My husband and I intended to walk by the Iowa River.
I love the river. My defunct high school, now the site of the Iowa Center for the Book, is on the river. The University of Iowa Library is on the river. The English-Philosophy Building where I took so many classes is on the river.
The Russian professor used to walk by the river in his Gogolian Overcoat and tall fur hat.
My kind T.A., T. Coraghessan Boyle, whose class I illicitly took as a freshman (sophomore status was required]), and who had recently published a story about Lassie in Esquire, used to walk by the river. (Did he say, “Friends call me T,” or have I misremembered?)
Three of the five of us in Age of Cicero met in the Wheel Room in the Union on the river twice a week to celebrate having made no mistakes in the presence of our mocking professor.
We have come back to Iowa City over the years to visit my mother, go to bookstores, and walk by the river.
The river is flooded again.
The first flood was in 1993. The second was in 2008. Iowa City was declared a federal disaster area.
And now it is flooding again, and what happens may depend on the rains in Northern Iowa and how the rivers swell that run downstream into the Iowa River. A Disaster Preparedness Fair, part of the “Living with Floods” program, will be held Saturday, 2 p.m to 3:30 p.m., at The Center.
The water is as high as the bridge at Dubuque and Park. Construction workers flocked on the bridge, but I don’t know what they were doing. The Upper Level of City Park is open, but we walked down a closed trail to take a closer look at the flooded lower level of the park, almost entirely underwater.
This is usually roads, picnic tables, and baseball diamonds. It is hard to take in that this disaster area is where I grew up, where nothing ever happened, thank God.
I remember riding my bicycle to the park (at 11? 12?) with my copy of Harriet the Spy and my notebook. Harriet wrote down everything in her notebook, until her friends got hold of it, and there were repercussions. Didn’t we all love Harriet the Spy? Didn’t we all want to write everything down?
It was kind of a dull park, not where I usually spent time, but my husband and I occasionally walked here when we were students. And we did attend a company picnic here once. I can’t remember whose company it was.
Obviously Shakespeare at the Riverside Theatre will not he held in the park this summer. It will be at West High School Auditorium instead.
On June 13, 2013, it is especially a shock to see Normandy Drive, a tony street near City Park, sandbagged and flooding. As Donnarae MacCann, who rebuilt her house after the flood of 2008, told Iowa Public Radio, “I remember people saying to me, it’s so risky how can you stay, but I say how can you leave? It’s the most beautiful place on the planet.”
Such a beautiful quote, and I do know what she means. This is her home. You stay as long as you can.
Recommended flood reading: Mary Swander’s The Girls on the Roof, a poetic novella about the Flood of 1993. Set in Pompeii (pronounced Pom-pee), Iowa, the poem tells the story of Maggie and Pearl, a mother and daughter who get stuck on the roof of Crazy Eddy’s Cafe during the flood. And when the corpse of Mike Fink from the junkyard washes up, they realize he was the lover of both mother and daughter.
Here is a description of Maggie in a cottonwood tree:
She dangled above the flat roof of Crazy Eddy’s,
the flood waters gurgling below.
Why me? she wailed to the wind,
the leaves and twigs brushing her face.
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