(from 21 june 2013)
Julie and I are in Iowa City now. After watching an episode of The West Wing (season 1, episode 10), but before going to sleep last night, I did some due diligence and pulled up the Wikipedia page on Iowa City. I like to be well informed.
It seems, according to Wikipedia, that Iowa City is home to the Hamburg Inn. A coffee shop/diner/greasy spoon that’s a hotspot for presidential candidates during their sojourn in Iowa. It is home to the coffee bean caucus, a highly scientific and statistically accurate gauge of America’s political pulse. And it was featured on The West Wing, season 7, during the Santos/Vinick campaign.
So clearly we had chosen our morning coffee spot.
It was like any other diner: bad coffee, flat pancakes. But the walls were plastered with photos of the candidates: Reagan, Kucinich, Bachman, Clinton, Bartlett. Some people were there for the history (there were tshirts and memorabilia for sale), some were locals.
The table to our left forgot their keys when they left so I ran after them in the spirit of mid-western friendliness. The table to our right remarked on the exchange and we started a conversation. They were locals, regulars.
We talked about losing keys and showed them our carabinered keys attached to our belt loops (we’re nerds). We explained the purpose of our drive. We explained the purpose of our breakfast (read: West Wing fanaticism). She, like me, is in medicine (though in psychiatry). He, like Julie, is in history (though gainfully employed). They loved our theme of presidential libraries. They loved our political enthusiasm (ok, Julie’s political enthusiasm). They loved that we drove a Prius (and that we hadn’t yet lost our keys). They even loved hearing about when we broke down in Nevada. And we loved them too.
Before we could say goodbye, the waitress brings a bag with two commemorative mugs wrapped up for us. The history professor wanted to be sure that we remembered our trip to his favorite diner. We said our goodbyes and he told us one last story: today is the 32nd anniversary of their first date. It was a Sunday, Father’s Day in 1981. They had gone to the Hoover Library.