Friday, March 10, 2006

Note to J-Funk and her dear old dad

"Thank you for the nice comments about me! They brightened up my busy weekend. My husband drew the cartoon of me. He says I look a lot like my dad but you can't tell because my dad is so hairy. Are you friends with my dad from Cornell? I barely remember Cornell, but I do remember the Matsell Bridge trip.

I'm sure that for the most part you do look like your dad. I haven't seen you since that Matsell Bridge weekend. I haven't seen your dad in that long either if I'm thinking about it.

I knew your dad before he went to Cornell.

Are we all sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. . . .

A long long time ago in the seventies (I think it must have been 1977) and I was a young girl of 14/15. My parents who were living in Minneapolis split up. The thing is, they didn't really tell us right away that they were splitting up. My mom was to attend the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. Very cool for mom.

Mom set herself up in a very small little apartment at Black's Gaslight Village. We should have realized that she wasn't coming back when we started visiting her in Iowa City rather than her coming home to Minneapolis. ANYWAY . . . that's not the story

In the summer my sisters, my little brother and I came down to Iowa to spend summer vacation in Iowa City with mom. Apart from a stint where my sister Sally and I de-tasselled corn, we didn't do much. We lurked around Black's Gaslight Village and pestered the students living there. One of the students was your dad.

He was really nice to me. I remember playing Spades with him in his small box of a room with the big window open. He once cooked me breakfast and he put oregano on eggs! That was SO exotic for a kid like me. Isn't it funny what the brain will remember? Your dad never made me feel like a pest and I have always liked him for that.

It must have been around that time that I think your parents fell for each other. I would be so scandalized when rounding a corner in this rabbit warren of a place to find them kissing. Remember, I'm just a squirrelly kid at this time.

That summer ended and we moved from Black's Gaslight Village in Iowa City out to Mount Vernon, Iowa. I was to live there until leaving home after graduation from high school.

For a couple of years I had an after school job in the Cornell College food service. I made many good friends there who are still my friends today. Who should enroll at Cornell College one year but my old friend Tom from Iowa City! This time he had a wonderful little surprise, YOU. This bubbly little tot called Josie who would come and visit her daddy.

That is how I know your Dad. I know your mother as well, but to a much lesser degree.

That's why, when I saw the cartoon of you, I thought it looked like your mother circa 1977. At least that's how I remember her when she was your age. I'm sure that for the most part, you favour your father, but Derek must have caught you in a certain light to capture a part of you that looks just how your mom looked.


J-Funk said...

Wow, what a fantastic story! I can't imagine hanging around Black's as a 14 year old, it must have been great fun with all the students there.

I think that's the first third-party account I've heard of my parent's legendary hook-up at Black's. I'm glad you told it for me! And that's amazing that you stayed in contact and even connected again at Cornell. And here we are reading each other's blogs now! What a small, inter-connected world we live in.

My dad also made the most fantastic omelettes for me when I was a kid, and I spent most of college trying to re-make the magic night after night.

Peggy said...

There must be a moral hiding in this story. Something about the importance of being kind to pesty kids. You never know what they'll grow up and do as an adult. They may WRITE ABOUT YOU.

Josie, you must e-mail me (get the e-mail address from the "e-mail me" link on My Profile!

Anonymous said...

Peggy, I remember you and your family. I was at Black's Gaslight Village in 1977 also. I would like to hear how your family is doing these days. In fact anyone who lived there is welcome to email me. I am looking for your stories about living at Black's Gaslight Village. Thanks
I am Henry Black's youngest child.

Anonymous said...

i lived at black's gaslight village in '71-'72. i wasn't in the writer's workshop but instead, i was from st. cloud, MN where apparently henry had gone to college at one time so when i asked for a room there he took a liking to me because of that, i thought. he was a classic slumlord and an ass (as a LL) but all of us that lived there liked that fact, i guess. i think he is long gone but i cherish those days in IA city in his filthy, bug-infested "gas light village"!!!