Friday, July 11, 2008

We Are Not in South Florida Anymore

No readers, we are not in South Florida anymore. I think I am in the opposite of South Florida and I mean this as a compliment.

I have not seen a set of fake tits in a week. Nor have I seen eighty year old women with twenty-five year olds' bodies and outfits which are inappropriate for their ages.

There are no old men greasing themselves into leather jeans to go hunting for recent high school graduates. I have seen nary a strip club. I think a strip club in these parts would be taken for a group who gets together to refinish old, wooden furniture. They might do this while reading poetry. Even the Dairy Queen here has a bookshelf. I mean that as a compliment too.

Little happens in Iowa (also good). I have four channels (all local) on my TV and before I go to bed I've taken to watching the local news. It lulls me to sleep, unlike the news in Florida which gives me heartburn.

Here there is of course, news regarding the aftermath of the flood. A sinkhole has opened up on one of the main roads. The bridge is damaged. Someone at the University has received a big grant. The library reopened. The other day the big news story was that the corn is not as high as it ought to be this time of year. People were very concerned. The next day they followed up and said that some corn would be ready by next week, but please, enjoy the corn in moderation so that everyone can have a little. I imagined everyone watching nodding and promising that they would because people here are impossibly nice like that.

I was at the greasy diner up the street Monday afternoon having a cheeseburger and fries at the counter. A guy next to me had some little fried discs and I asked what they were.

"Babycakes," said the man.

I said they looked good and I'd get them next time.

"They are good, you want some?" he asked.

"You mean do I want to order some now? No, I'll wait."

"No," said the guy, "There are too many, I couldn't possibly eat them all. Let's share these."

The man gave me food off his own plate.

In South Florida things would have played out much differently.

The man would have been upset.

"Whatchoo lookin at my food for bitch??" the man would have said, "You gotta problem with my fuckin' food? Mind your own business! I'll cut you!"

I can't believe that I ate food from a stranger's plate. I actually teared up at the generosity and kindness of the babycake man (they are little crisp coins of shredded potato and onion by the way). This man will make sure that next week when the first corn is ready, that he saves plenty for his neighbor.

I read the local newspapers too, while still following my papers from home and catching up on local news thanks to Rick (thanks Rick!). The contrast is startling.

The Iowa City paper is about 2 1/2 pages long and almost heartwarming in its simplicity. It talks about flood relief and community events. There's a police blotter, which is hilarious. It appears that the only thing people get arrested for here is public drunkeness and I'm assuming this is college kids. Someone got their car towed when they were pulled over and discovered to be driving on a suspended license. Another poor soul was not only drunk in public, but also had a nickel bag of weed in his pocket. At home I think the police would have let him go, relieved that he didn't have eighteen human teeth and machete like a guy that was arrested this week back home.

In Miami the news can make you downright suicidal. Every week South Florida is included on some new "worst of" list. The housing market is hopeless. A studio apartment sells for six million dollars now and 97% of homeowners are going into foreclosure. Children get shot by stray bullets almost every week. Little children. Immigrants wash up. Some get to stay. The rest get sent back. Rafts sink. Boats collide in canals. Tourists drown in rip currents. There are sea lice, a con man has made off with 40 million dollars from the wealthy residents of a yacht club and a man is bit by a rattlesnack in the garden department of a national chain store. Car jackings rock a quiet community. Three are dead in a fiery crash in South Miami. A serial killer stalks women at the mall. This is life in South Florida.

Then today I pick up the local Iowa paper and read that there has been a grisly murder. Here. I'm shocked of course. Horrified too and a little intrigued when I read that the deceased was a circus employee and he was brutally stabbed to death in a shopping mall. Good lord, I thought. This sounds like something that would happen at home. Then I read on and suddenly it all made sense. You can read it for yourself here. I know this sounds like some weird nonsense I would make up but it isn't. A carnie's ex-wife followed him to Iowa from, guess where, and stabbed him to death in a mall. They probably haven't had a murder in half a century around here and then the murderer ends up having come all the way from where else, but Florida. It's like a little piece of home, away from home. Thanks Florida for making me proud one more time.

But at least it all makes me feel a little less homesick.


Jen said...

Glad you are enjoying your stay here. Yes the news is mundane, but as you can see the local police blotter is the best sort of news. I've been trying to google an 'Iowa' story for you my parents told me about a few years ago. Basically it a wife/girlfriend attacked her husband/boyfriend with a fork. I wish I could remember the details because it was as funny as hell.

Before you leave make sure you eat as much sweet corn as possible. Don't let them think we have a huge shortage. All I eat in the summer is sweet corn fresh from the field it is delish.

Also check out the Amana colonies for some great German food and kitchy shops.

Green said...

For fuck's sake, woman - stop killing clowns! And if you must kill them stop talking about it on your blog; that's a sure way to get busted!

Sounds like those babycakes are potato pancakes, no?

Anonymous said...

Ho Ho I'm first to comment! SNM, I love your blog and wish all good things for you and your family. xo. marmie

Rick said...

Thanks for the link, WL. Just FYI...these days it's just me at SFDB. Alex has his own most excellent thing going on over at "Miami & Beyond."

