After leaving Chicago, Mac and I headed to Des Moines, Iowa where we planned to attend a quilt convention. Mac is a talented quilter, so much so that he was recently included in a book on the topic of men who make quilts and was headed to Des Moines to help support the publication with a book signing. I agreed to join in the fray because quite frankly I find just about everything entertaining and I knew I'd enjoy spending time with Mac to boot.
Mac also had a quilt hanging in the show - a tribute to his Aunt (he says "awnt") Mary, who was a tailor. Mac quilts are usually made as a gift for a particular person or couple and he uses fabrics and images that allow him to wink with a knowing fabric smile at the vernacular shared by the giver and and the recipient. According to Mac, the coarsest oath he ever heard his Awnt Mary utter was "Holy scissors!" so he used a thermofax machine to print images of shears on the fabric he used for her quilt. Mac's pieces are always full of just such fascinating details, any one of which he can explain in great detail.
There were plenty of other quilts that were enjoyable to look on as well, ranging from the strictly traditional to the wildly rebellious, and hell, a few that were even just downright ugly. I particularly liked one display that featured quilts made from fabric that had been dyed with rust. The rust was used in a variety of different ways, but the technique I liked best was one in which the metal item was directly applied to the cloth and left to oxidize, leaving a rusty imprint of the object on the fabric. The piece above right reminded me strongly of an explicit yet compelling display I'd seen at the Glore Psychiatric museum several years back, so much so that it was hard not to look on the new piece without experiencing a vague residual horror left over from seeing the other.
However, the rusted quilts were the most outre thing I saw at the show, since most entries fell much more on the cute as a button end of the scale than over in the menacing like death range. As well they should, since it's little old ladies who turn out in the greatest numbers to attend the show. Little clans of them sporting the regalia of their various guilds ambled about - showing off, because every community has a form of gang attire. On the left, the gals from Paducah (I wish you could see the 3D dogwood blossoms attached to the top of their tams) are demonstrating how to make a doodad called a yo-yo that's sort of like the Lego of the fabric world.
It was Mac that tracked the couple at right down and had me take their pictures. Both of us just loved their matching outfits and accessories, and as soon as we got to talking, I found out that they lived part of the year in Round Rock, Texas, just 30 miles north of Austin! They were a lot of fun.
When we weren't busy socializing at the quilt show, Mac and I dashed around downtown Des Moines, taking in as much of the marvelous entertainment the city had to offer as possible. We'd soon made a home base at a great little coffee shop called Joe's Java (where Mac attempted to trounce me at Scrabble, only to have me whip out "epergnes" on his butt) and we returned there quite a few times to get really great coffee and tasty treats (my favorite touch: the homemade ice cream named "More Cowbell").
The first night we were in town, Mac and I went to a gay bar he'd scared up called Blazing Saddle. (Don't forget that Iowa is one of the first states that legalized gay marriage!) I'd packed my cowgirl shirt when Mac told me about the place, but shockingly when we arrived Friday night, I was the only western themed item in the entire bar. No matter, I had no trouble chatting up a steady stream of fascinating folks including one that had recently left his job as a supervisor on the Spam manufacturing line and had just taken a new position overseeing Captain Crunch production. I met another fellow named Johnny who had the same birthday as me and then a great guy named Ricardo that took me for a tour of his nearby catering warehouse (I really know how to have fun, don't I?). .
For the next couple of evenings, Mac and I were extremely fortunate to enjoy the company of a fellow convention goer by the name of Joe Cunningham, who is actually a bit of a rock star in the quilting world. Joe's the author of the book that includes Mac and is an astonishing quilter/performer in his own right. He also happens to be a top notch story teller who is nonstop hilarious, which made our visit to the International Food Festival Saturday night a real romp.
As we criss-crossed the avenues of the huge food festival, we found all sorts of appealing and exotic foods to choose from, yet I somehow felt most strongly drawn to the unmitigated audacity of...a cheeseburger made on a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
That's right, a cheeseburger, jammed between two halves of a plain glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. Shameless, isn't it? But you know in your heart that it tasted good, don't you? And it DID! The gal that served it to me advised me to skip any condiments, although in retrospect I think I might have appreciated a little mustard to add some contrast.
After a few more rounds of international noshing and just after we had just switched to beer, I spied a garishly lit truck at the festival's periphery that listed an item that read simply "pig licker". Now how are you going to see something called a pick licker for sale at a food festival and just keep walking? I asked the fellow behind the counter what it was that I was about to pay $1 for, and it turned out to be bacon on a stick fried up good and crisp, then plunged into a bath of dark chocolate. Not only did we proclaim it absolutely delicious, we had seconds!
Shiree and Joe engage in the delicious sport of pick licking
Des Moines really has it going on in the good food department. In fact I have to say I was continually amazed by how much Iowa has it going on in every department. It's a very cosmopolitan and yet down to earth place inhabited by some of the friendliest folks I've ever encountered. Des Moines is the home to the famous Iowa Caucuses, which I'm sure brings it a level of sophistication it might not otherwise enjoy, but they've put a lot into having a really wonderful city and it shows I'm ready to go back whenever the chance arises.