Thursday, November 13, 2008

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm?

It’s been well established that I’m an Iowegan. Born, raised, live and love in the heartland. Sure, I’m allowed off the farm (in our case all 4 ½ acres of it) from time to time. I’ve traveled hither and yon and manage to conduct myself in a manner reasonably acceptable in polite company (picking up strange men in bars and Chippendale episodes not withstanding BUT in my defense, there were accomplices and extenuating circumstances). In short, I can handle myself whether it be hiking the jagged rims in the Grand Canyon or storming the brick and steel girded canyons of New York City. One might say I’m fearless.

And I was, until the day my agent called, striking terror in this intrepid Midwesterner’s heart by reminding me that she had promised to visit me in Iowa to celebrate my recent appearances on the New York Times best-seller list.

Maria Carvainis was comin’ to town - um, make that the country. Now, let me ‘splain something here. Maria is the quintessential cosmopolitan New York City business women. By that I mean, she’s successful, well traveled, polished and coiffed within an inch of her city-slicker life.

“Oh, my God,” I said to my husband and I believe I said it repeatedly. “What am I going to do with Maria here, in Iowa? I mean, she probably doesn’t even own pair of jeans, let alone a pair of low-heeled shoes. And she’s a wine connoisseur. Something tells me that box of Ripple on the top refrigerator shelf just ain’t gonna cut it.”

Well, long story short and my reservations aside, Maria proved to be a woman of her word. On Halloween day, she winged her way from the masses of NYC to I-o-way and the 2500 people populating my hometown – with not a single pair of jeans to be found.

When I stopped hyperventilating, I did my homework. And I was ready for her. It was going to be uptown all the way for this sophisticated socialite who represents such literary giants as Sandra Brown, P.J. Parrish, Mary Balogh (to name a few) and … lil ole me.

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to rise to an occasion. When Maria arrived I was waiting for her at the airport with a vast array of cultured gifts – a mud ugly brown t-shirt with the word IOWA and a photo of a pig displayed nicely across the chest, a corn cob key chain, a coffee mug and a stuffed cow. Classy, huh? She was stunned speechless.

From the airport I whisked her away to the epitome of culinary delight – The Flying Weinie. (The Ritz has nothing on me).

Friday evening, it was out to dinner and clubbing with my friends - one of whom (Carol B) gifted her with a bottle of Boone's Farm, a stuffed pink flamingo and a book on the art of pole dancing. Yee Haw. Later, we got all decked out for Halloween – taste and tact all the way. There were nun costumes involved.

And what night on the town would be complete without a stop at Hamburger Mary’s, a local transvestite bar where new friends abounded. Literally – they were bounding all over the place.

The next day, we moved on with the highly cultural agenda by visiting our children and grandchildren. Since it was Halloween, all four of the little cuties greeted us in their costumes. Kayla, 7, was a beautiful mermaid, Blake, 4, was the ultimate Power Ranger, Lane, 3, was type cast as a monkey, and baby Haley, 8 months, was dressed as the cutest little frog you ever did see.
Lane provided musical entertainment by singing in his sweet, angelic voice: “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” over and over and over again. And when Maria squeezed Haley’s foot and inquired, “And how are you little froggie?” Blake – ever on hand to clarify the obvious – pointed out: “She’s not really a frog. She’s a baby.”

After one final rendition of “… hot like me,” from Lane, we said our good-byes and moved on to the grand finale. Hot dang, we got us some guns and went and shot somthin’. And what trip to Iowa would be complete without a visit to a corn field?

All too soon, this weekend that I had looked forward to with equal measures of concern and uncertainty was over. And you know what I found out about city-slickers – well ONE city slicker at any rate? She was a damn good sport, an easy keeper and she loved my dog and my family and my friends - and they all loved her. What's not to love about that? We had a blast. We laughed and we ate and we drank some mighty fine wine and when I put her on that plane back to the city and I heard myself saying, “Ya’all come back now, ya hear!”, I realized that I meant it! Maria (aka Sister Mary Marguerita) is welcome back any time. Heck. I might even take her snipe huntin’ on her next trip!

