Letters from Home

Iowa in 2008: The Future is Already Here

The Future Starts HereAll my friends at The Warrington in England who didn’t know what or where Iowa is (“sounds familiar though”) are getting their quat-annual reminder today as my fair home state makes front page news internationally, including three front pages in the Guardian, The Independent and below the fold featuring McCain in the Tory Times.

As my fellow Iowegians grin and bear the last round of the political ad whollop during today’s caucus votes, some people may wonder “Why Iowa?”

I could answer that question politically, but I am going to answer it existentially.

The “Green” Movement 

Recently, in my work as an environmental writer, I mentioned to someone that I was originally from Iowa. Their response was the first I had ever heard of its kind:


Uh, pardon me?

Usually I get things like “Oh.”  or  “Oh-OH” (voice raising with that secret knowledge of what “Midwest” means in code to people from other places)  or “Iowa? That’s the place where they grow the potatoes!”

People are really proud when they can remember how Iowa farmers grow potatoes. Recently I have given to not correcting them. I am certain that some Iowa farmers grow potatoes.

The response I NEVER get is: COOL!

Until recently, when the green movement made everything rural hip again. So even though I grew up in a city in Iowa (population 750,000) and never ever saw a cow or grew a thing, I rated.

The Real Cool Bit 

Iowa is cool, though, simply cool. I can’t tell you why, for the same reason I can’t explain to you how a long Nebraska summer day can be beautiful. If you get it, you get it. Simple pleasures are not something you that can extract and explain: you either got a taste for them, or you don’t.

My mom is very fond of her white tennis shoes and sweatshirt wardrobe. Only recently did I convince her that elastic waist jeans–though comfy– were totally unflattering and not worth the comfort. My Mom is also brilliantly evolved, as is my Dad. They’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, London, Salzburg, Brussels. They’ve seen the world. They like a good dose of Vegas and can’t wait to see the Amazon and British Columbia.

But it’s Iowa that holds the key for them. In the winter, it holds its breath, in the summer, it blossoms. No one travels to Iowa to see it… there are no real tourist attractions in Iowa worth battling O’Hare or driving across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois to get to.

Iowa Is Life. It’s four seasons, repeat. School and Work and Community. It’s not blue or red, no matter what the media try to make it. It isn’t particularly “religious” even if its people go to church regularly.

So if you are wondering, Why Iowa? just keep wondering. And if you are passing through this way, just be sure to stop somewhere and have a meal and meet an Iowan. Then you’ll know.

6 thoughts on “Iowa in 2008: The Future is Already Here

  1. Hmmm…just returned from visiting parents in Iowa. I love going back, don’t get me wrong, but 4 days is plenty for me. While the nostalgia of Iowa is fantastic, and I’ve probably never met a fellow Iowan I didn’t like…my fond memories failed to include the “perma-overcast” winters and two inches of ice accumulated on my parents’ driveway. I chopped 1/3 of that ice off for my parents (as any good Iowa boy would do)–but then I punted and headed back to Denver. We have 300 days of sunshine here. 😉

  2. AMEN! I love it there and miss it almost every day. Grinder – I did 2 days of RAGBRAI. Let me know if you’re going any time soon! What a great way to see the state!

  3. When I moved to Los Angeles, I honestly found use for my calendar. Without it, I would have no idea when kids returned to school. In Iowa, you smell and feel the changes in the air. Aside from the people, the main thing I missed had to be the seasons.

    You’re right about ‘getting it’ too. We moved back to Iowa because Los Angeles isn’t where we wanted to raise the kids. Iowa, despite it’s many flaws, drew us back for it’s many advantages.

  4. I think if you tell people that the state is named for the Ioway people, a Siouan tribe of Native Americans that formerly lived there.

    Iowa is also called the “Hawkeye State” or the “Tall Corn State” (by simple folk).

    AND – something I have done a few times – the home of RAGBRAI.

  5. Iowa Is Life. It’s four seasons, repeat. School and Work and Community. It’s not blue or red, no matter what the media try to make it.

    What a great summary. Absolutely true. I know, cuz i grew up in Iowa too. Wonderfully phrased – when are you going to write a book? I want the second copy – the first can go to your 212.5 pound husband.

  6. I love Iowa–the first time I drove through it was in early May. I remember thinking how pretty it was with the rolling green hills and little creeks running along!

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