The American Douchebag’s Guide to America: …Iowa?

What the fuck, Iowa?! How the hell, in all the thousands of other, far more interesting, places I could have chosen, did I come up with fucking Iowa as my next place to visit in this series? Can anyone even find Iowa on a map anymore?

Is it the one that kind of looks like an oven mitt?

Is it the one that kind of looks like an oven mitt?

You know what, whatever. It’s fine. I’ve got some goddamn journalistic integrity, and I’m going to talk about Iowa because the media is afraid to, and fuck you if you think you’re going to stop me. Good luck with your time machine dickmite, I’ve already written and posted this shit. Boom!

Overview

So, Iowa is apparently a state in the Midwest. “America’s Heartland” if you will…. Believe that America’s heart pumps out in the middle of fucking nowhere.

The Territory know known as “Iowa” was originally controlled by a bunch of beret wearing, baguette eating douchebags (No, I’m not talking about Modernist painters). The French sold the territory, which back then was part of the larger Louisiana Territory, to The Spanish, or more commonly known as the  tanner French with a fetish for getting impaled by bulls.

In 1803, the territory was bought by the U.S. during the Louisiana Purchase, which didn’t make the Native Indians living on the land too thrilled. By the end of the Black Hawk War in 1832, The Americans were able to force all the natives out of the Iowa territory and subsequently name it after them in the native’s honor because, let’s face it, the settlers were total pricks to the Indians.

In 1846, Iowa was officially named a state under President James K. Polk, a real president, not just one I made up because I didn’t actually feel like looking up the answer. He did exist.

Now, the state is mostly known for its agriculture (despite agriculture being only a small part of its economy, falling far behind manufacturing somehow) and for the fact that World’s Greatest Punk’der, Ashton Kutcher is from there. So yep, those are pretty much the two things you really need to know about Modern day Iowa: tons of corn and the spawning place of Kelso from That 70’s Show.

This is what the gene pool in Iowa looks like.

This is what the gene pool in Iowa looks like.

Also, I guess State fairs are really big there too.

Initial Thoughts

What the shit, I have to cross a goddamn moat to get into Iowa? Is Iowa some kind of fortified Bastille of a state that must protect its borders at all cost? Oh wait, that’s the Mississippi River. That’s cool I guess…. What’s with all the fucking hills?! I thought this was supposed to be part of the great plains! You lied to me, Iowa, you lied to me.

Accommodations

I stayed at the majestic hotel named, “Paul’s Apartment.”  Paul, as you probably don’t remember, was one of the many friends I made when I terrorized Europe for a month. Paul is actually a New Jersey native, not that we should hold it against him (too much), and is currently attending Grad School in Ames. So as one can expect,  the accommodations were that of a student going for his Master’s Degree: The apartment was relatively small and always fully stocked with beer, I slept on the couch, and within a day, my shit was everywhere (figuratively. Unfortunately, my literal shit got everywhere on day 3).

There were a couple of things that I genuinely loved about his apartment. First, Paul lives in a gated community, so I was able to keep my car door unlocked without worry. Secondly, he was on the ground level, which made it exceptionally easy to get in and out of his apartment when the need arose. Then there was the community gym. It wasn’t a big gym- definitely not what I’m used to using, but it had enough equipment that I was able to get in solid workouts whenever I went to lift. As a part-time muscle head, that’s important to me, bro.

They also had really nice bathrooms in the gym area, which is good because when I was there, Paul’s toilet was broken, and also without toilet paper. That means that my end of night ritual (which involves me squeezing out a fudge log) meant a quick little jaunt to the gym. Let me tell you, however inconvenient walking for three minutes in the middle of a cold, windy night to give birth to a mud dragon in a different building sounds, it’s nice to know that once you taint that building with your unholy colon stink, you can just leave and not worry about having to explain yourself to anyone. Clearly, people with outhouses have the right idea.

