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By Staff | Nov 4, 2016

The latest stop on the “Dear County Agent Guy” book tour was the Books by the Banks Festival, in Cincinnati. For a few days, my wife and I traded our skyline of silos for a vista that bristled with skyscrapers.

Throwing oneself upon the mercy of the air travel system almost always leads to unmerciful disappointment. After we boarded our connecting flight to Cincy, our plane taxied to the runway and pulled off into a holding area.

The pilot then announced that there would be a delay while they worked out some computer issues.

My wife, an uneasy flyer, didn’t take this news well. After anxiously waiting in the holding area for 20 minutes she said to me, “Maybe someone should tell them to try pushing control/alt/delete.”

We arrived in Cincinnati in fine fettle, albeit an hour late. We chucked our bags into our hotel room and scurried off to an author’s reception that was being held at a library across the street.

After a day of airline food – including such delights as miniature pretzels that tasted exactly like the bags they came in – we were looking forward to some bona fide food. Cheese and crackers and bacon-wrapped cocktail weenies never looked so good.

As we noshed and mingled, I bumped into a guy who looked eerily similar to Mark Twain. When I remarked upon the resemblance, he said, “Thank you. Sadly, it’s taking less and less makeup to look like him as the years go by.”

The guy’s name was Mark Dawidziak, an author, actor and TV critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He also does an impressive Mark Twain impersonation.

My wife and I yakked with Mark for several pleasant minutes. We learned that he knows Hal Holbrook, the godfather of Mark Twain impersonators. Mark is also a longtime friend of TV documentarian Ken Burns.

“It irks me how I’ve grown visibly older, but Ken hasn’t aged a bit,” Mark said.

I asked Mark for one of his favorite Twain quotes.

“I quit the Confederate army … and it fell,” he drawled, sounding exactly like I imagined Twain would.

The next morning we strolled to Duke Energy Center, an elegant structure that occupies an entire city block.

“That’s quite a shed,” I remarked to my wife as we approached the building.

“Don’t embarrass me again by asking how many cows it would hold,” she replied.

The Books by the Banks Festival was held at a cavernous venue in Duke Energy Center. My wife and I sat by a tabletop pile of books and chatted with festival goers.

It was thoroughly enjoyable to meet folks who were interested in my book, even though I was just some random guy from a state they were only vaguely aware of.

I was asked to participate in one of the Festival’s panel discussions. The two other guys on my panel were both college-level historians. I didn’t know what I had in common with them except that I tend to become hysterical at deadline time.

At one point the discussion delved into where, exactly, the Midwest starts. Does it begin in Kentucky? Is Missouri a part of the Midwest? I put the issue to rest by informing the assembled that you can’t be a true Midwesterner unless you’ve had a close personal relationship with studded snow tires.

At the close of the festival, my wife and I decided to celebrate with a meal at a nice restaurant. We hadn’t done anything for our anniversary, so I told her that this could be our night out.

A restaurant called Morton’s was located across from our hotel. “Snazzy” would hardly begin to describe the joint.

We’re accustomed to eateries where the menu is on the wall and a gum-chewing waitress saunters over and asks, “Whaddya have?”

Morton’s featured a fully functional maitre d’ and waiters wearing suits that were nicer than anything I’ll ever own.

Our meals, which cost more than my first car, were scrumptious. But I said to my wife, “Hang the expense. When will we celebrate another 35th anniversary?”

We had some time the next morning before our return flight, so we took a streetcar tour of Cincinnati.

We passed through neighborhoods that were ragged as a freshly-shorn sheep along with areas where urban revitalization has taken root. I saw a panhandler plying his trade a few feet from a stretch limo. Following the money, I guess.

There’s an unceasing thrum to city life: traffic, sirens, the thump of nuclear-powered car stereos.

We were glad to get back to our quiet, middle-of-nowhere farmhouse. A place where the only thumps are those of our dog’s tail and the loudest vibrations come from the cat purring on your lap.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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