Archives for posts with tag: Iowa

This novel has the slow steady pace of country life:


A few big events puncture the narrative but mostly you get more than three hundred pages of small-town life. The sheriff and his deputies. Some townie lowlifes. A few good people trying to make a respectable living. It’s a good book. Maybe you’ve heard of it and passed it over. Maybe this is the first. Don’t pass it up. It’s a nice summer read.

I happened to read half of this book in the north-eastern corner of Iowa where this book seems to be set. Maybe that’s one reason I felt such comfort settling into this weighty novel. Tom Drury never explicitly places a pin in a map but he leaves some strong clues. The nearby Minnesota border. The long stretches of corn and gravel between towns.

This part of the country is beautiful. Perhaps most beautiful to those raised here. Even those of us who grew up in town and never lived the hard-working farm life, feel the pull of those fields and that horizon line. The comfort and awe of seeing weather work its way across the land. A thunderhead building and bubbling up lightening.

The wife and the poodle watch a summer storm churn towards us:


Writing is built on reading. I better get back to it.


Seventeen years ago a generation of cicadas crawled from an underground slumber in the Iowa soil and screamed for months. They flew about like tiny drunk pilots, slamming into humans and agriculture alike. They ruined a summer’s worth of outdoor picnics. Then – goal accomplished, I assume –  they mated, laid their eggs deep into the ground, and died.

Their babies have arrived. I assure you they scream just as passionately as their forefathers.

The poodle met a few of these new cicadas this weekend. Like most living creatures, they baffled her. She batted them about. Sniffed and snorted. Eventually she took a bite out of one and the screaming stopped. Here, I have photographic proof of the poor bastard:

CicadaHe’s kind of beautiful. Now that he’s quiet.

The poodle feels no shame. She seemed rather pleased with herself and the conquering of an invading army – or at least one enemy soldier. Here she is immediately post-kill:

HappyPoodleMy sweet little happy killer.


Standing in an elementary school gym during the 2007 caucuses, I cast my first vote for Hillary Clinton. Two dozen older ladies and I stood solemnly under the basketball hoop, all of us wrapped in scarves and winter coats. An ice storm brewed outside. I thought we would be the majority. I really did.

Instead, the younger generations flocked to Obama’s camp. The grassroots were strong in Iowa. My town’s high school art teacher – in all his stereotypical, grey ponytailed, hippie glory – started a chant as their numbers clearly won the caucus. They certainly seemed like the winning camp, the better camp. The fun camp. But I wasn’t on board yet.

I held out for my girl. Hillary simply seemed like the better choice. A little older, a little wiser, a bit more accustomed to the ways of Washington. Some months later, after the ice thawed and the primaries dragged on, the candidates made the State Fair rounds. When Hillary visited, she saw my friends and I in uniform and beckoned us forward, through the crowd.

Star-struck, I stuttered and blushed. I thanked her for visiting Iowa and said I hoped she was enjoying the fair. “Yes, sergeant,” she said. “I’m enjoying myself very much. Thank you for your service.” She knew our ranks. I swooned. She spoke military jargon. She charmed the boys I was with. We took a picture, shook hands, and she melted back into the crowd.


Conversations then tended to roll back around to what the country was ready for. Are we ready for black president? Are we ready for a woman to be president? Looking back I’m ashamed how much credence I gave those thoughts. What does ready even mean? Are we too bigoted to have a black president? Are we too closed minded and backwards to elect a woman to the highest office in our land? Are we ready to grow the fuck up?

The question shouldn’t be if we, the voting public, are ready or not. The question should be is she, the politician, ready?

Well, damnit, I say she is. I can’t wait to vote again.

Hillary 2016!

Last weekend, my best friend got married.

The wedding couldn’t have been more perfect. The bride looked stunning. The groom couldn’t stop smiling. We danced and ate and drank and ate some more and danced some more. It was goddamn perfect.

While we were running around before the wedding – picking up the dress, getting the bride’s hair and make-up did – we ran across this bus:


Yes, that’s right. A little bit of celebrity right here in Des Moines. (Don’t act like Jeff Timmons wasn’t your favorite boy bander – he’s certainly mine now.) As shocking as it might be, Des Moines doesn’t see many celebrities. We have the occasional musician or comedian come to town for a show. Ashton Kutcher returns home once in awhile. Then there is election season – which is another beast entirely – but generally we live up to our flyover status.

Though the picture doesn’t quite show it I love the contrast of these two people. My friend on her wedding day. All sunshine and future rainbows ahead. Then there is Jeff – clinging to the last bit of celebrity. Don’t get me wrong, he was a sweet guy and very pretty but it’s hard not to feel desperation rolling off a bus plastered with shirtless men.

