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Iowahawk: Heart of Redness
Iowahawk Blog | 1/17/05 | David Burge

Posted on 01/17/2005 5:10:47 PM PST by IowaHawk

[Ungawa! Intrepid global explorer David Von Drehle of the Washington Post Magazine dons his pith helmet and ventures into the geographical Belly of the Bush Beast. Result: another heapin' helpin' of turgid gorillas-in-the-midwest-mist reportage for the Sunday morning brioche set back in Dupont Circle. I know I've covered this ground before (here, here, here, here, and here), but... eh, what the hell. Hat tip to Tim Blair and iowahawk reader Greg E.]

DAY ONE: BASE CAMP, IOWA CITY

Mission: bring back Von Drehle.

The words echo in my mind as I peer out the frost-framed window of 'Pretense,' a moderately priced new-American bistro on the edge of campus. My eyes follow clusters of students, shoulders hunched against the cold, criss-crossing the snowy Pentacrest like the exasperating strokes of a de Koonig canvas.

We all have a mission, I thought. For those faceless students: diversity seminars, Nam Jun Paik film retrospectives at the Union, maybe Dollar Pitcher Nite at the Airliner. For me: Von Drehle.

It - or rather, he - is the mission that has brought me to this dismal and lonely outpost on the edge of reason. Tomorrow I will make the dangerous trek north on Dubuque Street to Exit 242, merge into the river of semi-trailers on Interstate 80, and head west into the great red unknown between here and Boulder.

It is the same route Von Drehle followed before he went missing: I-80 to Nebraska, then south on highway 77 through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Ironically the Post had sent Von Drehle on his own mysterious mission - to learn why the natives were suddenly agitating against Post subscription offers. He went missing on January 11, emailing his final story draft with a cryptic personal note: "the horror... the horror."

My entree fork toyed with the competently-prepared lamb shank in merlot reduction, as I pondered the even more ironic irony that this ironic mission would take me to regions that were reportedly unfamiliar with irony.

"Is it true what they say?" asked Fleming, the young photographer whom the Post has assigned to accompany me on the journey up-asphalt. "I mean, about the religion, and the cannibalism?"

"No," I repond, managing a half smile. Fleming was visibly nervous, unable to eat his Portobello-duck gnocci. The truth is I had heard the stories too, and didn't really know the answer. I thought it best to reassure Fleming, a green staffer fresh from Columbia Journalism School. He might ultimately prove to be a liability on this mission, but if I was going to be in the middle of Kansas I needed a companion familiar with Maureen Dowd just to stave off the madness.

At least Fleming had an excuse, I thought; he had that false bravado of youth. But what was it that drove me here? Was it Von Drehle, or was I actually looking for something missing inside myself? I didn't have time to answer, because the third member of our party arrived at the table.

"You Dionne?" said the hulking man in the Carhhardt jacket. "I'm Epstein, from the Sociology Department."

Epstein was the legendary university sociologist who knew the west Red Country better than any man in civilization. He knew their language, their mores, their favorite NASCAR drivers. It was rumored that he had even lived among them for a time, but my editors at the Post warned me not to speak to him of it.

We poured over maps and discussed logistics until 7:45, when Epstein called for us to adjourn.

"There's a faculty panel symposium on Cuban health care over at Schaffer Auditorium," he said. "I suggest we attend, because there won't be any more where we're headed."

DAY TWO: CASEY'S GENERAL STORE, AVOCA, IOWA

Mile after mile of stubbly winter cornfields elapsed past the condensed steam on the Land Rover's side windows as we worked our way west, like the cheek of a gigantic albino George Clooney infested with tiny parasitic holsteins. The asphalt ribbon lead us through Grinnell, Des Moines, then Urbandale. I was now farther west than I had ever been. I tried to break the tension with a little small talk with Epstein.

"Where did you say you did your dissertation?" I asked.

"I didn't," he replied, staring unblinkingly out the windshield. I glanced back at Fleming. His eyes were clenched shut and he was clutching his dog-eared copy of Manufacturing Consent.

