Sunday, October 17, 2004

"You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself...."

As I noted in my One Hundred (plus) Things About Me post, I went to college in Iowa, which was in some ways quite a change from my experiences in Western New York. To wit, it took some time getting used to a place where the nearest cities of major size (Buffalo-sized and up) were at least three hours away (Des Moines and the Twin Cities, respectively), where there were no hills to speak of (although Iowa's flatness tends to be overstated, especially in the Mississippi River region, which is frankly a stunningly beautiful region that gets nowhere near enough recognition as one of this country's most scenic locales), where every town had its water-tower, where the roads are for the most part disturbingly straight, and where trees existed pretty much in small stands to punctuate the corn-fields.

But that was all first-impression stuff, really. If you spend long enough in Iowa -- say, an hour or so -- the place's charms start to work on you. The way that entire towns are "off the main drag", half a mile or so away from one of the state highways as opposed to actually being on the state highways, seems odd at first until you realize that the towns were built where the trains either used to run or still run, and anyway, having the town not centered right on the state highway certainly makes for safer traffic patterns in a state where any consideration of "traffic" has to take large vehicles built by John Deere into account. The flatness of the land strikes at first, but then one's sense of topography adjusts, and you find yourself realizing where very slight grades exists, and you discover that in its own way pumping a bicycle up a one-percent grade over five miles is harder than it looks, even if you're used to five-percent grades over much shorter distances. It takes a while longer getting used to the lack of urban areas, but you discover the places of quiet beauty with greater ease.

And in Iowa you meet one smart person after another. Not that you expect these people ot be dumb, by any means, but you figure that they'll be pretty much as smart as the people back home and they'll just have some different takes on things. And yes, they do have different takes on things, but you're surprised to learn just how often they're smarter than the people you know back home. And they're just plain sensible, really. Iowa's just a place where things make sense. I mean, where else could Captain Kirk come from?

Why am I babbling on about all this? Because yesterday I stopped in a store to buy something, and in my change was an Iowa quarter. This was the first time I've seen it, and for my money, Iowa's Statehood Quarter is the best of the series yet, from the standpoint of managing to catch the character of the state on the back of a coin. Vermont came closest, prior to this, but Iowa takes the prize thus far.

(I still think that if they wanted to capture the character of the states, then New Jersey's should be a car in gridlock on the New Jersey Turnpike, with the driver offering an extended middle finger to the guy in the toll-booth.)

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