Sunday, August 1, 2010

Observations from a Cheap Yellow Bicycle

Here's to You Again, Iowa City

Iowa City appeared quiet and tired, even for the summer. Some blamed the 21 ordinance that kept minors out of bars, and other suggested it was the natural lull after the grad students had moved out. The sparingly few that did pass through the ped mall did so with seemingly no destination in mind. Iowa City was the first place I made a claim to away from home, and subsequently the first place I would come to know that was not a farm in Upstate New York. It was a place that I began to make friends that I saw regularly, and somewhere where I found those with ideas both similar and more open than my own and a cobbled pedestrian area full of people with interesting ambitions.

I wanted to walk the streets and give in to nostalgia, wildly reminiscing in a way unknown to the people I passed. Some buildings had changed. There was no Paul Revere's offer $1 lunchtime slices. It had become a restaurant with a more avant garde concern, as had the lesbian sex shop next to it when I first came to Iowa. The Q Bar was now the Blue Moose and the price of a pepperoni slice at Pizza on Dubuque had gone up 50 cents. Still, the Iowa City that I had spent 4 years in and left several times was mostly in tact. I knew that I could have sat on any park bench and spent the day recalling memories from the things I saw. However, I couldn't afford the time in the day I spent there because I was always en route to meet another person, a complication I was grateful to have.

There were good friends I did not get to see, for which I genuinely feel bad and ask for forgiveness and a chance to catch up with them on the phone. For the others, this was the first time I saw them in a year or more, and I was not sure when I would see them again. There are some that I call a few times a year, and many I keep track of one way or another, but there was the suggestion in my mind of pressure associated with having the type of meaningful face time that would be the engine to keep the relationships viable until the next time we could cross paths again. Most conversations started the same way, with the "How have you been"s and "What are you doing now"s. Then they made space for bringing up old times before slipping into inappropriately course remarks and observations, where all good times start and on which all friendships are founded. And then the night was on.

There was a 67 year old man who got me through my undergrad years with his wisdom, whiskey, and meatloaf. There was a friend who's cat I vilified in a national publication. I stayed with a confidant who let me wake him up at 2:30 in the morning each night to be let in and who frankly pointed out that it was gross that I did not wash my cargo shorts for three weeks and made me put them in the washer. I met with those I lived with or worked with at various times in my Iowa residence. I was given a warm welcome and a lollipop that had a scorpion in it by the staff of the English Department. I marveled with a pal that we were still sitting next to each other six years after our class together. I said hello to the people in the streets that I would have passed regularly five years ago, and that told me that Iowa City still had the patience to let me reminisce, and still the grace to call me one of her own.

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