Thursday, July 23, 2009

Move Over, Piano Man

We took the Little Princess out to a camp by Indianola a couple of weeks ago. The ride out was classic: scenic Iowa by I-80. In other words, nothin' but corn as far as the eye could see.

I was reminded of the "Interstate 80 Iowa" song by Heywood Banks. If you haven't hear it, you simply must rush to YouTube -- after you finish reading this, of course. The lyrics are simple, yet painfully honest: "Corn, corn, corn...." If you've ever traveled I-80 through Iowa you can probably guess the rest.

I'm a big Iowa booster, but even I have to admit Banks' depiction is close. It would be better with a few "soybeans" at least one "dead deer." I'd also get rid of his "what's that smell? line." Iowa is not without aromatic treats, but if you can smell 'em while traveling down the interstate, you're driving too darn slow, and I'm probably behind you. Besides I-80 doesn't even go through Cedar Rapids.

Boring scenery aside, it was a lovely, green, relaxing Sunday afternoon drive. Much to my surprise, His Royal Highness the King, who is typically an interstate/shortest route/what's a scenic byway?-type of guy suggested taking the two-lane state highway 92 on the return trip. I was so excited I nearly wet my pants! (Or maybe it was the Big Gulp I drank on the way out there.) I figured this would be our chance for a little sight-seeing. We could see small town Iowa at it's best, view the rural countryside in all its charming farm splendor.

Wow. Was I wrong.

By the time we got to Ackworth (at least I think it was Ackworth) I was nearly comatose. The only thing more boring than seeing endless cornfields go by your window at 70 mph is seeing endless cornfields go by your window at 55 mph, up close and personal without a nice wide ditch between you. Traffic on the interstate was pretty heavy, obviously because no one else was taking the 2-lane road.


We were out there all alone, surrounded by all that green. Soon I thought I heard music. Hmmm, what was it? The dueling banjos from Deliverance? The "Duuhh dut' duuhh dut" from Jaws? The "Eeeh- eeh, Eeeh- eeh" from Psycho?

No, not this time. It was the "Corn, corn, corn, corn..." from "Interstate 80 Iowa" song.

In a desperate attempt to hold on to my last shred of sanity, I changed it up a little to create "Iowa Highway 92" song. The tune doesn't really matter, but if you absolutely must have music to go with your lyrics, think of the hypnotic whir of tires on a straight, flat, endless road. Enjoy.

Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, soybeans, corn.
Corn, corn, whew pigs! corn,
corn, dead deer, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans, corn,
rusty farm implement, corn.

Corn, corn, soybeans, corn,
corn, whew cows!, corn.
Corn,, corn, mini mart, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans, corn,
corn, dead possum, corn.

Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, church and cemetery, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans,
corn, dead coon, ditto, ditto, corn.
Corn, corn, weed field,
corn, old school house, more corn.

Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, dead skunk, corn.
Corn, DEAD SKUNK!?, corn,
corn, SKUNK SMELL, corn,
still smells like skunk, corn.

Corn, corn, soybeans, corn.
corn, dead ...somethin', corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans,
corn, windmill, corn.
Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, abandoned house.
Oops not abandoned,
corn, corn, corn, corn.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Great Ex-skate-tations

The Little Prince has decided to become a skateboarding punk. If you listen carefully you can hear the "sproing!" of each hair on my head turning grey.

This would be the same Little Prince who inherited my lack of coordination and grace. The same stubborn little boy who has decided he doesn't want to learn how to ride his bike because "balancing is too hard."


Youth, cuteness and big, brown eyes have a way of wearing down even the most nervous of mothers. And so, last week while the Little Princess was learning to be an astrophysicist at College for Kids, the Prince was learning to be a skateboarder at the Muscatine skate park.

Muscatine has it's share of drawbacks, but they have great parks and playgrounds. The skate park is no exception -- clean, well maintained, and completely empty at 9 a.m. To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of parks, it was the worst of parks; it was a young boy's dream, it was a mother's nightmare.

The worst of it: there was a coffee shop right across the street. A drive-thru coffee shop. My idea of heaven on earth. But (!) this was during the Iowa Late-June Heat and Humidity Wave. Temperatures were in the mid-80s by 9 a.m. Sweat was rolling down my sides as I sat in the shade of the half-pipe watching the Little Prince. A bath in hot coffee would have been cooler. Drinking hot coffee seemed torturous, sort of like the Devil serving coffee in the third ring of hell.

It didn't take the Little Prince long to figure out skateboarding on a flat surface is hard work and not much fun. He was really looking forward to doing X-Game style tricks. He had researched his moves by watching endless You-Tube videos and playing a multitude of on-line games. In his mind this more than prepared him to master the half-pipe. An evil, mean, little part of me thought the skate park might provide a wallop of reality up-side the head. I just hoped it wouldn't be a very hard wallop.

In fact, there wasn't a wallop at all. His sister might have been the one at "college," but the Little Prince is no dummy. All it took was rolling backward down the bottom of a ramp to make him realize doing skateboard tricks is harder than it looks.

If you are standing up, that is.

Stubborn-streak firmly in place, the Little Prince quickly adapted and spent his time "butt boarding" or sitting on the skateboard. In no time at all he went from tipping cautiously over the top of the ramp to sailing down the ramp and zipping across the court -- a blur of helmet, pads and smile.

A big, big smile.

While the Little Prince was learning to skateboard (sort of), I was learning the lingo (sort of). Some of the definitions on the web were a little incomplete, so I've fixed them:

Quarter pipe: A ramp used in extreme sports to allow the rider to break bones quickly and efficiently.

Half-pipe: Two quarter pipes facing each other across a flat transition, allowing riders to break bones coming and going.

Grind rail: A square or round rail or bar used for performing tricks, featured prominently in videos of riders clutching their genitals.

Banked wedge: A small ramp which lures its victims by looking harmless, proving the old saying "the smaller they are, the harder you fall."

The Little Prince used his new vocabulary this way:

"Mom! Watch me fly down the arm breaker totally out of control! Then I'll slide across the elbow skinner and over to the skull cracker. You have 9-1-1 on speed dial, right? Thanks for bringing me here, Mom. You're the greatest."

At least I think that's what he said. It's hard to hear when you're blinded by the smiles.