I considered tweeting at Ed Helms and asking him a question of exquisitely high importance when I was in Iowa. I needed to know what somebody should do in Cedar Rapids on a Friday night.
If you’ve seen the delightful movie “Cedar Rapids,” you know that Helms would have a pretty good idea for entertainment. In the film, he attends a meth-fueled party in a heavily wooded area populated by several very paranoid and very burly men. They wear flannel, Wolverine boots and sneers. They think he is trying to steal their girlfriends. Their girlfriends happen to be escorts and not of the Ford automobile variety. I mean, who wouldn’t crave a scene like that?
So I thought about asking Ed Helms. Then I saw he had only tweeted like 100 times in his life and not since like July, so I decided not to ask him.
A muy mal decision, because what can you do in Cedar Rapids? Here’s what it looked like from my hotel room (yes, I did pay extra for the view):
Cedar Rapids is home to a Quaker Oats factory, a river that sometimes has water in it and, inexplicably, an African-American history museum.
What can you do in Cedar Rapids? This question was first formulated in Iowa City. The view from Iowa City looks like this:
Unfortunately, I was not staying in Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, because it does not have a Marriott. The closet Marriott is in, obviously, Cedar Rapids and ipso facto I had to stay about 30 minutes from the wonders of Iowa City. To non-yuppies reading this article, you’ll understand the importance of Marriott points someday when you begin traveling for work. Marriott points are more important than water. Water DOES NOT greet you by the first name at the reception desk and remember that you like down pillows instead of polyester.
I had driven to Iowa City on this Friday night with a colleague for dinner. We planned on staying out for just a while before going back to Cedar Rapids mainly because of the transportation issues that would inevitably arise. You see, after three drinks I tend to turn into that guy from “Can’t Hardly Wait” who ends up in a jail cell with Mike Dexter, so driving for 30 minutes was clearly not something I wanted to do after much more than a teaspoon of alcohol.
Staying out in Iowa City was not a realistic option, though it was certainly tempting. Big Ten college towns are like the drinking version of Oz. Case in point for Iowa City: Union Bar.
Our waitress at dinner recommended it after we asked for her opinion on the most immature place in town. I quickly realized she was spot-on after I noticed a sign in the window advertising $1 Keystone Light pitchers from six to eight p.m. I’ll write the last half of this sentence one more time, and do so in bold font, so you realize it’s not a typo. $1 Keystone Light PITCHERS from six to eight p.m. I suspect this specific deal at Union Bar prompted Carrie Nation to launch the prohibition movement.
It was 7:30-ish. We walked into the door, receiving a paper wristband adorned with the exclamation, “You Are So Money!” The Keystone Light flowed from the taps like Marriot points. You had to remind the bartender to give you glasses after ordering because most people were chugging the beer solo, straight from the pitcher, including a guy who was on crutches.
We stood at one end of the bar and introduced ourselves to a few others in the vicinity, telling them we were out-of-towners sampling the Iowa City nightlife. “You guys know this is a freshman bar, right?” said one of them.
Huh. We didn’t. But we could quickly tell. I also quickly determined that 81 percent of the pitcher-carrying patrons inside probably couldn’t have remembered if they were freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors if you asked them. Again, it was 7:30.
As I drank my teaspoon of Stone, I realized we couldn’t stay here forever and began asking people throughout Union Bar if they knew of any cool places to go in Cedar Rapids. Here’s a sampling of the responses from various Iowa students:
“Dude, you gotta check out the dance floor here. You don’t have to dance. But just see it.”
“You have to have a real I.D. if you’re going there.”
“Cedar Rapids? That’s an amusement park.”
“My friend plays soccer at Penn State! Do you know her?”
The place wasn’t entirely filled with students. Two women who were probably in their late 30s sat on barstools, tinkering with their smartphones. I popped the Cedar Rapids question. They looked at me like they wanted to put a cigarette out in my eye. Apparently they decided that I was actually trying out a pickup line. This made total sense because there is clearly no better way to start a conversation with a woman than by asking her if she knows any bars that you can go to that are located 25 miles from her. As they reached for Marlboros in their purse, I Big Gulped* away from them to the other side of the bar.
*Big Gulps, huh? Welp, see ya later.”
I had another tactic for figuring out what to do in Cedar Rapids. One of my college buddies grew up there, so I texted him. “Off hand,” he responded, “my suggestion is go to Iowa City.” Damn.
Moral to the story: Tweet at Ed Helms whenever you have a question about Cedar Rapids, or a question about anything.
Two things to note:
1) There is a really nice Marriott in Coralville (which is pretty much Iowa City, they blend together… The Marriott is 5 minutes from campus). There is also a great brewery right next to the Marriott, called Backpocket.
2) If you have to be in Cedar Rapids, you want to go to the Fieldhouse.