Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts from the 712

Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores. Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
_ Bruce Springsteen, "My Hometown"

The short version of the story?

I was planning a vacation to Mexico in my head this week when I got my annual bonus check back in January.

That plan changed when I rolled my car near Madelia, MN approximately 5 hours later.

So I'm instead writing this while vacationing in Sioux City, Iowa. My Hometown.

Let's be honest, if you pressed me on the advantage Sioux City has over Mexico as a vacation destination, I'd say I prefer the water here to Mexico.

But really, there is something that soothes my soul when I'm home.

I drive past the Washington Elementary playground where I had my first kiss in fifth grade.

As I loop around the old neighborhood, I don't see houses.

Instead I see the faces of friends from the past, some of whom I'm lucky enough to have reconnected with all these years later.

A trip to the country takes me past the farm of my best friend, Jeff, where I was lucky to have mostly left in one piece given our ability to get into trouble.

Driving through downtown past City Hall, The Orpheum, my dad's old law office, I remember nights in high school spent cruising the downtown loop of Sioux City.

No question, the times I had here in my youth were great.

The time I spend here now is nothing short of that either.

Because even though a place that once relied on a world leading stockyards and a world leading computer manufacturer to drive it's economy has nothing near that now, they are still the same people I grew up with.

They don't stand around talking about how to fix a problem. They roll up their sleeves, get sweaty, and fix the damn thing.

If you want someone to respect you in Sioux City, you don't have to drive a fancy car or wear fancy clothes. You just have to earn their trust.

And yes, Sioux City is small enough that there's a little bit of small-town gossip here. But don't knock it. It can keep a person honest.

But I think what I like most now is that the people here are still happy to live a simple life. No fuss. Come as you are. Stay as long as you want.

I'm glad that I'm not sipping a cold drink in Mexico right now. Okay, that's a complete lie, but I truly am glad that I'm sipping a cold drink in my hometown.

It makes me feel sorry for people who don't appreciate their hometown. They're missing out on staying connected to something that shaped who they are as a person, like it or not.

Sioux City. She ain't always pretty. But she's mine.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sons and Brothers

A weekend alone with my sons, stuck inside due to snow, produces some interesting laboratory experiments.

Lots of fighting. Lots of "Dad, he called me a _____." Lots of me just wanting to shut the door to their room and crack open a beer.

Why don't these brothers get along? I was never like that as a kid.

Well, okay, actually my sons are saints (so far) compared to the things my brothers and I (mostly my brothers) pulled as kids.

There was the time that my brothers were left in charge of watching me while my parents left for the afternoon. Apparently my brothers, who are 5 and 6 years older than me, had other plans that day.

The next thing I knew I was chained up to the tree in the backyard, with a glass of water and slices of bread on a paper plate within reaching distance.

My parents ended up coming home early and finding me chained to the tree. I'm pretty sure my brothers ended up having to do some sort of home improvement project for my dad as a result of that one.

There was also the time when my parents left us alone for the day, and my brothers and I had watched one too many James Bond movies. We decided to rig the house with booby traps, including trip wires going into bedrooms.

Needless to say, we all got in a bit of trouble when a few hours after returning home, my mom tripped over a wire going into my bedroom as she was bringing a load of laundry in for me to put away.

But one thing about having two big brothers...when push came to shove they had my back.

Bully on the playground? Brothers to the rescue.

Older neighbor kid picking on me? Brothers to the rescue.

My oldest brother even took care of me for a week straight when we both had chicken pox at the same time. I seem to remember a lot of Swiss Miss hot cocoa and pre-microwave popcorn on the menu that week.

As I watch my sons today interact, even when they're ready to tear each others eyeballs out, it reminds me fondly of my brothers and I as kids.

My brothers and I don't live near each other anymore. But it hardly means we're not close.

I can only hope that Nile and Grady will have the same fondness toward each other 30 years from now.