Sites

Des Moines and Iowa State were pretty much the only two sites I could find. I’m fairly certain that their state fair was over by the time I got there. And even if it wasn’t it probably would have been somewhere far from where I was staying. I guess the University of Iowa could also be considered a site if I’m going to consider Iowa State one, but the Univeristy of Iowa doesn’t have Paul, and is therefore inferior.

So first, we have Iowa State University. It is a college, so they have things like a stadium:

DSC00376

I snuck into the stadium for this pic.

I snuck into the stadium for this pic.

A quad:

DSC00392

A Student Union that overlooks a lake:

DSC00399

And a Farmhouse Museum because, you know, Iowa:

DSC00348

They also have a crazy amount of statues of people scattered about the campus, so you know I got all artsy with those pics:

DSC00330

What the hell is with all the reading?

What the hell is with all the reading?

However, probably the weirdest thing about Iowa State is how secluded you feel walking around in parts:

DSC00341

I took this pic on a path right behind the Student Union. Literally right behind it. If you were to turn to the right, you would see a path that would lead up to its parking garage. But the thing is, I had no clue it was the union at the time.  The path I was on was so deserted, that I figured that I had wandered to some remote corner of the campus, not the center, and especially not less than two football fields away from the main part of Ames.

Then, there’s Des Moines. The main three sights in Des Moines (By which I mean, the three sights I saw, and therefore, the only ones worthy of being talked about) are The John and Mary PappaJohn Sculpture Park, East Villiage, and the State Building.

The John and Mary PappaJohn Sculpture Park, which unfortunately does NOT serve free pizza with every tour, is located only a couple of blocks west of downtown, right between Grand Avenue and Locust Street. Their sculptures range from the charming:

Sings "Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting!"

Sings
“Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting!”

DSC00422

To the bizarre:

I spent 20 damn minutes looking at this damn thing, and I couldn't find a single damn word on the list.

I spent 20 damn minutes looking at this damn thing, and I couldn’t find a single damn word on the list.

DSC00429

To the inadvertently sexual:

They say that isn't a boner, but then what is that all I see when I look at that statue.

They say that isn’t a boner, but then why is it that all I see when I look at that statue is a dick?

To full on, land of 1,000 horrors creepy:

DSC00418

DSC00424

Holy shit. Did I just stumble upon something from the novel "John Dies at the End?"

Holy shit. Did I just stumble upon something from the novel “John Dies at the End?”

This one is my favorite, and probably the creepiest. The spider one is pure horror.

This one is my favorite, and probably the creepiest. The spider one is pure horror.

On the other side of down town, and just across the river is Des Moines historic East Villiage. Over here you’ll find a series of shops and restaurants geared towards the younger population. There is an arcade bar that is pretty popular (it was closed when I was there), as well as several well-known hipstery clothing shops that also sold pot paraphernalia. Then there were these couple of headless, nude, department store mannequins  that oversaw the goings on of this section of town:

DSC00464

Even farther east is the Iowa Capitol building, where state legislation is written and world food prizes are awarded, apparently. As you can tell, the Capitol building is surprisingly extravagant for something in Iowa, a state pretty much only known for its corn, but then again, they must have had a lot of extra cash once the rest of America started sucking on the sweet corn syrup teat.

DSC00436

As you walk up to the capitol, you’ll notice a series of cannons, probably used to ward of pirates and lost French Settlers:

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But if you go around to the side, you’ll find yet another sculpture garden, this time all centered around the state itself.

DSC00455 DSC00459 DSC00463 DSC00458

OK, I actually don't have a clue what this means.

OK, I actually don’t have a clue what this means.

So, all in all, Des Moines is actually a beautiful city, and small enough that a motivated person can walk around and explore in a day. Now, obviously there is more to explore in Des Moines than what I saw: Their Botanical Gardens, The Birthplace of John Wayne, The State of Iowa Historical Museum, which Paul and I happened to walk past twice, but didn’t even think to check out. There are other things you can do in Iowa too that you can find on your own. What am I, their tourism board?

