The only thing I knew about Effingham, Illinois, is that my friend got laid there years ago. He would never give details, other than to say he put the “F” in Effingham, then he’d smile slightly and change the subject. He was a hell of a pool shark, curly hair and mild manners. I imagine he hustled someone good that night and stole the girl at the same time, but I’ll never know for sure.
We pull into Effingham at the end of a long trip to Texas and back. It’s so completely Midwestern: the motel snuggled between Wal-Mart and the freeway, the sign shouts “BEST RATES HERE”. The motel is very burgundy, from the industrial carpeting to the polyester-blend comforter. The room is big, the window frames a terrific vista of the parking lot, Wal-Mart and the strip mall beyond.
There’s one good restaurant in Effingham, where food is described as “organic” and “local”. The waiters and waitresses, young fresh faced Midwestern kids, grew up on McDonald’s, but they’re learning the language of food that costs more than pocket change. They’re earnest, they squint and flip little pages of notes to find out if the cheese comes from a goat or if the beef is grass fed. It’s good, and we stop there every chance we get. Continue reading