A friend of mine from the West Coast was in Iowa last week, his first visit to Iowa and really, only his first to the Midwest. He said he visited Chicago once, but I don’t know if that counts as the Midwest in anything other than geography.
He’s always lived in either New York City or Florida. He now lives in Seattle, Wash.
Listening to him last week got me thinking that some things he noticed during his visit are things I often take for granted. My guess is others do too.
It was his first time seeing corn in the fields and he mentioned that he was in the breadbasket to the world. Yes, I see the farms, the machinery, the farmers and the corn. But now and again, it’s easy to forget what all that corn is for and where it goes. Iowa farmers feed the world and it was good to be reminded of that.
He remarked how clean Iowa towns are. He was in Cedar Rapids, Manchester, Dyersville, Earlville and Edgewood. I think he even looked a time or two to see if he could find a scrap of paper or a tossed soda can along the road. It left a good impression on him of the communities he visited.
He sat outside in our driveway on a beautiful evening as I grilled some chicken. A couple of cars went by, but for the most part, it was a pretty serene evening at our place. I try not to take quiet Iowa evenings for granted, but my friend was amazed at the peacefulness of sitting in a lawn chair. He had a word for the evening — perfect.
My friend is a gregarious fellow who will talk to anyone who will listen (and a few who won’t). He found the people he met in Iowa to his liking. He made friends wherever he went — at his hotel, at bars and restaurants and at the Dyersville city square where he listened to bands and watched the MLB game.
Some examples of his visits with people in Iowa include:
• He was invited to tour St. Francis Xavier Basilica in Dyersville with some people he met an hour earlier.
• A half an hour after stopping at a Manchester bar someone bought him a beer. He was wearing a Yankee shirt, so my guess is that helped.
• A Dyersville bar sent him out the door with a New York Yankee jacket and other memorabilia.
• Workers from his hotel knew him by name. When he left, they came out to say goodbye and wish him safe travels.
He shook a lot of hands during the week and remarked several times during his stay how friendly everyone was.
My friend had come to Iowa hoping to get a ticket for the Yankees/White Sox game at the Field of Dreams. He wasn’t able to secure a ticket. For some people, that would have been a disappointment that overshadowed the entire trip. But my friend had a Plan B, if you will. And having that plan led him to see new things, meet new people and enjoy Iowa a bit differently than he may have intended.
Maybe that’s a lesson for all of us. Maybe we need a few Plan Bs to help us along. And while we’re at it, we can take another look at the fields of corn, our clean communities and the friendly people that sent a man back to Seattle hoping he can return to Iowa next year.