In the past few days, the pope completed his three-city tour in the U.S., the Speaker of the House of Representatives announced his resignation, a supermoon coincided with a lunar eclipse, and on a more personal note, my beloved New York Mets clinched their first division title in nine years.
But I missed most of that because I spent the last four days in … Minneapolis and Iowa City. All of the places to go in the world, and I choose the Midwestern U.S.
Long story short — a friend of mine recently began a postgraduate program at the University of Iowa. Figuring I’d never head that way otherwise, I planned a trip to visit him, while tacking nearby Minneapolis onto my itinerary as well.
Actually, that was a pretty short story. Something I really enjoy doing is experiencing different cultures and ways of life. When we get caught up in our normal day-to-day routines, we sometimes forget how small of a vacuum we really are living in, even if you’re only 20 miles away from the most vibrant city in the world, as is my case here in New York.
Minneapolis is a very concentrated, but bustling city with a considerable commercial presence. There’s a lot going on in a small area, and is very navigable by car or on foot. Points of interest there included the Mall of America, the largest mall in the U.S., and as a baseball aficionado, a Minnesota Twins game (complete with a Thirsty Thursdays promotion of $2 draft beers one hour before the game.)
A key discovery was Caribou Coffee — an excellent local coffee chain that, in my mind, is vastly superior to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Unfortunately it has no locations in the Northeast.
But let me tell you, you’ve never seen what “nothing” looks like until you’ve driven five hours from Minneapolis to Iowa City. I saw more cornfields this weekend then I ever expected I would in my entire life. It was, quite literally, the middle of no where. Although, I did make a spontaneous stop at Iowa’s largest frying pan. So there’s that.
Iowa City, however, is a much more prosperous, modernized area that’s clearly been developing to accommodate the more than 30,000 students that live there. As we were there on a Saturday, it was yellow and black T-shirts everywhere in support of the Iowa Hawkeyes, who romped North Texas 62-16 with yours truly in attendance.
Another highlight was the Airliner Bar, known for its delicious pizza as well as the location at which Ashton Kutcher was discovered, which could actually be be a detractor, depending on your perspective.
But what stood out to me most was the Midwestern attitude. People don’t treat each other like they’re an inconvenience, which unfortunately could become the norm in the Northeast. Waiters are happy to split checks for large parties, and bartenders are glad to give out multiple samples of unique beers. People are just more laid back there, but not too laid back.
Finally, the trip culminated with a visit to the site of one of my all-time favorite sports movies — The Field of Dreams, in Dyersville, Iowa. The baseball diamond surrounded by crops has been preserved since the movie was filmed there 26 years ago, and I got to stand on it, run the bases, and walk slowly into the vegetation hoping I disappear into some blissful otherworld a la James Earl Jones at the film’s end.
And from now on, when I see that movie, I can always say I was there.
If you build it, the Weinblog will come.