It’s hard to believe that an entire year has gone by since I moved back to Des Moines from the San Francisco Bay Area. In so many ways it still feels like I just got here. Maybe it’s because of the mild winter and early spring that the time seems to have gone by so quickly. Or maybe it’s the fact that my wife and I are in the raising-a-baby time warp in which one second the baby can’t even sit up on her own, the next, she’s ready to climb over the top of the couch. In any case, it feels like I just walked into our empty new house a few weeks ago, and thought, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m back…”
Not that I haven’t grown accustomed to all things Des Moines. I certainly have readjusted to the slower pace, to the beautiful simplicity of the city (for those whose hackles just raised at me mentioning Des Moines and simplicity in the same sentence, please understand that simple is a very good thing, and one of the things makes Des Moines such a great place to live). I’ve loved getting to rediscover what I remember from living here before, and newly discovering all that has changed in the 14 years I was away. So here are some of my top favorite things about being back (because if I tried to list them all, this post would be several thousand words!).
I’ve said before that people are what makes a city a great place to live, and without a doubt, the people in my life here make Des Moines amazing. Family was probably the biggest factor in our decision to return. We love that our daughter gets to have my side of the family so close, and that we’re not as far from my wife’s family as we were when we lived in California.
Having good friends, too, can make a huge difference in transitioning from one place to another, and our friends here, new and old, have really helped us settle in over the last year. They’ve been especially helpful to my wife since she isn’t originally from Des Moines and didn’t have the familiarity with things that I did to help me get grounded in our new home.
Wow, has the food scene in Des Moines changed since I left. Yes, I would say that my brother, George’s, places (Centro, Django, Zombie Burger, South Union Bread Cafe, Gateway Market), none of which were here before I left, are some of my favorites, and that has nothing to do with the fact that he’s my brother. Cafe di Scala is another new favorite. How can you go wrong with handmade pasta? I liked the Downtown Farmer’s Market before I left, and it seems to have only gotten better. I always pick up something(s) from Cleverly Farms (for dinner tonight, we’re having a pasta dish with rapini we picked up over the weekend), and usually have to have a couple of Tacopocalypse tacos. Old favorite restaurants that are still around and on my go-to list are Felix and Oscar’s and Latin King. I guess I have a bit of an Italian thing going. But of course, Tasty Tacos is an all-time favorite of mine and everyone I’ve ever met who was from Des Moines and moved away.
The Des Moines Arts Festival was a great experience last summer. I was amazed by the size of the event and all that incredible art, and was very pleasantly to get to see the Smithereens the night we went. I also really enjoyed the Art Fest that same weekend at the Fairgrounds. Definitely looking forward to the 2012 festivals.
And of course, the Iowa State Fair. When I was younger, I loved the Fair, but as I got a little older, I kind of lost interest, so much so that I didn’t make it back for the Fair until I had been gone for over 10 years (when I took my wife to her first Fair). But now I’m firmly back in the “Love It” camp. It’s so Iowa in many of the best ways, and now it’s something I’m looking forward to sharing with my daughter as she grows up.
Any of you who follow my posts have seen me talk about how I love the weather in Iowa (and how I hated it when I left). Hot, humid summers and cold winters are what I really started to miss over the years I was away. And because of the hot summers and cold winters, the falls and springs are so much nicer, too. Yes, bring it all, even the rain. I’ve learned to appreciate all if it. And maybe next winter will have more snow and cold than last…
I really could go on. And I’m sure as I keep thinking about what I’ve included here, I’ll come up with even more that hasn’t crossed my mind yet. But end I must. So in closing, I just want to say how great it has been to be back in Des Moines. To all the people who have welcomed me home, and made my wife feel at home, thank you. I couldn’t be happier to be here in this wonderful city that continues to get better and better. And here’s to many more Iowanniversaries!