Pre-pandemic I took a trip to the Midwest with my oldest son, and I named it after one of my favorite movies of all time, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Some time after, I saw Paul Rubens live and listened to him talk about behind-the-scenes moments and other PWBA trivia. Although our seats were so high my vertigo kicked in, it was a magical night.
Now here we are, nearly post-pandemic (praise be!), and I took another trip back to the Midwest with my youngest son. Here’s how it went…
DISCLAIMER: If you can’t make fun of someone, you don’t really love them.
My Weird Family
Turns out, 2021 is the year of the cicada, which come out from their underground dirt tombs every 17 years. They’re gross and loud and I hate them. But they do mark the trip chronologically.
One cousin recently posted a picture of a cicada taco on social media. Evidently, she ate the nasty thing. She told us that cicadas are crunchy. *BARF!!!*
I suggested that my cousins and I get a cicada tattoo to commemorate the trip. I generously offered to pay for anyone who dared get a cicada taco tramp stamp. So far, no takers.
My Dad’s Weird House
On that same cicada-taco-eating side of the family is my dad (pictured), who lives in what was his grandparent’s house. It’s historic, built in the 1800s, and has been in our family for nearly 100 years. (Slight exaggeration, but all family stories are slightly exaggerated, AMIRITE?!)
My dad’s house is a weird little place, with only one real bedroom and another that’s basically a walkway to the bathroom. (Bathroom was an add-on many years ago because outhouses were used when the house was built.) I often wonder how it housed so many children over the years, one of whom was my great-uncle Bud Isaacs.
Bud Isaacs is legendary in country music for inventing the pedal steel guitar, which is like a table with steel guitar strings on top and piano-like pedals below that makes that twangy country sound (listen here). Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, uncle Bud is unquestionably the most famous person in my family.
His story sounds like a movie plot: He left home at age 16, hopped a freight train to Nashville, and got hired as a performer at the Grand Ole Opry. However, once the folks at the Opry found out his true age, they sent him back to Indiana—to the very house that my dad lives in today. According to lore, Bud used door hinges and other spare parts he found around the house to create what would become the pedal steel, thereby changing the sound of country music forever.
The Weird Midwest
In summertime in the Midwest it doesn’t get dark until about 10 PM, so people get weird. I got called a skank at the local grocery store for nicely asking to go around a woman who was blocking the entire aisle with her cart. I LOL’d and texted my sister that I’ve still got it. #skanklyfe
We visited an animal sanctuary.
And we did what every 5-year-old wants to do, and that’s GO ANTIQUING!
Antiquing in the Midwest is epic. People keep shit forever, and they don’t charge a lot of money for it. You can find all kinds of collectables, like a vermeil brooch I bought for $5 that I 100% will never wear. Or this very cute Sherlock Holmes-inspired hat that my child hated.
My Grandma’s Weird House
Speaking of things people don’t need, no trip to the Midwest is complete without a trip to my maternal (non-cicada-taco-eating side of the family) grandmother’s house, which is bursting at the seams with weird-ass stuff, which I’ve featured before. She used to own an antique mall, so she uses that as an excuse for her hoarding. Taxidermy abounds, and I found a hat (?) made of what I thought was human hair but she later confirmed to be horse hair. I guess that’s better.
In her defense, some things are cute and/or collectable. But others are just plain weird, like the Midwest itself.
<<UPDATE>> My cousin thought everyone needed to know that the cicadas lay their eggs on tree branches then chew around the branch so it falls to the ground. The eggs then hatch and burrow into the ground until they re-emerge 17 years later. Here’s a picture of that in action.