Food

I ate a shit ton of Buffalo Wild Wings while I was there. I think I’m addicted now. I’m getting the shakes just from thinking about their Parmesan Garlic wings.

I really didn’t eat a lot of food that would be considered “Iowan.” I had some barbeque for lunch one day, but apparently it was a Texas style barbeque. Damn you Texas. I ate at a Mexican Resturant, an Irish pub, and cooked dinner at Paul’s place, and I doubt anything I ate was considered classic Iowa cuisine. I’m sorry, I failed you all.

However, there is a food story that I would like to share with you, and it’s pretty hilarious and awful at the same time. On Tuesday morning, I decided that Panera sounded like a great place to have breakfast. It was a crisp, early autumn day, and I wanted a warm sandwich to keep me full and happy as I wondered around Iowa State University for the day. I cannot really remember what the sandwich was, it was hot and had eggs on it, that’s all I remember, but I do remember what kind of coffee I had with it. See, I always drink my normal, homemade, straight from the coffee pot, gussied up with sugar and flavored creamer, coffee. This week, however, I decided to splurge right the fuck out. Every day I had a Café Mocha, and I sucked on that sweet caffeinated nectar like I was being nursed at the bosom of the gods. Tuesday was no different, and I bought my coffee at Panera. I finished my sandwich and took my coffee with me as I drove back to Iowa State to see what there is to see.

I hadn’t been walking for long before I started to feel a rumbl’n in my intestines. I casually wrote this off as “coffee poops.”  For those of you who don’t drink coffee (freaks), coffee has the tendency to make you want to poop. I, a mere mortal, have no clue why, but it happens. I’m sure Google knows the answer. Anyway, I am able to suppress the poop, and usually only have to deal with a cramp until my innards calm back down. This is a process I am both familiar with and accepting of.

I ignored my bowels plea for help and I continued around Jack Thrice Stadium, up the hill to the Alumni center, down the street to the fitness complex, then across the street and through a maze of buildings to their quad, my stomach growling and cramping more with each step. By the time I took the pictures of their bell tower, My innards were demanding relief, and I decided to call it quits for the day and head back to my car. Unfortunately, my digestive tract was impatient, and I only just made it to the men’s room inside the food sciences building.  After I had finished the dark, unholy deed, I decided that I had had enough exploring for the day and I decided to go back to Paul’s apartment and recuperate.

I hurried away from the Food Sciences building and the evil stench I no doubt left in my evacuation’s wake, and made it to the parking lot my car was in. That’s when I saw Paul. He was just getting back to campus and asked if I could drive him to his building. I obliged, but I began to feel the dark unsettled rumble in my bowels once again. I dropped him off, drove through campus, got lost, but eventually found my way back to his apartment complex. As I was driving past the complex gym (the one with the working toilet and toilet paper) I decided that I was probably well enough to stop at his apartment and drop my camera off before I drive back.

I was wrong.

As soon as I stepped inside his apartment, my emergency evacuation valve was turned. I waddled into his bathroom (the one with a broken toilet and no toilet paper) and I pretty much exploded. The sudden pressure change both inside and outside my body caused my ears to pop. Basically it was just like this scene from Dumb and Dumber, only less fortunate and without an attractive redhead.

My Lloyd is Panera’s coffee.

My Lloyd is Panera’s coffee.

Alcohol

I pretty much just drank beer in Iowa. Sure I had a couple of Jack and Cokes, but beer is what I consumed the entire trip. I didn’t even think to look to find local beers (they’d probably be made out of fermented corn anyway) so I either got high quality craft beers that will get you drunk quick, or the kind of piss water that will really make you evaluate your life choices. You know, Like Natty Light.

Natural Light: If you drink us, it’s because you don’t know any better.

Natural Light: If you drink us, it’s because you don’t know any better.

People

Well, there was Paul, but he doesn’t really count since he’s from Jersey. There were a couple of really friendly baristas in a Des Moines coffee shop that gave us a map of the city, and while I didn’t talk to many people at Paul’s school outside of his circle of friends, everyone seemed to be relatively nice there, and Paul’s friends and coworkers were pretty cool as well. Good Job with the hospitality, Iowa. And no, that wasn’t sarcastic.

