Writer’s Week #4

Applesauce cake.

These cold, windy days have been invaluable for writing. There have been some warm spells, yet the ground remains frozen, and desire to stay indoors is strong. Highs are forecast in the teens the next couple of days.

I found an old jar of applesauce, tasted it to make sure it was good, and baked an applesauce cake. This dense, slightly sweet cake could be split into two loaf pans and made as bread. Who wants to wash the extra dish? Topped with homemade apple butter, it is a mid-winter treat made from pantry staples.

A lot is going on in the political world. Reports say there is a high level of engagement among Democratic activists. Activists are one thing. Voters are another. More work is required on the latter. The field of candidates won’t be known until the filing period closes on March 18 for federal and state offices, and March 25 for county ones.

In the state senate district a bicycle ride away, Molly Donahue and Austin Frerick are in a primary for the Democratic nomination to replace state senator Liz Mathis, who is running for the U.S. Congress. I like Molly a lot and have attended her public outreach sessions held in nearby Ely. Frerick may be better known state-wide, and is expected to be better financed. It’s a race to watch. In the meanwhile, I am expecting a formal announcement from incumbent Kevin Kinney in my senate district in early March.

At the beginning, I didn’t think there would be much about which to write regarding my four-year stay at the University of Iowa. It turns out I was wrong.

The first third of my current project was written mostly from photographs and memory with a few history references scattered in. Now that I’ve entered the part where there is more written record, the story got complicated.

The period from Kent State on May 4, 1970 until May 1972 encompassed most of the anti-war activity at the University of Iowa campus. Both former university president Willard Boyd, and former dean of the Graduate College D.C. Spriesterbach wrote of the events in their memoirs. In addition, the Daily Iowan newspaper stores archived editions online at no cost for users. I have been able to re-read newspapers from the spring of 1971, my freshman year. Combine that with my personal documents and memory, there is a lot to go through and distill.

Music was important during university. I learned to play guitar and participated in the local music culture which included countless appearances by bands touring the country. There were big venue offerings like The Grateful Dead, Grand Funk Railroad, The Allman Brothers Band, and Leon Russell. There were smaller venue offerings with Muddy Waters, Luther Allison, and Ravi Shankar. I can’t recall all the long-time blues artists who performed in downtown Iowa City. My mates from high school and I started a rhythm and blues band about 1973. My record collection grew considerably at university. All that experience needs some clarity and compression, yet not too much.

When I moved to Forest View Trailer Court, I started cooking and have some memories of early experiments to share. I recall using the first loaf of bread I baked as a door stop because it was so dense as to be inedible. Food will be a major theme later in the story. I’ll be planting some seeds here.

I was able to graduate in four years, debt free. Things didn’t cost as much in the early 1970s. In light of the $120,000 expense our child incurred at a private college, there is a point to make about student loans and the cost of higher education.

The choice a writer has to make is whether to do all the work in the present, or to write one version today and add to it later. I’m likely to write my autobiography just once, so this is it. That makes the process longer than cranking out a 100,000-word work of fiction in a year. Progress was made this week. For that, I am thankful. Plenty of additional work lies ahead.