Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Teapots of Every Variety

LAST WEEKEND WE TOOK A ROAD TRIP TO IOWA. We visited two college towns and two sets of friends in one busy trip. We observed that Iowa has the best rest stops, and both Ames and Iowa City have a culture that is vibrant and artistic, yet grounded in Midwestern simplicity. The first leg of our journey was the longest, and we arrived in Ames late in the evening, but still in time to catch up with our good friends, Elaine and Matt over a glass of wine on their back porch. We compared stories of the summer heat and the drought, because we are, after all Midwesterners.

Next morning, we all walked to the Farmers Market. If anything makes me long to move to the city, it's a walk with friends to the center of town. How friendly, to mosey along the sidewalks, admiring the neighbors' gardens and taking a shortcut through the park. How invigorating to arrive at the market refreshed and energized, instead of having to extract creaky joints from the car after a half hour's drive. The market in Ames is sized comfortably between the bustle and crush of the Urbana market and our small market in Monticello. They have an arts table for the kids and nice variety of tables for garden produce, arts and crafts, and foods. 

Artwork at the Iowa Rest Stop
 We sampled a Scotch egg from Marcus' table. Marcus is a friend of Elaine and Matt. A Scotch egg is like a baseball of crispy deliciousness. We cut them in half to share and spread them with mustard. I quizzed Marcus on the preparation—first, boil and peel the egg, then wrap ground sausage around it, roll it in herbed bread crumbs and then deep fry it. Marcus and his wife LeAnne are the owners of British Foods, which we visited later. It's a shop with tea and biscuits and lemon curd and marmalade, with shelves and shelves of teapots of endless varieties. Matt told me later that they scout thrift stores and garage sales for teapots for the shop. My kind of place.
 While we were in the middle of the continent, Dylan was at the western edge. My middle boy was texting us with updates: “We are having a lot of fun in Vegas.” “At Cannery Row. No Steinbeck, yet, but there is a statue of an Ed Rickets.” (That's “Doc!” I texted back. Take a picture!) “Stanford made their students wear hats. Freshmen wore beanies. The senior hat was called the senior sombrero.” I told him to be sure to visit the City Lights Bookstore when he got to San Francisco.
A Scotch Egg

That afternoon we went on to Iowa City, to help my dear friend, Diane, celebrate her 70th Birthday. Diane's house is always filled with color and art and laughter, but now it was also filled with hundreds of her closest friends. Her yard is full of beauty, divided into several outdoor “rooms,” each strung with lights and divided by trellises and majestic plants. One held a circle of chairs around a fire pit. Another had an area rug rolled out for a dance floor, with speakers set up for music. A vine with clusters of white, delightfully fragrant flowers scented our dancing. Around the corner was a table with drinks and inside was one with food. We ate and danced and toasted Diane and friends and family until late into the night, and then the assemblage of Champaign friends went back to the hotel. 

Alligator Typewriter

In the morning we gathered to have breakfast before heading back home. We found a lovely buffet and afterwards went around to the antique stores and junk shops. I texted to Dylan a picture of an alligator made out of a disassembled typewriter. He texted back that he had been to Fisherman's Warf and Chinatown. He tried to go to the beat museum, but it cost too much. I wrote him a poem and sent it, 160 characters at a time:
Dylan at the Beat Museum

I went to the beat museum
but they wanted $8.
$8 of my hard earned money
$8 of my cracking eggs for the people on the sidewalk
$8 of slicing peppers and peeling onions in a truck
$8 of my eyes weeping as I slice
$8, man.
For $8 I could buy a roll of paper
or a typewriter ribbon
that would unroll my blood, sweat, and tears
down Woodie Gutrhie's highway
in this, MY land of earth, wind, and fire
all the way home.
I stand with my hand out
on the sidewalk.
Not asking for eggs, or egg money or pin money or pin numbers
Not asking for a lower tax rate or higher fences.
Just asking
for $8
Just asking
to see some beats.
I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for the beat museum today
Can I borrow $8, man?

Rhyme in Beauty; Reason in Peace; Blessed Be, Man.

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