Fountain, a tiny town of 343 people in South Eastern Minnesota, bills itself as "The Sink Hole Capitol of the World". Greenberg has included it in his book Don't Go There and joked on the Today Show about spelling mistakes in the town's brochure and quipped that children might fall into a sink hole while bike riding.
After a reading of the story, the first thing that popped into my head was an image of George Baily (of It's A Wonderful Life) delivering a Capra-esque diatribe on behalf of Fountain to Peter Greenburg, whom I mentally cast in the role of mean old Mr. Potter.
It amused me, and so I ran with it. In the end, my sympathies are with Fountain, after all, this is a tiny little town that has one claim to fame, is by all reports a pretty nice little locale, and there is no reason for a big city commentator to go trashing the place.
It also put me in mind of the Red State/Blue State theory of America, in which "The Heartland" of small towns is in conflict with the Big Cities and Sophisticates of the Coasts. So, adopting (with what I hoped was obvious sarcasm) the tone of a Right-Wingnut commentator, I pictured small towns across America rallying behind a resurgent Sarah Palin for revenge.
I have to admit that I found the whole story kind of funny and didn't feel that there were any serious issues at stake. After all, in one corner, you have a town which bills itself as the Sink Hole Capitol of the World, and, in the other corner, you have Peter Greenberg shamelessly plugging his book; which, as Greg Sellnow in the Rochester Post Bulletin points out relies on 40 year old Cleveland jokes for humor- so how good can this tome be?
Not to mention that fact, that, after a nail bitter of an election, I needed something light to write about, and this seemed like appropriately light fare- a travel writer vs. a sink hole...
This story seemed harmless.
This story is still making waves here in South Eastern Minnesota, and the Post Bulletin ran another opinion piece about Fountain/Greenburg Feud today.. In his piece, Greg Sellnow, takes great pains to describe Fountain as:
... a pretty, quaint community. The Root River Trail bike path runs through town. Its main street includes one of the area's last surviving small-town groceries, "Willie's Meat and Groceries."
Greenberg is taken to task for giving the place an "undeserved poke in the ribs".
Here at Rip-and-Read, one anonymous commentator has left no doubt that they were not amused by our take, and they share their opinion that we at Rip-and-Read were guilty of "bigotry" and a "cheap shot"...
The comments attached to Sellnow's Post-Bulletin piece are in the same vein:
"Shame on you Mr. Greenberg...
I thought how uninformed he must be and how stupid he must think everyone must be."
The story, at least around here, has struck a nerve. People have been leaping to the defense not just of Fountain, but also Cleveland, Galveston and, yes, Tracy B and Friend Russell: The CORN PALACE...all places skewered by Peter Greenberg in his book.
...so my question is: what nerve has been struck. And what does it mean, if anything, in a Blue State/Red State Dynamic..? Are we looking at the symptom of something serious here after all?
Comments are always welcome.
Greenberg's book is called "Don't Go There." The original article in the Post-Bulletin was by Laura Gossman and is here.