In ascending order:
1. The snow.
Yes, after all that complaining, I will miss the snow. Justalittlebit. In my hometown, two inches of snow is grounds for canceling school. Easily. Virginia just doen’t get that much snow (er, excepting the last couple snowpocalypse years. Don’t know what’s going on there). Snow has never lost its magic on me, and Iowa has been extremely good to my winter wonderland excitement. Here, snow is measured in feet, not in inches.
2. Central Time.
At the risk of sounding really old and uncool, I love that shows start an hour earlier here. I am totally jazzed that SNL is over by midnight and the Daily Show airs at a very manageable ten o’clock. Sometimes the time change works the wrong way — like when I had to wake up at four to watch the Royal Wedding, instead of five like every other normal human — but normally I couldn’t be happier with the earlier hour.
3. The co-op.
New Pi is fabulous. I can’t tell you how — relieved? — I was the first time I walked inside two Septembers ago. The cheeses! The freshly baked bread! The bulk herbs and spices, the sandwich bar, and then, once again, the cheeses! It’s primarily stocked with organics, which I like, but not at the exorbitant prices Whole Foods charges, which I like even more. Plus, there’s just something about being in a co-op. You have a member number; you belong.
4. The downtown/small town thing.
People always ask me what it’s like living in Iowa, and I always make the careful distinction that Iowa City is very different from Iowa the state. As with most most states. Chicago is not like the rest of Illinois. McLean is definitely not like the rest of Virginia. And so it follows, Iowa City is a little oasis of cosmopolitan life in a state (let’s be honest, an entire region, a whole swath of the country) usually associated with corn fields. With such outstanding law, medicine, and especially creative writing programs, it’s more sophisticated than you’d think. But at the same time, it’s a very small town, and retains that coziness right down to the taxi drivers, who have been to that restaurant you directed them to and recommend the bacon-wrapped dates.
5. The trains.
This rates really pretty high on the charm scale. Reliably, several times throughout the day and when we’re falling asleep, the sound of a train horn woo-woos its way to our house. There are train tracks winding their way to, um, somewhere, right through the children’s park at the end of Melrose Court. And there have been many times, mostly in Cedar Rapids, when I’ve had to wait fifteen minutes for a cargo train chug to through. Most people in New York blame their lateness on the trains, meaning the subway; but I’ve been late because of an actual train. I’m not going to lie… it makes me feel like a pioneer.
6. Cheap rent.
I am well aware that I may never again pay such a low price per square foot. I haven’t done the math, but I have spent two years living in a duplex with a lawn, a garage, a porch, three bedrooms, a washer/dryer, a dishwasher, walk-in closets, hardwood floors, and a living room couch the size of most of my friends’ living rooms. I know, factually, that the price my boyfriend and I pay per month is the same as what a New York friend pays for her half of a two-bedroom apartment. It’s going to be hard realigning my shock-o-meter with big city prices.
7. The restaurants.
Particularly Hearth (where we ate Monday night), Shorts (where we ate last night), and Devotay (which we haven’t been to recently, but will be my first stop on return visits). I love these restaurants. They are places I would eat at in any city — even in New City, a big ol’ town filled with some many wonderful, varied dining options, I would stick with these three. Devotay, with its wall of windows overlooking Linn Street, its twinkle lights, its candles and mismatched chairs, has the most fabulous tapas (the grilled zucchini with aioli! swoon!) and paella I’ve ever had — and the most romantic, homey atmosphere. Shorts won me over from the get-go with their locally sourced beef, and has held onto my affection with their enormous list of upapologetically creative, boldly flavored burger toppings. And then there’s Hearth. If my first year in Iowa was all about Devotay, this second and last one has been a lot more Hearth-concentrated, and it’s the one I will miss the most, because I came to think of it as our place. We went when it first opened about eighteen months ago, and have witnessed the menu’s ups and downs — the ascension of their wood-fired pizzas, the sad departure of the ceviche, the return of the fish tacos to B’s utter delight. The last couple times, the waiter (for there is only one) greeted us with a “nice to see you again,” and on Monday said, “I’ll give you your regular table.” Friends, there are few things I love more than being a regular. So I will miss the restaurants.
8. Grilling on our porch.
I know it seems like a small thing, but grilling on our L-shaped porch, with its slightly elevated view of the rest of the neighborhood, is one of the things I’ll most miss. I love it in football season (ie. all of autumn), when the street is chock full of students wearing gold and black t-shirts or overalls or bathing suits, and everyone is loud, happy, and carrying a beer. (Those three things are probably related.) And we’re perched up on the porch, with a big group of friends, and the grill lets out a smoky sizzle when we turn the brats. And then there’s spring, when it’s calmer, colder, most students quietly streaming home from class while we barbecue chicken or grill burger patties, porch swings in hand. It is my favorite thing.
9. The house.
Even though it positively leaks heat, it’s been home for almost two years. I will miss listening to the house settle at night and the creaks that used to freak me out until I realized it was the sound of our neighbors walking around the other half of the house. I will miss our groaning, moaning stairs that double as a built-in security alarm. I will miss the unfinished basement and it’s coal storage room, mostly because I have enjoyed telling people I live in a turn-of-last-century house with a coal storage room, and I will miss the dumb birds who lay their eggs in the nook below the window air-conditioning unit. I will miss the beveled edges of the front door’s glass windows and the way that hot air blowing out of the living room vent makes the fan blades turn. I never got to open the mysterious trunk in the garage. Maybe over a visit next fall.
Well. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. This is what I’ll miss the most.