At 1:15 PM the fuel gauge was hovering ominously on 1/4. We were 25 miles from Nebraska and there would soon be no turning back. We pulled off into a Casey's convenience store along the interstate. Although it was 3 below zero, Fleming nervously volunteered to man the gas pump while Epstein and I ventured inside the spartan trading post. It would be our first face-to-face encounter with the red people.

I scanned the racks of the store's cooler for a bottle of Keringet mineral water, but they were out. Four elderly tribesmen sat in a simple formica booth in the rear of the store, sipping coffee. They eyed us suspiciously, but I thought they might hold clues to Von Drehle, as well as the missing Keringet.

"Approach them slowly," warned Epstein.

I furtively neared them, sidling between the Doritos rack and the two-stroke oil. Using Epstein to translate, I asked the elders if they had seen a man in Donna Karan casuals pass through the area.

"The elders say they have seen no such man at Casey's," said Epstein. Sensing menace, we bought a Twin Bing and quickly left the store. Suddenly we realized were were not the only ones to feel impending danger.

"Fleming? Fleming?"

Our screams echoed off the store's aluminum siding.

After pumping $21.78 of Ethanol Plus, Fleming had deserted.

DAY TWO: BEATRICE, NEBRASKA

After crossing the muddy mud-colored mud of the Missouri river we had finally arrived in Omaha, the last stop before our maps became strictly conjectural. From here on out, until we reached Austin, we would have to rely our wits and our training in journalism to navigate through hostile red enclaves.

Luckily we stumbled upon a primitive university in Lincoln. We were surprised to encounter a native maiden, Heather, who had taken graduate studies in Lacan and Franz Fanon. She directed us to the cinderblock hut of a kindly Semiotics missionary, Professor Mintz.

"We may be doing the Lord's work here, gentlemen, but the local tribes do not always look kindly on it," he warned. "Last month one of our tenured friars merely told his students that Bush was the anti-Christ, and he was viciously attacked by counterarguments. He was so traumatized he had to report the student to the disciplinary committee."

Mintz wished us well and gave us directions, along with a copy of Howard Zinn's People's History. As night fell we drove through Beatrice, near the Kansas border.

The neon sign read "VFW Hall." A trailer marquee in front was even more explicit: "Friday Nite All-U-Can-Eat $5.95 Fish Fry."

Von Drehle was known in the Post pressroom as a thrill junkie, and this was exactly the type of place he would be unable to resist. I told Epstein to stop.

"You're a fool, Dionne - maybe even a bigger fool than Von Drehle," he snapped. 

"And you're a bad liar, Epstein. You want to see what's going on inside of that VFW hall as much as I do."

A silence.

"All right Dionne," he said angrily. "But if anything starts going down, you're on your own."

I took a deep breath and tried to conceal my jagged nerves as we entered the Hall. They say the Nebraskaners can smell fear a mile away, and I would be damned if my life was going to end over a red plastic basket of deep-fried cod and a can of Falstaff.

I could feel the eyes of the lodge penetrating my coat as we walked across the linoleum and took a seat in a booth near the skee-ball machine. A zaftig waitress approached.

"Tell her I'd like the pan-seared mahi-mahi, and a glass of the house chardonnay," I instructed Epstein.

Before he could respond I was startled by two hulking, bearded men in snowmobile suits who began prodding my coat with their fingers. They traded gibberish with Epstein.

"They want to know what kind of coat that is," said Epstein, warily.

"Tell them it's from Burberry's," I said, trying to avoid eye contact.

"Buh-bay," said the men, curiously. "Buhhh-behh."

The two men began laughing menacingly, and gestured for the others to come and join in their fascination. I tried to ignore them, assuming they were simply drawn by the novelty of houndstooth wool. Then I peered up on the wall and saw a large nylon banner. On it was printed:

GO BIG RED

"Run, Epstein! Run!" I screamed, hurtling through the diamond-padded door.

DAY THREE: COUNCIL GROVE, KANSAS

Every drug pushes its own tolerance limit. Even adreneline.