Overall Atmosphere

Honestly, Iowa has a slightly-more-country Central Ohio feel to it, like if all the more rural parts of the state grew like weeds and were strangling out Columbus and Ohio State of their precious sunlight and space. But on the bright side, it doesn’t take long to walk from one  interesting place to another. Not like Paris.

But they do have a lot of Sundials. What the hell is up with that, Iowa?

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These are the two that I saw, but I bet I could find more.

These are the two that I saw, but I wasn’t hunting for sundials, so I’m sure there’s more.

Paix

That’s French for “Peace” motherfuckers.

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The American Douchebag’s Guide to America: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh n’at

Overview

Pittsburgh was settled in a valley where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio. This area was originally settled by groups of Hopewell and Adena Indians, along with many others who didn’t steal their names from buildings on OSU-Newark’s campus including Iroquis and Shawnee. During the 1750s, The French forced the British out of the fort they built there, and built Fort Duquesne. However, the French eventually did what the French do best, and  let the British force them out and built Fort Pitt in Duquesne’s place.

Over the next century, Pittsburgh became a large steel producing town. This became important during the Civil War because of the production of weapons. By 1911 Pittsburgh was producing up to half of the nation’s steel. However, over the years the steel mills closed, leaving Pittsburgh a polluted shell of its formal self.

Now a days, However, Pittsburgh has been making a small comeback. During the late 2000s recession, Pittsburgh was adding jobs and their property value was rising. Way to make the rest of the country look bad, Pittsburgh.

Initial Thoughts

For the initial thoughts, you really need to know what it’s like to drive into Pittsburgh, particularly through the Fort Pitt tunnels. You enter the tunnels from one side of a mountain, nothing but concrete, other cars and your fear of cramped spaces around you. And the more you reach the other side, the easier it is for you to breathe. And when you finally come out the other side, this is what you see:

http://old.post-gazette.com/pg/09189/982415-294.stm?FORM=ZZNR2

So, seeing as though that was the image I saw when I entered Pittsburgh, these were my initial thoughts:

“Wow! I’m back! And look at that view! There’s The Point, and over there is The US Steel building. Oh, and that stadium across the river is the one Bane blew up in The Dark Knight Rises. This place has mad History all over it. You better be ready for me, Pittsburgh, cause I’m coming for you harder than if I could ejaculate cinderblocks.”

Accommodations

Usually when I’m in Pittsburgh, I stay in the house I grew up in, but I once stayed in a hotel, so I’ll talk about both.

My old house is incredibly exclusive. You either have to be related to the current residents or at least close friends to them. Unfortunately, this exclusivity does not translate into high class. It was cramped. I slept on a futon. Most of the outlets were outdated and didn’t have the third hole. But on the bright side, the meals were free and they had free wifi. I wish that could make me forget about the insults thrown at me by the staff there, but it cannot. My blog does entertain people, dad. You wouldn’t know because you don’t read it. I AM DOING THINGS WITH MY LIFE! REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS THAT WILL MAKE ME A RESPECTABLE AUTHOR! GET OFF MY BACK!!!

The hotel I stayed in back in 2009 was much schmaltzier than my old house. Here’s a pic that will give you a good idea of how awesome it was.

Get out of the way, Aaron!

If you look at the lower left corner, you’ll notice the armrest of our couch. Then if you look to the right of Aaron, who is the guy clearly ruining this picture, you’ll see the TV. If you look further in the background, you’ll notice that past the barrier are out beds. Yes. Our TV could swivel so that you could either sit on the couch OR lay on the bed and watch it. There is a god, and he wants us to be happy.

