04 August 2011

king corn {and an activity-less week}

This week has been unusual for me, the girl of ongoing weekly commitments.

Everything has stopped.

Not like the world. The world is still spinning, thank goodness, but my activities have stopped spinning. I think, here at the beginning of August, I've arrived at "summer break."

No Bible study, no choir, no writing class.

Nothing to run off to after dashing home to feed and walk baby pug.

Really, all I've needed to accomplish every night this week is: feed myself. And not to brag, but I'm pretty good at taking care of that, especially when I allow myself to count popcorn as a meal.

So with these free evenings stretching in front of me, long like rows of corn lined up to the horizon, I decided to watch a documentary on corn.

Yes, corn. King Corn, to be specific.

You're probably wishing I still had activities so that I could tell funny stories about interacting with other people, aren't you?

But hey, I told a funny story about the eyebrow waxing lady! That was a people interaction story! So no more complaining!

I don't know why I just accused you of complaining, but this illustrates my point well: when I spend too much time alone, I quickly lose my ability to act like a normal person and make normal conversation.

This has happened for years. When I was little and on vacation, we sometimes spent entire afternoons reading. {You know you're jealous: I was camping in the backcountry of Utah and reading Anne of Green Gables all day. Best of so many worlds.}

When it was time to interact with real people again—and not just the people in my book—I would struggle to:
  • not talk just about my book
  • not get upset at my family for not being Marilla, Matthew, and Diana in Anne of Green Gables
  • remember that just because I was reading a book set in Canada, that doesn't mean I get to speak with a Canadian accent.
There were tough transition periods, let's just put it that way, as I tried to pull myself out of my head and back into reality, which involved a discussion of what was for dinner and if we should have a campfire that night. {Which are such prosaic details to be pondering when you could be reading about Gilbert Blythe.}

The same thing happened this week when I was too often alone, too often in my own head.

I watched this documentary King Corn that was filmed mostly in Iowa; it's about how corn became such a major part of our diet and not in the "wow, we eat a lot of sweet corn in the summer" way. More in the high fructose corn syrup and corn-fed cattle way.

Fascinating, right? Yes, but not quite fascinating enough to talk about it as much as I have, but after an evening of talking to no one but Miss Daisy, I'm telling you, I forget how normal conversation goes and I start to sound like either a1a) a newscaster, b2b) someone who can't pick up on social cues, c3c) someone narrating a documentary, or d4d) a pinball conversationalist who can't stay focused long enough to put together a full sentence.

For example, an actual* conversation I had this week:

*Actual in that most of these words were said. It's not like I go around documenting everything people say to me, in the hopes that it'll become story fodder. No, it's more that I remember the gist of the conversation and hit the highlights. I say all this to reassure you that I'm not secretly taping you when we talk.

Co-worker: So, what'd you do last night?
Me: Last night was awesome. So great! No activities this week! Isn't that wonderful?
Co-worker: Well, yeah, if you're used to—
Me: And, ooh! I made this amazing eggplant dinner! Recently, I'm obsessed with eggplants. I even bought a book on Amazon the other day called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. I'll let you know how it is, ok?
Co-worker: Um, all right. But did you have a good night?
Me: Right, you were asking about my night! No activities {already mentioned that!}, so I watched this documentary called King Corn. About corn. Well, the corn business. In Iowa, where I'm from.
Co-worker: Yes, you mention essentially every day your love for Iowa. So what made this documentary so good?
Me: Oh, man, what didn't make it good?
Co-worker: That's not really an answer.
Me: Yep, right, good point. It's about corn and the state of agribusiness, especially in Iowa. Really good discussion of farm subsidies and how the government pays farmers to grow corn using the Farm Bill and how subsidies came about. It also shows how the farming business has changed over the last 50 years to become not so much about the family farm as about the mega farm.
Co-worker: Huh.
Me: I promise it's much more interesting than i just made it sound.
Co-worker: I sure hope so.

But see, then I went on throughout the day to bring up King Corn several more times.

Me: What I really liked in that movie was how it's an outsider's perspective on Iowa.
Co-worker: You're talking about your corn movie again, aren't you?
Me: Haven't we always been talking about this? That's what it feels like.
Co-worker: You're telling me.
Me: {Blithely unaware that no one is as fascinated by corn as I am} Yeah, so at home we have grain elevators, and one of the first questions the guys in the movie ask the farmer they're interviewing is, "Why is it called an elevator? I mean, it's a whole building, not just an elevator." And see that's something I've just grown up with, calling those big things elevators. They store all the grain until it's ready to be transported, you know.
Co-worker: I don't know how to respond to that.

In conclusion, I think everyone in my office is happy that my activity-less period doesn't last very long.

And please, if you've seen King Corn, discuss it with me. I have some thoughts I'd like to share.


  1. Hilarious, Kamiah! I love it. Do you know how adorable you are? I hope so :) And sorry, I haven't watched "King Corn" & I've now added it to my "never watch" queue. Hope you find another corn-agribusiness-documentary lover.

  2. King Corn was a fascinating movie which everyone we know should watch. Then we could all have a chat about it. And never again eat those foods that come in boxes at the grocery store, or fast food, or many meats, because they're all really just corn...

  3. You're funny. I've seen King Corn and I wish I was your co worker so we could discuss it!

  4. Thanks, Bonita, Oesa, and Erica!

    ec and Erica, at least the 3 of us could have a discussion on King Corn. My main thought: it's so sad that this is what farming has become, but you can't blame the farmers. They're just trying to make a living.

  5. Add me to the list. As a mid-westerner from a farming community, I have seen and can discuss said movie. :)

  6. Sommer! I'm so glad that you've seen King Corn, too. Apparently, I just work with a lot of non-farming people, which is crazy.



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