The Weather At Noon

I want to tell you the story of my trip to Iowa, but I keep getting caught up in the details. I end up telling you about the weather, how it was a cool stormy afternoon when I arrived on Sunday and stayed cloudy for my Monday show. How it brightened up on Tuesday in Calmar, and how that contrasted with my gig there in February last year, when there was still snow in the fields. And on Wednesday and Thursday it was back to indeterminate gray haze in Cedar Rapids and Peosta.

This was the weather at noon, mind you, because that’s when my gigs were, and that’s the time of day that stuck with me, because I tend to take in all the details when I’m on the line. The rest of the day I could drive and listen to NPR on XM radio, or contemplate my nutritional options at drive-throughs, or just eat another one of the ten apples from the bag I bought at Wal-Mart.

But at noon each day, I went out and met a whole bunch of people and played music. I looked out the windows, I looked at the kids, sorry – students, at their tables, either looking up at me, or talking with each other, or playing massively multiplayer online role playing games, or sometimes just eating and reading.

Usually I’ll go around and put tattoos, postcards, and mailing lists on the tables before I play, and chat with people if they’re amenable. Sometimes they did cartwheels, sometimes they would look away with raised eyebrows like, Um, ok, uh thanks? and I was all, You’re welcome!

I try to keep a brave face for strange places. It’s like being in a wildlife preserve. What I remind myself is that the bears are more scared of you than you are of them. I stand up and hold out the sides of my coat and shout and try to appear as large as possible.

At no point do I run, because students are quick and besides, they are expert tree climbers. I have played dead on occasion, and survived with only slight mauling. But that’s kind of weak. Better to be loud and get eaten alive.

Everybody was pretty nice, though. Strangely, CD sales appeared to run in inverse proportion to the amount of applause at any particular show. Which kind of balanced things out. It’s amazing to get the whole room involved but it’s also cool when people are moved to step forward and say hello without reinforcement from the group. Not to mention spending money, as broke as everyone always is.

The storm was blowing back in when I returned my rental car at CID. Milk cost three dollars in ORD, and I refused to capitulate. Eventually I found a free pitcher by a Starbucks but was over it by that point. I paid five dollars for a magazine I wanted to read and when my friend Alex picked me up from RDU, I left it in the car for his apartment mates.

Thanks again to the Kirkwood and NICC activities folks for bringing me to campus, and to the prairie people and everyone in the Driftless. See you next time!

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