Rick Bailey has written three collections of essays. Married to an Italian immigrant, in 44 years of marriage he learned the language and food of Italy and led slow-travel excursions to Italy focused on local culture and heroic eating. He and his wife now divide their time between Michigan and the Republic of San Marino.
In Tumbling Up, he returns to his Midwest roots–a one-stoplight farm town in the Michigan cornbelt. It’s the 1960’s. On the radio you hear “The Chapel of Love” and “The Eve of Destruction,” on black and white TV you see The Beverly Hillbillies and the nightly horror of Vietnam. In Tumbling Up, Bailey remembers being lost, then finding his way, coming of age in a time of seductive mayhem.
I feel a trickle of earwigs in the palm of my hand, then running down my arm. Under ordinary circumstances, it would be a revolting sensation. At home, on warm days when I open the mailbox down by the road, I search for these pests. I shake the mail before I go in the house, knowing they might be resting between the pages of junk mail. I know the sting of earwig pinchers and am appalled by their ugliness. How can you not be? They belong in a horror movie.
What happened to Peggy Ahern? This question arises early in Erin Flanagan’s new novel Deer Season and captivates the community of Gunnthrum, Nebraska, the small farm town where this story takes place. Bored and rebellious, with dreams of the big world beyond Gunnthrum, the high school senior regularly sneaks out of the house at night to join the revels up at Castle Farm, a rundown farmhouse where booze and drugs and sex provide young locals with an escape. One night Peggy doesn’t come home.
Michigan Ear Institute, it’s no surprise, is a noisy place. I’m sitting in the waiting room when Mr. Robinson walks in. He steps up to the check-in window, signs in, and waits. The receptionist looks up. Her lips move.
“What?” he says.
“What?” he says, again.
“HAS ANY OF YOUR INSURANCE INFORMATION CHANGED, MR. ROBINSON?”
I was talking to my friend Pat a few days ago about tomatoes. “Everyone who’s been there,” she said, “talks about the tomatoes in Italy. They’re supposed to be so good.” Yup, they’re good all right. Here in the US we do pretty well a few months of the year. Over there, year around it seems, great tomatoes.
I went a little crazy the other day. Couple times a year my brother and I go to Breckenridge to visit our mom and dad’s graves. We spook around the cemetery visiting them and all the relatives gone but not forgotten.
For years now I’ve suffered from garlic salt shame. It’s the seasoning I use most often, thinking that it’s a shortcut, that an accomplished cook with stores of self-respect would employ solo salt and stand-alone garlic that he would strip, dice, and sprinkle on a side dish or main course instead of going the two-in-one route.
When I was a kid, my junk food of choice, purchased at Pat’s Food Center across the street from my house, or at the park store in the Missaukee County trailer park, was Twinkies or Mars Bar or Three Musketeers bar (Pat’s) or wax lips or wax coke bottle with that syrupy pseudo coca cola inside or colored-sugar-in-a-straw (county store). I had friends who bought Good and Plenty, black or red licorice. Not me. Ever.