Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coming Into Iowa City: 1977

I recall that I drove myself to Iowa City from Des Moines (Urbandale, actually) for freshman orientation. I'd been to Iowa City before, but only with family. My father had gone to the University of Iowa--so we had visited briefly when I was younger. Oldest Brother and then Second Oldest Brother went to Iowa, so I must have gone along to help move them or visit them at some point in time. Father took me to a Hawkeye football game once--just the two of us, as no one else in the family had much interest in football--so I'd been there for that. But I had no true sense of the town and school when I drove there. I recall I came up the back way--through Coralville--from Interstate 80 because I knew of no other way (the more direct way) to get there. So, I ended up on the other side of the Iowa River, feeling my way through the campus around the science and education buildings, past the hospital and stadium.
I parked in some garage across from the Union (I'm not sure it's even there anymore) that was on a hill and connected to either Gilbert or Trowbridge Hall (Trowbridge, I'm thinking) and attended the orientation, didn't stay the night, and then drove back home.
I didn't really understand what I was doing.
Even though I'd taken a year off--working and traveling to Florida (Key West!)--I was still not clear of mind, I still didn't quite grasp what the heck I was supposed to be doing in the world. But I'd decided to go to college, to go to Iowa, had taken my SAT or ACT entry tests a year later than I should have and applied and was accepted and so on. And then went to orientation, signed up for classes, applied and got a dorm assignment, and then I think my parents moved me over to Iowa City just before classes started.
I was wary at first. Uncertain I'd done the right thing. Was ready to return to Des Moines (Urbandale, actually). But then, slowly, I got it.
College was fun!
Being in Iowa City was fun!
And Iowa City became the place I'd rather be.
I can still recall drives from Des Moines, coming down I-80, and as I neared the city of Iowa City I'd get a slow burn of excitement, of anticipation. I remember the exit onto Clinton Street and there would be the sign for Iowa City and the university--a shiny black metal sign with gold lettering (Iowa's colors) with some symbols: the Old Capitol, an ear of corn--and it just plain made me feel good. (I was into signs back then. I loved to drive long distance and the sight of highway signs could elicit the same feel-good emotions in me, feelings of adventure and anticipation. I recall walking the pedestrian bridge on the other side of campus to cross the busy road and there was always a highway sign right there--some numbered highway leading out of town--and just the sight of the sign would evoke travel and escape and new frontiers; I loved it.) So, just coming into Iowa City became a pleasurable endeavor for me.
I don't know. I mean, I was young, a late bloomer, I'd lived such a small and insular life for many years that a place like Iowa City, that roadside signs, became symbolic for a new and open world, one of fresh uncertainty and challenge. To this day I still love Iowa City. I don't know if I could live there--well, not true, I know I could live there, just don't know if I'd really prefer to live there--but it's always close to me. I realize that almost everyone has great affection for their college, their college town, but I'd like to believe that my connection is a little more than that, a little more tied to my personal history. It is, after all, where I bloomed.

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