Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's been 21 years since I first set foot in Iowa City. My cousin Elizabeth was having a 90th birthday party in Des Moines, so I flew in for that, took the Greyhound bus to Iowa City to look for an apartment, went back to Des Moines to pick up my enormous duffle bag filled with I-don't-know-what-all, and came back. I took the cheapest apartment I saw, which was at Black's Gaslight Village, and then I went to yard sales to buy furniture. My bed was two kids beds pushed together (about as comfortable as it sounds). My memory is that I carried them in pieces to my apartment. I do remember lugging an armchair blocks and blocks, stopping every now and then to rest. I wanted to sit down in it on street corners to catch my breath, but was too self-conscious.

That apartment was a very strange space. It must have been an old porch. You walked in, and there was a galley kitchen to the left, and a storage space to the right. Three steps down to the sunken living room, which had a concrete floor. Behind that was the bathroom with its elevated toilet (for some obscure plumping reason, it sat on a small platform) and inadequate wall. I slept in a room-sized loft overlooking everything. There was a skylight. A year later, when I moved out, a neighbor said to me, "Yes: it will be nice for you to live somewhere where people can't see everything you do through your skylight." I'd decided tp leave when I woke up one morning and heard my neighbor crying very, very quietly in her kitchen. I stayed in bed a long time that morning.

21 years later, Edward and I are teaching here for the last time. In January, we'll move to Austin, where I've accepted a job at the University of Texas. I'm tremendously excited about that, and very nostalgic about my last time in The City of Iowa City. & it feels right (though tremendously annoying) that our first lodgings this semeste fell through, and so we had to outfit a house from the ground up.

I am now nearly twice as old as I was the first time I moved here.

Monday, September 07, 2009

We are in Iowa City! A little unsettled—it’s a long, possibly unbloggable story—but by Wednesday we should be in a house, and so this morning we went to a flea market, to see if we could buy things for it. Alas, I missed the 1940s USO puppet theater by seconds—it said VICTORY at the top, and oh, I feel its loss—but I had a funny thought when I wandered around. When I left IC in the summer of 2009, I got rid of nearly everything. Rachel Pastan was nice enough to let the one good piece of furniture I’d inherited from a relative hitch a ride to the East Coast on her moving truck, but I decided to ride trains for three weeks and so anything that didn’t fit in my suitcase, I gave away. This included a fairly extensive collection of 1950s china jaguars—lamps, planters, etc. I saw one that looked familiar today. I tried to catch its eye, like a bad date from my youth. You look the same, I thought, and I felt it think back, Really? Because you’ve changed.