My question to you all is, have you ever found YOURSELF in a similar position of worrying about how to entertain visitors you assumed would be way out of their element? And if so, what was the outcome? Did you have a grand time like I did or was it the disaster you had foreseen? And the really big question - besides being down right negligent and failing to take her outhouse tipping, did I miss anything??


Helen Brenna said...

Cow tipping???

What would I know. I might be from a smallsville, MN, but I grew up in the town. That makes me a city girl.

Sounds like you have a marvelous time, Cindy. And I'm sure Maria did too.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing adventure. I expected nothing less! I had a similar experience when Hilary Sares, a NYC editor, came to visit me in lil lo Huntland, Tennessee! A Brooklyn girl born and raised, she fit in perfectly with the kids, the dogs, and the wide open country! Great photos, by the way!

Cindy Gerard said...

Helen - Outhouse tipping. How could I have missed that??

Deb - I was judicious with the photos. Some of them - which will remain in my private album - were priceless!

pjpuppymom said...

OMG, that was so funny! You know what? I bet Sister Mary Marguerita probably had more fun on this trip than she's had in a very long time. Next visit you should definitely add snipe huntin' to the agenda. Gosh, I haven't been on one of those in years! :)

Keri Ford said...

Sounds like ya'll had a blast! I don't do this myself, but my family does--frog gigging!

Unknown said...

What a blast---and she has a supply of "author stories" to last for years!

My family all live in the south, and my Dh & I are in MN. When my family came to visit for Christmas a few years ago, I found our family traditions had to change..
No ice skating on Christmas afternoon. We drove around to look at neighborhood decorations, instead. LOL.

We played board games instead of having snowball fights and the heat was turned WAY UP. My youngest son wore shorts because it was 70 in the house. :-)

My family also live out in the the country, while we are the suburbs, so that was a different experience for them--the traffic, the restaurants, the museums. I think they were exhausted when they left.

Cindy Gerard said...

PJ - it WAS a blast!

Keri - frog gigging. How could I have forgotten to schedule that one :o)

Fiona - Yep. She'll have some stories. And least anyone get the impression that we didn't do some rather civilized activities, yeah, we did. And I hadn't thought about how geography could change holiday traditions. Must have been a real climate shock for your southern relatives when they visited at Christmas

Traci said...

OMG - Cindy, I bet she had a hell of a great time!!! Hamburger Mary's - nuns and strippers??? Cheap wine?? It's a dream come true, lololol


Cindy Gerard said...

Traci - Yeah. We really know how to roll out the red carpet here :o)

Christie Ridgway said...

What the hey is frog-gigging?

Sounds like a fun trip for your agent. (And I think your 'burg must be fairly cosmpolitan if it has a transvestite bar!).

When we have out-of-town visitors we take them to the beach and to the World Famous San Diego Zoo (we always say the entire thing like that, because that's how all the advertisements are).

Anonymous said...

Cindy, I'm jealous. I also live in a small town, and we don't even have a gay bar, let alone a transvestite bar! Also, I think you should record your grandson's special song for your ringtone. And I have to ask...which shoes was Maria wearing in the cornfield? 'Cuz I've never seen her out of Stuart Weitzmans myself...

Sounds like a blast! Midwestern hospitality has been redefined, baby!

Playground Monitor said...

Round these parts we take 'em to eat barbeque (pork, not beef) and see the Saturn V rocket we have standing on end at the Space and Rocket Center. Then if they're lucky, we might take them down to the Tennessee River to watch the barges go by. And if they're REALLY lucky, we give 'em a fishing pole and let 'em catch a river catfish.

Lordy, I laughed my arse off reading your post, Cindy. You grabbed hold of your bucolic corner of the world, poked a little fun at it, but showed Maria what a truly amazing place it is. I had our RWA chapter Christmas party last year, and I was nervous enough. Then I found out Leslie Wainger would be there. Gulp! So I just scrubbed and cleaned some more and welcomed her. And ya know what? She sat on a folding chair and ate her potluck lunch off my coffee table and played Dirty Santa right along with the rest of us. At heart, people and people and the location isn't what matters. Though when Brenda Chin came to speak to our chapter this summer and the B&B where we stayed was waaaaaaaaay out in the sticks, I did worry she'd hear the dueling banjoes and start to run back to the airport. ::grin::


Playground Monitor said...

