Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Wednesday, October 23, 2002 When you spend one weekend in New York City and the next weekend in Iowa, it really highlights the difference between the two locales.
For instance, during our last visit in August (which kind of undercuts my lede, but if I held myself to things like standards I’d never get anything posted), we went to Culver’s for dinner. I don’t know if you have Culver’s where you live, but in this region it’s kind of like marginally upscale fast food. The signs include the words “FROZEN CUSTARD BUTTER BURGER” and it took me years to figure out that they weren’t referring to a single menu item with a rather fearsome name. But anyway. We were walking in from the parking lot, and two of us heard a bizarre honking noise in the middle distance. Trash missed it because she’s all but deaf in one ear, and her brother didn’t hear it because he was probably talking, so they didn’t believe us when we made them stop and listen for a recurrence. Especially because there wasn’t one. Trash’s brother dismissed it as a kid’s laugh. Since his wife and I thought it sounded more like an aardvark trying to croon the hits of Ethel Merman through a bicycle horn, we were skeptical of that theory, but everybody got bored of waiting for the noise again after a half-hour or so, so we went inside.
We had dinner, an experience that included table service by the saddest young man we’d ever seen. I’m not kidding; we couldn’t even enjoy our food because we had to keep him on suicide watch. We had no idea what could have turned him into a walking personification of dismay. I mean, okay, it was Saturday night and he was delivering plates of carcinogenic grease to salt-dusted tables in a Culver’s in suburban Des Moines, but…
Maybe we should just get back to the weird noise.
It was still going on when we walked out of the restaurant. “That is so not a kid,” my brother-in-law’s wife told him, and even he had to agree that a kid would have to be sick, disturbed, or very, very large to be making the Dennis-Franz-belching-into-the-wrong-end-of-a-kazoo sound we were hearing. It appeared to be coming from a narrow strip of brush that separated the parking lot from the lot of the Menards next door. We wondered if it was a lost moose or something. Since there’s no smarter way to kick off a Saturday evening than getting close to a panicked Alces alces, we decided to investigate.
Just so you’re not expecting this story to end with a hoof to the teeth or an antler through someone’s chestal region, I’ll come right out and say that when we got to the edge of the parking lot, we were right next to the source of the noise: namely, a car full of sheep. And when I say that, I’m not being judgmental about people who listen to Top 40 radio and shop at Old Navy. I’m talking about a vehicle occupied of actual ovines.
That’s something you don’t generally see in New York, not least of all because a parking slot in Manhattan, while comparable in price, doesn’t offer the same kind of graze-tastic nutrition that a dozen acres of Midwestern pasture does. And even if someone’s doing a little freelance transportation of sweaters-with-feet from South Jersey to New England, he’s unlikely to park his internal combustion shepherd outside the WWE Café in Times Square. I hope.
On the other hand, sometimes Iowa is more like New York than you might think. For instance, there’s an outlet mall that you can see from I-35, less than an hour north of Des Moines. Some of the manufacturers represented there are Lee, Wrangler, and Jantzen. Most eye catching, though, is the sign reading “Dress Barn” right next to the sign reading “Dress Barn Woman.” Two separate stores? Kind of makes one reassess the initial Dress Barn sign, if you know what I mean. Perhaps Iowa isn’t as repressive as it’s reputed to be, if its cross-dressing population is substantial enough to support an outlet store. I’m just saying.
posted by M. Giant 3:49 PM 0 comments