Sunday, February 3, 2013

Song Note Sundays #1: Jimmy Dean

Written: ~2007

Back in 2006, I went on a road trip from Toronto to Tennessee with my good friend, Momo

At the time, and unbeknownst to Momo, the 12-year relationship I was in was secretly staggering to its slow and painful death. And that's what I saw as we drove through the American mid-west, too. Crumbling infrastructure, depression and hopelessness. (And Waffle Houses. Lots and lots of delicious, delicious Waffle Houses.)

Mmmm, Waffle House...

Momo, a phenomenal photographer, particularly likes to stop and shoot pictures of roadside attractions (among many other things). She is the perfect travel companion: she researches and plans cool things on every leg of a trip. I just go along for the ride. I've seen a lot of interesting things with Momo.

Another Roadside Attraction, Photo credit: heymomo

This song, though, is about something we didn't see

Partway through Indiana, Momo's itinerary informed us that we were passing close to the birthplace of actor and American icon, James Dean. We veered off the main drag, hot on the trail, but we couldn't find it. 

We wound up in the downtown of a mid-sized town whose main feature seemed to be a couple of giant (at least for the size of town) warehouses, boarded up and abandoned. I guess because Canada doesn't have the same kind of commercial past as the U.S., it isn't very common to see abandoned warehouses in small towns up here. The only place I'd ever seen something similar was in London, Ontario, and that's a much bigger city where the abandoned warehouses didn't seem as out of place. 

The downtown was deserted

Maybe because it was Labour Day, or maybe because it was always deserted, I don't know. We headed out of town, continuing to search for a sign or any indication of James Dean's birthplace. No luck. All we found was a trailer park and a busy big box mall. 

A few miles down the road in Gas City we stopped at the historical museum. I went in to ask for directions and got a beautiful, long-winded and extremely friendly response from the local history buffs. We had totally missed James Dean's birthplace, but all we had to do to see his family's homestead and his grave was to go back a couple of miles and hang a left. 

Momo and I thought about it. But somehow, there was no going back.


  1. I've got two sisters living in Illinois, and on the main route between their homes, on a section of old Route 66, is a small museum featuring several "roadside attractions" including an elephant similar to this one, but in bright Pepto-Bismol pink. These larger-than-life creations used to be commonplace -- just like Waffle House is now! Thanks for sharing the story of your road trip, Alex!