Thursday, July 26, 2018
The Joy of Illinois
I flagged down a farmer driving a tractor today. Which I did not think I could do. In fact, I knew I wouldn't. "I'm not going to be waylaying farmers in fields," I said, back at the office.
But now I was 200 miles south of the office. And I had just spent a very pleasant hour with a soybean farmer—fourth generation—and was feeling in the zone. This second farmer, on a big green John Deere, had waved to me as I inched past on the narrow, single lane road. I waved back, then continued on. But that immediately struck me as timidity. So at the next intersection, a T, I did a three-point turn and headed back and we talked.
This is such an unfathomably great job, the newspaper, and I'm going to so miss it when it finally dissolves. With half the New York Daily News being fired Monday, and the softening fuzziness of 13 years, I thought I'd tell the story of when the Daily News fired me. But it was another time, and having driven 250 miles—more or less, I was so happy to get out of the car I didn't check the odometer—that I'll save that for another day. Maybe Saturday.
My boss told me to head down 55 and do what I spent today doing, then get myself to Granite City tomorrow, which should be interesting. To be honest, I'm a little ... sickened? afraid? intrigued? ... to clap eyes on the living form of the president. All these words and pictures over the past few years, thousands and thousands, it'll almost be a shock to see he's real. I can't say I'm looking forward to it. Being in the White House press bubble sucked enough when Obama was president—a surreal, degrading experience. What will this be like? No need to premeditate it. Just go and find out.
Then again, I wasn't looking forward to hunting for farmers either, and that turned out fine.
I'm in Litchfield now, which I explained to the Holiday Inn Express clerk was Samuel Johnson's birthplace in England.
"The great dictionary writer," I elaborated and, to her and the Holiday Inn chain's, considerable credit, she arranged her face into an expression of happiness, as if, yes, she knew. Heck, maybe she did. Maybe they teach it in schools here. I doubt it; but I don't want to underestimate the place either. The truth is, I don't know.
Who knows, maybe Litchfield, Illinois has a Samuel Johnson Festival every Sept. 18, to mark his birth in 1709 in Lichfield, England—whoops, no "t," my mistake, and here I am putting on airs. A shame the clerk didn't reply, "We spell it with a 't'—wouldn't you love to live in that world? I would.
No, no festival. A Dr. Phillip Johnson, Ob-Gyn. Which is not the same.
It's still a pretty nice world, at least in Illinois on a July day, with the corn high and the soybeans dark green and the farmers plentiful and chatty. Anyway, I should head over to the Huddle House and grab some dinner. I imagine they close pretty early. Big day tomorrow.