Iowans are easily offended when critics slam our way of life, but we love to be validated by outsiders. Countless Iowans shared David Byrne's reflections on Des Moines on social media today. The former frontman for Talking Heads was in Des Moines over the July 4 weekend as a headliner for the 80/35 music festival. A huge bicycling advocate in New York City, Byrne loved the "gorgeous" and "well-maintained" network of bike trails in central Iowa. He also thought Des Moines compared favorably to other mid-sized cities he has visited on tour. In fact, he considers our community "maybe an ideal place to grow up or raise your kids," to which I say, yes and yes.
I've posted a few excerpts from Byrne's reflections after the jump. Ben Gran commented on the pieces at the Des Moines Is Not Boring blog.
P.S. - Talking Heads were the best of the new wave bands. Regardless of what you thought in high school, the group's best album was Remain in Light. Those songs (especially the first four tracks) hold up incredibly well.
From David Byrne's Journal, Des Moines, Iowa part II:
Iowa, especially central Iowa, has an incredibly beautiful, well maintained and extensive network of bike trails that stretch all over this part of the state. They link to breweries, wineries and B&Bs, so folks make little holidays of it.
Many of the trails follow creeks and rivers and are shaded by overhanging trees. Some administration in Iowa was prescient in saving the land around these waterways for public access-the rides are gorgeous and well used by both spandex folks and families too.
Later, I have a chat with some of the others in our group about Des Moines as maybe an ideal place to grow up or raise your kids. I got very mixed reactions when I advocated this idea. The town isn't particularly hip, but I sort of counted that as a factor in its favor-kids would have to discover what they thought was cool for themselves. Or make it up. Or come to the conclusion that trends does not a life make. [...]
We had some time off and one afternoon I biked all around town, passing through a black neighborhood with mostly smaller houses-smaller than the middle class midwestern homes scattered around much of the rest of the town. But unlike, say, Louisville, or many other towns we've passed through, there weren't signs of total poverty, boarded up houses or foreclosed homes being sold at auction. When I went through some of the riverside parks on the July 4th weekend I saw Latin and Asian families having picnics and family cookouts. Norteño music was playing in one park pavilion. I have a feeling the wealthier and whiter part of the population picnic in their own backyards. That said, it made a pretty picture-it was festive, relaxing and an example of what public spaces are meant for. I saw people out and about, and I thought to myself-this is America as it's supposed to be, or close to it. It's imperfect, but people here seem to have found a way of living that is not based around either extremes of manic striving or desperation. It may not be cool, but it might be beyond cool. Here among the winding creeks and fields of corn they may have arrived at some kind of secret satisfaction. [...]
I mentioned to others on tour (I won't name names) that I didn't see the familiar signs of social rejection and disaffection here, the people and things one might see in other towns. No visible homeless folks or folks twisted by drugs, drink or bad luck who couldn't find a rung to get back up, or never got up in the first place. Society's rejects don't seem to litter the downtown streets here. [...]
Life here seems to be more or less middle class (the middle class doesn't seem to have been gutted here as it has been in many other towns), and there are amenities like the riverfront, bike trail networks, ball fields and water sports that show the city cares about its citizens. There doesn't seem to be the outsized ambition evident in many other towns as well-no huge class separation where the ambitious strivers trample on those who aren't as pushy as they are...and then show off their success in ostentatious homes, cultural palaces and in fancy restaurants. Maybe those folks gravitate elsewhere?