojourn was Bloody Betty, of whom I had a great deal of fun with, and who’s company was the highlight of the journey for me. She and I left a wake of empty whiskey bottles, glitter and sticky faux blood all across the USA as we tore it up onstage night after night. One night, we had a show in a town called Grand Rapids, in Michigan. It was a few weeks before Halloween and I recall we had loaded in and set up our gear. Our fire performance stuff was soaking in it’s fuel, our pasties has been pre-taped up and I think the band had done their soundcheck. Betty and I had wandered off from the rest of the group in search off food that didn’t come in small plastic containers from a fast food monolith, and the early light had begun to fade at that time.
As we fed and watered ourselves, we stopped to pick up some fun Halloween items that we could incorporate into our show, and failing that, have on general stock in the case that we got home and all the good Halloween shit had been bought out and encroaching Christmas decor had replaced it. With out spooky booty, we began the walk back to the venue in order to paint our faces with our stage war paint. We passed by long streets lined with older style Midwest houses that likely would sell for over a million dollars in Vancouver. From their porches, jack-o-lanterns perched and fun throwback Halloween decor moved with small pockets wind that gave the impression that the streets themselves were sighing. The roads were not paved with asphalt, but had cobblestones, which no doubt were fun for small kids riding bikes who had places cards in the spokes in of their bikes to make an interesting staccato beat. Laid over this, snaking out from the bushes and the trees was a carpet of mist that clung to the vegetation. The porch lights were cheery yellow will-o-the-wisps and I could imagine the inhabitants eating pumpkin pies, talking about football, and drinking Blue Moon beer.
I am fairly sure that if you placed me anywhere in the world during my favourite season, I’d be crushing on the geography, but here I was utterly enchanted. For a moment I forgot about the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean and just soaked it in. I had a brief but intense fantasy of getting married and mating with someone of this place and settling here in one of these old houses, and raising a small and strange family. But then Betty lit a firecracker and I was brought back to my senses and realized that although I enjoy the surroundings, I’d likely get restless rooted in one spot so far from any ocean. But for one moment, I was ready to pack my glitter and gore and become a full on Cheesehead.
I currently pen this blog from Ohio. It’s November. The leaves have turned and are dropping off of the trees. Our crew are in the throes of filming and much like the hot desert landscape that we spent our first week in, I’m thrilled and happy to be doing this again. Not just passing through, but documenting it to later revisit along with my memories of these places which I am beginning to think of strangely sacred to to me. Beyond just enjoying the conviviality of the others I’m with and getting to know them better and having brief glimpses into their lives, but also when these products have been chopped, sliced and spliced together to tell their stories, these will show others who have not travelled to these places the strange and beguiling poetry of our path and maybe encourage others to seek out these places for themselves.
So as inspiration to other blithe spirits and gypsy souls, should you get a chance, answer that call. For those of you lucky enough to already inhabit these places, hopefully you see your homes the way I see them.
PS: It just started snowing – it’s very pretty, but very cold. Time to head back to the West Coast soon so I don’t freeze my fins!
Little Miss Risk