Sites

Other than the aforementioned stadium that Bane destroyed, Pittsburgh has a lot of attractions for different members of the family. Kennywood is Pittsburgh’s amusement park and has some of the most historic and exciting rides in the country. Sandcastle is their waterpark, which is pretty run of the mill. You know, water slides and stuff. Pittsburgh is also home to the national aviary, which is essentially one of the more boring parts of normal zoos, just in its own location. If you like heights, go up the famous Pittsburgh Incline and look out at Pittsburgh from the best view in the city. If you’re into Hogwartsian style buildings, go to the Cathedral of learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Only a couple of blocks away is Pittsburgh’s museum of modern art. And last but not least, for you alcoholics, you will want to head over to Station Square and the Southside, where you will find some booze.

Looking down the Pittsburgh Incline

Pittsburgh Skyline from the Incline

University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning

Well, that’s kind of fucked up, University of Pittsburgh.

Hogwarts?

Food

There is a few foods that are Pittsburgh specific: gravy on French fries, city chicken (which isn’t actually chicken because Pittsburgers are weird), but the quintessential Pittsburgh food is, without a doubt, a Primanti Brother’s sandwich.

For those of you who don’t know, a Primanti Brother’s sandwich is what happens when the cook loses his shit and starts throwing all the food onto a plate with his hands. A normal Primanti’s sandwich starts off normally with some meat and some cheese, maybe even a couple slices of tomato. But then the meal makes a sharp left and starts driving erratically down crazy street. The sandwich also has French fries and coleslaw piled on, and the cook only cuts one slice of bread in half.  I didn’t take a picture of my sandwich because I am not an annoying girl on your Facebook homepage, but here is an image from Primanti’s website:

http://primantibros.com/02menu.html

My sandwich was a turkey and cheese, minus the tomato. After I did my best to tear through the meat, fries, and full slice of bread, I finally got to take a bite. It was amazing. The coleslaw was sweet, yet tangy. The turkey and cheese was savory and warm enough to be comforting on a cold day. The fries in all their starchy goodness acted as a balance between the coleslaw and the turkey. Normally, the coleslaw would over power the turkey, but the fries muted the coleslaw’s flavor and helped bring out the turkey and cheese favors. By the end, I wasn’t eating a sandwich so much as a ball of delicious, greasy goodness. Why Primanti’s has not expanded to other parts of the country is a mystery to me.

Alcohol

Yeungling. If you’re in Pittsburgh and you like beer, that is what you have to drink. I mean, sure, Pittsburgh has other beers: Rolling Rock, Iron City Beer, probably others.  Yeungling, however,  is the best. However, If you want to go against my always right opinions, then go ahead and drink an Iron City (Rolling Rock is now a national brand, so it doesn’t count). If you do choose Iron City, then you need to either drink it in their iron bottle or in a regular can. The iron can changes the flavor of the beer, but I cannot remember which one tastes better. But it’s not like it matters anyway; you aren’t even considering drinking Yeungling like I suggested, so why would you take my Iron City beverage container advice. Seriously, the whole point of a travel blog is to listen to my experiences and heed my advice. But whatever. Don’t listen to me, but don’t come crying to me when you realize that Iron City or Rolling Rock isn’t the greatest beer ever, you ungrateful bastards.

People

The first thing you need to understand about Pittsburgers is that they have their own accent. Well, actually, it’s not so much an accent as it is a dialect. If I were to describe it, I’d say that it’s somewhere between Midwesterner and Appalachian Hills people. Watch the first few minutes of this video to get an idea of what Pittsburghese sounds like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kOnYpxfZDs

Having introduced Yinz to how people talk in an around dahntahn Pittsburgh, let’s talk about the locals n’at.

The people there, are awesome. Granted, I know people there, and I got to hang out with them, but still, they’re amazing. For instance, here are my friends Julian and Danielle enjoying a nice dinner with me in Forest Hills:

They were pretty excited to see me.

Then here’s Dan Miller at the Primanti’s after we got done watching The Dark Knight Rises. He was pretty excited to see me:

“MINIGAN GODDAMN BLACKWOOD!!!!! I MISSED YOU!!!”
-totally what Dan said

Then of course I got to hang out with the Newlyweds Julie and Mark Lechliter and their gang of crazy friends. I’ll give you a hint of how this played out.

