Friday, July 4, 2014

Travelogue with Louella Odie: Main Street, USA

After a lovely two weeks in Madison, WI, we're now back with the hubby's family in Oglesby, IL.  We took the scenic route home via New Glarus, a Swiss settlement from 1845, and stopped into their famous brewery.  The detour was a nice unexpected break from the usual road trip.

We're here to celebrate the Fourth of July, which is the quintessential American summer holiday.  In every town in America, flags will adorn the streets and people will enjoy a long weekend.  It's all picnics and fireworks, baseball games and barbecues, parades and family reunions.  We know Americans to be patriotic, and why shouldn't they be?  Technically speaking, they're celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the very beginning of this country as we know it, all the more reason for national pride.

At last weekend's Rhythm and Booms fireworks in Madison, I became very aware of how different it is for an American living outside the US, like my hubby, compared to one living within these borders.  At the beginning of the radio broadcast of music to accompany the fireworks, the national anthem played.  Everyone in the open park area stood, removed their caps and clasped their hands on their chests.  It moved me in a way I hadn't expected as I witnessed the purity and pride in their sentiment.

I realized how easy it is to get cynical about politics etc, even as a non-American, when living outside the United States.  We are far enough removed from feeling direct effects, so it's much easier to have opinions.  But as I witnessed this simple act of reverence, I found it endearing and quickly made sure my little ones followed suit and understood why.

So I thought today about what people in American towns all over would be doing to celebrate, and I wanted to make sure to get uptown (as locals say here) to cruise down Main Street.  Yes people, cruising is a real thing all over America.  If you want to see what's happening and who's out, just take a little turn down Main Street.  It just so happens that while we were shooting for this post, my father-in-law and Ella cruised by on his scooter.  And, though in many places it's not actually called Main Street (here in Oglesby, it's Walnut Street to be precise), people will know exactly where you mean when you refer to it that way.

Main Street in Oglesby was decked out beautifully in American flags and banners, bright colors of red and white flowers lining the flower beds of homes, and not one business overlooked today's holiday.  I began to wonder about what makes this street the 'Main Street' and then suddenly, it dawned on me. 

On this one street, you can find the neighborhood dentist, the post office, a school, a laundromat, a car service garage, a furniture shop, a funeral home, several bars, a barber shop, a hardware store and right at the very tail end, the now closed cement company.  It's all there, everything the town needs to exist. Of course, as I mentioned in my Small Town Charm post, the grocery store, dress shops and shoe shops are now closed, but at one time they were there, too.

On Sunday, we're off to NYC for a couple of weeks.  We always feel instantly familiar in the big city because it's such a similar experience to ours in Hong Kong.  The neighborhoods in NYC are unique to each other (like Hong Kong, too), and in their own ways they are also small.  People visit their local grocer, are loyal to their coffee shops and it's quite common to bump into someone you know on the street.  

It will be fun to get back there.

By the way, don't you love how patriotic my Louella Odie Pomfret bag is?  Don't forget to click over to their website to follow my travels on a beautifully hand drawn map and check out the other bags and accessories.  Use 'traveltribe' at check out for an exclusive discount for my readers!

What makes 'Main Street' special where you are? I'd love to hear.

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