"Babycakes?" Wow. Haven't heard that term used in years.


Anonymous said...

You do realize that the whole Midwest is like this, right? This is why people put up with the weather.

Scotty said...

I dont think I could live in So Florida.

staticwarp said...

dude, your writing is kicking ass. i'm loving this whole retreat thing! iowa definitely sounds like a good place to relax, contemplate, and write. i live for the edge of your seat, possibly get shot/mugged/jumped for no reason excitement of the city though. it's not a bad tradeoff, if you have good local underground music clubs, killer museums and pretty much everything you need within walking distance. i've got to visit south florida sometime, it sounds completely ridiculous.

you are rockin the writing! are you publishing a zine up there or something?

Beverly said...

that honestly sounds just like the news here in south arkansas. biggest news we had recently was a brown bear was seen in town about a month ago. aside from that it's all drunken disorderlies and drug busts and domestic incidents.

but a lot of it has to do with population too - i mean i live in a town of 500 people. and not just 500 normal people - more like 400 old people and 100 kids and younger adults. in reality could a serial killer blend in with this crowd for too terribly long? probably not - but a town of over 2 million people it would be easier to stay hidden for a while. plus you've got that whole law of averages thing. for every decent..what...5K people you have one real nutjob? so we've got 500 people - our chance of getting a real whacko is much lower statistically i guess. not to mention criminals tend to gather where people are. why would a rapist want to live here - it's all old ladies. lol

JDogg said...

Welcome to what we east/west coasters call flyover country.

Haven't commented in a while but have still been reading. Busy here.

rabrab said...

There's a reason I can't imagine living anywhere but in the Midwest, and you've found it.

And don't worry about the sweet corn -- there'll be plenty for us after you've gone back to South Florida.

bluelikethesky said...

Love It! I just sent this one to my nephew who finished at Eckerd last year and finished high school in Iowa. He will appreciate the well drawn contrasts.

I'd love to hear how babycakes and latkes differ.

Anonymous said...

Babycakes are food porn. You can get them in most groceries frozen food sections, they're made by McCain's. They're fabulous with a little dilled havarti cheese or herbed soft goat cheese.

Next time you go on sabbatical, take a stop through Kentucky. If it's got to do with rednecks doing stupid illegal things and getting caught, it's going to happen in Kentucky.

FerfeLaBat said...

Not true. I know of at least one woman in DesMoines who is the anti-christ. There is evil in Iowa. you just haven't been there long enough to see it.

And they most definitely DO murder each other there .. it's just much easier to get rid of bodies than it is here in S.Fla.

Gacy got his start in Iowa.

They definitely have some pretty brutal murders going on there.

We just have better cops and reporters here ;-) Stay safe.

Kay Bratt said...

I don't know how your blog got in my favorites, but I'm glad to run across it. I am having the same sort of culture shock from moving back to the states after 5 years in China. I guess all the craziness grew on me but here I don't see men lined up along bridges peeing off the side,or woman pushing broken down cars while their men steer, or children eating street-meat from a stick, or old men all over the sidewalks playing card games....I sure am homesick for the chaos of China. (writing from a sweet old southern town...)

ajowen said...

A friend of a friend sent me to check out your blog...
I have to say that your description of Iowa is pretty much dead on. And I wonder how long you've been hanging around with us?
Have you been to Friday night on the Ped Mall? Did you see people sandbagging (Amish and convicts and the dance squad and heart surgeons all together...)? Read the opinion page to see what gets people's blood boiling here!
Seriously though, the fact that someone would give you the food off their plate is why the Iowa floods are not Katrina and a big part of why I live here.

Eric said...

Those Baby Cakes sound like Potatoe Latkas, which the spouse makes for serving Caviar. Delicious BTW. it was the green onion the clued me.

The Carnie was perhaps an Elephant trainer here to make the annual early July corn measurement?

Think about it.

Sadi said...

Do try the Iowa sweet corn while you are visiting. There is nothing like it anywhere (and I live in Wisconsin now). Don't worry, there will be enough one way or another.

Have you found a Maid Rite? They make loose meat sandwiches. You don't really get them anywhere else, and they are pretty good. You should be right smack in Maid Rite country.

I'll be thinking of you during my trip to Western Iowa in a couple of weeks. Save me some sweet corn!

Angela said...

LOL, I love the news story about being concerned over the height of the corn crops. I think that's really funny.

I'm glad you're enjoying the Simple Life in the midwest. Aren't people just SO NICE?

Wide Lawns said...

Rabrab - I will not eat any of you alls corn. Im allergic to corn so there'll be plenty. Dont worry.

Everyone else - the babycakes are littler than latkes. Like coin sized and crispier - a finer shred. Theyre deep fried not pan fried. They werent very latke like. Tastewise not so much either.

Steph said...

I am from the Midwest (Illinois), and now live in FL (Tampa), so I can relate- two totally different worlds...

Your blog rocks, btw, and you are a fantastic writer, as I'm sure you know.

Holly said...

Huh, so are you staying in Iowa?

The South Florida you knew is not the same one I live in! Maybe because I don't live close enough to the beach where the really crazy stuff happens?

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