Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

I DON’T EVER GO THERE

LIKE MANY people, I reside on Main Street, Anytown, U.S.A. (You know the deal: My name is Occupant.) Though my life has been blessed with adventurous travel, there are other places I’ve heard of, but never visited. Nor can I ever. Here are several places in either category.

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Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis, 1920. A biting satire of small-town life.

Main Street describes many places, real and fictional. For example, Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, 1920, is a satire of small town life in the Midwest. The book was initially awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, but Columbia University trustees overturned the prize jury’s decision. Nor were small-town residents amused: Alexandria, Minnesota, banned the book from its public library.

Main Street, Anytown, U.S.A., has become a generic. And, of course, Disney gave Main Street, U.S.A., prime real estate in its California, Florida, Paris and Hong Kong attractions. Tokyo Disneyland has a similar venue, though it’s called World Bizarre there.

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Disney Main Street, Hong Kong. Image from disneyparks.wiki.com.

To Brits, the main retail street of a village, town or small city is often called the High Street, whether it’s officially named this or not. I’ll have to ask British friends whether they get mail addressed to Occupant, High Street, Anyvillage, nr. Anytown, Anyshire, U.K.

There are about a zillion real Middletowns, one in County Armagh, Northern Ireland; others in California, Connecticut, Delaware, … two in each of New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and yet others in Rhode Island and Virginia.

What I have in mind, though, is the Middletown of Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, 1929, and Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts, 1937. These two case studies were conducted by Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, husband-and-wife sociologists. The Lynds chose the name Middletown to conceal the identity of Muncie, Indiana, the typical small city of their studies. Before long, residents of Muncie kenned to it all: “Is Muncie Really ‘Middletown’?” asked E.C. White in the October 10, 1930, Muncie Evening Press.

International locales have a rich history as well. Take Ruritania, Lutha and Freedonia. I used to think these were three of those little Balkan enclaves. True, but only in fiction.

The country of Ruritania is the central European setting for three adventure novels by Anthony Hope: The Prisoner of Zenda, 1894; The Heart of Princess Osra, 1896; and Rupert of Hentzau, 1898. Ruritania also shows up in, among others, Sherlock Holmes’ “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client,” 1924; Harry Paget Flashman’s Royal Flash, 1974; and several P.G. Wodehouse stories.

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Flag and crest of the Kingdom of Ruritania.

There’s also the Kingdom of Ruritania, a micronation nestled between Germany and the Czech Republic. According to the Ruritania website, Wilhelm-Rudolf Franz Nicholas founded this country in 1959 and was crowned King in 1960. In 1970, His Majesty married the Princess Royal of Lutha, Anastasia Sophia Maria Helena von Rubenroth. Upon his death in 2010, she succeeded him as Queen Anastasia.

The legitimacy of Ruritania has been confirmed as one of the micronations at MicroCon 2015. Also, there’s a Ruritania Font, designed by typographer Paul Lloyd. Reflecting its central European heritage, baroque ornateness is its long suit; readability is not.

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Ruritania Font, by Paul Lloyd. Downloadable at dafont.com.

Though Lutha was the birthplace of Ruritania’s Queen Anastasia, the kingdom was not represented at MicroCon15. However, Lutha is the setting of The Mad King, 1929, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (also known for the California city of Tarzana).

The country of Freedonia has an equally complex history. The name, along with other variants, Fredon and the like, was proposed as a national descriptor following the American Revolution. Only several patriots rose to support it.

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Duck Soup, 1933, starring the Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont.

Years later, in the Marx Brothers flick Duck Soup, 1933, wealthy socialite Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) saves a bankrupt Freedonia, but insists that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) be appointed its leader. Mad intrigue follows when the neighboring country of Sylvania employs spies Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo). The satire’s lasting fame was ensured when Benito Mussolini banned the film in Italy.

Last, in 1993 Freedonia made news when the satirical magazine Spy pranked members of the U.S. Congress. It asked 20 first-term House members “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” According to the Associated Press, answers ranged from “we need to take action” to “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.” ds

Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015

2 comments on “I DON’T EVER GO THERE

  1. Michael Rubin
    August 9, 2015

    Let’s not forget The Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

    • simanaitissays
      August 9, 2015

      Agreed! And Peter Sellers’ wonderful portrayals of its personages.

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