Monday, July 25, 2011

Movin' On Up

The last month has been rather Hellish. You may have noticed the blatant lack of postings over the last 4 weeks. It is because I am in a funk. It's called the "I'm in a weird state of transition" Blues.

My lovely wife has recently finished her coursework at the University of Iowa in music therapy, and on June first she started her final hurdle on the road to certification: a six month internship. The location? Des Plaines, Illinois. So a little over a month ago, my dear wife, our worldly possessions in-tow, headed for the Chicago Suburbs. And I was left to fend for myself in Davenport, Iowa.

You'd think that without my wife around, I'd have nothing to do after work, so I'd be able to blog like crazy. That's what I thought. Unfortunately, an obstacle got in the way of my much-anticipated productivity. Writer's block.

It came in the form of lack of motivation. It came in the form of exhaustion, as I couldn't sleep well. It came in the form of YouTube and Facebook and working late and sleeping in. It hit me like a blitzkrieg on the London skyline. But the best way to move past a block is, simply put: start writing again. It's going to be stiff, it's going to be awkward, but it's the only way that I've found to actually get back into the rhythm.

"All Them Foreigners"

This weekend, Annie and I went down to Southeast Iowa to attend a wedding and then visit my mother. The wedding was beautiful, the weather was cool and overcast, and the rolling hills of Southeast Iowa tugged on my reminiscent heart strings.

On Sunday, we went to lunch with my mother at a little gas station-turned-grocery-store-and-restaurant (you know the type) in Farmington, Iowa. We pulled up under the converted gas awning and parked our car, the only Toyota I'd seen in at least three counties. As we went inside, I snagged a Bonny Buyer, the local classifieds rag. The cover was brightly promoting "Heartland Fireworks: Best selection, Best quality, Best price". Out of Wayland, Missouri, you know these folks are serious when they typify their final statement with five exclamation points!!!!!

As I flipped through the listings of Allis-Chalmers' and F-350's, an open wagon pulled by two scraggly-haired mules pulled up to the building. At the reigns was a man wearing the biggest cowboy hat and mustache combination I've ever seen. A girl who attended my high school sat beside the man, wearing a matching hat. Two Australian Shepherds panted lazily in the bed of the wooden cart. They strode in and sat down in a dingy booth across the room.

We chewed our pork tenderloins and country-fried steaks in relative silence and as we were finishing our meals, my mother leaned out of our booth and hollered to the couple,

"Hey guys! How are you? I haven't seen you in ages!"

With that, the couple wanders over to make small talk. I gear up for a superficial conversation with someone I've long since lost any common interests with. My mom announces,

"You remember Chris? This is his wife Annie. They're living in the Chicago area now, although I keep hoping they'll decide to come back!" She laughs at that, though there is more truth than jest in the statement.

The mustached man scoffs. "I used to drive truck through there on the way to Indiana. Always hated that stretch. Too many foreigners."

I clenched my teeth as I forced a polite smile. Below the table, Annie's grip was cutting off circulation to my left hand, signifying her disdain for the mustache clad mule driver. As the one-sided conversation continued, the man continued to explain how southeast Iowa was much better, without all the problems of the "Big City". In his mind, simpler was better.

We smiled and nodded and finally they left. We paid our ticket, and headed on our way as well, relieved to be removed from the mans closed minded epithets.

But the Mule man got me thinking. As he railed against several other ethnic identities, complained about the traffic, and besmirched the bureaucracy of city life, I realized that, from his limited perspective, these things were awful. Why would you want to interact with someone from India, who you could hardly understand, when you could talk to someone who was born and raised in America, lived down the road from you their whole life, and had the same experiences as everyone else in the county?

To me, this is what makes the city so exciting. We drove down Devon street last week, passing by shops promoting kosher meats, kebabs, sari's, Hijabs, and Bollywood films. The people who walked the crowded streets were probably Israeli, Pakistani, Iranian, Indian and who knows what else. They were likely Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist.

And I loved it. I watched every person who passed our car. Some were dressed head to toe in black robes. Others wore short shorts and tee shirts. Some had flowing robes of silk. One man had the most impressive beard I'd ever seen up close. The sheer diversity in culture as we drove down those half dozen blocks blew my mind. And they all lived in relative harmony.

To some, diversity is a frightening thing. As for me, I'll deal with the traffic to meet some people who haven't spent their whole life in the corn belt.


  1. Chris! You're in Chicago. It is a fabulous city. And if you're traipsing around Devon you were near me! We need to hang out sometime!

  2. Paige, we certainly do need to hang out. Annie and I are trying desperately to catch up with everyone, and you are on our list.

    I don't think I have your contact info. Send it to