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Thisbe Nissen: Tour Diary

Preliminaries - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 -
Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 -Day 12 - Day 13 - Day 14 - Day 15 -
Day 16 - Day 17 - Day 18 - Day 19 - Day 20 - Day 21 - Day 22 -
Day 23 - Day 24 - Day 25 - Day 26 - Day 27 - Day 28 - Day 29 - Home Diary - July 25 - July 26

The Mount Horeb Mustard Museum

Day 14: Madison, WI to Iowa City, IA

My Canterbury scone is very good; Matt reports that his raisin bran was as expected; Emma is frightened of her sourdough baguette, claiming it looks "like a slug."

So we're never on the right road out of Madison, but we manage a very scenic detour which takes us through Black Earth, Wisconsin, and then to Mt. Holeb where Emma spots the Mustard Museum. We turn the car around. We can't not stop at the Mustard Museum. Suffice it to say, (or is the phrase actually sufficed to say? or do you just say suffice to say? Someone please tell me once and for all.) that there is more mustard here than you've ever even thought about putting in the same place. There's a lot of mustard.

The Mustard Museum

Matt "Squeeze Me" Klam

more mustard...

We keep driving. We see "beefs." We see "muttons." We see laundry on lines; we call this "Americana." We get bored. We hit a huge storm and have to pull over for a bit since I can't even see the damn road. The lightning is impressive. Matt's psyched for a tornado. We discuss getting out of the car and lying in a ditch, should the need arise. It does not. We play car games. Emma refuses to understand the rules to GHOST. We try Botticelli but can't figure out what the rules are. Finally we talk about sex. This is good. It gets us to Iowa City, where there is the India Cafe lunch buffet and naps to be taken.

The crowd at Prairie Lights is wonderful -- the best one we've had, maybe the best of this whole tour. They laugh, they react. They are dynamic. Emma reads beautifully and people are practically rolling in the aisles (actually they can't roll in the aisles because all the chairs are full and the aisles are full of people). Matt reads part of "The Royal Palms," which is fantastic. I read "Spitfire," again, and decide I hate it as much as I seem to hate every chapter in this book right now. I feel like the cheesy young adult novelist crammed in between these two incredible, lasting, talented, literary writers. I am terrified to write this. I feel like everyone reading it is saying, "Bingo, Thisbe, that's exactly what you are."

I have a small breakdown after we leave the bookstore, feel completely unable to talk to anyone and think I am going to burst into tears if anyone says anything to me. This is not good when your house is full of friends drinking beers. I cannot even make myself go onto the porch where everyone is. I hope they will forgive me. I haven't had dinner. I can't think straight. I feel so tired I can't imagine ever not being tired. I'm losing my voice. I never lose my voice. I go straight upstairs and cry. Finally Chris pulls me together enough to go get something to eat at least. We go by the Sheraton where Matt and Emma are so they can sign my books and we can say goodbye. I feel such loss in leaving them, as though they are all that has been getting me through this with any modicum of sanity these last few days. I feel like a kid returning from summer camp: life back home doesn't make sense anymore. The only thing that does is camp. Matt and Emma feel like my camp friends, and I want to cling to them desperately, the way I clung to Robin and Betsy so many years ago. Finally I eat half a burrito and sit on a bench outside Pancheros talking to Chris, asking why this has to be so hard. Asking why I didn't bargain in for how much of an emotional roller coaster this was going to put me on. I feel like I don't know how I'm going to make it through the rest of the summer. Maybe once I've had some sleep I won't feel so terrible, but right now I'm not finding consolation in anything.

The Poupon U. Fight Song:
"Eat, eat at old Poupon U!
Bratwursts and hot dogs and hamburgers too.
All with mustard spread on thick,
We never use ketchup
'Cause it makes us sick.
We lather it on out bagels and fries,
Licorice and corn flakes, blueberry pies,
Even with our Irish Stew.
'Cause we're true to Poupon U!"