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Alone Among Iowans

Things took quite a different turn during my time in Iowa City: After playing a great house concert at the incredibly beautiful appartment of our friend Mark Moen, Tish got on an airplane and flew back to Texas to play at a benefit concert for her old friend and musical companion Troy Wells. Troy played with Tish in New Mexico in the 80s (he was the one who replaced Dave Magill) and then again from time to time in recent years. Presently he is facing some serious health problems, so the concert was meant to help him pay his medical bills.

Tish and Troy, ca. 1982

In the meantime, Tish’s old friend Bob Vanderbeek was kind enough to host me in his appartment on the ninth floor of a swanky highrise in downtown Iowa City. I had been looking forward to finally meeting Bob on this trip, and I sure had a wonderful time with him and his two dogs. Iowa City is a  pleasant and interesting college town, so my three days spent there further improved my already positive view of Iowa.

With friend and part-time flatmate Bob Vanderbeek. But frankly speaking: Who cares about the guys in this picture, with Tish looking sooooo gorgeous?

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State By State (25): Iowa

Iowa is one of those states that Americans from other parts of the country love to make fun of, mostly on the grounds that it is boring, flat and full of corn fields (the “Fields of Opportunity” from the state line sign, I suppose). As a matter of fact, even Iowans joke about their state, and nobody does it more eloquently than the writer Bill Bryson, author of famous books like “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and “A Walk in the Woods”. When I happened to read the first lines of “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America”, one of his lesser known titles, in a book store in Vermont, I just had to buy the book on the spot. Since then Tish and I often entertained ourselves in the car by reading to each other from the book. Sometimes I had to laugh so hard, I could hardly keep on driving.

Bryson starts out his book with a ten page ramble on how boring his home state is. There’s plenty of clever lines like this one: “To reach anywhere of even passing interest from Des Moines (The capital of Iowa and Bryson’s home town. AS) by car requires a journey that in other countries would be considered epic.” We sure enjoyed the funny read, but I must say that personally I liked driving through Iowa a lot. For one thing, it’s not nearly as flat as Bryson and everybody else always says. Plus I find corn fields much more pleasant to watch than strip malls (Einkaufsmeilen) and gas stations, which is all you get to see from the road in large parts of, say, New Jersey. Having had to spend large parts of their life driving through corn fields obviously causes people like Bill Bryson to have a different opinion …

(Written in Hamburg, Germany, August 6, 2012)