I never sleep well the night before I head home for the holidays. I have a subconscious terror that I won’t be allowed to return to my apartment after my visit, that my mom’s leftover hotdish will be confiscated and I will be thrown in a suburban holding cell, peering at Minneapolis in the distance through barred windows. “Little too yokel for this town,” the officer will sneer, after my mindless singing of local commercial jingles exposes me as the fraud I am. (But Home of Economy really is where your dollar buys more!)
I tell people I grew up at the end of the world. It’s not exactly true, of course. There’s always Canada. But it’s close enough to get CBC on cable, which is probably the thing I miss the most from there other than my parents. Though I constantly fear being thought of as uncultured, I secretly pity everyone who has never known the joy of seeing Don Cherry’s suits on Hockey Night in Canada.
Grand Forks, North Dakota, is a town best known for being underwater and on fire simultaneously in the late 90s. To me, though, it’s the town I left for Minneapolis eight years ago, the lure of city life and the prospect of evening plans other than “drive around, go to the truck stop” too enticing to keep me.
Four hours west and one hour north. Five hours of me, the road, and nothing else. A ritual always undertaken at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and usually at least one other weekend a year. It’s far from an adventure. How can it be, when everything’s so familiar?
I leave from work. Heading west. Goodbye buildings. Goodbye suburbs. I pass the time through the Bachmannian horror of the area around St. Cloud by flipping off every pro-life billboard. It makes me feel better. It also keeps me awake.
I could fly home. I have before, when an ice storm made a three-hour stretch of interstate impassable. This was back when Northwest still existed and the route always used planes from the 60s that constantly rattled in the air, a 45-minute exercise in clutching armrests with an internal melody of Camptown Races: “I don’t want to die today, doo-dah, doo-dah…”
But it doesn’t seem right. Besides being ridiculously expensive (I could fly to LA for less… and why didn’t I?), it feels like cheating. To go home means to have the full experience of travel, to have that time alone to prepare, to shift my mindset. What is that saying about putting a frog in a pot of water and then setting it to boil? Read more