Our first stop was Mansfield, Ohio, where we picked up my eleven year old nephew, Beelzebub. My brother’s son is an, uh...”enthusiastic” child. He is, though, somewhat easily controlled, I learned, through the strategic use of holy water and various Druid incantations.
Our next stop was the Capital of the United States: Hong Kong. No, seriously, we went to Washington, DC, where, between Denny’s and several gas stations, we were able to visit such majestic locations as the Federal Capital Building, the White House, the National Mall, and, at the insistence of my nephew, approximately two hundred and thirty gift shops.
One of the stops in Washington was especially poignant for me. We attended a presentation at Ford’s Theater, sitting just under the box where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. I found myself in a state of somber, reverent awe, the extent of which I had not anticipated. I really was sincerely moved. Some other members of the visiting audience, however, didn’t seem to be as affected as I; I noticed a number of “enthusiastic” groups behaving in a cheery, jubilant manner, as though their sole intention for entering the theater was to somehow gain entrance to Lincoln’s box itself, from which they might perhaps sing Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. Considering the atmosphere, I considered their deportment to be, in the very least, inappropriate. The next stop for these groups was to visit Arlington National Cemetery so that they could do some lawn bowling. A few wondered aloud if there would be beer available.
From Washington, DC, we returned Beelzebub to his people, the Children of the Corn. No, really, I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this, but America is covered with corn. Driving through Ohio we saw miles and miles of corn crops. Although, when we crossed into Indiana, we were charmed to see miles and miles of corn. Illinois, on the other hand, boasts its unique crop, which is corn. In Iowa we did manage to catch a glimpse of some cows, who were bleating madly as they sank into the fields and were slowly suffocated by corn. Finally reaching Cedar Rapids, we stopped at Denny’s, where we ate some corn, which is, evidently, featured in every menu selection, including the ice water.
In Cedar Rapids, I was one of three authors presented by my publisher, Breur Media Corporation, for a book signing and reading event held at the world famous Hamburger Mary’s Concert and Events Center. Once our limousine got through the line to the entrance, I was ushered down the red carpet by security through the throng of obstinate paparazzi. Inside, I met the other two featured authors in the Green Room—where I discovered, to my profound chagrin, that I had been provided osetra instead of beluga caviar, in brazen disregard of my contract rider, for which heads rolled, I can assure you.
Once the cheerleading team had finished shooting T-shirts into the stadium, we commenced with the readings, which featured John Riley Myers, Prince of the Pharisees, Brett Edward Stout, Sugar-Baby Bridge, and, of course, me. The three of us then signed piles and piles of books, the activity producing carpal tunnel syndrome that, I’m sure, has permanently maimed us. After the event, we attended a wonderful dinner where I sat between E.L. Doctorow and Gore Vidal, discussing trends in cinema, international culture, and our opinions in regard to the cutest Jonas Brother.
The reading and book signing event itself was, in truth, quite fun. I was privileged to meet several people of particular literary acuity, individuals of evident quality with whom I genuinely enjoyed speaking.
From Cedar Rapids we traveled to Custer, South Dakota, to visit Mt. Rushmore and, just a few miles away within the Black Hills, the Crazy Horse Monument. The latter mountain sculpture began construction in 1948 and, when eventually finished, will be the largest manmade monument on earth, bigger than the pyramids at Giza, the Sphinx, and Nancy Regan’s wardrobe. The Crazy Horse Monument is, of course, named after one of the greatest figures in the history of the North American Indian tribes, Chief Monument.
Mt. Rushmore is quite a sight in itself, as many of you already know. The sculptures dominate the granite mountain, majestically depicting four of the most prominent Americans in history, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Sarah Palin.
Although I enjoyed visiting the legendary homage to American History, I have to say that I wasn’t all that excited about being cooped up in an RV resort—opulent fifth-wheel or not—without Wi-Fi, cell phone service, or neighbors who were comfortable walking to the laundry room without rifles. Not that I was ever literally “cooped up.” I could have at any time decided to do something just a little more fun, such as take a walk in the forest and, if I was lucky, be eaten by a mountain lion. The little township of Custer, though, is an unquestionably quaint place to visit. If you ever get there, be sure to look for the beauty salon named—and this is the actual, genuine truth—“Curl Up and Dye.”
Our final stop was Salt Lake City, Utah, where my father visited the genealogical resource center at the Mormon Temple Square. The archives there are the most comprehensive in the world and Dad was utterly determined to prove once and for all that he is without question unrelated to his alleged grandson, Beelzebub.
Since the drive home through Utah and then Nevada didn’t offer much at which to gaze besides rocks, Dad and I decided to stop several times at Denny’s for some corn.
Novelist Joshua Dagon is the author of Into the Mouth of the Wolf, The Fallen, and Demon Tears. For more information, please go to www.joshuadagon.com.