The Ballad of Bobby Ray

If you haven’t already seen this, read Iowahawk’s scoop on the latest way for blue-state adolescents to rebel: They’re going Dollywood in Palo Alto.

“I’m not sure where we went wrong,” says Ellen McCormack, nervously fondling the recycled paper cup holding her organic Kona soy latte. “It seems like only yesterday Rain was a carefree little boy at the Montessori school, playing non-competitive musical chairs with the other children and his care facilitators.”

“But now…” she pauses, staring out the window of her postmodern Palo Alto home. The words are hesitant, measured, bearing a tale of family heartbreak almost too painful for her to recount. “But now, Rain insists that I call him Bobby Ray.”

. . . She opens the door to a reveal a riot of George Jones CDs, reflective ‘mudflap mama’ stickers, empty foil packs of Red Man, and U.S. Marine recruiting posters. In the middle of the room: a makeshift table made from a utility cable spool, bearing a the remains of a gutted catfish.

“This used to be all Ikea,” she says, rocking on heels between heaved sobs. “It’s too late for us. Maybe it’s not to late for me to warn others.”

“Cracker” culture is spreading across blue America like trucker hats, the story warns.

“It was one day last spring,” says Ellen McCormack. “My life partner Carol and I were in the garage, working on a giant Donald Rumsfeld papier mache head for the Bay Area March Against the War, when Rain walked by. I thought he looked kind of strange, so I stopped him and looked closely into his eyes. Then I realized the truth — he was wearing a mullet. I was shocked, but he swore to me that it was only ironic.”

“After a few months, it was clear Rain had lied to us — that hideous Kentucky waterfall was completely earnest,” she adds, choking back sobs.

Her 18-year old son would soon exhibit other signs of disturbing changes.

“I was driving past a McDonalds one day last summer, and I thought I saw Rain’s bike outside. He had told me earlier that he was going to a friend’s house to stuff envelopes for the Dennis Kucinich campaign. I pulled a U-turn and headed back,” she recalls. “When I confronted him in the parking lot, he started giving me a lame story about how he was only there to protest globalization, but I could smell the french fries on his breath.”

It starts with french fries and pork rinds. It ends with bass fishing and stock car races.

About Joanne


  1. IowaHawk sure knows his corn, but he really doesn’t know his Palo Alto pretensions. The last thing Palo Alto (I’ve lived here for 37 years) has to worry about is teenagers going cornpone. We do have to worry about them going bezerkers over SAT scores and GPAs.

    The piece is a good example of midwestern constructions of the coast. Midwesterners who don’t live near water (lakes, rivers, bays, oceans) have strange fantasies about what it’s like to live with lots of natural water around. You’d think it would provide them with a dry wit, but usually they just come up with lame latte jokes.

  2. Hoax alert. This story is too easily loaded up with the type of clichés that make this story suspect. Locals might also note that among liberal/left activists the Ikea store in nearby East Palo Alto was subjected to efforts to prevent its construction. Now they shop there? Mentioned in the story is a professor of abnormal sociology Gerald Levin of the University of California. Aside from the notion of sociology knowing normal from abnormal, I can find no such person at any of the branches of the University of California–unless he’s the guy that merged Time Warner with AOL.

  3. Hoax? It’s not intended to be taken literally; Iowahawk is a humor site (though I did wonder momentarily about the truth of )

  4. It’s loaded up with cliches because it’s a joke, and a rather funny one at that. Yes, it does include a lame latte joke (yeah, we get it) and a mullet, but some of the other humor is pretty good. Read it as a piece of comedy and you’ll probably get a few good chuckles out of it.

  5. It’s a joke, son, it’s only a joke.

    — that hideous Kentucky waterfall was completely earnest,”” = mullet/ shoulda tipped you off.

  6. Mad Scientist says:

    It constantly amazes me how the initial reaction to anything posted on the web MUST be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    I think people need to recalibrate their BS detectors.

  7. Yes, it’s a joke.

    I live in Palo Alto too. It’s nowhere near as uniformly left-liberal and organic as Berkeley because of the presence of so many techies and others who’ve made a lot of money in business.

    The East Palo Alto Ikea is very popular with people of all political persuasions. Opponents worried it would generate too much traffic; it wasn’t a left-right issue.

  8. Of course it’s satire. That was obvious. My point is that it’s not very good satire, just something constructed to make Iowans feel good about living in their cornfields.

    God knows Palo Alto could use some good satiric treatment. This piece doesn’t do that.

  9. One particularly funny part was the idea of a “postmodern” Palo Alto house. They are all either Really Old (and Tiny) Victorian, 1950s tract house (often romanticized as “eichlers” to help deal with the sticker-shock of their seven-figure price-tags), or Monstrous Geek Mansion, with an architectural style that is Doge of Venice meets Bill Gates (boy those dotcom days were great). And a “starter” house in Palo Alto is about $900K, complete with 1200 ft^2 of living space, detached 1 car garage, and bad plumbing.

    Post-modern? Maybe in the Stanford University English department, but not in the housing stock…

  10. I don’t associate this site with humorous contributions. I confess I missed the joke and wonder if Joanne thought it was. Jacobs give no indication of the humor, even contributing serious analysis about who shops at Ikea. Post modern homes do indeed crop up incongruously in Palo Alto so I missed the humor there. Leftist obsessions with traffic as well as anything considered ‘big’ are a major part of the local news coverage. Maybe I should stop reading the site if I descern its intent.

  11. Silicon valley Jim says:

    Gee, Joanne, do you suppose that you should tell the commenters that you’re from the midwest?


  1. Lookout, Blues, the Reds are In the House

    a rant on being non-bipolar–my heroes have always been cowboys AND french chefs.