Sunday, August 20, 2006

Day 9: Des Moines, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska

This morning we were meeting my mom's uncle and cousin at a diner near Drake, my mom's alma mater. Before breakfast, though, we drove around campus a little bit, and I saw my mom's old dormitory and sorority house. After breakfast we drove around Des Moines and looked at various houses that members of the family had lived in. I think they were my great-grandparents, but it could also be my great-great-grandparents. I'm losing track of the generations. If I have it right, my great-great-grandparents lived in what sounds like a very cool old house that would be right across from the state capitol, if it had not been replaced by a parking lot. We have an antique couch at home that used to be in that house.

What does remain, though, is the hotel that they established. It is now the office of a lawyer and a post office. This is East Des Moines, which was always sort of a seedy side of town, but the hotel did pretty well, it sounds like.

It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

After scoping out the family history in Des Moines, we went back to Drake. My great uncle, who is 89, has worked in the athletic department there for 60 years--and he is still working. He is an institution there, and everyone seems to know him. It was great when we were walking down the street and these two big football boys waved from across the street and said, "Hello, Mr. Morrison." So he took us on a tour of the Drake athletic facilities.

The Drake Relays are a pretty big deal out here, but judging by the size of the field they can't really rival the Penn Relays. I might still come to check them out at some point while I'm out west. The track here is really historic, but it wasn't a regulation size, so they recently had to knock out part of the stands, making it a slightly less intimate venue for the fans. Some people aren't happy about that.

In the new field house, there is an athletic Hall of Fame named in honor of my great uncle, who was giving us the tour.

Some artwork on the walls there. Paul is painted up in the very top right corner, overlooking all of the athletes. He had no idea that he was going to be included on the mural, and they kept that part of the painting covered until the dedication ceremony.

From Des Moines we drove two hours to Omaha. We got in in the early afternoon and had some time to walk down to the Old Market District, which has been very yuppified and turned into a trendy little area. Since Omaha is a hip city and all, I decided to check out a couple of independent record stores. I resisted the temptation to spend a lot of money, but probably shouldn't have, because who knows when I will next be in a good record store. Let's hope Rapid City has something.

For dinner we visited a friend of my mom's from when she worked as a social worker in Chicago. I heard all kinds of great stories about patients that I had never heard before. Nancy lives in a tower that is restricted to residents ages fifty and over; she was telling some pretty great stories about all the characters who live there. I look forward to moving into a retirement home; it seems sort of like going back to college, only without any of the work or pressure. I decided that I would like to get all my friends from college to retire to the same place.

Tomorrow I drop my mom off at the Omaha Airport and from here out it's a solo run. That means the music will be a bunch louder and everything will be much less organized. I haven't even quite figured out my route yet; I'm feeling a bit of pressure to get home and get cracking on work, but there is a lot yet to see. I think my plan is to wind through the Loess Hills of Iowa tomorrow, check out Sioux Falls' evening scene, and then make my way across South Dakota on Tuesday, stopping at all of the essential South Dakotan oddities.

1 comment:

Tim said...

i'd retire in a place with other goats. it'd be like a comfort 2nd 2k5-2k6 reunion.