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There are more shameful things than owning the Justin Timberlake CD (which I don’t) and having a Miami Vice 1984 gray brick cell phone (which I used to, but don’t anymore). Being an Iowan is hard, and I’m considering renouncing my Iowan citizenship effective immediately.

Just to clarify, I am in fact technically an Iowan by birth. I spent my first eight years under the Iowan influence, born and partially raised in metropolitan, and oh so cosmopolitan, Des Moines (pronounced incorrectly by a heinous number of Iowans as DEZ MOINZ). Before I was a lost cause, a point that is obviously up for argument, I moved out to the world, only to visit my beloved Iowa on an annual, holiday basis.

I consider myself different from them. I read, I write, and I don’t drive a John Deere tractor to work. In other words, my Iowanship is much more a technicality than a philosophy or pedigree.

Why am I so down on Iowa? First of all, going to a bar or club, and having anyone ask you where you are from, when you are really an Iowan, is a humiliating experience that I liken to the sullenness felt by Bill when the world found out about Monica’s dress. All you can say is “oh man, they found out”. In a bar, being an Iowan, while outside of Iowa, is like having extra fingers or an extra leg or something. No one wants anything to do with you and they look at you like you are a freak.

Outside observers must find it hilarious when someone drops the question on me. First the question drops, then I hard-swallow. I usually hesitate to drop the “I” bomb on them immediately. So I usually say that I’m from the Midwest, hoping they will assume something small outside of Chicago, and then I try to slip in a diversionary question to distract them. This works perhaps half of the time. For the other half where the scheme doesn’t fly, I usually look up into the air and tell the truth, because it’s so hard to look into someone’s eyes and discard your pride at the same time.

Their reactions are always classic. Most of them fight down a chuckle and scrounge to find a way to neatly end the conversation. Others let out a what the hell are you talking about “Oh” and look at the ground as they feel just as guilty for forcing my Iowanness out as I do for being Iowan myself. The other large group will outright ask me how many other blacks live in Iowa, as if my family was part of some Mars expeditionary colony. In sum, being an Iowan is a handicap.

I’m sorry, that’s quite unfair. My uncle, a native Iowan like me, who hasn’t escaped, constantly reminds me that based on the Iowa Caucus, Iowans actually determine who will run the country. Now I can blame Iowa for Bush’s election and possibly World War III. Great job, Iowa. While didn’t you just grow the nation’s soy products and shut up? Just one more check next to Iowa’s name on the chalkboard.

People ask me what Iowa is like. Take John Ritter today and Betty White from Golden Girls and multiply by 4 million. Add in my family and stir.
I think that I’m very bitter because everything I learned in Iowa turned out to be a lie. Mullets aren’t cool. Country music is not classical music.

Indoor plumbing isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Brothers and sisters aren’t supposed to marry. The annual State Fair isn’t the single biggest congregation of people in the world. I shiver when thinking about these lies.

My last visit to scenic Des Moines over our holiday break reminded me of all of the reasons why I’m considering defecting away from Iowa. First of all, I landed at Des Moines International Airport. International, c’mon, that’s clearly b.s. The closest thing Des Moines has to an international flight is the weekly non-stop to Minneapolis. My theory is that once upon a time, a plane from Des Moines was diverted to Winnipeg and Iowans took it and ran, feeling justified in changing the name of the airport.

Ironically, this little, one–gate airport that has the audacity to have a parking structure, costs a fortune to fly into.

It’s best to call Iowa an emerging country rather than a part of an industrialized nation, especially the States. Des Moines has, count them, three Starbucks, all of which arrived this past year (2002)! From what I heard, Starbuck’s landing matched the 1995 fanfare that surrounded the arrival of the first Blockbuster, virtually a decade after there was a Blockbuster video franchise on the Moon. The IMF needs to take an active role in development in Iowa before it’s forced to switch to communism and becomes the fourth member of the axis of evil. Never mind, they would just use their nuclear facilities to power their satellite dishes.

It’s the kind of place where an evening on the city is limited to listening to Enimem and Kid Rock (on cassette) while driving around in circles in a Trans Am or 1987 F-150 pickup. It’s the kind of place where “Starter” jackets are still oh so en vogue. It’s the kind of place that has full service banks that don’t have ATM’s for miles around. It’s the kind of place that you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a restaurant with ‘pork’ in the title. It’s the kind of place in which grocery stores have an aisle dedicated to gun and hunting magazines. It’s the kind of place where newscasters bring their pre-adolescent kids on the set and let them read a feature during the nightly news. It’s the kind of place where nothing changes. Perhaps more frightening, it’s the kind of place where random strangers make eye contact with you and say “hello”. And unfortunately, it’s the kind of place where I was born, and I will continue to visit every year until the end.

Ironically, I have a University of Iowa pennant on the wall of my room. I still have trouble pulling for my Alma (University of Michigan) in any sporting event when they play against Iowa. Beyond seeing my family, my love for Iowa is overtly involuntary. Still, it’s sad that being from Kansas City is better than being from DEZ MOINZ. Perhaps as I get older, I’ll learn to deal with my affliction.

The author, Allen Narcisse, promises not to rip on anyone or any states in his next article.

January 21, 2003
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