Saturday, August 16, 2008
Of Meat Raffles, Atheists and Billboards
If you read the title of this post and said "Huh?," I'm right there with ya.
My family and I recently returned from a week at a cabin by a lake in Minnesota. It was, by the way, a fantastic experience, and one that was particularly valuable to my children, as they had freedom to roam in a way that would never be possible here in LA. I thought it was the coolest thing ever when I realized my kids were playing an indoor-outdoor game of hide-and-seek--and not one damn adult had to be out there watching them (nor were the kids asking for permission or for parental oversight--which they would have done here in the big, bad Orange). The lake by the cabin was beautiful, the sunsets amazing, the loons noisy and the mosquitos and black flies mercifully few.
Now, I don't mean to disrespect ANY Minnesotans out there--you are among the friendliest, politest people I've ever met outside of Canada--but your state does have a few, well, quirks.
First, there's the Meat Raffle. We found that "Meat Raffle" signs were practically ubiquitous in every town we passed through. If you think I'm making this up--you'd be wrong, wrong, wrong. We have photographic proof and I will post it if my husband ever downloads his photos and e-mails me the appropriate one. (It will happen, but don't go holding your breath, because I don't know exactly WHEN it will happen--I'd hate to see you pass out over meat--In the meantime, Google Images has come to the rescue).
Baffled? So were we. Were they actually raffling off meat? Everywhere? And would people actually spend money on raffle tickets just for MEAT? I don't know what your experience with raffles has been, but, at my kids' school, we could hardly get anyone to purchase raffle tickets for a CAR, so how on earth were they getting folks to ante up for meat? And not even guaranteed meat--but potential meat? Was there some sort of meat shortage which made raffled meat particularly desirable? Perhaps it was rare and unusual meat. Or maybe winning meat is just way more fun than my paltry imagination can handle.
My husband and I wondered if we were thinking about this thing too literally. But what else could a meat raffle be? Dirty birdy that I am, I wondered if "meat" was some sort of code for. . .um, how shall I put this. . .good old-fashioned beefcake? Visions of burly men danced through my head. Whoa, that WOULD make Minnesota a progressive state. . .
When we got home, I Googled "meat raffle." (Thank G-d for Wikipedia. EVERYTHING is in Wikipedia, except, for some reason, an entry on Hershey Felder.) If you want to read a little more (and I do mean little. After all, how much can you have to say on the subject of raffling meat?) about meat raffles, click here. As it turns out, what you see is what you get. Apparently, Minnesotans are wild about raffling meat. (The only other places mentioned as having regular meat raffles were Britain and Australia--called "meat trays" in the latter locale. I don't have any idea what Minnesota, with its largely Scandinavian history, has in common with GB or the Land Down Under, other their obvious propensity to gamble on animal flesh.)
Unfortunately, my husband and I were not able to participate in the meat raffle in the town in which we were staying. . .it turns out we were leaving before the big date.
Ach, it's probably just as well. We keep kosher at home, and I don't know that we'd have had much use for that big ole slab of pork. . .
Not that all was lost on the competition front, however; we did get to participate in the weekly turtle races--us and almost 500 other people. Yes, you read that number right. They happen every week during the summer and usually have around 500 participants. In a town with a non-tourist population of only 1,800+. And you know, some of those turtles can move surprisingly fast.
From what I've learned, Minnesota is a very civic-minded state--even down to its atheists. Nowhere was this more in evidence than on the Adopt-a-Highway signs, where one stretch of highway had been adopted by the Minnesota Atheists. I've traveled many a highway and interstate and have never, ever seen a stretch of road adopted by an atheist or group of atheists. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a photo of the sign as we sped by, nor could we turn around and go back because we had a plane to catch. Curious about this group, I looked it up on the internet--and it does, indeed, have its own website. The organization's motto? "Positive Atheism in Action." Only in Minnesota--where even the atheists are committed to social action.
All kidding aside, you should check out this group. They are seriously organized and seriously committed to doing good. And they all look so darned wholesome doing it, too. . . .
Now, we get to the billboards. These were among the weirdest billboards my husband and I had ever seen (and he's lived in Minnesota before). These ranged from numerous HUGE anti-abortion billboards (so much for being a progressive state), complete with large photos of fetuses and other (meant-to-be) heartwrenching pix and text (but which we found to be disturbing for other reasons), to lots of medical advertising. But not the sort of medical advertising you might have expected.
"Do you know how much YOUR colonoscopy will cost?",
one very large specimen practically boomed--as if G-d were speaking to us through the billboard (very LA Story-esque, but without the flashing lights, traffic and smog. Think the analog version). I sank down in my seat and felt ashamed: Um, well, no? Should I? I'm so. . .sorry. I must be terribly irresponsible.
Finally, Minnesota is such a WHITE (not to mention, blond) state. I haven't seen such an unbroken sea of white faces since. . .well. . . EVER. Although the Pacific Palisades comes close...but that's another story. I mean these people are WHITE (and I'm not talking skin tone--they do tan). I felt downright ethnic among this crowd. And all I am is Jewish (and pale, at that). Oddly enough, though, in the town in which we were staying, there did seem to be a high incidence of African-American or bi-racial babies and children attached to white parents. But there was nary a black adult in sight. Another Minnesota oddity? Who knows?
And that, dear class, was My Summer Vacation in Minnesota.