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Breakfast Eavesdrop—Sioux Falls Interlude

I wake up in a cheap Sioux Falls motel and go downstairs for a syruped and spreaded (I can believe it’s not butter) waffle, greasy sausage patty, hard-boiled egg, cherry yogurt, baby orange, cup of orange juice, cup of cranberry juice, and cup of milk.

I eat three tables away from a couple other hard-boiled eggs, a chestnut-haired man, with flames tattooed on his construction-site arms and a face that looks like it lifts weights but remains fixed on his lady, a bedheaded redhead, smaller than her loving brute but no twig, hinting with attitude that she might be the one who starts the bar brawls that her mate has to finish. The gangly burning-red-haired PJ’d boy they have produced (PJ’ed? Nah, that’s probably his street uniform) tries hard to avoid association, sitting at a separate table, watching talentless (no headphones; I can hear) videos on his phone. The boy wears shoes; his parents have come to the breakfast room barefoot. The woman wears an ankle monitor.

The first snatch of conversation I catch (again, three tables away! I’m not trying to steal anyone’s private conversation, but there you are, souls as bare as your feet, voices unfettered by concern about anything other than each other, so let’s see what we all can learn) is the woman saying, “I hate this f***ing town.”

I’m tempted to pull up a chair and ask, “How can that be? I love Sioux Falls! This city makes me happy every time I visit!” But I suspect I’m just full of s*** that they don’t need to hear right now.

He reaches a meaty palm across the table (a short reach; motel furnishings) and lays it gently on her arm.

I hear mention of Gillette, a weather report, someone says it’s nice out there.

She: “My parole officer says I can go anywhere in South Dakota…. Ten months. When I get done, I’m going to get so f***ed up.…”

Later, he: “You don’t have to drink if you go to a bar. You can have something else. Breaded mushrooms.”

”I hate breaded mushrooms.”

”You hate breaded mushrooms? How can that be? You’re full of s***.” (So I’m not the only one.)

”I can’t go to a bar. If I go into a bar, I’m going to drink. Liquor is my water, my juice.”

Whatever harshness led to that ankle monitor, none of that manifests here at breakfast. She gets up, says she’s going to do her hair and makeup. He walks out with her, close, eager to see the results. Gangly son lingers in the lobby, lost in the phone.

I know I’m mostly full of s***, ma’am, but remember this breakfast with your man, with his flame tattoos and his survivor’s face looking nowhere but at you… for longer, I suspect, than ten months.

See—Sioux Falls isn’t all bad.


  1. LCJ 2023-09-16 08:43

    Despite the current political leadership in SF,
    Sioux Falls and the people that live there are great.

  2. larry kurtz 2023-09-16 08:52

    1 of 3
    ˈgrāt Southern also ˈgre(ə)t
    Synonyms of great
    : notably large in size : HUGE

  3. larry kurtz 2023-09-16 08:52

    1 of 3
    ˈgrāt Southern also ˈgre(ə)t
    Synonyms of great
    : notably large in size : HUGE

  4. P. Aitch 2023-09-16 09:44

    I love Sioux Falls, too. It’s so positive. Have a great weekend everyone.

  5. Bob Newland 2023-09-16 10:47

    I had to laugh when I read “ankle monitor.”

  6. Bob Newland 2023-09-16 10:49

    How long before the kid is wearing one?

  7. grudznick 2023-09-16 11:00

    Don’t eat free motel breakfasts, Mr. H, no matter how many sausages they let you have. Go to the Diner on Phillips avenue. Sioux Falls is a hole which on the whole is overrun by unhomed and unhinged people, but the Diner on Phillips avenue is swell.

  8. jakc 2023-09-16 11:07

    I remember waking up on the beach in Rio after Carnivale had ended, all syruped and spreaded, but no, no … I swore I would never speak about that

  9. Dee 2023-09-16 11:49

    ♥️♥️ Love FSD. Where I go to escape the quiet of the rural area I live. Arts and culture I don’t get living in the sticks. Leave FSD if you don’t like it.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2023-09-16 13:52

    Dee is correct…Sioux Falls is a great oasis for those of us who are stuck in the sticks and need a respite.

  11. grudznick 2023-09-16 20:38

    Mr. Blundt, come to Rapid City for some real culture. grudznick can arrange tours. And breakfasts.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2023-09-16 20:58

    Grudznick–there’s never been any culture in Rapid City…cement dinosaurs and strip clubs aren’t culture..their used to a few decent bars,but they were few and far between..Way,Way back in the Day…the Esquire Club could be fun. You do have a very fine Art Museum, I’ll give you that.

  13. Todd Epp 2023-09-16 22:02

    Cory captures the despair of 21st Century America’s working class. It ain’t easy being a paycheck away from living on the street. The guy sounds like a decent person who loves his very troubled wife.

  14. leslie 2023-09-16 22:52

    Perhaps you mean the Dahl.

    Fine arts at the Journey. When we built it we had something. The city FAILED to manage the institution. Kroc took back the Charles Russell western art, Adelstein dumped the best part of the building design (a projected visual display above the myseum like a tipi, a covered wagon or a diaphanous campfire—think Sydney Opera House), and then required board members to kitty up $50 K each, but he did manage to get his name all over the building. Trumpian! It was a real mistake to invite him, the profiteer, on board the non-profit.

    The city utterly failed to appropriately handle valid Indian concerns about the mission. SDSMT got jealous of competition with its dinosaurs. Cowboys and Indians. What a better way to memorialize our western history.

    But NO.

    So we have a very lackluster museum, misnamed from the start, hidden from view and traffic and signage.

    Complete fail on every level of bush-league management.

  15. leslie 2023-09-17 14:45

    There’s a song here, Cory!

    “I wake up in a cheap Sioux Falls motel and go downstairs for a (I can believe it’s not butter) waffle, greasy sausage, boiled egg, yogurt, baby orange, juice, mother’s milk.… three tables away from some hard-boiled eggs, chestnut-haired flamed tattoo, construction arms, and weight lifters face fixed on a lady, a bed redhead, smaller but she might start the bar fight he has to finish.”

    hahaha. South Dakota culture and its uneducated Republican voters. Cliche!

    This country in denial of truth is so besotted in addiction! It’s a wonder we can even function, and a billionaires playground. No different now than what we immigrants made up as we entered the Civil War. Assassination finished reconstruction. Biden was left with Bush and Trump’s mess in Afghanistan. Drugs are much stronger today.

  16. Arlo Blundt 2023-09-17 20:00

    I’ve had many experiences like that so aptly explained by Cory during my traveling days. Sioux Falls is the last chance destination for folks whose fate has not been kind while living in other places in South Dakota. Sioux Falls is where shattered dreams meet harsh reality. It’s the last stop for South Dakotans looking for, and needing, the “Big Break” in Life.

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