Uh, that should be "At heart, people ARE people"...

Unknown said...

I know we discussed this, Cindy, and regardless how much fun you had with Maria, I'm still going to have to leave the country if my agent comes to town. I love her!! Lovvvve her!! But I couldn't take the pressure.

Although, one of my editors did come to the state fair to visit a couple years ago. We spent a lot of time discussing pigs. Hmmm. Where's a nice transvestite bar when you need one.

By the by, gorgeooooous grandchildren. (I'm particularly fond of the frog.)

Altho, you know, the guys in drag are pretty special too.

Maureen Child said...

Sounds like Maria had as much fun as you did, Cindy! And the pictures were great!! Heck, I want a weekend at your farm! =)

BTW.....the kids are soooo cute.

KylieBrant said...

You left out pig calling, but there's always next time, LOL!

My worst time entertaining someone was during one of the 3 week German exchange program. My son was emphatic that he did not want to have a German visitor (and he was the one in German class) and he didn't spend much time with him. So it was up to me to entertain him most of the time.

The best memories: taking him to a corn maze prior to Halloween and having him get lost (why would anyone want this much corn?) and taking him to the grocery store for the first time and showing him the cereal aisle, spray cheese and chips in a can!

Cindy Gerard said...

Kylie - Pig calling. Check. It's on the list for next time.
And speaking of corn. She THOUGHT she'd seen corn before ... little did she know.

Maureen - you're welcome any time, girlfriend.

Lois - the guys in drag WERE special. You should have seen the ones who were performing. I swear it was Reba up on stage.

Marilyn - Great idea. Next time we're goin' fishin' for sure. And I'll take to see the big ball of twine :o)

Kristan - redefined, revamped and retrofitted :o)

Debra Dixon said...

You let people visit ??

I'm not good with houseguests. (g) We do have them from time to time but I never encourage it. LOL!

They'll be here like two hours and I'll remember I haven't even offered them water. =80

I'm a great tour guide. Happy to cart you around. Happy to research things that will be fun, but I'm not that hostess that gets up and has your coffee ready.

Fedora said...

LOL at Debra! That's me, too--people cannot come to stay with me! The pressure would send me right over the edge!

Cindy, it sounds and looks like you had a fabulous time! Awesome photos! I'm sure you all had a visit to remember for the ages!

(Oddly my verification word is "outeat"--what does that say about me...)

Cindy Gerard said...

Deb - Yes, I do let people visit. And most of the time I find out my worries were needles. I'm absolutely, positively certain you are a stellar hostess :o)

Flichen - You should see the photos that I DIDN'T post :o)

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey guys - don't forget - the Chippendale calender is still on the line for this week so make sure you keep those comments coming. As long as you're here, you'd just as well get your name in the drawing ... all you have to do is post and the contest runs through Sunday night!!

Anonymous said...

Ciao Cindy,
this blog is perfect for me! last summer a Very important American writer ( her name is Cindy Gerard, do you know her?) came to visit Rome… I started to worry and plan what was best to impress someone like her! I had all planned and well organized ,but I stopped worrying only when I saw her at my table ,smiling like an old friend. For me it was “love at first sight”, no embarrassment ,no disaster a part from a stupid pickpocket that ruined my masterpiece , which was to enter the Vatican Museums by a rear door, skipping the four hours queue! Luckily, she considered it like an Italian adventure….For sure ,YOU did better than me with your agent … at least she wasn’t mugged!!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Rosella, sweetie. You were the perfect hostess! Wasn't your fault I was careless enough to let a team of pickpockets steal my wallet. And it WAS an adventure. No one was hurt and I now have new friends at both the US Embassy in Rome and one of the Policia stations :o)

Jane said...

I had difficult entertaining my aunt who came to visit us in NY. I thought I could take her to various museums, but she was not interested in going to museums. I did take her to see the Statue of Liberty, but mostly I took her shopping.

