Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tavern at the Crossroads: A shrine to the traveling writer.

This article originally appeared in the Dreaming in Ink newsletter.  

I'm going to keep things brief for a couple of reasons. First, I am Marla's victim for the monthly interview and the last thing anyone really needs in this newsletter is more of my special brand of bullshit. Go read that to get some insights into my odiferous inner self.

Also, I don't have much to say when it comes to writing this month, because I didn't get much time to do any of it. Life kinda exploded on me this month. Not in a completely bad way, mind. Not all bad anyway. Just a very time-consuming way.

But I found something weird in my travels. And I want to talk about it. So I'm gonna.

There's this strange little place off Interstate 80 in Iowa. The word 'shrine' comes to mind, although most shrines don't have toilets as their primary feature. There is a rest area in Iowa dedicated to the art of writing. I'm not sure what, if anything it means. It's probably just one of those weird little relics one finds on the road.

I'm on the road all the time, so I know my rest stops. I know them well. I've bolted into most of them with a special kind of urgency. That's what they are for. They exist so that the traveler may rapidly discharge the extra cup of coffee in a dignified, sanitary and ,this is the important bit, a not-peeing-on-a-bush-in-front-of-God-and-everyone kind of way.

Iowa takes their public restrooms a step farther. Their rest areas have themes. There's one near Des Moine that is a salute to wind power. There's another by Ames in honor of the Iowan farmer.

And there's one near Iowa city for the writers.

The first thing I noticed was the word 'Iowa' written in huge, black script on the front of a building around the size of a small house. Well that and the giant sculpture of a pen out front. In retrospect it's hard to figure out how I was able to pass by so many times and not know exactly what I was looking at.

Inside there are digital scrolling signs continuously displaying quotes from Iowan authors. There are others cut into the enclosures around picnic tables. It is every functional rest area you've ever seen... with a shout out to writers. Vending machines and deep thoughts. Water fountains and fountain pens.

I don't think I ever stopped there before this month. There's just no reason to. I travel through Iowa a lot. A LOT. Like two or three times a month sometimes. Like any repetitive task, I have a rhythm. A routine. This was not part of it.

So I don't know why I stopped in this time. Maybe it was a little present from the Universe since this month devastated my productivity. Or maybe it was the coffee. Okay, is was definitely the coffee. Maybe a little bit of the Universe. Coffee and the Universe working together. To make writers. And a rest area in Iowa to honor them.