Stella says that Des Moines, Iowa is my happy place, which is startling to think about, because if Des Moines didn't have Stella and her family of friends, then the only thing going for it would be the Iowa State Fair.
I'd hate to think that if you can fry it and put it on a stick, you can find it in my happy place.
Granted, the Fair does rate as the number two vacation spot in America after Disney World, but that still isn't enough to drag me across the Canadian border, all the way to Ioway. Not in October, anyway, when everybody knows the Fair is in August, and really, there's only so much corn and non-ironic hair you can look at.
Mind you, that's probably an unfair statement, inasmuch as Des Moines has afforded me the opportunity to eat Mandarin barbeque, and salivate over a Hopper, and shove a dollar bill down a go-go boy's Speedo, and see a bull with testicles the size of a couple of roast chickens.
Over a visit here and a visit there, Stella introduced me to Art Girl, and the next day, I met Sage, who introduced me to her golden Jon, and eventually, I met Art Girl's Boy, and he introduced me to about 750 people by telling them, one by one, that I was "rather easy" and also, "Canadian", which made me throw my head back in laughter and feel not like a stranger at all, but rather like someone who could be teased, with comfort, like a friend. Eventually, Joe came into the picture, like he'd been there always, and in a very real way, he kind of was, and he welcomed me in, along with Stella, and together we all just continued the sentence that got interrupted the last time I had to get on a plane and go home.
When I lost Frankie, I yearned for my friends, my Emersons in the corn, my art and music and food snobs. It's not that I had no one here; God knows that would be farthest from the truth. But still, I craved my funny, dark, Midwesterners, with their acid tongues and their common sense, and I craved my happy place. From far away, Stella coached me in the art of pain management. Sage encouraged me to get, to go, to literally find a new view for a while, which is how I ended up in London last year. And Auntie Shellie would look up from her own grief and ask me, honey, how you holding up...
Sage and her Jon have this pumpkin carving party every year, which is famous for not sending anyone to the hospital, what with all the drink and knives floating around. Deep-seated psychological issues evidence themselves through the use of tiny saws and pumpkin guts. There have been pumpkin hysterectomies and Osama Bin Pumpkins and this year, there was even a pumpkin that either had a gourd in his pocket or was happy to see me. I've been honoured with invitations for a while now, but this was the first year I had the chance to book a flight and RSVP a grateful yes.
All weekend long, Joe or Stella kept me laughing, Will&Gracing me in the best possible way, humouring me when I needed to be humoured, and feeding me the rest of the time. By the time Saturday night rolled around, I was so comfortable, I forgot about worrying about my hair or my shoes or whether I looked fat in this. I got to flirt and wield a giant knife and drink wine and eat banofee pie and make jokes and take pictures and clutch my head a little the next morning, as we all laughed over everything at brunch, when they came to eat eggs and drink Bloody Mary’s and hug me good-bye.
I picked and carved a pumpkin this year, for the first time, and I ate Mexican food and Indian food on the same day, and I saw my Hopper again, and I laughed with my friends
It was a lovely, happy weekend, in my lovely, happy place.
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