Minigan- Julie!!!!

Yay!

Julie- Oh Jesus…

Minigan-Ha ha! No, it’s Minigan!  I know, I know, my hair has gotten long, and I do look miraculous, but it’s just me. Plain old Minigan Blackwood: Doctor of Awesome.

Julie- No, Minigan, I know who you are. I’m just surprised to see you back here after they told you not to come back after that last time.

Minigan- Laws don’t apply to me, baby. You should know that. And besides, I left the Slappin’ Dick Machine with my friend Della, so it’s totally cool that I’m here to celebrate your Birthday!

Julie- Well, as long as you’ve found someone that’s willing to keep after it and you didn’t bring it back here…

Minigan- Oh yeah, Della totally has it under control. We’re mentally linked, so it will probably listen to her.

Probably…

Mark- [rushes up to Julie, not noticing Minigan] Julie, we need to get out of here, now. Apparently Minigan found out that we’re going to be here tonight and [now noticing Minigan] Holy Shit! Minigan! How did they let you back in PA?!

Minigan- “Let” isn’t the right word. It was more like I “forced” my way back into Pennsylvania.

Julie- We aren’t going to be arrested by talking to you right now, are we?

Minigan- Not unless you call the cops.

Mark- And if we do call the cops?

Minigan- if you do call the cops, I’ll just show them the proof that you smuggled me into PA.

Mark- What proof do you have?!

Minigan- When have I ever let that stop me before? [throws his hands up defensively] But look, I’m not here to send anyone to prison this time. All I want to do is Party with you guys for Julie’s birthday. Now, let’s do some shots. [runs off to find a bartender]

Julie-[calling after Minigan] Wait, Minigan! I can’t drink; I’m pregnant!

[Minigan came back with a tray of shots, the waitress he took the shots from silently weeping into her hands.]

Minigan- I got us the drinks! Julie, the orange juice is for you because you’re on your period or whatever you said.

Julie- Thanks, I guess…

Minigan- To Julie for her birthday, and for both of you wonderful bastards for getting married![they each do a shot. Minigan does two.]

Mark- [once his face returned to normal after the shot] so how did you get kicked out of PA, Minigan?

Minigan- Well, I created a machine that had a spinning wheel of dildos that  started trying to kill people. You know, it was a whole thing. I’ve put that behind me. Like a month behind me.

Slappin’ Dick- Machine- [comes in looking like a Wall-E with a hat of dildos, waving its newly attached robotic arms frantically and hitting people as it passed. It’s voice came from a Speak and Say attached to its backside. It yells] Minigan! Della is the worst human ever. All she does is insult everyone and throw things at me. It’s horrible.

Minigan- Yeah, she’s an awful, awful person.

Mark and Julie- [simultaneously] What’s wrong with people in Ohio?

Minigan- It’s really just Della. She is just a terrible person. [Mark and Julie say nothing, just look at each other. Minigan turns to the Slappin’ Dick-Machine and says] OK, SDM, which is what I’m going to call you for now on. I’ll let you stay with me and not with Della on two conditions: You cannot try to kill all humans and you must do everything I say. Do you understand?

SDM- I understand. What do you need, master?

Minigan- First, I like the whole “master” thing. Keep up with that. Secondly, go get me a drink.

SDM- Yes, Master. [SDM rolls off, attacks a waitress holding a beer and grabs it before she drops it, and rushes back to me] Here you are, Master.

Minigan-[takes the drink turns to Julie and Mark and says] And that’s how you train your murderbot.

And then we all partied and had a great time.

Overall Atmosphere

Now, I may be biased since I grew up in that city, but the atmosphere of the ‘Burgh is definitely welcoming, and friendly. Even though all of the people I talked to were people that I have known most of my life, the people there act like they’ve always known you. It is, simply put, an amazing  city.

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