Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dead Moines

September 10: The early morning jaunt down the Neal Smith Trail toward Des Moines was a mammal extravaganza from the start. Eight deer and two rabbits crossed my path during the first hour. The arrival of a local high school's girls cross country team spelled an end to wild kingdom, however, their loud footfalls and screeching gossip sending the frightened animals fleeing from the scene.
I crossed the Des Moines River around noon and was only a couple of miles on the Inter Urban Trail, my first trolley trail, to Matt and Heidi Butler's home, where I had been invited to crash that evening. The couple were currently enmeshed in a domestic disagreement relating to their respective love of Iowa and Iowa State, who were doing battle in the annual rubber match to determine state dominance.
Trips to Pad Thai, Hyvee, and Snookie's Malt Shop could only slow me so long. I finally rang their doorbell just as the contest was going into a second overtime. Heidi's Iowa State emerged victorious in the third extra frame and she in no way gloated for the rest of the day.
Matt is another brewing disciple of Trevor's, so we celebrated the victory of the underdog Cyclones (or tried to forget it depending on your point of view) with some of his creations as well as some delicious prosciutto, salami, and a variety of fruits and cheeses. I believe the French term is charcuterie, which roughly translates as "conceited meats and cheeses."
In the evening Matt and Heidi took me out to see Des Moines. A white party had been planned for one of the city squares, the one with the statue constructed out of alphabet soup. The idea was people would spontaneously descend on the park all dressed in white and have a picnic. I wondered if anyone had got permission or if I would soon have another opportunity to have my driver's license run for warrants by an Iowa policeman.
Heidi did have a theory relating to my run-ins with the man. In 1982 a young boy named Johnny Gosch was kidnapped in West Des Moines. His case, which has never been solved (and no body has been found) gained nationwide attention. Apparently this occurrence has caused small town Iowans to freak out for about thirty years. The main stream media was not responsible for fanning these flames I'm certain. I want to be the first to thank those ratings-seeking whores for the opportunity to be the walking version of a van with tinted windows.
On the plus side, I learned I am not the only target of law enforcement. Iowa is suffering from a methamphetamine epidemic. The drug is easy to make here because anhydrous ammonia, one of the main components in the narcotic's production, is a commonly used fertilizer. (The next day I watched an episode of "Breaking Bad" in order to further research the subject, but all I learned was that there are no "good guys" on a show about a meth lab.)
Matt and Heidi also taught me more about Ragbrai. Mainly they informed me the event is a drunkfest. That could explain why Ragbrai, which has been celebrated for thirty three years and included 258,000 riders, has a fatality nearly ever year. Don't drink and bike kids!
Following the get together in the park I was shown the restaurant and bar scene in Des Moines. El Bait Shop was first on the list. We sampled some of the two hundred beers they have on tap, watched a cat fight brawl turn into some very weak male head-butting before disintegrating, and listened to some great tunes from Mars Volta, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Queens of the Stone Age.
The Bait Shop is known as the original host of Bacon Fest, held every year in Des Moines. They can also boast the honor of being the first bar I've ever seen to utilize what appeared to be a working bath shower as part of their decor.
If you want some grub at El Bait Shop, just head back to the bar's other room, where shag carpeting introduces the 1970s motif inside. Only beers produced during the wonderful decade of platform shoes and bell-bottoms are served there, meaning you probably ought to be in a mood for Miller High Life or Pabst before entering.
Our final stop of the night was Zombie burger. A creation of Des Moines' most celebrated chef, George Formaro, the undead come to life within the eatery's walls. Posters and artwork set the mood in the interior, while a creepy hologram invites you to enter if you dare or if you are really hungry.
The food is well worth the fear with menu items inspired by some of filmdom's greatest zombie flicks. The Double Tap ("Zombieland"), the Boomstick ("Evil Dead"), and the Trailer Trash Zombie (video game) are amongst the choices. I consumed the latter, which consisted of fried pickles, fried bacon, cheese curds, and mayo. Can one eat these things and still lose weight? I was glad on this night to be the guinea pig in that particular experiment.
Sadly the night came to an end before we were able to visit Fong's, an Asian pizza joint, or the Hessian House, which serves Das Boot, made famous by the movie "Beerfest." I didn't even have enough time to dance at Blazing Saddles, the local cowboy gay bar. It certainly appears as if I'm going to have to find some way to make another visit.

14 miles/1627 total miles


VM Sehy Photography said...

Sounds like Des Moines has changed a bit since I lived there.

In reference to Johnny Gosh, the reaction does seem a bit overwrought now, but that was the first time large world problems hit the doors of many small town Iowans. I was one of them. I was 14 when he went missing. I never delivered a morning paper after that. Before then, I subbed on a regular basis for my friends. But they dropped their morning routes and took on afternoon routes.

It was the event that broke all our bubbles of safety. I think you have to be from a small town and from that era, even from Iowa to understand.

Anonymous said...

Wow Bait Shop sounds pretty awesome. Any place that plays Sunny Day Real Estate and hosts Bacon Fest is my kind of joint!