After we crossed over the border into Kansas, I thought I would be prepared for the scene that would await us. I had read the seminal book on the region "What's The Matter With Kansas?" by Thomas Frank, an explorer who had onced ventured 50 miles into its blackest heart. In his journals, Frank had explained that Kansanites were in the thrall of a delusional, self-destructive madness.

Was it due to eating human brains? I would find out soon enough.

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TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS: blue; iowahawk; red
Choosy newsies Choose IOWAHAWK
1 posted on 01/17/2005 5:10:48 PM PST by IowaHawk
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To: IowaHawk

Uh.....Yeah.


2 posted on 01/17/2005 5:13:03 PM PST by Bombardier (Jihad, Nazism....Umma, Deutsches Reich.....no diff.)
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To: IowaHawk

Priceless. "Grilled mahi mahi and chardonnay" at a Nebraska fish fry. Can't you just picture it?


3 posted on 01/17/2005 5:23:06 PM PST by Grandma Pam
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To: Grandma Pam

Oops. Make that "pan-seared" mahi mahi.


4 posted on 01/17/2005 5:24:17 PM PST by Grandma Pam
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To: IowaHawk

---I am still chuckling about your Gore 2000 campaign piece on the cabinet-level Dep't of Menstruation---


5 posted on 01/17/2005 5:27:25 PM PST by rellimpank (urban dwellers don' t understand the cultural deprivation of not being raised on a farm)
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To: IowaHawk
"We may be doing the Lord's work here, gentlemen, but the local tribes do not always look kindly on it," he warned. "Last month one of our tenured friars merely told his students that Bush was the anti-Christ, and he was viciously attacked by counterarguments. He was so traumatized he had to report the student to the disciplinary committee."

ROFLMAO! This one gets bookmarked. Brilliant!

6 posted on 01/17/2005 5:31:54 PM PST by ABG(anybody but Gore) ("Oh no, not Hans Brix!")
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To: IowaHawk
Good Lord, Iowa. You not only have an ear for Hemingway, you also have an ear for Joseph Conrad. I have gone many times "through the alimentary canal with gun and rod," but I could not write it up a tenth as well as you.

Congressman Billybob

Click for latest, "Social Security, AARP and Coots"

7 posted on 01/17/2005 5:39:04 PM PST by Congressman Billybob (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.)
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To: IowaHawk

I'm waiting for the paramedics to take me to the ER..My sides hurt from laughing. I hope the hospital has a WEiFi net..I'm taking the laptop..


8 posted on 01/17/2005 5:40:03 PM PST by ken5050
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To: IowaHawk
You're good IH. Really, really good.

L

9 posted on 01/17/2005 5:43:02 PM PST by Lurker (Caution: Poster is too old to give a s*** anymore.)
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To: IowaHawk

Oh, Lordy! Here I am howling laughing, reading this aloud to Hub (who's watching the FoxNews) and I don't even have my pajamas on!

This is wonderful, so wonderful...you are a genius, and I think I love you (as a friend, of course).


10 posted on 01/17/2005 5:47:38 PM PST by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: IowaHawk
"I furtively neared them,"

Oh, that's priceless!

11 posted on 01/17/2005 6:03:22 PM PST by mrsmith
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To: IowaHawk

When does the second installment come out?


12 posted on 01/17/2005 6:06:51 PM PST by uglybiker (The most popular guy at a nudist camp can carry 2 cups of coffee and a dozen doughnuts)
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To: IowaHawk
I can't wait until they get to Medford, OK.

It's Fall, it's a Friday night...and the town is mysteriously empty.

Or, if they don't make Oklahoma until Springtime, they could experience Okeene or Waynoka...for the Rattlesnake Roundup.

13 posted on 01/17/2005 6:08:12 PM PST by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: IowaHawk

Very good.


14 posted on 01/17/2005 6:13:39 PM PST by sistergoldenhair
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To: Congressman Billybob
It is very Conrad. And I'm from E. Tx so don't want to hear any C**p about that line. Just occured is It Faulkner???
15 posted on 01/17/2005 6:27:44 PM PST by nomorelurker (wetraginhell)
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To: Congressman Billybob
It is very Conrad. And I'm from E. Tx so don't want to hear any C**p about that line. Just occured is It Faulkner???
16 posted on 01/17/2005 6:28:26 PM PST by nomorelurker (wetraginhell)
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To: Congressman Billybob

It used to be a dependable Democratic state. It went Republican for the first time in 20 years. The last GOP Presidential candidate to carry the Haweye State was Ronald Reagan in 1984.


