The Brother Brothers
THE SCENT OF PEORIA, ILLINOIS, USA
By Sanne Flyvbjerg
A: Let’s talk about Peoria.
B: It’s what they call the heart of Illinois.
A: It’s a very interesting place to write about and a very boring place to grow up.
B: Peoria was a big Vaudeville-place.
A: If you had a Vaudeville act that you were trying to take all over the country, you would play it in Peoria first.
B: The Peoria audience was so regular, that if they liked the act, anyone would.
A: They would say: Well, if it plays in Peoria, it will play anywhere.
B: The houses on our street were on a hill and we lived down the hill at the end of the neighbourhood.
A: The houses lined the street on one side and on the other side was the nature preserve
B: and behind our house was also a nature preserve.
A: We were living on the edge of the forest, so we could go and play in the woods all the time
B: endless woods, because it was all preserved.
A: There were deers and coyotes and
B: and tall maples and elm trees
A: and lots of leaves on the ground.
B: It was really dense.
A: Our house had a lot of stairs. It was one long rectangle, built up on stones.
B: To begin with our house was maroon but eventually our parents painted it beige.
A: It was a modern 1950’s house, very angular
B: with big picture windows all lining the whole kitchen and sitting area.
A: We shared a room. We had bunk beds.
B: Our room had big windows and there was a dresser on one wall.
A: It was a pretty open space. And the marbles or bricks would be spread out all over the floor.
B: It was a big room for a child to have.
A: We had a carpet in our room and we had a set of marbles, so we would draw a circle in the carpet and a little dot in the middle and we invent a game
B: when we were supposed to be in bed.
A: We were kind of always together. But he didn’t play with bricks and I did.
B: We started to sing together in that house. We would put on records and just sing.
A: Outside the house there was a very big driveway and a yard.
B: We had a swing set in the back.
A: There was the smell from the maple trees and the forest.
B: And the apples and noodles in the oven.
A: And sometimes the smell from the chemical plant.
B: It wasn’t a good smell, but it wasn’t overbearing. Just every once in a while, you would get the scent of it.
A: Anyone from Peoria knows that smell.
B: It smelled like a very processed jelly. Or the smell that comes when you open a box of instant Macaroni and Cheese.
A: Huh! Never done that.
A: It’s very quiet in Peoria.
B: Not like the sensory overload that we have in Brooklyn.
A: Yeah, in New York you are constantly sharing a space with everyone. Nothing is your own.
B: Even in your house, you can always hear other people, and you kinda just have to forgive people for that.
A: Everybody is in an agreement that no one gets peace and quiet.
B: In Peoria it was more quiet, more boring.
A: In Peoria you have to find interest.
B: In New York City you have to try and get away from it.
A: There is definitely lots of poetry in Peoria, cause it’s very old for America.
A: Illinois has a very Chicago-oriented side and it has a very South-oriented side
B: and we were more oriented towards the Jewish area of Chicago. We are kind of an extension of that.
A: So our roots are oriented to an urban environment and also a Jewish environment.
B: Being Jewish defines us in a very big way.
A: We were taught to think. We were taught to enjoy things, to be nice to people and enjoy their lives as well.
B: Did you talk about the river?
B: So, Peoria is on the Illinois River which is one of the main passageways to the Mississippi and there are lots of boats that go through.
A: Mark Twain talks about it, John Hartford wrote songs about that river.
B: There is something about the St. Louis passageways to the West.
A: I think the romantic thing about Peoria is the riverboats.
B: They were steamboats with three different levels and they had a paddle wheel on the back.
A: That kind of thing was around town all the time.
B: We grew up around them and didn’t really appreciate them. But to me that’s the most memorable thing about growing up there.
A: When the leaves would fall off of the trees, you could see the river from a lot of different vantage points.
A: But in summertime, you couldn’t quite see it.
B: You could just sense the paddle wheels, somewhere in the distance.