It’s a good thing I’m a huge fan of the comic “Zits,” or I might not have reacted to a recent installment of the strip with a superlative level of calm and equanimity that’s hard to find these days (I’m talking about the kind of maturity and wisdom that’s utterly extinct in some places, like, say, the U.S. Congress).
If you don’t know “Zits” at all, I . . . um, you . . . I guess . . . Sheesh! – how could anyone not know this comic?!? It’s terrific and has been since forever! It’s a great reason to subscribe to a newspaper! You know, in addition to that “Democracy dies in darkness” reason.
The CliffsNotes summary: “Zits” is about the Duncan family, centering on the teenage Jeremy, a high-schooler who butts heads amusingly with his parents over his messy room, his procrastination over his school work, his gargantuan appetite, his incessant requests for money, etc. I relate to it easily thanks to five members of my household that at various times exhibited a good bit of Jeremy-ness. (Oddly, I never did when I was a teenager – go figure!)
So you may be wondering what could’ve happened in this harmless lil’ ol’ comic strip that would come anywhere close to setting my teeth on edge? Well, here’s the storyline: Jeremy somehow talks his parents into letting him and two friends drive to Chicago to see a rock concert (the Duncan’s live somewhere in Ohio).
En route, the kids are enveloped in a terrible snowstorm, which closes highways and forces them onto side and back roads. Jeremy calls his mom to explain their predicament, and she asks if he sees a road sign anywhere to help get a fix on his location. He sees one, the big green kind, with arrows pointing in multiple directions toward the half-a-dozen towns listed. He stares at it, and tells his mom the sign says they’re “Nowhere.”
This is the laugh line, and it is undeniably funny . . . even though the sign bears the names of a half-a-dozen REAL, ACTUAL TOWNS . . . in Indiana!!
As a native-born Hoosier my first reaction naturally was “HAHAHAhahahunh – wait, what?! Is Indiana being dissed? Oh, HAHAHAHAHA anyway!!”
My second reaction naturally was: What do “Zits” readers who aren’t from Indiana, know nothing about Indiana, and don’t care to ever learn anything about Indiana think?!?!? Probably something like, “Ha! Those are some seriously wacky made-up names for towns! Hahaha!”
Well, you effete snobs, let me tell, you, Wakarusa, Nappanee, Wawasee, Gnaw Bone, Loogootee, and Toad Hop ALL ACTUALLY EXIST!
So, even though this column runs in at least 1,499 fewer papers than “Zits,” I shall hereby now put in a few good words for these places (all of which would make the cut if I ever write a column about memorable place names, you know, like the ones I write about college football player names – which you’all love, right?)
Nappanee: About 6,650 people call this place home. The name, according to the Interweb, “probably” means “flour.” (Which is waaaaay better than this description I found online: The area “initially was one of the least desirable areas of Elkhart County, due to dense woods and widespread swamps.”)
Wawasee: An unincorporated community in Kosciusko County. Hmmm, what other good words are there? Well, it had its own Post Office! (The operative word being “had”; it closed in 1938.)
Gnaw Bone: Located in Brown County in south-central Indiana. Also unincorporated, with 200 residents. I don’t have enough space to relate all the potential origins of the name; however, Gnaw Bone is extremely popular on “Unusual Place Names” lists!
Loogootee: Over in the southeast quadrant of the state, in Martin County, and home to 2,700-ish. The second-winningest coach all-time in Indiana high school boys basketball victories is Loogootee High’s Jack Butcher.
Toad Hop: No kidding, this is a real place, part of West Terre Haute nowadays it appears. If you’re wondering what to call people who live there, a former resident reminisced on a West Terre Haute-themed blog that she/he will “always feel like a Toad Hop-ian.”
Wakarusa: A burg of 1,750 people (2010 census), 12 miles south of Elkhart. President Barack Obama visited Wakarusa in 2009! (He got lost in a snowstorm on his way to a rock concert in Chicago.)