Living in Society Social Commentary

Favorite Places – Linn and Market

Linn and Market Streets
Linn and Market Streets

I have been spending time near Linn and Market Streets in Iowa City for most of my adult life. I lived on Market Street after getting my master’s degree—my last long stint of bachelorhood before marrying in 1982.

Within a small radius, so much happened that anytime I return, the trip is imbued with memories. But for the traffic, I would stand in the intersection for hours. I mostly settle for a window seat at the nearby coffee shop for my daydreaming.

Linn and MarketOur daughter was born here, and performed the role of a dog on Gilbert Street. It was also one of the few times I remember her performing the guitar in public. We had breakfast at the Hamburg Inn No. 2 after pulling all-night security at Riverside’s Festival Theatre in City Park. Hamburg Inn No. 1 was gone by then.

“Shady streets, very old white frame houses, porch swings, lilacs, one-pump gas stations, and good neighbors…” wrote W.P. Kinsella in Shoeless Joe. “We have a drugstore with a soda fountain… It’s dark and cool and you can smell malt in the air like—a musky perfume. And they have cold lemon-Cokes in sweating glasses, a lime drink called a Green River, and just the best chocolate malts in America. It’s called Pearson’s—right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.”

Pearson’s is now the bank in the photo.

We still favor Pagliai’s Pizza and I bring home a pie from time to time when I’m near around supper time. It is one of the places that hasn’t changed much through the years.

Down the street on Jefferson the university had a portable building where students could drop off punch cards to run on the computer in the early days of programming. Who knew what computing would become?

I was briefly enrolled in James A. Van Allen’s astronomy class—a chance to learn from the legendary physicist directly. I had to drop after registering for more classes than I could handle that semester. More than any teacher I remember, he stretched the limits of my ability to learn.

After so many years of wanting to hear him, when Saul Bellow read from Something to Remember Me By at Macbride Hall, I did.

I met James Hansen, Bill Fehrman, Beau Biden, Elizabeth Edwards, and heard countless speakers—too many to list. With each visit I recall one or another who made an impression. How could I forget Toni Morrison, introduced by Paul Engle, and the bat flying around her head at Old Brick?

I bought books at Murphy Brookfield, Prairie Lights, Iowa Book and Supply, the Salvation Army, the Haunted Bookshop and at the State Historical Society. I still have most of them.

Rich with 45 years of memories, I look forward to each return to Linn and Market—for a cup of coffee, a meeting with my nearby editor, and often, just to sit and remember before a meet up with a friend or two. For me, it will always be home.

Kitchen Garden

Favorite Places – My Garden

Garden Spinach
Garden Spinach

Our garden is one of my favorite places.

A mature rabbit hangs out in the thicket next door. I see it in the garden often, usually minding its own business—being a rabbit—outside the fences. This year I’ve been pushing the limits of what can be unfenced and survive.

Today, the rabbit was sitting, next to the row of carrots chewing. Luckily, it was eating clover, not the unprotected carrot tops six inches away. My fear is it’s a she and undisciplined little rabbits will ravage the garden until getting picked off by the many predators who live nearby.

Later, the rabbit came back and was eating radish leaves planted between tomato cages. I picked a leaf and ate it—sweet and refreshing. No wonder rabbits eat them. I chased it away again. It ended up munching the clover in a neighbor’s yard, then disappeared in the midday heat.

New Garden Shoes
New Garden Shoes

This is the ecology of my life—living as best I can in the found environment. It’s not a natural place. The forests are long gone, and the weather is unpredictable. The ground is already parched, and nearer sundown I’ll water the young plants so they don’t perish before being mulched.

With a little management, the garden produces more food than we need, but not enough to make a business of it. The seasonality of spinach and inadequate freezer space makes gifts to friends and neighbors. The same will hold true when the kale matures, tomatoes come in, and the fall apple harvest arrives. All are parts of this ecology.


Here, I can forget about politics, society and culture—except maybe for agriculture. The symbiosis with this place is hard coded in me. Not coding like DNA or computer algorithms. More like a recipe made from scratch and varied with each iteration.

The truth is we all need something like this garden.

When we planned our move from Indiana we sought a place with enough of a lot to grow this large garden. We built everything on this piece of property to fit our lives. While it is not a perfect place, its lack of perfection is alluring. Suited respite from a society that does not appear to care much, if at all, about anything beyond circles of family and friends.

It is a place to gain strength for the next endeavor.