Last week I spent a few days staying at the lovely Pheasant Run resort in St. Charles, Illinois. I was there attending the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit, which was held in the resort’s convention hall, the "Mega Center," a building that reminds me of a bowling alley, only not as sexy.
Pheasant Run is a ramshackle affair. Perhaps in the past it was more attractive, but now the rooms are dingy and dorm-like and have a slightly moldy odor. One of the odder touches is that the resort’s casual dining area is set next to an indoor pool, which lends a chlorine flavor to everything one eats. And no one who has ever been to Pheasant Run can ever forget the indoor replica of Bourbon Street, which the website describes as the “center of activity and home to some of the best live music, shopping and entertainment in the Chicago area—you’ll think you’ve been transported to that famous street down in New Orleans.” True enough—you’ll think you’ve been transported to New Orleans if you have been heavily drugged, hypnotized, and are highly suggestive.
Midwesterners are way too modest. In contrast to New Yorkers, Californians, Southerners, or even folks from New England, Midwesterners are unfailingly humble and often self-deprecating. These can be good qualities, but not when you are trying to attract customers. Times are tough, and I think the Midwest has an opportunity to reposition itself as an exotic tourist destination, starting with the quaint little river town of St. Charles, Illinois. Currently the city motto is “Pride of the Fox,” because it sits alongside the Fox River. I’d like to scrap that and propose a new motto: “St Charles, Paris of the New World.” But don’t slavishly imitate Paris—why not make Midwestern culture the hot new thing? After all, Paris was once nothing more than a squalid village by a river—some say it still is—and French cuisine is no less fattening than what’s offered at Steak ‘n Shake.
There’s no reason to limit this new movement recreating the Midwest as a world trend-setter to St. Charles, though I envision it as the epicenter. Why not declare Midwestern clothing très chic? Perhaps we can get that most-famous Midwesterner Oprah on board. Move over, Milan—here comes haute couture, ala Dayton, Ohio. Let’s have a convention to launch this bold new trend! I’ll meet you at the Mega Center.