It’s about being Midwestern and it’s here.
Many thanks to Hedgehog and to the superb writer and editor B.D. McClay for commissioning it. (I hope this is the beginning of a long cycle of us embarrassing each other by publicly stating our honest appraisal of each others’ work.)
I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a long time and, in small ways, have been doing so (references in other pieces, etc.). But the triggering incident was an email from my dad:
This is really wild. I am reading the biography of Josef Stalin”s daughter, and it talks about how, after her defection to the U.S., she eventually married an architect who was part of a new agey kind of cult/commune run by Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow. The husband helped the commune to cheat and impoverish Svetlana (Stalin’s daughter) and the book suddenly mentions that shortly before their divorce, the husband ‘designed a church for a town called Alma in Michigan.””
Dad put two and two together and realized that this was the weird, kitschily beautiful Catholic church on the other side of the park from the house where I spent my first ten years. As indeed it is!
My reaction to this anecdote was a sort of surprise at the idea of my nowhere hometown being touched by History. I started to interrogate that feeling, and here we are.
By the way, if any millionaires happen to read Hedgehog and want to do a good deed, I just learned that this very same church is headed for demolition. It’s one of the only aesthetically interesting buildings in the entire town! It looks like if Antoni Gaudi and Walt Disney got together on ayahuasca and built Hobbiton! Can somebody save it and do something with it? You’d be doing a favor for generations of mid-Michigan’s Catholics; and also for the generations of random teens who liked to climb on top of the building via its low-slung roof and just hang out on Saturday nights.