Living in Society

Happy Weiberfastnacht

Fasching Parade in Mainz, Germany.

The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is celebrated as Weiberfastnacht in the German Rhineland. It is a day when women assert their dominance by cutting off the neckties of men they encounter. Some of us long recognized that women should be in charge of society, and not only on “Silly Thursday” as today is known. Helau! to those who celebrate.

We had a dusting of snow overnight in Big Grove Township. It was lightly falling when I looked out the pre-dawn window and is expected to continue into tonight. It may be a proper blizzard and a good day to get indoors work done. I’m writing today about my return from Mainz and the work I did at an apartment at Five Points.

When I returned to Iowa from Germany I stayed at Mother’s house for a week or so, and then found an apartment at Five Points in Northwest Davenport. I was settling into my new place by Nov. 11, 1979.

We called it Five Points because it was the intersection of Division Street, West Locust Street and Hickory Grove Road. From the intersection there were five directions one could go. All five led to distinctly different parts of the city. There is another five points located in the city’s poorer district, although it is not well known among the majority white population.

Hickory Grove Road used to be a wagon trail before the arrival of paved roads. Follow it northwest and it intersects with U.S. Highway 6, not far from the place Jack Kerouac wrote about in On the Road.

“The sun was going down, I walked, after a few cold beers, to the edge of town, and it was a long walk,” Kerouac wrote. “All the men were driving home from work, wearing railroad hats, baseball hats, all kinds of hats, just like after work in any town anywhere. One of them gave me a ride up the hill and left me at a lonely crossroads at the edge of the prairie. It was beautiful there.” For me, it was a place to stay while I figured out my future. I wasn’t sure which direction I would go.

Excerpt from an autobiography in progress, Feb. 16, 2023.

I have living memory of that apartment at Five Points. While I was in Europe, a number of friends from high school had gotten married and I missed all of their weddings. Now that I was back, I ordered wedding gifts from a mail order catalogue so I could visit with them individually, present the gift, and get caught up on our lives.

The UPS delivery person was a high school classmate. He attended elementary school at Saint Vincent’s where since 1895, the Catholic Church had cared for children as an orphanage and school. My friend said he could get me a job at UPS if I wanted. If I had taken him up on the offer, I would likely have earned far more than I did during my worklife. I thanked him and declined. He ended up retiring early and moving to Florida.

I wrapped all the gifts and contacted my friends by telephone to set up dates. It wasn’t like being at their wedding, yet it was something positive. If I had stayed in Davenport, I would have attended their weddings and maybe closed in on one of my own. Marriage had not been a priority for me while in the military or as I returned to Iowa.

I don’t celebrate carnival any longer, except on social media. I used to join friends to attend the annual Rose Monday Parade in Mainz near the thousand-year-old Saint Martin’s Cathedral. It was a big deal, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance. I note the date of my settling in at Five Points was the same as the beginning of the carnival season in Germany. A coincidence, I suppose… although maybe not.

As snow falls in Big Grove Township, we are bunkered in with provisions. I don’t plan to wear a necktie, yet if we get into a celebratory mood, I would. Happy Weiberfastnacht to those who celebrate… and Helau!