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2001–An American Odyssey, Part II

Last week I included come writings from my experience working in Cedar Rapids and the Midwest in 2001. Thanks so much to those who provided positive feedback. It feels weird to share some of the writings given that I don’t know everyone on the list very well, but since there is positive feedback, I’ll keep sharing.
I have often said the world is very small and FULL of coincidences. Last week I posted my first re-publication about Cedar Rapids, and then this week the city is all over the news because of historic flooding. This is creeping me out. The situation there right now is one step short of Katrina. My old office in the downtown core is under 10 feet of water, and my favourite train trestle which had an unusual suspension design collapsed yesterday. The apartment complex I lived in is also under water, but from the water levels, I suspect that my building is not yet wet. The water is going to crest this morning at 30 feet above flood stage. Down river in Iowa City, the University of Iowa is completely under water and major buildings including the IMU, Hancher, and the arts buildings are threatened. I have been connecting with friends there. All businesses are closed. If the story of the floods interests you, you may want to check out this great local website: University of Iowa flood information http://uiflood.blogspot.com/
The rest is my writings from 2001.

The Sights and Sounds

When John was here we spent several days driving around and re-enjoying this fun things to do in the area. One day we ended up in the Amana Colonies and had chocolate cream pie at the Ox Yoke Inn. Another day we went down to Coralville Lake which was created by the Army Corp of Engineers. When the big 100-year flood happened in 1993, the Dam spilled over and ripped everything down to bedrock and they found lots of fossils there. We also went to Taste of Iowa City one Friday night and enjoyed a great band. This brought back a lot of memories for us. We both think University of Iowa students look EXACTLY the same as they did 15 years ago.

(2008 comment: It is Coralville Lake that is causing all the flooding in Iowa City. It is a very cool place. We don’t have anything like it here.

Another comment to make about this passage is about the chocolate cream pie. Let me tell you, the only dessert you can buy in Iowa is pie, and any flavour you pick is 100 times better than any pie you’ve ever had here. The day we ended up at the Ox Yoke Inn, the pie bakers were in full swing. We must’ve had 15-20 different types of pies to choose from!)

The Sweet Smell of Success

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing little vignettes about Cedar Rapids and have not mentioned, “that smell”. Yes, Cedar Rapids smells. I haven’t gotten used to it yet. Sometimes it is a good smell and sometimes it is a bad smell. I have heard that you can tell the day of the week by the smell. Back when I was in University, they called Cedar Rapids the city of seven smells. They try not to let that get out anymore. Tonight when I was riding my bike, I distinctly smelled Capn Crunch with Crunch Berries. Sometimes when I’m riding I feel like I’m riding inside a cereal box. I think that is what is giving me my sweet tooth. A few mornings ago, I swear I smelled Cookie Crisp cereal. Some mornings it smells like Quaker apples and cinnamon oatmeal. On Wednesdays at lunchtime, it distinctly smells like burnt corn syrup. Someone told me that they do some changeover process at Cargill on Wednesday morning and that is what causes the smell. There isn’t a quadrant of the city that doesn’t have a grain processing plant, so virtually wherever you go there’s a new smell. Scottie told me that Cedar Rapids produces more breakfast products than any other city in North America, more than Battle Creek, MI. Ah, did I mention the smell of money?

(2008 comment: I don’t think I even give justice in this paragraph to the way that Cedar Rapids smells. To a large extent, you do feel like you’re living in a cereal box; but what is missing in this passage is the other unpleasant side effect of living in CR, which I didn’t discover until July. Because CR is surrounded by farmland, the corn pulls the water out of the soil and you get unbelievable 100% humidity. This residual effect of the combination of airborne sugar and humidity is that everything in your environment becomes sticky to the touch.
Another kind of funny reflection for me in this paragraph is the comment about the “smell of money”. I didn’t realize it until just now, but that is an old farmer’s expression my mother always used to use. When I was growing up, if you drove by a pig farm and someone in the car said, “Yuck, what’s that smell?”, my mother would say, “It is the smell of money”!)

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