Hubby is not into books. But recently he acquired an electronic reader and has downloaded a handful of novels. A couple of the books were chosen simply because the action took place around The Twin Cities, a place where he once lived and worked for several years. There was an immediate connection and curiosity about how the area would be portrayed, if the stories would include any familiar landmarks or streets.
Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to grab a book off the shelf – “Hey! I know that place!” And there’s trouble for any author who doesn’t get that place just right.
Which brings me to the title of this post and the picture above. I’m from the Midwest and that’s what I know. That picture is a drive-thru beverage center. In my hometown we have three of them. Do I hear some of you saying, “You have a drive-thru what?!” That’s the usual response when I mention them. They’re a convenience store you drive through. They’re great and, well, convenient. One drives up to the garage door at one end, pulls forward to make the purchase, then exits through the garage door at the opposite end. Many small towns in the Midwest have them.
The three I grew up with were all different. I’ve never been through the one above. A different one had beverages – milk, pop, beer – but also eggs, lunch meat, bread, and snacks.
This one, doesn’t have foodstuff, (maybe because Phil’s is right next door), but it does have hard liquor … and guns.
Not sure how those fit together, but in all the years Riverside has been in business there hasn’t been a problem. The Youngs have owned Riverside for years. My parents played euchre (a popular card game in the Midwest) with Gary’s parents. Gary and his son Matt are great guys.
I thought drive-thru beverage centers were common, after all we had three! So did my daughter until she traveled with a retreat team a few years ago. The team was made up of young adults from all over the United States. When they traveled back to Ohio, they asked her what those strange buildings were with the garage doors in the middle. When she told them, their response was of course, “A drive-thru what?!” The team had to drive through one. They thought it was pretty cool.
I Googled this seemingly odd Midwest enterprise, especially after a writer friend posted she had to go to a restaurant to buy one bottle of beer, because other than restaurants and bars, there was no other kind of licensed alcohol-selling establishments in her PA town. I thought, ‘you don’t have a what?!’
I found these beverage centers are in most other states, but mainly in the Midwest and north eastern coastal states. They are called by other names, depending on the region – Brew Barn, Party Barn, Bootlegger, Beer Barn, Beverage Barn. A survey on the site indicated that out of 10,458 respondents to the question, ‘What do you call this?”, 48% had never seen such a thing.
Writing with a sense of place is more than just describing it. It’s knowing the right word for things, knowing the local idioms, and knowing those subtle details that make the reader say, “Hey! I know that place! And so does the writer.”
My main place is the Midwest. My characters play euchre and drink Squirt. And they sometimes buy it at a drive-thru beverage center. Care to come along for the ride?
As a writer or reader, what puts you in the right place?