Concert in Iowa

This past weekend, I spent 3 days in Muscatine, Iowa where [Steve Johnson->] and I had the opportunity to play a concert for the church where Steve’s friend Paul Rekward serves as the Pastor of Christian Education. The trip was a good one, though exhausting enough that I’m glad to be home once more.

The flight up was fairly uneventful. The curse of the travel gods rested lightly on my shoulders, and the only unusual happenings were the fire trucks and police vans on the tarmac at O’Hare, and the abrupt abort of our landing due to the fact that, as the captian told us, “one of the lights that shouldn’t be on was on.” Hmmm. Oh, yes, and the baggage monkeys threw my guitar around enough to do in the battery terminals I’d recently resoldered, the dastards.

Upon our arrival, Paul and his wife Christie made us very welcome, treating us to chicken fried steak (in Iowa!). Paul and Steve and I then went down to the church to check what equipment was available and what we’d need to rent. After getting all of that squared away, we drove around Muscatine to see the sights, visit with some of the local storekeepers, and promote the concert a bit. One of the most distinctive aspects of that time owed to the grain processing plant that was upwind from town that caused my nose to wrinkle as my nostrils were repeatedly assailed by the distinctive odor of vegemite.

On Sunday morning, we joined in to help with the worship service, playing several tunes before it officially began, and joining forces with the choir and organist for Be Thou My Vision, the opening hymn. (Mental note: choir, guitar, pennywistle, and pipe organ is not necessarily the optimal ensemble for this particular hymn.) We then went down to Children’s Church, for which Paul was responsible, and played and sang with the great lot of kids they had there.

After a quick lunch, we came back and set up everything for the afternoon’s concert. Dan, a local music fan, had very generously offered to tape the concert and put together a video for us, which he would air in a few weeks at the public access cable station where he worked. We helped him get his gear set up and chatted with him about the local music scene for a while, in the process learning a lot about the area and its history.

Finally, the concert began. It was a little off-putting for us, being used to playing in coffee shops where there are lots of distractions, to have the undivided attention of a few hundred people, but Steve, as our dynamic front man, rose to the occassion admirably. It’s a funny thing, but I don’t get stage fright as long as I don’t have to be the person doing the talking. If I can sit quietly, play my instruments, and do some singing, I’m clam-happy.

The concert went well, though I was happier with the front half than with the second set. We got a lot of enthusiastic feedback from several of the church members, and sold a good number of Steve’s CD’s. After helping Dan tear down his gear, we adjourned to the Rekward’s place once more to enjoy another bit of Iowan culture: a Taco Pizza from Happy Joe’s. I’ve had other taco pizzas, but this one easily topped them all, with crumbled taco shells, lettuce, and little packets of taco sauce all included. Yummy. We then partied until the wee hours. (The previous was a code to salve my ego. Translation key: “partied” = “watched Godzilla 2000 on pay per view”; “the wee hours” = “9:15pm”.)

On Monday, we returned our borrowed gear and went poking around Muscatine some more. One of the interesting stops was the dam and lock, where barge traffic is raised and lowered to the different levels of the Mississippi river. There are evidently 29 of these dams and locks along the river’s length, creating a liquid stairway across the country. Since the areas near these dams are one of the few areas of the river that don’t freeze up during the winter, great droves of fish-eating bald eagles tend to congregate nearby during the winter. Though there were fewer than usual this year, we were still able to pick out a number of the majestic birds in the treetops along the way.

We finally made our way to the airport, where we discovered that United had cancelled our flight, and we’d be rerouted to a TWA flight with a layover in St. Louis. At last, we saw the welcome lights of Austin. After pulling our bags from the carousel, we met up with Steve’s mother-in-law Carmen, who had driven out to pick us up at 11:00pm. I made it home a bit after midnight, and after kissing my snoring children and sleepy wife, fell gratefully into bed.

The mighty apatosaurus looms over the denizens of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Roar.

Some of the stunningly beautiful stained glass that graced the sanctuary at Paul’s church.

It’s a pizza-looking taco-tasting pizza. But not from Pizza Hut.