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.


Alexander Chee said...

You got that Austin job! Hooray. That looked like a great job. That is really good news.

I spent my first year in what was once ROTC married officer housing out by the Hilltop and the cemetery. I remember I got chased by wild dogs that lived in the cemetery a few times.

I miss IC. Please send my best to Sam, Jim, Connie and Marilynne.

Ozma said...

I love this blurb on 'Black's Gaslight Village' website:

"The ambiance of the Village is unique and, therefore, may not appeal to everyone. We suggest that you stop by and look the place over, on your own, at your leisure, before proceeding further."

Sounds so ominous. Or maybe it's a cult!

This post made me nostalgic for places I've left.

Marcelisima said...

I think you will love Austin. And there's a lot of neat stuff to do with your family in the central Texas area (Austin San Marcos San Antonio).

Anonymous said...

Your room may have looked like a former porch, but it was in fact a strange addition to the house. I know the room well, my dad built that room in the early 60's and then 10 yrs later, my brother made it into an apartment for himself. Mostly made of used material. So it looks older than it is. My family sold the property in Aug of 1987 to the Wayne's. They have since really fixed up the property and the Gaslight looks great now. I grew up there in the 70's and had a great time.

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