Like most reasonably content adults who were once painfully awkward teenagers, I prefer not to think about the first 16 years of my life, but I am reasonably sure that I spent them in Cedar Rapids. Immediately after high school graduation, I moved down to Iowa City, presumably to receive an education of some kind, and the strain of the move was so terrible that I decided never to do it again. This town is stuck with me.
However, having recently taken a job in Cedar Rapids, I’ve had an opportunity to get both extremely familiar with Interstate 380 (Is there a more boring road to have to drive down twice a day?) and up close and personal with the city I’ve been too lazy to visit for the last six years, and I can report that hanging out there as an adult is super weird. Despite the fact that the two cities are only 27 miles apart, the people who live there have basically nothing in common. Therefore, I present my authoritative guide to the people on the north side of the CRANDIC.
When it comes to choosing an outfit for a big night out, the girl from Cedar Rapids goes all out. She’ll run to the salon to have her chunky highlights freshened up and pay extra attention to her smokey eye. She may not still fit into her jeggings from high school, but that’s OK, because they always have more at Von Maur. A girl from Iowa City, on the other hand, prefers to play it cool. She wears a 20-year-old “Frankie Says Relax” T-shirt with permanent pit stains, Birkenstocks and last week’s mascara. She knows she had a hairbrush once, but that was at least four apartments ago. All of her friends think this is fine.
People from Iowa City have very strong opinions about which Korean restaurant is most authentic, despite the fact that they have never eaten Korean food anywhere except Iowa City. All coffee tastes the same to them, but they know they’re supposed to have an opinion about it, so they go to perilous lengths to disguise their $5-a-day Dunkin’ Donuts habit from their friends. People from Cedar Rapids think this kind of behavior is ridiculous (and they’re right). They’re just glad to finally have a Mexican restaurant they can take first dates to that isn’t Taco Bell.
Guys from Iowa City are well-read, articulate, erudite. They take you to see a horror movie in Malayalam at FilmScene and explain the whole thing to you, even though you’ve also been reading the subtitles. Recently, they’ve been really into Kabbalah, krautrock and growing their own opium poppies. Guys from Cedar Rapids know who is on the Iowa basketball team. They take you to the coolest bar in town, which is underneath the highway overpass. Recently, they’ve been really into upselling Yeezys, History Channel documentaries about Hitler and new flavors of chewing tobacco. It might be time to move to Illinois.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 293.