Fall in Fort Madison rocks

Sitting at my desk on a sleepy Saturday, and looking over the top of my Mac, I see a bookshelf full of Lee Child books that I haven’t touched yet. I’m an avid reader… well I used to be. Now I just pride myself on being able to tell people that I’m an avid reader.

Lee Child – you know, the guy who came up with Jack Reacher.

Anyway, there’s some Martin Short/Steve Martin new series on in the background on Hulu because I’m thinking I need to get rid of my cable company and just go with this new fangled firestick thing. I mean the Iowa game was even on there.

So I’m going back and forth between writing, thinking about seeing what Jack Reacher’s up to, and watching Selena Gomez try to hang with comedic genius. The windows are open and the heavy traffic keeps running past the Pen City Current funhouse drowning out the sound of – everything. It’s drowning out the freakin’ scanner too, and I’m just fine with that.

There are kids outside playing, and a breeze wafts in the south second story window and blows some papers off the glass work desk that holds scattered papers, my candy jar, one of those vacuum-type drink things that are supposed to keep cold cold and hot hot – and it hits me.

The breeze smells like potatoes. That means fall is here.

I don’t know why, but the first cool fall breeze reminds me of mashed potatoes. Don’t ask, it just does. And it gives me a chill.

It takes me back to high school football and Saturday college game days covering the Western Illinois Leathernecks for the WIU student newspaper.

That usually meant trolling down Adams Street and hitting house parties with my roommates and then some.

Fall means exercise will be just a little easier – if I let it be. It means opening the windows and turning on the ceiling fans. And turning off the A/C. YES! I can see the Alliant statement now. Instead of a bar graph showing me how my efficiency is so poor compared to by neighbors’ and other homes my size and reminding that I need to winterize the house again, it comes this time with just a yellow smiley face on a single white piece of paper.

But it also means replacing the screens with winter glass and then throwing a tightly rolled towel on the floor at the base of the doors 🙂

It means possibly some tailgating in Iowa City and a cheap plug to Noah Jenkins to invite me into the Atlantic Coca-Cola hospitality suite at Kinnick Stadium again.

It conjures a hope that something will bring my daughter home from New York City for a walk in the leaves on Avenue E. Screw it, maybe I’ll do that in Central Park…New York City’s Central Park. I swear I took a nap in that park about four years ago. We flew in from St. Louis for Taylor’s graduation from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

We got off the plane and our daughter met us with an Oooooo-ber at LaGuardia. We went right to The Roosevelt and literally threw our bags on the bed and bolted out the door. The Big Apple (by the way, New Yorkers hate it when you call it that- they also think you’re weird if you say “Hello” in passing) awaited. We jumped on the subway at Union Station and popped up (it’s a literal reference when you consider you’re in a tunnel and you go up a stairwell and there you are in a different part of the city), next to the park.

We ventured into Central Park, yes, right past the damned horse-drawn carriage, and found ourselves a spot about 50 yards into the park, where people – tourists and locals both – were mingling about. We found some grass and laid there looking up at the New York architecture, and I laid my head on my wife’s lap. The next thing I know Taylor is nudging me and laughing at me. Apparently I napped for about 20 minutes. I fly on Xanax, Dramamine, and Ginger Ale. I think was I hungover.

That was a summer graduation for Taylor and I know it doesn’t have anything to do with fall, but I thought it was a nice addition.

But back to the autumnal rotation. I love coffee on a cool day, especially if you throw in some habanero hash. Yeah, I didn’t know it existed either, but a quick stop at The Egg Harbor Cafe in downtown Chicago two weeks ago introduced me to it. There’s something about a spicy breakfast and a cup of black coffee that sits very well on the tastebuds.

I love getting all the hoodies and full length tees back out and hung up in the closet. Jeans, or pants of any kind, are optional in the fall and winter. Hoodies and shorts work just fine. It keeps my legs – that are hanging in there pretty well for a 53-year-old, tanned all year around. Well kinda.

Fall also means a trek out to Harvestville Farms with my brother’s family to tackle the season’s corn maze. This year the maze commemorates the Lee County K9 Association. My nephew Hayden is strangely efficient at finding his way through those mazes in record times. It’s anticlimactic considering it shortens the time frame for me to sneak around in the corn and scare the bejeezus out of people.

There’s more to that story, but we’re talking about fall.

So yeah, the fall means cider, and another Wine Walk. It means the Tri-State Rodeo is here and some of the state’s best volleyball action is here.

…And it means breathing again. Fresh air, whether you think it smells like mashed potatoes to you or not. The locusts are intermittently buzzing in the trees in the evenings and it’s wonderful to hear. Sleeping with the windows open, and hearing birds chirping in the morning represents the optimism of a new day.

I may see you jogging down the street or walking, depending on my capacity that day, or I may just stick to the track. I kind of like it there, but either way, make sure you wave and say “Hi” otherwise I’ll think you’re snobby and it’s something we can still do in the Midwest, Big Apple be damned.

But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor/co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com.

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