A year ago, in the hopes of a better life through a new job, we fled the city of brotherly hostility and headed to what I like to call Hooverville. Though Hooverville is only 10 miles from the most liberal town in the Midwest, not an ounce of that crazy hippy liberalism poured over into the birthplace of President Herbie Hoover. Last week, we got sprung from the joint. Our stay was a bit shorter than originally anticipated but when the Turk’s company said “We’d like to whisk you away from the land of Herbie and its population of Rush Limbaugh devotees and relocate you to a major metropolitan area,” who were we to argue? As I sat amid the boxes last week and sipped a bottle or two of $3 wine, I was able to recall a few highlights from a year in Hooverville. For your enjoyment, I share them with you here.
July 2011 – I secure a lease for a modest place in Hooverville. Upon providing the other name on the lease – The Turk’s very, very foreign difficult to pronounce name- our soon-to-be landlord phones me and in a harsh tone says, “I understand this world is full of foreigners and they have the same rights as everyone, but I just can’t have any kind of crazy foreign cooking going on in my house. Some of that can ruin a house and I just can’t let that happen. Not to mention I don’t want to smell that kind of stuff going on next door.” After reassuring him my foreigner was only a Turk and this particular Turk couldn’t cook anything more than eggs, he allowed us to take the lease. Welcome to Hooverville.
August 2011 – Mere days after our arrival in Hooverville we make our first trip to the local library. Upon our arrival, a not-quite-potty-trained Midget releases free-range turds in the children’s section of the Hooverville Public Library. While not openly discovered, I continued to harbor suspicions that we may have been caught on a closed circuit camera hidden in the shifty eyes of the Cheshire Cat on the oversized Alice in Wonderland book hanging above the children’s section. (This incident remains prominent in my mind and continues to prevent us from embarking on our inaugural visit to our new library. I hope to keep our new library system turd-free for as long as possible.)
October 2011 – The Midget and I stroll through Herbie’s National Park and discover grave stones for Herbert Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover. With my infinite wisdom and strong background in US history, I find it odd that no mention has been made of America’s first gay president – Herbie Hoover. I rethink my initial disdain for the small mindedness of Hooverville. Clearly Herbie and Lou are the reason Iowa was one of the pioneers in legalizing gay marriage (don’t worry, they didn’t stay liberal – they’re working very hard to overturn it).
November 2011 – The Midget’s school prepares to enlighten an entire preschool full of impressionable, not yet formed minds on the history behind Thanksgiving complete with pilgrim hats and macaroni Mayflowers. In an attempt to bring a little diversity to the lily-white school, one of the assistant teachers pulls me aside to ask – “How do they celebrate Thanksgiving in Turkey? We want to be inclusive and expose the kids to as any different traditions as possible.” Of course, in my sincerest voice, shockingly void of condescension and surprisingly free of laughter, I inform the poor thing that a terrible band of pirates led by Christopher Columbus, hijacked the Mayflower in the middle of the Aegean, preventing the ship from docking in Istanbul and thus, Turks do not celebrate Thanksgiving. She bought it.
December 2011 – I learned Herbert Hoover was not gay. Who knew?
February 2012 – With the threat of an impending ice storm looming, I call to cancel that evening’s appointment with our tax preparer. For years I’d been tackling the task on my own, but decided it was finally time to allow a professional into the dirty recesses of my tax life. Why? Because when one lives las if one is in the witness protection program, moving a ridiculous number of times in the course of a couple years, things get a little more complicated than this Consumer Math graduate can handle. It seemed our taxes needed more than a few glasses of wine, a few clicks of the mouse and a “hope they don’t come after us” attitude. I was prepared to be Prepared, but not at the risk of impending icy death on I80. After following the progressing storm on-line for a few hours, it appears things are only going to deteriorate. Following countless attempts (clearly I was not the only client glued to weather.com that day) I finally reach the surly, geriatric answering the phone at the tax office, and request to change our appointment. Her reply was curt and definitive.
“No. I will not change your appointment.”
“But there is an ice storm.”
“It will be fine.”
“Well, weather.com disagrees. Can’t you reschedule me for next week?”
“No. I’ve spoken to Jesus. He says it will not be freezing. You’ll be fine.’
“Um, excuse me?”
“What didn’t you hear? Jesus says it will be fine. We’ll see you at 6:00.”
“6:00. Don’t be late. We’re busy. I’ll pray for you.”
As a lapsed Catholic and Sister Nora survivor, I am smart enough to know that one does not argue with surly geriatrics and their personal connections with Jesus. We arrive promptly at 5:55. No ice. If only I could get the old gal on speed dial to help with a few other things.
March 2012 – I finally made a friend in Hooverville.
April 1 2012 – She moved. I’m still recovering.
May 2012 – While renewing the Registration on my car, I am forced into a smack-down with the County Treasurer after overhearing his high volume disparaging comments about “Damn immigrants with names no one can pronounce.” Ironically, it isn’t my “damn immigrant” he is talking about but I feel the need to stand up for all “damn immigrants” just the same as that is just how I roll. After a history lesson in which I evoke Pocahontas’ name and a mocking of his pasty skin-tone, I depart successful. I’ve heard the little man continues to quake whenever he sees a chubby white girl with a crazy foreign last name.
May 2012 – Face a repeated snubbing by the women of Hooverville at the Tuesday Night Library Fun. The same moms who chat me up on the cul-du-sac suddenly no longer know me when in the presence of the locals. Word is out I’m a Liberal. After two months of Tuesdays, I lie and tell the Midget they’d canceled Tuesday Night Library Fun. I suck as a mother.
July 2012 - The Turk moved on to our new major metropolitan area ahead of us while I finish out my work contract and wrap things up in Hooverville. Rushing from Preschool to work one sweltering morning, I stop off to cancel water service. The snarly secretary has been mysteriously replaced with a typical Hooverite – bleach blonde, black roots, chipper with a twinge of under-the-breath snark.
“Oh I looooove that necklace. Where did ya git it?”
“Oh gawd. I had to go there once. It was horrible. No really. It was so creepy. “
Ideally this is where the conversation would have turned to me but this Herbette had no need for a partner in this exchange. I’d opened the floodgates and Girl had somethin’ to say.
“I got sent there once when I worked for this plumbing company. I was so scared. I mean look at me! My blonde hair and blue eyes, I just looked like some kind of exotic target to those people. The men were so creepy! I felt like they all just drooled over me. Creepy Turkish men! I mean they just leered. I felt like one of them would steal me if I went out alone. I mean those men were just so creepy. Where you ever there?”
“Um yes. I lived there for three years.”
“So you know what I mean. Were you military?” (Why do people always ask that – for the love of God look at me! Since when do they allow high maintenance goddesses in the military?)
“Military? Me – no. I am married to one of those Creepy Turkish men. Then I gave birth to one of those creepy Turkish men while I was there .”
“Oh. Um, your final bill will come to your new address. You have a good day now.”
While Hooverville was not a hit, being back in my native land wasn’t all bad. I was able to be there for family events I’d never made it to before. I whipped out my best Martha Stewart as my family descended on my home for Christmas for the first time ever. (Traveling to Philadelphia or Turkey was a bit too much for them, but a couple hours outside of Des Moines - no prob.) And best of all, I was there for the birth of my niece. Not all of Iowa is like Hooverville, but getting the Turk to buy that was virtually impossible and who could blame him? He got snubbed even more than I did. One thing I had on my side was a deep understanding of the natives. While you most definitely cannot go home again a deep understanding of the population makes a long-term visit manageable.
It is with no sadness in my eyes that I say, farewell Hooverville!