For the road trip to Madonna, it was 71 degrees with a Windex-blue sky in early fall. This is why God made sun roofs.
An out-of-towner can get lost four, five times trying to find this cranny of rural sprawl. Blink and you'll miss Madonna; blink and you'll hit a silo. For company, we turn on the radio and, coincidentally, the first song out of the box is "Live To Tell" by Madonna, the singer:
"How would they hear the beating of my heart?. . ."
They've heard you, but they don't get you.
Madonna (singer), meet Madonna (Maryland). You have nothing in common. Only one of you has dated Warren Beatty. You clearly don't wear the same clothes or listen to the same music. You have never been an item.
Madonna, Md., (pop. 200) rolls easy among the Christmas tree farms, black satellite dishes and moo cows of Harford County. This is a Garth Brooks and Perry Como crowd, with no interest in any dominatrix -- whatever that means. Running cable out to some of these farms is too expensive, so folks miss the MTV Madonna-thons. Motorists stopping for directions don't even ask whether there's any connection between the singer and the crossroads. No jokes or anything.
Not too far from this home front, Madonna's "Girly Show" world tour is playing New York City tonight. Her latest act has 1,500 pieces of clothing, trapezes, an amazing light show, amazing dancers -- and music, too.
No one from Madonna is going to see Madonna.
"I guess we're just a bunch of Deadheads around here," says Dolores Almony, owner of Mrs. Almony's Country Store in the small heart of downtown Madonna. Deadheads?
"That's the Grateful Dead," Mrs. Almony's daughter, Brenda, tells her mom.
"Well, I'm from the jitterbug age," Mom says.
Across the intersection at Madonna Auto Sales & Service, owner Doug Verzi says he jokes with his wife about writing Madonna and asking her if she wants to buy a town. He wonders if the singer knows this place exists. Mr. Verzi -- a 26-year veteran of Madonna -- is in the mood for a brush with greatness.
"We would love for her to visit. My guys [in the auto shop] wouldn't know how to handle it," Mr. Verzi says.
The thought of a Madonna visit reminds him of the early 1970s when a stretch limo pulled up to his auto shop. A fuse blew in the limo's fridge, and the celebrity inside needed it fixed -- now. The superstar was also looking to buy a horse farm maybe in Maryland, the driver told Mr. Verzi. The limo's license plate said ELVIS. But that's another story.
"You know, I was thinking about what we could do," Mr. Verzi says. "I don't know if Madonna rides horses or not, but we could have a fox hunt. She is a fox. She could be at the meet and set them off.
"That might attract her fancy."
1. Madonna. 2. Fox hunt. 3. Harford County. Tough to string together a mental picture -- but, then again, consider the apparel possibilities for Madonna. Also, Madonna's pictorial book "Sex" pictures her as an animal lover, of sorts. The book does not appear on coffee tables here.
"I think she is so disgusting," says Dot Markline, who just made sweetened ice tea and chocolate chip cookies (soft, perfect) in her farmhouse off Madonna Road. When first questioned about the singer, Mrs. Markline emitted a barn-raising eeeking sound.
"I have listened to her music and have forbidden my grandchildren to listen to her or look at her." But don't print that, she says, just joking. "If you quote me, she'll come out here and sue me."
Madonna, Md., was not named after the singer, of course. This four-square-mile area was probably named after Madonna McCurdy, daughter of one-time postmaster Dr. McCurdy. He moved here in the 1800s, although Maryland history books are threadbare on the subject of him and this census blip.
We do know a few things about the place. At times, it was also called Briar Ridge, Kings Corner and Cathcart. The Madonna schoolhouse burned down. But one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Maryland, Bethel Presbyterian, still stands in Madonna. The old forest fire tower was the highest point in Harford County; it has been replaced by a fancy antennae in the Madonna Forest Ranger Station.
This was poultry and dairy country. When their work was done, farmers would pitch horseshoes in the evenings or shoot clay pigeons. Fewer small farms exist now, and many people work in the metropolitan area. There used to be a tavern -- now there's First Virginia Bank and Madonna's first blinking red light.
Barbershop quartets were a hit and still are. History will note that Madonna's "Like a Virgin" didn't play well here.
If the singer ever came to Madonna, what would they do with her besides fox hunt? Ken Gross, the 80-year-old unofficial mayor of Madonna, says the singer would have to visit nearby Towson or Bel Air to have any fun. But Marta Waltimyer, Dot Markline's daughter, says Madonna could try the local night life.
"Oh, golly day," Mrs. Waltimyer says. "Madonna could go outside and walk around on a moonlit night, feel the coolness in the air, hear the wind blowing through the corn. I guess just go out and VTC hear the animals -- last night I heard an owl in the back yard."
Mrs. Waltimyer would invite her to the house. Madonna does dinner! She would make Madonna lasagna with home-grown green beans. For dessert, she'd serve apple pie made from the apples grown on the family farm.
"Madonna could pitch in and help with the dishes," Mrs. Waltimyer says.
Reality check: Madonna is not doing dishes in Maryland.
Come 9 o'clock tonight, Marta Waltimyer will probably be relaxing after a good meal. The windows will be open, and the cool air will condition her family's home. The night sounds might include that noisy peacock that's been heard lately down the road.
And, in New York City, Madonna will be singing, dancing and grabbing her crotch.