Roasting the Town I Love

Last Sunday, I roasted Iowa City. 

If you’ve ever seen one the many Roasts on Comedy Central, then you’ve got the basic idea of what I was doing. Instead of Roasting a celebrity, I was roasting the town I love and live in.

According to the local paper, the Press-Citizen, “There wasn’t an empty seat in The Mill Restaurant for the Roast, which featured six writers and performers who gave comedic odes about their love/hate — but mostly love — relationships with Iowa City. Organized by Little Village magazine in Iowa City, the event was held in conjunction with the Iowa City Book Festival.”

This is the third year the Roast has been held, and the first year I submitted any original work. Last year, I read a piece written by someone who could not be present at the event, and it gave me a taste of what it’s like to get a warm response to a comedy performance – which I had never, ever, ever done. 

So I wrote a roast bitching about what it’s like to move in this particular college town. I was so nervous, I don’t remember if anyone laughed or not while I was reading it. All that mattered to me in those moments was that I was standing up straight enough to see over the podium while not letting the audience see my hands violently shake. Upon leaving the stage and cowering back into my booth, Jeff Charis-Carlson, Opinion editor for the Press-Citizen, sat down across the table from me and asked if he could print my roast in the paper. How could an attention-whore like me turn this down? (haha. I am the most introverted, terrified attention whore alive!) So I’m in the ol’ paper today.

I am counting on there being some awful, insulting comments posted below it before the day is over, because the only people that seem to comment on online newspapers are both awful and insulting (most of the time, anyway).

So, yeah, I guess by blogging about this I am extending my 10 minutes of fame to the full 15 minutes. 

For those of you that don’t want to click the link, here’s my roast.


A moveable fest

It’s moving season. No time of the year fills me with simultaneous excitement and dread like the end of July.

Moving into a new apartment or house can be exciting, but the fun of starting fresh is often obstructed by all the work it takes to get there. Those of us that have lived here a few years, or those who just jump around a lot, know how much of a pain in the ass it is to move in Iowa City.

It’s a twisted part of the culture of this town.

At some point, all the landlords in Iowa City got drunk together and decided it would be hilarious to make all renters’ leases end on the July 28 and begin at noon on Aug. 1. So once a year, the homeless population spikes for three days as a massive part of the population picks up all their crap and heaves it across town, downtown or sometimes just next door.

It’s like a giant, sweaty game of musical chairs, only no one’s having fun.

And it doesn’t start with the actual moving day. Apartment hunting starts in winter for many people who want to find a sweet rental. My experience says that the longer you wait, the worse you’re new pad will be.

In January, you can find a two bedroom house on the north side that allows pets for a reasonable price. Wait until July and you’re left with a closet in a basement of a house on Bowery Street with a shared bathroom and disgusting housemates.

Maybe that’ll change since there are so many affordable condos downtown now.

When it comes time to vacate your rental, you’re faced with the act of trying to jam everything you own into a friend’s garage, basement, living room, closets — or the rare jewel — an actual storage unit.

Try to find an available U-haul or storage unit in Iowa City in the summer, and I guarantee you will be crossing county lines to do it. If you do have the foresight to grab a truck or storage unit in the area, you likely reserved it while everyone else was doing their Christmas shopping.

If you don’t plan ahead, you’re going to spend a frantic day trying to shove all your stuff into a friend’s minivan, and then leave the rest on the curb.

I know because I did it in 2001! People were coming by with two-wheelers taking away the stuff I had just left by the dumpster.

It broke my heart.

Even if you’re not moving, the ripple effect can be seen and felt everywhere.

Tons houses look as though they have vomited their own contents onto the front lawn after having one couch or broken recliner too many. Movers become so distraught and overwhelmed that they just start pitching both junk and perfectly good items on the curb for someone else to figure out.

I really respect our sanitation workers for picking all that crap up without bludgeoning every mover they see on the street. It especially sucks when you live in a house with a basement that has years of tenant discards that suddenly your landlord wants you to take care of.

So out on the curb it goes.

The good stuff chucked to the curb spawns a city-wide “curb sale” where the price is always free. People actually go trolling on moving days every year, picking up the good loot.

Whose porch couldn’t use that awesome orange floral couch sitting on Iowa Avenue? People even make little showroom-style displays of all the crap they put out.

The items often sport hand-scrawled pieces of paper that say:

• “Free.”

• “Take Me.”

• Or, “Still Works.”

It’s recycling at its college-town-finest.

Once I put some furniture out on the curb with a friend and then, out of boredom, we sat on the porch and watched people come by and take it all.

Everything was gone inside of an hour.

“Curb shopping” at the end of July can be said to be a well-developed science. I’ve watched potential takers shake, kick, walk around and assess their finds before either driving off disappointed, or quickly throwing the item in the back of their car.

I’ve even seen disputes over items that multiple parties thought they had dibbs on. It’s a constant cycle of leaving and taking that has become a commonplace way of exchange in this town all year long.

I once saw my old couch on someone else’s porch and it made me laugh.

For the early planners, getting the truck and the space is no big deal. But actually executing the loading and unloading is a huge feat.

First, you’ve got to find the 10 people in town that aren’t moving — and bribe, coerce and beg them to help you move on what is bound to be the hottest, most brutal day of the entire Iowa summer.

It’s the one day of the year that a cold case of beer doesn’t sound better than a giant bucket of ice water to stick your head in.

It’s always suffocatingly hot and so humid that you just have to expect that everyone is going to be crabby, stink and expect something in return.

In the eight moves I’ve made in the last 13 years, I’ve changed my strategy several times.

I’ve tried it all.

I’ve offered beer, pizza, Gatorade, food, money, blinding guilt trips, my vital organs — anything to get my friends to help.

If you’re lucky, you’ve got a network of friends that have also mastered the art of moving in this town, and can execute a complicated choreography of getting everybody in and out in perfect time.

I’ve shared moving trucks, I’ve moved countless friends and they in turn have helped me.

I’ve been displaced after the flood. I’ve had heat stroke on moving day.

I can’t say I’ve ever had a stress-free move, even with all the planning I’ve done.

So for those of you moving this year, you have my sympathies.

I am staying put.

Adrianne Behning has lived in Iowa City for 13 years. She is a freelance photographer with a deep love for this crazy town.



And lastly, here’s a video of last year’s Roast.  I read a piece written by Tembi Bergin-batten starting around minute 11.




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