Still, it was a nice to have this little bit of outside celebrity with our own weekend celebrity. With that, let’s call this one the bride and stripper:


In college we looked forward to the Iowa/Iowa State game like Christmas. Even for people like me who didn’t follow sports, who couldn’t care less about most games, this weekend was huge. The calendar cleared. We made elaborate plans. Stocked the fridge or cooler or trunk with beer. We accept the fact that our cell phones wouldn’t work because the entire state would descend on Iowa City or Ames.

This rivalry defines Iowa.

When I was deployed I even drew a tiger hawk on one of my magazines – for luck and love:


My plans aren’t as centralized since I’ve left Iowa – I don’t follow the game as closely – but the game still calls to me. I can’t help but check the score. Check the shit talking on facebook. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger. I am an Iowan.

Go Hawks.

On the hottest day in June we stood on a gravel path that cut through a prairie in central Iowa. We held small bouquets arranged by my mother-in-law, calla lilies and freesia. My brother combed his hair and tucked in his shirt. My mother cried. The dog behaved. My wife-to-be looked beautiful, like the best kind of summer girl in her green dress – even when she made that scrunched up cry face while saying our vows.



Back at my mother’s house, just down the road, our families and friends gathered. More people than I expected Food. Games. Beer. Wine. More love than I deserve. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.


My brother graduated from high school this weekend:

More on that later. I’m still processing it.

We used the trip to take care of some wedding details and to apply for our marriage license – the date is quickly approaching.

While we were signing the papers – in all their grand simplicity – the county records gentleman had some trouble locating my birth certificate. Yes, my mother was married at the time of my birth. Yes, I was born here. Yes, yes, yes, yes. No record. No big deal, the gentleman said, it’s probably with the state. Or I’m adopted. Let the jokes begin.

My mother and the girlfriend thought this uncertainty was hilarious:


Even when then joke is at my expense, I love making them laugh.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend the girlfriend and I ran some wedding errands in Des Moines. The plan is to have a simple backyard party. No one will be giving anyone away. No one will be walking down any aisles. No bridesmaids. No bouquets.  We want simple. We want good food, good beer and we want to share it with the people we love. That simple idea turns out not to be so simple.

There are so many decisions to make. Do we do a cocktail hour? What color should the napkins be? What about music? Kegs or beer bottles? Plastic cups or glass? What about for the kids? What if it rains? Should we rent a tent? Where will everyone park? What if the zombie apocalypse is upon us?

I know it can still be simple. I believe in my heart that the day I get married can be lovely instead of stressful. I believe we can have fun and so can our friends.  I know that whatever we choose will be perfect. It will be perfect, I know it, if we can just get off this terrifyingly unsteady swinging bridge of decisions.

I also know – because it’s fucking awesome, this being in love business – that even if the wedding happens on top of the swinging bridge, in the middle of a goddamn hurricane, during the end of times, it will be wonderful.  (I just have to remember that when I’m thinking about what type of chair to rent.)

Ok, I’m going to stop before this metaphor gets really out of control.

Our new “we want to buy a house” budget has made us more mindful of our shopping habits. What will we really eat? And when? Have we devoted too much freezer space to ice cream? Each item is considered far more than n our freewheeling grad school days where we ordered Indian food and pizzas with abandon. (Rough life, I know)

I tell you all this to complain about a bag of Green Giant frozen corn we purchased. I’m from Iowa, you see, so corn is a central part of my diet. The girlfriend had an exciting new chili recipe AND we had a coupon. Done. Biggest bag of corn we could find.

As we started cooking (ok, she started cooking), we found this:

What the hell is that? Butter Sauce – the package says. Green Giant, why have you failed me!? This isn’t green .  All I wanted was some tasty corn in my chili, a little of Mother Midwest’s natural candy. Why Green Giant? Why?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person to complain about over processed food or the state of our nation’s dietary peccadillos.  Sign me up for some candy and packaged snacks and fast food on any road-trip or lazy day.  But this product pretends to be healthy.

Fore shame, Green Giant, fore shame

While sitting on my couch recovering from too many box-jumps at Crossfit, I saw my first Vote Yes commercial (on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, that is). A blond woman holding an inexplicably large coffee mug stared at me and warned me that the gays plan to ruin Minnesota. I didn’t think these commercials were real. Who puts hate into the world like that, so publicly? Who announces their own bigotry?

When the anger cloud moved from my field of vision another – and perhaps more sobering and realistic – line of questions emerged:

What would this woman say to me? How would she treat my imaginary future family? I’d like to say she would be awful. I would like to project as much distain as her commercial evoked. Yet, I think she might be ok. Maybe. Maybe if she met us or lived near us she would see we aren’t so bad. We would talk about gardening and the weather and all those things nice Minnesota neighbors talk about. That doesn’t give me comfort. No, that particular thought experiment scares me. Politics – instead of real life – seem to keep this woman and all the vote yes folks from letting their worlds grow.

Shit, that scares me. Yet here I am hopeful, even a little Pollyanna-ish… Maybe I’m still energized by my new job. Maybe I didn’t drink enough water today. Or maybe it is because of the goodness of my dear, sweet home, Iowa:


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