17 posted on 01/17/2005 6:29:57 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop
The last GOP Presidential candidate to carry the Haweye State was Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Not exactly.


18 posted on 01/17/2005 6:47:13 PM PST by DuncanWaring (...and Freedom tastes of Reality)
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To: IowaHawk

This is very good IH, can't you charge for this? It almost seems a crime to have this level of writing done for free. Maybe the Washington Times could serialize it?


19 posted on 01/17/2005 6:47:52 PM PST by marktwain
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To: IowaHawk

When do we see "Dr. Livingston, I Presume?"


20 posted on 01/17/2005 7:00:50 PM PST by AntiBurr ("I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against ...Tyranny over the mind of Man.)
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To: nomorelurker
The "alimentary canal" line is a joke line that I remembered. Neither Faulkner nor Hemingway would have had anything to do with that line. And I agree that Iowa's style in this one is mostly Conrad, though he can disabuse me if I'm wrong.

John / Billybob
21 posted on 01/17/2005 7:09:09 PM PST by Congressman Billybob (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.)
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To: IowaHawk

I LOVE Joseph Conrad!


22 posted on 01/17/2005 7:09:28 PM PST by Fido969
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To: DuncanWaring

Until G.W, silly. That's why liberals don't get why Iowa slipped out of their grasp.


23 posted on 01/17/2005 7:11:48 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: IowaHawk

"My entree fork toyed with the competently-prepared lamb shank in merlot reduction, as I pondered the even more ironic irony that this ironic mission would take me to regions that were reportedly unfamiliar with irony."

LOL!


24 posted on 01/17/2005 7:19:39 PM PST by rcocean
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To: IowaHawk

You are AMAZING. This is classic. Well, well done.


25 posted on 01/17/2005 7:25:09 PM PST by Choose Ye This Day (Socialism failed. Bush won. Wellstone is dead. Get over it, DUmmies!)
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To: IowaHawk

Got your groove back


26 posted on 01/17/2005 7:35:43 PM PST by nkycincinnatikid
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To: IowaHawk

Got your groove back


27 posted on 01/17/2005 7:36:13 PM PST by nkycincinnatikid
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To: IowaHawk

LOL!


28 posted on 01/17/2005 7:38:29 PM PST by Frank_2001
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bump for later


29 posted on 01/18/2005 7:15:08 AM PST by eureka! (It will not be safe to vote Democrat for a long, long, time...)
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To: IowaHawk
Terrific!

I can only imagine the fear coursing through the veins of these intrepid explorers...

30 posted on 01/24/2005 2:55:56 PM PST by Gritty ("the brains of our own students have simply not been adequately developed in our schools"-T Sowell)
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To: IowaHawk

So when does he meet Col. Kilgore and the 1st of the 9th?

"Air Cav, Air Mobile, son!"


31 posted on 01/24/2005 2:58:20 PM PST by Poohbah (God must love fools. He makes so many of them...)
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To: IowaHawk
After crossing the muddy mud-colored mud of the Missouri river we had finally arrived in Omaha, the last stop before our maps became strictly conjectural. From here on out, until we reached Austin, we would have to rely our wits and our training in journalism to navigate through hostile red enclaves.

An echo of Kipling, as well. I can't wait for the next installment. This is achingly, sidesplittingly funny. Will Dionne awake and find the primitive chords of "In the Garden" echoing, breaking into his consciousness, along with images of the red woman in boot cut jeans flashing a knowing "have you been saved?" look.....the horror.

32 posted on 01/26/2005 4:39:13 AM PST by Kay Syrah (nice finish)
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To: IowaHawk

Outstanding! Your satire is reminiscent of the 1970’s Poon.


33 posted on 04/23/2008 1:23:16 PM PDT by VR-21
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