Sunday, August 27, 2006


Tall Corn

I head west out of Galena. There’s an aquarium and museum of the Mississippi River at Dubuque, where I cross the river, but it’s unlikely to be open at 6:00 on a Sunday evening. Instead I drive west on US 20, into the heart of the corn belt. We grow a lot of corn in this country, and an exceptional amount of it seems to come from Iowa. In Indiana and Illinois, at least, I would see fields of alfalfa or beans or occasionally something more exotic, but I drive literally miles in Iowa before I see anything but corn. In places the land looks six or seven feet higher than it actually is because all you can see are the tops of the plants.

I’ve composed two separate rants about this, involving any number of disparate factors and agents of evil, but I’ve twice decided not to bore you. Those of you who are interested can ask me about it.

But regardless of my opinions on the stuff, I drive west to see the most famous cornfield in Iowa, the one where they filmed the climactic scene of “Field of Dreams.” I feel like a complete dope for doing this, the whole way there. It’s due west of Dubuque on 20, and then up a state highway, and then across a county highway, and then up another little road, and then a left, and a right. There are little signs at all the critical points. I seem to be the only person stupid enough to do this, to go see a corny movie location in a corny state, and every time I pass a car I feel my New York plates glowing like a giant zit on the Element’s nose.

It turns out I’m only half wrong: it’s worth doing, but not for any reason that might have occurred to me. It turns out there are two Field of Dreams franchises, located side by side on adjacent farms that share the baseball field.

I pull into the first driveway, because - well, because I’m confused. This turns out to be the “Left and Center” Field of Dreams site. That is, they own left field and part of center field, and have a couple of pieces of dubious looking memorabilia, and a gift shop. Mostly, in fact, they have a gift shop, where I buy a grape soda and a bag of popcorn.

Then I cross the invisible boundary into the “Original” Field of Dreams site, and notice the sign informing me that the gift shop along the third base line is run by imposters who had nothing to do with the film. The “Original” FOD site is the one director Phil Alden Robinson was looking at when he shouted “That’s it! That’s my farm!” coming over the hill, the literature tells me. It’s only an accident of baseball geography that the other farm is involved at all. In fact, it’s run by out of state interests.

Now I feel guilty for having bought my popcorn over at the Left and Center FOD gift stand, so I go over and buy a couple of postcards from the Original FOD shop, and make sure to sign their guest book and not other one. Frankly, the L&C folks had better merch, but I can’t buy anything more from them, now can I?.

And then I start to muse on the authority for any of these claims, and beyond that the snottiness of the OFOD signage, and the suggestion that you could have an acceptable baseball diamond that didn’t include left and center fields, and decide to be equal parts amused and disheartened at the state of things in America that two farmers side-by-side in Iowa couldn’t manage to get along enough to share the proceeds from a single gift shop, and instead are operating duplicate concessions at an attraction where, at this moment, on a weekend in the height of the summer tourist season, attendance is about five people.

All of which is beside the point. It’s really a sweet place. Even with two gift shops, it's very low-key - there's basically the field, and the farm, and the cornfields beyond. You look at the farm and understand why Robinson ordered his driver to stop the car. There’s a dad pitching to his son, and the slanting sun makes everything glow, especially all that terrible corn. And you can’t get that stupid line out of your head, because it seems so true.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?