The strangest thing is that there was no booze at the opening reception. I mean, I don’t want to stereotype here, but writers, traditionally, are drinkers. And officially, as everyone knows, whiskey is our thing, although other drinks are occasionally permitted. We meet in a spankin’ new moderny hotel on the little pedestrian alleyway. Of course, I think Iowa City is inferior to Lawrence: unlike Mass, which gives you a clear path, clear as medieval theology, Iowa City comes in some chunks and side streets. They do have pianos set out for people to play, on the sidewalks. Will play one more later on. (What if it rains?)
We eat a respectable meal, and I mercilessly chat up the guy next to me. He mentions his wife less than fifteen minutes in (good man), and we talk high school English teacher business. On to meet my teacher and classmates. There are only six of us, which is good. Less reading and workshop time, more writing and talking time. I list my favorite shape (a triangle), my homes (New York, New Orleans, sorta Kansas City, Lawrence), and why I am there (I want to write a longer piece). One of my classmates has a gorgeous Kentucky accent. One is a New York Jew (swoon), one had a Terrible Childhood (ooh), and one wrote a spiritual memoir (of course I’m into that). My teacher acts all super accommodating and friendly and all, so we kind of relax.
I feel being here is akin to being in Rome: a drink a day is price of admission. So I wander and wander looking for a bar where I might not be the only person over twenty-five, and they might serve me red wine in a wine glass. I pick an Irish bar. I am one of two people over twenty-five, but there is a good crowd, almost all male, and they are laughing too loudly, something that always makes me happy. No, not always, but in bars. The Yankees are playing Chicago, and I always root for the Yankees because once I was in NYC when they won the World Series.
Read a little of my assignments. Very pleased the schedule requires nothing of me until 2 pm. I can live as artists are intended to, sleeping through some of the morning, and waddling for several hours until I sharpen up. Bartender tells me a bit about the history of the establishment (over 100 years old, although not in that location), drinking in Iowa City (19-year-olds could get into bars until quite recently). I ask him for suggestions of other important bars to visit, and I now have a list of three.