Unknown said...

Cindy, I have to nominate this post as one of the all-time best! I have never seen such a mixed bag of photos. . . all from one experience! I want to come and live in your town. . . The Flying Wienie, glittering transvestites in a HAMBURGER joint, too cute grandkids. . . and corn to boot! Yes, Maria will have plenty to talk about for time to come.

I do have guests occasionally, but mostly family. I think the reason I don't entertain more is the dogs. . . they insist on being in the middle of everything and they bark when people come. sigh. I'm working on that. Oh, I had non-English-speaking guests from the Netherlands once. That was the longest weekend of my life. The people were lovely and we managed to communicate on some level, but it was so nice to have it over.

Never had an editor or agent come to visit. Talk about intimidating!
If that ever happens, Cindy, I'm using your post as a playbook!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Jane - I'll come to visit you in NYC :o) You can take me to any museum you like! I'm particularly fond of the Frick!

Betina - You should see the photos that I DIDN'T post. :o) Guns and horses and green nuns - oh my!!

Keri Ford said...

Christie, frog gigging is when you go out and catch frogs. You do this in the middle of the night. :O) From Wikipedia:

Frog gigging is often done with a four-tined spear. Four-tined spears are quite good for frog gigging, as they are normally heavier and less likely to break, and also wider, giving the frog hunter more room for error when thrusting the spear-tipped gig through the frog.

Flashlights are usually used to locate the frogs by the reflection of light from their eyes. This technique seems to stun or daze the frogs, and it definitely makes it less likely for the frog to see an approaching hunter, or the incoming gig itself. A fishing license is required in some jurisdictions.[3] and frog gigging regulations are usually found in each state's hunting and fishing regulations.

Although capturing frogs with a net or clasp pole may be referred to as frog gigging by some, this is incorrect, as a gig is not being used. Handling frogs with the objective of releasing them may harm the creature because chemicals can easily be absorbed through their skin.

Frog legs are often cooked deep fried or sautéed.[4] The hind legs can contain as much meat as the legs of a medium-sized chicken. Traditionally they are breaded with a mixture of egg and bread or cracker crumbs. Frog legs, often imported from the Orient, are available at many restaurants or stores, particularly in the Southern United States.

And if you're curious, fried frog legs taste like chicken!

Cindy Gerard said...

Did you ever notice that when people try to get you to eat something like - oh, say frog legs, or snake or alligator or turtle - they ALWAYS say it tastes like chicken??
Personally, I think that's unfair to all the poultry out there. :o)

Debra Dixon said...

Hey, I've been frog gigging. Sadly, mucho times as a teen. My family has land on the White River and that was a big teen activity for all of us forced to weekend in the boonies with our parents.

There is nothing like being in a flat-bottomed 14' fishing boat when a snake drops out of the overhanging trees and into the boat.

Keri Ford said...

The hubby just corrected me. My family doesn't go frog gigging they go frog GRABBING. They freeze them with the spotlight and then jump down and grab them with their hands. Who wants to come spend the weekend with me now??

Cindy Gerard said...

Keri - to that I say: YIKES!!

Playground Monitor said...

fried frog legs taste like chicken

No. They. Don't! ;-)

Nothing tastes like chicken but chicken.

Funny story about frog legs: First time we took the kids to New Orleans we went to Ralph and Kakoos to eat. #1 son wanted to order frog legs. The DH told him he could, but if he didn't like them, he couldn't order anything to replace them. The meal comes, #1 son eats the frog legs and afterward the DH asks him how they were. "Well, they were okay, but I don't believe I'll ever order them again." Wise boy.

PJ Parrish said...


A picture of Maria in a cornfield. You have made my day. Thanks for the hilarious diary. We don't have corn fields here in Fort Lauderdale; maybe I should have taken Maria out to Swamp Billy's Alligator Farm!

Your sister in crime P.J.

Cindy Gerard said...

P.J. - Hey - great seeing you here! You'll have to badge Maria a bit for some of the other photos ... I think with a little coaxing she'd share :o)