MY SECOND HOMETOWN, MY MECCA

by Steve Clem on October 20, 2011

Tomorrow I return to Iowa City, my second hometown.

I have written extensively about my actual hometown of Sioux City in this blog, but I haven’t even mentioned my second love, Iowa City.

I began my love affair with Iowa City as a small child, when my entire family would pack up our station wagon and drive there to watch the Hawkeyes lose a football game (this was B.H. – Before Hayden, so it was a given the Hawks would lose).

It continued into high school, when my parents and I would drive down to visit my older brother and watch Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon WIN ball games.

Yes, it’s true that my love affair with the town started because of football.

But it wasn’t until 1992, when I moved to Iowa City to start graduate school in journalism, that I TRULY fell in love.

I lived there for seven years, and was very active in the community as a journalist, business owner, and member of service organizations. There’s not a way for me to go to Iowa City now without running into at least one person I know.

Iowa City is amazing because it combines a small town feel with a big city vibrancy. It features Broadway shows, incredible art, excellent shopping, and some of the best restaurants in the world, but you can still leave your front door unlocked at night (or at least you could when I moved away from there 12 years ago).

And as a writer, Iowa City is heaven. If you’re not aware of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, google it. Trust me, there is no shortage of motivation or inspiration in Iowa City for a writer.

People who have never been to Iowa City will never know it. Iowa City is the best kept secret in the midwest. But anyone who has lived there knows it. And they’re sworn to secrecy so that people don’t move from all over to change it’s magical little status.

But much like Sioux City, it’s not the “what” that makes Iowa City great. It’s the “who.”

The people of Iowa City are a wild mix. Liberal baby boomers, college students, young professionals, black, brown, yellow, white, purple, straight, gay, hipsters, nerds, and even the occasional douchebag.

They all blend together to form a pretty quirky and interesting little place.

Yes, it’s true that most of the time these days, it’s football that brings me back to Iowa City. But it doesn’t mean I don’t get the goosebumps when I drive off of I-380 onto I-80 east, remembering that this place, nearly as much as Sioux City, is my home.

That’s why you’ll be able to find me at Joe’s Place tomorrow night, sipping a pint and listening to the same songs on the jukebox that were playing 15 years ago.

And after that you might find me wandering the ped mall looking for a gyro, or at Panchero’s ordering a burrito that resembles a catcher’s mitt.

And if you miss me there, look for me tailgating at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, chanting out a few hundred times “Let’s Go Hawks!”

Iowa City, I’ll see you tomorrow. May I not be charged with public urintoxication.

* * * *

Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

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