DISCLAIMER: Despite the fact that this blog post is laced with sarcasm and my typical off-beat humor, I can honestly tell you that I LOVE the Midwest and the people that live there. (Especially Matt and his family!) I, under no circumstances, feel that just because I happen to reside somewhere that is 72 degrees and sunny 350 days out of the year that I have a better way of living. (Ok, so maybe I DO feel that way when it's February in Chicago, ZERO degrees and snowing, my lips are burning off, I can hardly catch my breath and my only salvation would be a face mask. And that's just to go from the parking lot into the grocery store!) This past Fourth of July, I was invited to take a trip. Not to a beach party. Not to a pool with cabana boys and drinks stuffed with umbrellas. And not to the park for BBQ ribs and ice cold beer.
I was extended an invitation to go to...
People generally said the same thing when they found out where I was headed for the 4th.
Well, the answer is because that's where some of Matt's family live and they were kind enough to invite me to be part of their gathering. And I was actually very excited at both the prospect of hanging with them and with all the blog fodder it would undoubtedly provide. Little did I know, I'd learn a few lessons along the way.
Lesson #1: Knee high by the Fourth of July
When I arrived in Des Moines, I excitedly asked where the corn was. Met with confused expressions on the faces of the members of Matt's family, I clarified, "You know, like in the Field of Dreams!" They gave the girl from the West Coast a courtesy smile and explained that the corn was there--right off the interstate (I learned they don't call them Freeways out there) but that it was only knee high by the Fourth of July. Then, by the Fall, it would be taller than Shaquille O'Neal! In fact, there were human mazes created out of the corn rows for afternoons of fun in October. For a moment, I considered this option for how to spend a day in October. Hmm...Human maze? or Belly up to a bar for an Octoberfest brew? How would I ever decide?
Lesson #2: Midwesterners deal with bad weather just like anyone else...with alcohol!
Matt and I arrived at the Urbandale parade bright and early with unfamiliar coffee in hand. (Note to self: appreciate that Starbucks is on every corner back in L.A.). Members of Matt's family had arrived even earlier to stake out a spot with chairs and prepare it for rain by covering the ground with tarps. I learned that you ALWAYS have to be ready for anything from a drizzle to a full downpour. Even if it's 85 degrees outside! In fact, a Midwesterner's RAIN umbrella is the size of a BEACH umbrella! They practically require two people to hold them up! Just as I was beginning to wonder how these people didn't let bad weather get them down, the answer was served to me in a thermos full of Bloody Mary's. And I decided nothing makes vodka and tomato juice taste better than a light drizzle.
Lesson #3: Midwestern costume characters think they're the SHIT...and apparently they are because I stalked them like I was the paparazzi.
Apparently, you don't "F" with a Midwestern costume character's pre-parade flow. These guys are like freakin' royalty! And I guess some of them couldn't be bothered while getting all psyched up to put on a great show. Like The Corn.
Silly me thought it would be funny to get a picture with the guy dressed up like corn, a.k.a., The Corn. You know, with my whole corn obsession and all. So, we tried to get The Corn's attention. Matt went so far as to scream, "corn, corn...hey corn!" (I've got to hand it to my man, he really tried to help me get my picture! You would've thought he was helping me try to get a photo with Justin Timberlake!) But, unfortunately, the corn sailed right by us, ignoring Matt's very loud and slightly desperate calls. I guess The corn stops for no man!
I ended up settling for a chicken but I still had to BEG HIM to take a picture with me as I grabbed onto his "feathers" and pulled him toward me. It was humiliating, but I knew it would make a great Facebook profile pic.
When we spotted a pig, our eyes lit up and Matt, again going back to basics, simply yelled, "pig, pig!" and this time the pig stopped walking! Then he looked over at us and pointed his hoof at himself as if to say "Who, me?" and we said, "Yes, yes, you!" But we later side-barred about it. Did he really think there was another pig? But I'm not complaining. At least pig wasn't too good for his fans.
Then there was the pirate who refused to stop for a photo. (I guess he didn't like my "Aye, aye Matey, take a photo with me or walk the plank!" ) So, I simply ran behind him as Matt snapped away.
Lesson #4: If you have a sweet tooth at a Midwestern parade you better bring a frickin' hard hat!
Just when I thought I'd seen it all, the people in the parade started throwing candy AT us. Before I could say WTF, I was pelted in the head with a Snickers bar and a bag of Skittles. I turned to Matt who shrugged his shoulders and said (as if it was common knowledge), "You've got to keep your eyes wide open at these things or you could get whacked!"
So, when someone asks me again, "Why Iowa"? I'm going to reply, "Why the hell not?" I now know how to simultaneously operate a giant umbrella while holding a cocktail and hailing a 6 foot 2 inch overgrown pig. What girl, Midwest or otherwise, doesn't need these fundamental skills?