The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, January 20, 2005
A chilling read
Intrepid explorers from the Washington Post venture into the uncharted areas of the red states, trying to understand the depraved pathology of the hicks in the sticks. Skipping from one isolated primitive university sociology department to another, they meet the natives, sample the culture and come face to face with the darkness of their own souls: Heart Of Redness.
Epstein was the legendary University of Iowa sociologist who knew the west Red Country better than any man in civilization. He knew their language, their mores, their favorite NASCAR drivers. It was rumored that he had even lived among them for a time, but my editors at the Post warned me not to speak to him of it.
We poured over maps and discussed logistics until 7:45, when Epstein called for us to adjourn.
"There's a faculty panel symposium on Cuban health care over at Schaffer Auditorium," he said. "I suggest we attend, because there won't be any more where we're headed...."
...The neon sign read "VFW Hall." A trailer marquee in front was even more explicit: "Friday Nite All-U-Can-Eat $5.95 Fish Fry."
Von Drehle was known in the Post pressroom as a thrill junkie, and this was exactly the type of place he would be unable to resist. I told Epstein to stop.
"You're a fool, Dionne - maybe even a bigger fool than Von Drehle," he snapped.
"And you're a bad liar, Epstein. You want to see what's going on inside of that VFW hall as much as I do."
"All right Dionne," he said angrily. "But if anything starts going down, you're on your own."
I took a deep breath and tried to conceal my jagged nerves as we entered the Hall. They say the Nebraskaners can smell fear a mile away, and I would be damned if my life was going to end over a red plastic basket of deep-fried cod and a can of Falstaff.
I could feel the eyes of the lodge penetrating my coat as we walked across the linoleum and took a seat in a booth near the skee-ball machine. A zaftig waitress approached.
"Tell her I'd like the pan-seared mahi-mahi, and a glass of the house chardonnay," I instructed Epstein.
Before he could respond I was startled by two hulking, bearded men in snowmobile suits who began prodding my coat with their fingers. They traded gibberish with Epstein.
"They want to know what kind of coat that is," said Epstein, warily.
"Tell them it's from Burberry's," I said, trying to avoid eye contact.
"Buh-bay," said the men, curiously. "Buhhh-behh."
The two men began laughing menacingly, and gestured for the others to come and join in their fascination. I tried to ignore them, assuming they were simply drawn by the novelty of houndstooth wool. Then I peered up on the wall and saw a large nylon banner. On it was printed:
GO BIG RED
"Run, Epstein! Run!" I screamed, hurtling through the diamond-padded door.
Check it out. Great read.