Monday, March 30, 2009

Leaving Iowa City: 1983

I remember that I didn't really want to leave. I had lived in Iowa City for--more or less--five years. Okay, maybe four. And it was my home. But, it was a college home. And, I knew that. I knew I should leave even if I didn't want to. And that's how I ended up back in Des Moines. That's how I ended up in Santa Fe.
Let me explain: In Iowa City I came into my own. As I've said before, I was a late bloomer. I'd gone from a rambunctious child to a pensive teen and then got stuck for a while. Iowa City cured me. So leaving that town, that carefree college studying taking tests life, was not what I really wished to do . . . at least not on the surface. Because there was, in me, some desire to get out of town. To hit the road and see new things. For me at that time, such a simple thing was a challenge. And I knew I didn't want to get stuck in Iowa City--like I have seen people do, remain in their college town, leave but come back, work college level jobs and become myopic in their choice. It's not a bad life, I think, and in fact could be a very rewarding one--but to stop and say, "Oh man, this is it. This is all I want."--that didn't appeal to me.
I remember I was living at Black's Gaslight Village. Black's is still there, I think, and it's a strange commune-ish kid of place with many trees and many buildings of strange and elegant design. It attracted the Bohemian/Hippy/Artist type. Probably still does. But by then I lived by myself in a single room in the L Building with a desk and bed, a shared bathroom on the hall, a shared kitchen further down the hall. It was weird. Brock had already graduated. I had come back from Alaska (and had been to Mississippi, New Orleans, southern Louisiana, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Key West and other spots) and Matt was working in Iowa City but not back in school. So, I wasn't crazily happy in my living quarters.
I only needed one semester to graduate. So, I knew that that was the end. I wanted to graduate. But I had friends in town--many--and I knew Iowa City and loved Iowa City as well as anyplace. But I knew it had to end--as I keep saying. So, I went through the motions. Did well with my grades, kept the drinking and sleeping around to, well, not quite a minimum, but as second thought to graduating. I wrote a lot. made plans for an eventual turn to grad school at Iowa (where I was very welcome, the director of the Iowa Writers Workshop--Jack--told me). But I was also still full of wanderlust and a keen stupidity. And so I decided I'd head back to Des Moines for a spell, so that I could figure out what to do with myself and not fall into the easy rhythm of post-college Iowa City.
And the day came and I jumped all the hopes and put on my cap and gown and did the walk. Cin came out from Chicago to be with me and she, of course, stayed with me. But when she went home, I went "home". To Des Moines.
I really don't recall how I got back. I did not have a car. And though I often took the Greyhound Bus, I know I didn't to leave Iowa City. I'm thinking Dave, a friend from Leon, Iowa, who was driving home for Xmas break, gave me a ride. But, I got back somehow and Iowa City was gone for a while.
In Des Moines I got a job at the 9th Street Warehouse (Younkers). I lived with my parents and saved money and wrote and stayed in touch with friends. I got sick of Des Moines and contacted Joel, who had transferred to St. John's College in Santa Fe and he said, "Come on down."
So, I went on down. And Santa Fe started a new life, one of rambling and bumbling and seeing a small section of the world for my own eyes and experience.
I came back to Iowa City often--lived there for a few spells--but mainly I went back to Des Moines (or not back at all). I did go to grad school at Iowa, but dropped out and headed back to Florida where I lived in a house on the beach with Tee. Then went to Seattle.
But none of that would have happened, I think, if I had not made myself leave Iowa City. And perhaps that wouldn't have been a bad thing. Or, perhaps, if I had gone directly into the Iowa Workshop, maybe I'd have published sooner. Though so much of what I wrote came from those wandering years, I'm not so sure of that.

1 comment:

Uncle Lee said...
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