The Effingham Effect

July 10th, 2020

The LaQuinta In Effingham

(published in The Daily Memphian)

(photo: The La Quinta in Effingham, Illinois)

Last week, I wrote about the loss of our trip to Italy. This week we planned another trip and we were genuinely excited.

This week we were off to Effingham, Illinois.

It’s not Rome and there’s no Vatican, but it is a county seat and there is the 20-story Cross at the Crossroads seen from I-57 (#3 on the list of “10 Best Things To Do In Effingham, Illinois”). There’s no Bay of Naples or Mediterranean, but there is Lake Sara (#2). It’s not the home of Ferrari and Maserati, but it home to the Corvettes in the My Garage Museum (#4), and classic deals at Heartland Classics Cars (#8). And if you think comparing Effingham to Italy is a stretch, while it’s no Tuscany, the #1 attraction on that list is the Tuscan Hills Winery. So there.

Everything’s relative.

While we might not be going to Italy and with apologies to the good people of Effingham, going anywhere right now is exciting. After being under house arrest for several months when excursions to Kroger have been cultural highlights and visits to physical therapy have been live sporting events, our one-night visit to the dog-friendly La Quinta in Effingham has been to us and our two dogs the launch of this year’s most eagerly anticipated journey.

We’re beginning a two-week adventure, first to Chicago via Effingham to visit (bother) Nora’s cousin George for a couple of days, and then over and under the Great Lakes to Syracuse via La Quinta in Cleveland to visit (bother) our daughter and son-in-law and their dogs for a week and then back home.

I’m looking actually forward to holding gas pump handles with antiseptic wipes, considering hazmat suits in bathrooms, counting masks in Cracker Barrel, and Atkins breakfast bars in lieu of La Quinta’s breakfast bars.

As you read this, we should’ve been waking up in that La Quinta in Cleveland, halfway to Syracuse from Chicago ... or not. As I was writing this column, Tennessee joined the irresponsible likes of Florida and Texas in number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population and New York Governor Cuomo made us personae non gratae in his state.

So, instead of Cleveland and Syracuse we would be on our way back home via Effingham, in the hope they didn’t read this column.

Speaking of Cleveland, that reminds me of a story, and if you’ve been reading me for a while, you know everything reminds me of a story. You’re also aware that I’ve probably told you the story before, and you’re right again.

Not so very long ago, Cleveland’s polluted river was on fire and the city conjured up visions of chain link fence and razor wire. The movie “Major League” about the hapless and hopeless Indians was as much documentary as comedy. Around that time, I was sitting in the back of a red eye flight with other smokers bound for Atlanta to make a connection to Memphis. A flight attendant rounded the corner from the galley and dropped a tray of plastic glasses. As I helped her pick them up, I commented that she looked tired. She said she was, now toward the end of a double shift, but she was looking forward to a long weekend in a fun town at the end of this one. I asked her where. “Cleveland,” she said. “You’re looking forward to a long weekend in Cleveland?” I said, and then repeated, “Cleveland?” “It good be worse,” she said, “It could be Memphis.”

Everything’s relative.

Cleveland didn’t deserve my disdain, nor did Memphis deserve the flight attendant’s – although I imagine the folks in Effingham are now siding with her.

We’re living in and through a time of almost everyday attitude and expectation adjustment.

Now, Cleveland has the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Cavaliers have become NBA Champions, and the Indians have won the World Series. But we’ve had some hits ourselves. Now, we have an NBA franchise, and our Grizzlies are on their way to whatever that is that will happen in Orlando at the end of the month. Now, we have a World Golf Championship with the best players on the planet on their way to us in a couple of weeks.

Now, especially now, we should look for things to cheer about, and they don’t have to be huge. Like being together, and taking off this week for Effingham.

Or not.

As I was dragging suitcases down the stairs, Lori Lightfoot, the Mayor of Chicago, made the citizens of Tennessee pariah in her city. So, our daughter and all of New York State, Nora’s cousin and all of the windy city, and even Effingham will have to wait.

We’ll all have to adjust. Again.

I’m a Memphian, and when we finally pull out of the driveway for a road trip, we might just join the dogs in joyfully sticking our heads out of the window.

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