I have lived in the Quad Cities (Davenport, IA) for 34 years, coming here on a Trailway Bus. This is a diversified area which straddles the Mississippi River through Iowa and Illinois. It is known for the home of John Deere, Palmer College of Chiropractic, The Rock Island Arsenal and festivals. We have countless festivals if you like getting out. Yes we have the Bix. That is a 7 mile run and street music festival for our famous town drunk, trumpet player, Leon 'Bix' Beiderbecke (1903 - 1931). The lighted Centennial Bridge is romantic. The river views are breath taking and old homes are beautiful. But Davenport is known to flood every five years and so its streets are filled with stinky polluted water. And the street folks can been seen panhandling and collecting their treasurers daily.
What makes it any different than St. Louis, New Orleans or any other river town? I am not a salesman. I stick to my music and poetry and make a living here playing for weddings, retirement homes, singing telegrams, costume characters and corporate functions. So, it is a working town for me. You could listen to me entertain. I would even serenade you in the evening moonlight along the river. Yet, It is not my home...
The Sad Stench of A Dying Home Town
I grew up in a small town (now basically combined) called Tama-Toledo. It is 5,000 in population and boasts the Meskwaki Casino. They also have Pioneer, and had (past tense) the Iowa State Juvenile Home. We have The Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival and a yearly Stoplight festival. An old stoplight was placed in the middle of the street. But historic downtown is dead and the building are falling down. Small towns are dying across the Midwest. That is because a lot of us moved away. Those who stayed chose to shop in neighboring communities like Marshalltown, Waterloo or Cedar Rapids. Yet, my family came to this area in 1900 and are buried in its cemeteries. I anticipate in the next 25 years this town to be gone. But it is a nice place to get away from the city. There are no interstates to pen you in if there is an emergency.
Mom still lives there and teaches and plays for two churches at age 89. She lives alone and keeps active. My roots are here in the pages of music and poetical expressions. The time has been engraved in my heart and expressed in my morals and beliefs today. I once strayed but returned to my roots. I may one day return back there to live. Who knows. I could take you to the quaint old buildings, Wieting Theater, Casino, or drive around town. Perhaps we would go to Marshalltown for an outing.
I could bring up other towns. Being educated in Cedar Rapids (Coe College) or born in the Chicago area. Perhaps the years of genealogy and countless road trips I made to Newton, Des Moines or Okoboji, Iowa. They are all great towns and I am extremely fond of them. But I have learned something along life's way.
My home is not a physical place or city. It is in my heart and the memories there. Your heart and soul follow you and you carry gratitude for all the dear people and places along the way.
The Gratitude of Love Is Not A Dwelling
For those who follow my blogs, you know how the unexpected passing of my sweetheart, Marcia Mandle (1954 - 2016) here in Davenport, has shaped me. Her selfless love spoke to my heart. Grief brings the gift of gratitude and for that and her, I am eternally thankful. I would tell you all about our times and am currently writing a book about our relationship. Since July, I have been organist at Trinity United Methodist Church, Milan, where she grew up and her family still attends. God is good! Yes, I would bring you to church. I would take you to the estate sales and places we shared. I would even take you to my favorite place to eat...HyVee salad bar. There is so much I would share...if you would come.
The place I live is not a city, but I live in the gratitude for those people and memories in my heart.
Where Do I live? The Home Is Within us.
But I could do the same for Tama-Toledo, Newton, Cedar Rapids, Okoboji or Des Moines. They all are special. I carry these towns in my heart with gratitude and know they may not be special to other folks. But they are what shaped me and gave me the memories, morals and foundation for which I am eternally grateful.