On Mississippi Avenue

1028 Mississippi Ave., Davenport Iowa. Provenance unknown.

My twelve-week stay at a 5,175 square foot Queen Ann Victorian that had been divided into apartments was an important turning point in my life.

Even though Fall 1975 was the first time I lived alone, there was a lot of stuff to cram into a single room with a shared bath at 1028 Mississippi Ave. in Davenport. I parked my 1961 Chevy Impala on the street, and had a telephone connected. I cleared my mind of the distractions of living in a busy, rundown neighborhood on Seventh Street. I rested, attended events and considered my future. It was calm before the storm.

I began with a journal entry on Sept. 11, 1975:

This new apartment already begins the rebirth which is so much needed by my soul at this time. The neighborhood is quite quiet and the apartment that I rent is at the end of a small hallway off the main one.

Across the street is another large house that has been subdivided into apartments and it is quite a ways away. Further up the block there is a Jewish synagogue, Temple Emmanuel. The river is about three or four blocks away.

It seems there are some well to do neighbors to the south of this building, who at this time are having a dinner party of some sort. But at the same time I believe the area is on the fringes of the poverty area mostly to the west. The wealthy area of the town, the Heights, is to the east.

The landlord’s brother lives upstairs in the attic and he mysteriously comes and goes. “Sometimes he’s there, sometimes he’s not. Ask him if you need anything,” the landlord said. Time will tell as I ask God to manifest His will. My major tasks at this time are to set up my own household for what is to be the first time. All for the honor and glory of God.”

Personal Journal, 1028 Mississippi Ave., Davenport, Iowa, Sept. 11, 1975.

The previous six years, since leaving home for university, were a period of experimentation and trial of one thing or another. If anything, my activities resulted in me being what I was and being able to live with myself.

There were things I would have liked to change, like getting off the graveyard shift at the dairy store, and better nutrition. Those things could be worked on. At the time, I felt closer to God than I had for a long time. “He gives me strength,” I wrote.

During my time there I read and wrote in my journal, attended local events, made trips to Chicago, Des Moines, and Iowa City, and prepared for the big project that felt imminent. I didn’t know what that was when I moved in. I viewed myself foremost as a writer, although I didn’t have enough income to do anything but get by.

I attended a Chaim Potok reading at Temple Emmanuel, a Mike Seeger performance at Saint Ambrose College, and heard a lecture by Philip Berrigan at the Friendly House. I was struck enough with Berrigan to write a quote about his notion of life in my journal, “exerting one’s will over this existence to make a life.” That’s what I thought I wanted to do.

I invited Mother over for dinner and made tuna and noodle casserole. It was the only prepared dish in my culinary repertory in 1975. She tolerated the meal, and we went for a walk to nearby Prospect Terrace Park. While my apartment was modest, it served as a good place to sort out my life. It was fitting my first dinner guest was Mother.

I explored my religious self during this period. In part, it was a reaction to living alone.

What are the problems that face me? It seems that the biggest one is that of faith. I believe that God is manifest in this world, something which I did not or rather suspended  belief for a while, yet I cannot come to accept the Church as his manifestation. There are others similar to me in this sort of belief, but I do not seek the approval of other people in my beliefs. That is something I have taken upon myself to bear. In this belief, I am quite alone, although I seek communication with others, it is only for the making contact with God in their souls that I do this and in behaving in ways people seem to have difficulty in understanding me. Be that as it may, I am.

Personal Journal, 1028 Mississippi Ave., Davenport, Iowa, Nov. 2, 1975.

A year earlier I considered entering the Roman Catholic priesthood, yet that seemed like a wrong path. My friends talked me out of it.

The transition at Mississippi Avenue was in part a lack of other intellectual outlets. I met with and spoke to a lot of people at the dairy store. I encountered people I’d known a long time. There was no likely relationship-building as I sold them a pack of cigarettes or gallon of milk. I was cognizant of the fact most old friends did not hold my employment at a dairy store in high regard.

I planned my next move, signed my enlistment papers on Nov. 14, 1975, and left work at the dairy store on Dec. 14. The apartment near the Mississippi River served me well