Stranger in a Strange Land: A Beer Bottled Reflection

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Beer Bottled Reflection

The Girl on the Moon speaks to me. Her voice, sounding uncomfortably masculine, hops through the far reaches of my mind. From her suds-filled glass home she sings, “Sometimes this ol’town feels like a ball and chain,” and advises that I “get away”.

I become excited. Is this a sign? A prophecy, perhaps? While some people experience enlightenment through the voice of God, mine is distinctly missing the flashiness of divine revelation. No, the voice in my head comes from an old-fashioned girl who lives on the moon…one who promises me the high life yet simultaneously mocks me with her champagne nectar.

Awakening from my beer-induced trance, it becomes clear I am in fact having an intimate conversation with a now-empty bottle of beer. Embarrassed I have allowed my bottle to remain empty so long, I look around to see if anyone noticed.

As the haziness lifts, I finally recall where I am: The Busted Lift. It now makes sense. David Zollo sits stocking-footed behind his keyboard, singing about a young boy leaving his hometown, finally able to “get away”. I look at the digital date glowing on my watch. Mid-August. “Has it already been that long?” I wonder, realizing I have now been in Dubuque for an entire year. Time flies.
Even more depressing is the fact it has been eight years since I was that kid who stopped dreaming and finally got away, vowing never to return. But like a cruel joke, sometimes this town is a ball and chain and before you know it you are back to where you started: Dreaming of finally getting away.

I reflect back on the past year and mentally evaluate where I am. I start with the negatives…the first few bored weeknights when this city felt too much like a weekend-only town…the futile search for a bustling café culture…my stomach’s ongoing anger over the lack of an Indian restaurant…the desperate and drunken closing time expedition for a late-night downtown pancake house. I recall missing the constant motion of people and overall diversity of Iowa City. Finally, I try to count the times I have been told Dubuque is “ a good place to raise kids” and wondering whether it was good for anything else.

Then the positives: The excitement of stumbling upon the Art After Hours warehouse event during my first week in town and the later reconfirmation of my vegetarian abandonment at the hands of a savory Taiko steak. I recall the pleasant surprise of the Bijou Theater, the impressiveness of the River Museum and the peacefulness of the river walk. I laugh at my enthusiasm of having discovered PBR on tap at Isabella’s. There is open mike night at Mississippi Mug, café mochas at Miguels and chai tea at One Mean Bean. Finally, there is the ongoing excitement and challenge of discovering new places and meeting new people as your city begins to feel less abstract and more like home.

As I get ready to call it a night, I am drawn into a conversation between two recent young additions to Dubuque. From my obvious eavesdropping, I gather one has returned home while the other is a newcomer. I say “hello” and ask the obvious: “you two just move here?”

After a brief conversation, I bid them adieu and make my way out. As I leave the newbie calls after me, “So, how is it?”

Looking up at the moon, I smile and reply, “It may not be the high life, but at least it’s home.”


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