Turns out, I have completed more than a year living in Des Moines, Iowa. Well, since my initial ramblings about Des Moines in my Des Moines 101 post about a year ago, I would say it has been an eventful time. For the most part, things have become progressively better and continue to do so. And without my own knowledge, I appear to have created some really beautiful memories to look back upon and smile about. Let’s see. Where do I start now?
1. How about Omaha? The city I grew to love and cherish. Turns out, within a few weeks after coming to Des Moines and setting up house in early March, I was sent to live in a hotel for the next 9 months till the end of the year! Well, thats pretty much how it worked out. I was sent out to work in the field and as a result, ended up staying at a hotel for 10-14 day stretches. My field work was at Council Bluffs, a small city in Iowa known for its casinos on the banks of the Missouri river. On the other side of the river is this city that really grew on me: Omaha, Nebraska.
It was a beautiful place indeed. Slightly larger than Des Moines, but still equally peaceful. A lot more places to visit and a lot more things to do – not the least of which is one of America’s largest zoos and a fairly impressive pedestrian bridge across the Missouri river. It was always a pleasure to walk the downtown area too- specifically in and around the Old Market square, a small area of a few blocks radiating a distinct European feel. Old records stores, microbreweries, handicraft shops, coffee stalls lining the sidewalk everywhere.
I had a fairly good time while I was out there. But perhaps, the best was saved for the last, when I had a truly wonderful time in the closing weeks with a friend I just happened to have met then. It was a memorable 11 days that we got to spend together, working in -15 deg C temperature outside during the day, and then having dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking downtown Omaha across the Missouri river. Those long conversations about books over coffee, jokes on geotech over beer, and walking the snow-laden roads of the Old Market Square when it was still snowing – these are perhaps the things that I will remember when someone asks me about my time out in the field. Great way to wind up my field work.
2. But perhaps my time out in the field will be remembered more for the gamut of cars that I had the opportunity to drive. I pretty much exhausted all that Hertz and Enterprise had to offer over the 9 months. The most memorable of those was driving the bright red Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and the 2011 Dodge Charger. I am pretty sure I have almost every full size car I can probably think of. And for all that renting that my company did, I now have more than 2 weeks of free rentals with Hertz. Talk about a double edged sword (or its opposite!).
3. All the concerts I attended the past year. I don’t know where to start. Started with Jeff Beck at Minneapolis; Deep Purple (2nd time) in Chicago; Black Keys, Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch, Korn and Disturbed in Council Bluffs; A Perfect Circle, STS9, Black Keys (again) and Muse at Kansrocksas in Kansas City; the Doobie Brothers at Elk County, WI; and Guns N Roses and Puscifer at Omaha. Those who know me very well are fully aware of my obsession with the whole concert experience. To me, it can appear that everything I do in life ultimately serves as a means to an end – the end being the concert experience. The past year’s concerts have been truly remarkable and I have been thoroughly satisfied. I now have a whole bunch of them lined up for the next few months!
4. All my travels. Perhaps THE most memorable times I have had in the past year – easily. I wasn’t even aware of the travel bug in me until I got my lazy ass out of the bed and decided to drive close to a 1000 miles in less than 24 hours! ( I am not sure I could do it again, but I maybe wrong). My vacations have been quite regular and remarkable.
It started off with me wanting to watch Jeff Beck live in Minneapolis on a Sunday. I bought tickets on Friday and set out on a long, roundabout trip to Minneapolis early Sunday morning – just by myself. Ended up going to La Crosse, Lake City, Red Wing and a whole bunch of other places I had absolutely no plan to visit – all on my way to Minneapolis. Reached the city at around 6 pm, watched the concert till 1030, headed back to Des Moines and reached home at 315 AM, and drove to Council Bluffs at 6AM! Close to 1000 miles it was and like I said, I am not sure if I could do that again! Great time nevertheless!
Then there was this trip to Missouri – again by myself. I had a week off at work and decided I needed a vacation. A truly beautiful and attractive state. I wrote about my trip in detail here. 4 days or so I spent there.
My trip to Wisconsin – that was really an on the fly vacation. Found out the Doobie Brothers were playing a concert in nearby Wisconsin. I decided to use that as an excuse to take another vacation. This time I had some company. A 3 day trip covering Madison, House on the Rocks, Lake Geneva and the concert itself. I could write pages about each place – seriously. Especially the House on the Rocks – a remarkable and surreal experience, you actually feel you are bending both space and time in there (AMERICAN GODS – ring a bell?). That last line is really not an exaggeration. The more your ignorance and unawareness about the place, the more you allow yourself to be captivated in the strangest way possible!
And then there was my trip to Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Highway and the Grand Tetons. I should shoot myself before I attempt to convey all that I felt and experienced during those 5 days in a small part of a post. I had been there in October last year. And today it stands as one of my proudest experiences in all my life! That is right. Note that I didn’t just say memorable or remarkable. I was left so much in awe of the whole experience, that I truly feel proud of it. Hard to think of anything else I could have possibly done that could have made me feel better than this. Maybe it had something to do with the exquisite and jaw dropping scenery; maybe it had something to do with racing a Chevrolet Camaro at 120 mph through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; maybe it had something to do with the joy of discovering a barely known gem of a drive – the Beartooth Highway; or maybe it was a bit of everything. But damn me if I don’t get my lazy ass down to writing a whole post (or a bunch of posts) about those phenomenal few days in Montana and Wyoming!
5. My Vinyl collection. This has come as a real surprise to myself. I was never much of a collector of anything. But now I own and totally admire my still growing collection of about a 100 vinyl records. This is something I have come to have some real passion for and I take a lot of pleasure in buying and listening to these old records on my record player. How I came about this and my thoughts on the very idea of the vinyl really needs a more elaborate treatment but that really is another post in itself.
6. The Moment. It was maybe sometime in November last year. I was sitting in my home on my couch with a beer in hand, watching a movie. I paused the movie for a bit. Still sitting on the couch and still with the beer in my hand, I looked around. I saw that I had an apartment all for myself; I looked at my projector beaming a 10′ by 15′ image on the wall; I looked at the JBL 5.1 Home theater audio system; I saw my vinyl player and my sizeable collection; I saw my bass guitar and amp; then I looked at my camera and tripod lying in the corner; I saw my car parked outside my house; and then I thought:
Fuck me! I have everything I had EVER wanted to own in my entire life!
And right then, at that moment, was the strong feeling of having arrived somewhere. As much as I am not a believer in fate or destiny, I just knew, that at that very moment, I was perhaps exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt right in place.
And that was awesome.