by Ann Friedman
I am from the center of the country and have lived most of my adult life on the coasts. When I was very young, it didn't occur to me that being from a small-ish town in the middle of the country might be a bad thing. It was just where I was. The older I got, the more I came to believe that the center was, in fact, the farthest point from everything important or interesting to ever occur. A place no one made movies about. (Well, almost no one. The people of Iowa thank you for Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner.) A place where leaving is the way to prove you've arrived.
In New York, San Francisco, and D.C. I got used to hearing, "You're from Idaho? Oh, Iowa? Whatever. Same thing, right?" This is perhaps why I love to visit cities and parts of the country not typically defined as tourist destinations. Pittsburgh. Peoria. Milwaukee. Wichita. Reno. When I told friends who had only lived on the coasts that I was about to embark on a month-long road trip, most were jealous. They've always wanted to do a cross-country drive! To face their fears of the limited menu at Country Kitchen, the bleakness of the Nebraska landscape, sexist good ol' boys and racist yokels. Maybe to assuage a low-level guilt that they have been to rural India but never rural Indiana.