Janesville71.7°

In a state of abandonment

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Rick Horowitz
January 4, 2008

Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Iowa!


It’s another beautiful winter’s day in the Hawkeye State, and you’re up before the alarm clock, the same as always. You spring out of bed brimming with energy, the same as always. You comb your hair until it sits just right, brush your teeth until they gleam.


It’ll be another cold one today, but you’re ready for it. You’re Iowans, and you know what it takes. So you throw on your sturdiest boots, your brightest flannels. Then you fling open the front door, ready to share your deepest thoughts with the great wide world.


But nobody’s there.


There are no reporters camped on your front porch, recorders at the ready.


There are no cameras clicking away at you like a swarm of over-caffeinated crickets.


There are no anchors doing stand-ups in front of bucolic backdrops.


You duck back inside, make sure you haven’t misread the time somehow. But that’s impossible; the sun is already up, as certain as—well, as certain as the sunrise. (You’re Iowans—you speak fluent Homespun.) By the time the sun comes up in Iowa, a few dozen media types are supposed to be waiting right outside the door—shivering, with clouds of vapor floating from their mouths, waiting for the perfect quote to come floating out of yours.


But nobody’s there.


There must have been some kind of foul-up, you think to yourselves. Our views are every bit as important today as they’ve always been.


You hop into the car and drive into town; the gang down at the Happy Flapjack will know what’s going on. That’s where you and your neighbors like to gather every morning to chew over the state of the nation—not to mention Minna Binna’s famous crunchy corn fritters. It’s the kind of Main Street philosophizing the media hordes can’t get enough of.


But not today.


Today there are empty parking spaces right in front of the place. The regulars are still inside, sitting at their regular tables, still talking about their regular things. But where are the cameras, taking in the chatty scene? Where are the boom mikes, straining to pick up every shred of Iowa wisdom?


Why, if you didn’t know better, you’d swear that they’ve all lost interest! You’d swear that no one cares what Iowans think anymore!


That’s impossible! (Isn’t it?)


There’s only one way to settle this, you decide. The very minute you’ve paid your tab for your coffee and your fritters, you walk down the street to the Merry Mattress. The Merry Mattress is where all the reporters stay when they’re in town. If there’s something you’ve forgotten to say to the crowd staking out your house each morning—or if some sparkling new insight about one of the candidates, or some crisis overseas, occurs to you later in the day—the lobby of the Merry Mattress is the place to go.


Not today, though. It’s as quiet as a crypt.


Where once there was bustle, and constant commotion, now there’s only emptiness. You hear your sturdy boots squeaking as you cross the lobby to the front desk.


Gone, the desk clerk tells you—every last one of them. They were out of there almost before the final votes were counted. There were suitcases and equipment bags in huge piles on the floor, and then, suddenly, there was nothing.


New Hampshire, the desk clerk says. They’re all off to New Hampshire—as if New Hampshire opinions could possibly be even half as fascinating as yours.


Try not to take it personally.



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