Friday, May 13, 2011

I and the Caucus

I went to Des Moines, Iowa. I wasn't quite sure the reason; some friends at the time lived there but they weren't the closest of friends, honestly. They traveled regularly to Chicago where I was living at the time so there wasn't much reason to go but I ultimately figured why not, got on a plane and went.
Forty-five minutes after take-off the flight landed in the state capitol of Iowa, center of American presidential politics. Again, not sure the reason behind that but I could research that history easily enough. By the time I arrived and got my hotel room I was more than a little curious about the city, its people and the surrounding area. To dispel a myth right from the start it was not completely surrounded by corn but there was no major highway leading from the airport in to town, either. I wasn't completely in the sticks but they probably weren't too far away, either.
A comfortable population of just over 200,000 call the city home with the entire metro area not quite hitting 600,000. Wow. It seems as if I've lived in "suburbs" with larger populations. Still, the downtown skyline was impressive enough in having at least one decent skyscraper, 801 Grand, while a very nicely landscaped river park system runs east-west through the heart of town. Interstate #35 runs up from Texas north to Minnesota while I-80 crosses it on the run from New York to San Francisco. At the center of all of this is the Iowa State Fairground, home of the daddy of all state fairs.
My friends picked me up that evening and promptly took me to the inner east side of the city where the warehouse district held some of the larger and more popular night spots in the city. One was a country western themed place which was smallish by Chicago or Dallas standards but nonetheless turned a healthy business, blaring country music for the locals, not one of whom was chewing a stalk of wheat. The second place we went to was more along the lines of something you would find just about anywhere in Los Angeles, multiple venues under one roof catering to all comers in all stripes. Even then, warehouse club or not, everyone in the place seemed to know everyone else on sight if not by name.
Like just about every other state in the union Iowa derives its name from indigenous place names but Des Moines itself is shortened from Ft. Des Moines which takes its French origins from the "River of Monks" that runs through the heart of town on its way to the Mississippi. The native American nations did not fare well in the area but their story pales in comparison to their Sioux Nation brethren further west and north. The fort created to control the locals was abandoned after they were removed from the area but the population lingered and eventually grew in to the city I flew to see one weekend in June.
I went to satisfy a curiosity and when my plane left I knew it would be under rather unforeseen conditions that would cause me to return. I've lost touch with my friends there and have no family of my own in the area. But I went, it was pleasant enough an experience and I'm happy to say that I did.
Gotta go.

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