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December 29, 2006


Waiting for my ride to the airport in the Hotel Fort Des Moines' lobby, it's worth saying that Des Moines is a genuinely charming, cool city. My friend phoned to inform me that it leads the nation in bars per capita, which seems a result of both the large number of bars and the very small number of people. The bars, assumedly, are related to the downtown's recent revitalization, which has created a surprisingly hip, if unsettlingly empty, "East Village" area.

It's a bit odd being the only one walking down the street at any given time, but if I were overwhelmed and wanted to relax in a quiet, low-priced spot for a few days, I'd come here, eat at Baby Boomer's cafe (so named because "Boomer" originally ran it, then his youngest daughter took it over), hang out at the Roasting Co. coffee shop (surprisingly good cookies), then wander around The Bookstore, which carries, among its very limited selection of magazines, The American Prospect. And now off to the airport, where I'll fly in the wrong direction till I reach Georgia, then turn around back to Orange County. Grr.

December 29, 2006 | Permalink


Sounds like a place you'd like to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. As a lifelong Iowan, I had the exact same feeling when I went to both NYC and DC :)

Posted by: MeanBoneII | Dec 29, 2006 4:05:18 PM

Two posts in a row calling Des Moines charming! I'm beginning to wonder if it's John Edwards who's running for office or you...

Oh, there's nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you when they treat you (which they may not do at all.)

Posted by: Royko | Dec 29, 2006 4:47:10 PM

"Two posts in a row calling Des Moines charming!"

If you're a coastal liberal, there really is something charming at first exposure about the whole upper Midwest - especially the underpopulated areas.

But, yes, once you become more familiar with the region, you do realize that Des Moines ain't as good as it gets.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 29, 2006 5:10:44 PM

I really think most coastal residents would find the Midwest pleasantly surprising. On my drive-around-the-country post college trip, I really enjoyed most of the cities I went to there.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Dec 29, 2006 5:24:25 PM

Nick - The Midwest is charming... and then one gets on a plane, goes home, and goes back to shopping at Saks. :) I've not seen DesMoines, but a few others... I too enjoy those "funky outposts" meant to evoke things like the Village... but of course, I'd still go to the Actual Village once my trip was over.

United also flies to DesMoines, by the way. I would think DesMoines-Chicago-CA would be better...

Happy New Year WeBoy (putting the Limousine in Liberal since 1997.) :)

Posted by: weboy | Dec 29, 2006 5:37:53 PM

i went through adair, iowa on route 80 a very long time ago (another lifetime ago), driving cross country..route 80 west to the promised land.
it was summertime, and so greenly beautiful.
met a lady in the post office, who owned a beautiful farm, and she invited us to stay the night.
i remember in late summer afternoon,she proudly showed us the emerald fields, crops and old, perfect barn....
she was widowed, and managing the whole place by herself, with two young daughters.
...someone in her family had been in the jesse james robbery there, and she showed us the monument.
....greenest greens, bluest bluesky blues and nicest people! happy memories of adair, iowa!

Posted by: jacqueline | Dec 29, 2006 5:54:20 PM

As someone born and raised in Des Moines, let me just say it's a shithole. I had the opportunity to grow up in the Midwest and go to college on the west coast, so believe me when I say that Madison is the best of both worlds. And what with the global warming and all, the winter isn't even that bad lately.

Posted by: Greg | Dec 29, 2006 7:24:37 PM

And now off to the airport, where I'll fly in the wrong direction till I reach Georgia, then turn around back to Orange County. Grr.

If he's flying to ATL, he's probably flying Delta. Which means he really ought to have been booked DSM->SLC->LAX/SNA, or at the very least DSM->CVG->LAX/SNA (Cincy).

It's possible that there's an ATL->SNA direct but not the others, which is why he's doing that.

Or, he bought an IAD->ATL->SNA ticket two months ago, and then TAP sent him to cover the Edwards announcement and shuffled his ticket around.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Dec 29, 2006 7:48:20 PM

I'd take Iowa City (the University makes it special) over Des Moines, but there lots of 'nice' cities in the midwest (Bloomington IN being another one) if you are white, employed at upper middle-class wages, str8, married with kids, and prefer teevee football to almost any other passtime.

Especially, you'd like it if you don't hunger for the ocean, mountains, lots of liberal folks with liberal proclivities, huge forests, diversity in race and national origin (first generation), etc.

Need I mention the influence in Midwest USA of religious groups, the GOP running things, fear/hate of the 'other', etc.?

There are reasons the coasts are blue and the heartland is red, you know.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Dec 29, 2006 7:50:44 PM

"I'd take Iowa City"

All the Midwestern state university towns are wonderful. Ann Arbor, Madison, and Iowa City are especially nice. Even Austin kicks ass.

But rural Iowa and Minnesota outside of the industrial farming zones are incredibly special. Too bad civilized folk can't survive for long that far away from the salt water.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 29, 2006 8:09:14 PM

Could you share with your readers the quick interview you had with a Republican (former or recovering) dairy farmer last night in the aftermath of the DM town hall event in the context of that person's search for a President in 2008?

Nice to meet you finally. I was so surprised to see you at the event. Safe travels and I will try to post more often.


Posted by: Benny | Dec 29, 2006 8:47:59 PM

I'm almost finished with Bill Bryson's "Thunderbolt Kid" and I must say...I have an overwhelming urge to visit Des Moines.

Felt the same way after reading "Walk in the Woods" and "In a Sunburned Country", too.

Damn you, Bill Bryson!

Posted by: san antone rose | Dec 29, 2006 11:30:04 PM

Minneapolis-St. Paul is the hip new place to be. Duluth is revitalized and by the water of Lake Superior, if you can stand the winters.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 30, 2006 12:13:15 AM

Des Moines ia a cool town-- great barbeque, pretty yet approachable girls, actually some culture. I travel all over the country for work and I've found the nicest people in America seem to be in Iowa and Nebraska. What I remember is even businessmen who didn't like me treated me fairly. You can't ask for more than that.

Oh and the most kickass business attorney in America (in my exerience, at least) lives in Des Moines, young guy named Jordan Hansell. I had a project go to hell and my company's in-house lawyer thought it would take 6 months of litigation to untangle it, Jordan settled it in a week. Found out after I hired him (he never brought it up) that he had clerked for Justice Scalia before he moved home to practice law.

Posted by: beowulf | Dec 30, 2006 4:57:26 AM

Are you coming to Chapel Hill today? There will be about 30 local bloggers right up front so comne and say Hello.

Posted by: coturnix | Dec 30, 2006 2:02:57 PM

Need I mention the influence in Midwest USA of religious groups, the GOP running things, fear/hate of the 'other', etc.?

There are reasons the coasts are blue and the heartland is red, you know.

These statements are fundamentally incorrect, and only demonstrate the overgeneralizations and lack of actual knowledge of Jim from Oregon.

Firstly, I'd argue that midwesterners certainly don't hate the 'other.' On the contrary, most would love a chance to show the 'other' around and invite the 'other' in for dinner.

The idea that all midwesterners are Republicans or that the "heartland is red" is also a misconception. Look at any recent presidential election result, and you will see that the upper midwest, particularly the states of MN, IL, WI, and often IA, is one of three regions to be fairly consistently blue, along with both the coasts. Indeed, Jim's state, Oregon, voted for a Republican for president more recently than Minnesota did.
And as for Iowa, with the exception of 2004, it has voted for the same presidential candidate as Oregon every election since 1952.

Jim should do a little more research before he makes his claims about the political leanings of the midwest.

Posted by: iowan | Nov 13, 2007 1:40:39 AM

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