My friend Harry Leeds sent me this photo of him with shovel in hand, gardening with his uncle in Vermont. It's a great time of year to be out of doors, working in the dirt. Since I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building, my gardening is restricted to a few potted plants. But while I was in Iowa, I ventured out into the countryside with novelist Andrew Sean Greer. We didn't do any hoeing to speak of, but we did stop at the house Grant Wood used as a centerpiece for his painting American Gothic, and we made our own homage to this paragon of American regionalism.
Not surprisingly, I first knew this classic painting through one of its parody versions: the tableau at the end of the opening credits for "Green Acres," starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. Most people, it seems, encounter Wood's iconic imagery initially through a wry reinterpretation of it. There are American Gothic-esque photos, cartoons, paintings, and film clips that pair up Miss Piggy & Kermit, Mickey Mouse & Minnie, Bill & Hilary Clinton, Michelle & Barack Obama, Barbie & Ken, Beavis & Butthead and a host of others. In fact, the folks at the American Gothic house in Wapello County, Iowa, have outfits for you to slip into, and they'll even take your photo. As if that weren't enough country hospitality for you, you can buy home-baked pie from the woman who lives inside.