a tornado and i’m not even in kansas!

mobiles homes cause tornadoes.  this is my contribution to meteorological science.  after all, anytime there’s a report of a tornado there’s usually an accompanying report of mobile homes being plucked from their moorings or collapsing under the weight of falling trees.

as i entered the state of iowa, all radio stations reverted to the emergency broadcasting system.  the radio announcers were plaintive and earnest.  “you must go to your safe place,”  they repeated.  ominously, several added that if you were traveling along i-80 “we implore you to pull over and get to safety.”

well, to an agoraphobic, that means one thing:  return home forthwith because home is the ONLY safe place.  i wanted to turn around.  because there is no other safe place other than home.  the outside world is, by my definitions, a scary place. but i had made a commitment to be in cedar rapids to meet f2fb friend #139 bruce nesmith and his family.

bruce and i went to college together.  he wanted to be a radio newscaster.  he ended up becoming a political science professor at coe college in cedar rapids and, because of his acumen, he is frequently called upon to be a “talking head” on radio and television.  so he has some of the makings of a perfect life.

the sky blackened and the announcers were tracking three different tornadoes and telling people in solon, north liberty, johnson county, “you need to be in your safe place NOW.”  their natural iowa reticence was being tried.  since i didn’t know where i was in relation to any of the tornadoes i did what they told me.  after, hail was being tossed on my windshield like eggs in the hands of an angry god.  the tornado sirens wailed.  the little farmhouses, red barns, the moo cows gave off the vibe that they could at any moment rise up in the air, spinning and twirling and bringing up with them flying monkeys and wicked witches.  i pulled over to a convenience store and waited out the storm.  hands shaking.  hives rolling up my neck.  my inhaler in one pants pocket, my backup inhaler in the other.

but trying to play it cool, leaning against the vending machine as the store filled with people who watched the television coverage of the storm warnings.  just, you know, another tornado. . . i went outside.  that’s when i got to see the beautiful moment when a cloud starts to spiral. . . . and then it dissipated.

i traveled on to cedar rapids.  the house was a gorgeous center hall colonial.  bruce’s wife jane and their two sons welcomed me with bright smiles and a bit of curiosity about my new year’s eve resolution to meet every facebook friend.   jane freelances both as an adjunct professor of  writing and as a journalist for a local newspaper.  their two sons robbie and eli did their best to make me feel like an honored guest. . . and as someone sort of cool.  or at least not embarrassingly uncool.  robbie is in marching band.  eli is graduating eighth grade in a week,

bruce and jane met when they both sang in a methodist church choir.  they are comfortably suited to each other as they approach their twenty second anniversary.  religion is an important part of their lives–we sat down to dinner and opened with a simple, but familiar prayer of thanksgiving. God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food, amen.

i told the nesmiths about my experience with the nascent tornado.  they weren’t quite as impressed as i was.  i think you have to be pretty tough to be from iowa.  but i think bruce nesmith has created for himself the perfect, perfect life!

i left the nesmiths after a tour of coe college and continued west. . .


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