Travels with Smartacus: Des Moines, Iowa
We are staying overnight with an old friend in an old house in Des Moines.
You can’t get up quietly in a house like this. The floors creak and the old iron door hinges yip like Hitchcock violins. Yet, it is solid in ways a new house seldom is. The doors are heavy, with glass knobs and old timey turn-key locks. The base moldings substantial.
That’s the word for this house: substantial.
Des Moines, for all the public sculpture and downtown renaissance, seems of another era. I pronounce it Dey-Moi, like some sort of French pastry.
I have never seen so many good, substantial, affordable houses.
This buddy and I have known each other since my freshman year, at the college that lives under some major oaks nearby.
Back then, we lived in ’70s-era buildings that were either dorms or penitentiaries, I’m still not sure which. We drove past them yesterday, and I’m still not sure. College dorms remain the most charmless architecture in America. They are a point of passage. Survive a year or two here and you can maybe have a better life. It’s two steps left of basic training.
I’m not sure I’d like college these days. There are too many rules, too-quick judgments, a herd mentality. Once the most-Utopian institutions, American colleges now represent a form of intolerance. You know you have problems when our most-fearless warriors (standup comedians) won’t go near them anymore.
Des Moines, for all the public sculpture and downtown renaissance, seems of another era. I pronounce it Dey-Moi, like some sort of French pastry. #ChrisErskineLA #Roadtrips #IowaTweet
Hanging over this visit to my alma mater is the knowledge that a year from now, we’ll probably be packing up Smartacus for four years, in some prison-like dorm, where the sun is different, the food is strange, and there’s no dog around to wake you in the morning.
Fine by me. He’s due a little change, and the glories of a freshman year.
When it happens, if it happens – who can predict anything anymore? – I can only hope he finds a friend like this, who 45 years later hosts him in an old house with floors that creak and iron hinges that yip like violins.
Some things should never change.
Ride along on our 5,000-mile roadtrip from California to Chicago and back. Next stop: Denver.