Riverside Iowa

Wilbur Harrison had a hit with KANSAS CITY. My friend, Joe Fielder, traveled there in 1965. The police caught him in St. Louis. He escaped through the bathroom window. The 14 year-old reached KC the next day. He ordered a steak and then rode Greyhound to the South Shore of Boston. His parents were relieved by his re-appearance and asked why he had runaway.

“Because they got some crazy little women there and I’m going to get me some,” Joe quoted from the song. His parents grounded him for the summer. He later told me that KC had no crazy little women.

“It was all a lie.”

Back in 2009 I drove through Kansas City. The song was still a lie. Most of the cities of the Midwest are shells hollowed out by a neglectful government, but not so Iowa City.

This town was the campus of Iowa U. My good friend James Rockford lived on a farm twenty miles to the west. He grew marijuana. My Scottish friend and I rendezvoused with the elder statesman of the hippie era at the Deadwood, the city’s #1 dive. We drank beer, rum, smoked a joint, talked with coeds, and at the 2am closing James suggested that we go to Riverside.

“Riverside.” My Scottish friend thought it was another bar.

“It’s not a bar. It’s the future birthplace of James T Kirk.”

“You’re shitting me.” I’ve been a devout Trekkie since episode one.

“Nope, it’s waiting for his birth.” James smiled with the knowledge that nothing could stop me from where no one I knew had gone before. We bought two six-packs of Tecate and flagged down a taxi.

“No sense in getting DWI’ed on a mission of such importance.” James wasn’t called ‘the colonel’ for nothing. The taxi driver thought we were crazy, but said it wasn’t the first time drunks had given that destination.

“Nobody in the world would know about Riverside if it wasn’t for James T Kirk. Less than thousand souls. No reason for anyone ever to go there. They even have an annual event. Maybe two.”

We followed the English River to the small town. The driver stopped at a park. A marker welcomed us to the future home of James T Kirk. I breathed in the night air thinking this town made James T Kirk, the captain of the USS Enterprise. I was drunk enough to believe that.

“How you feel?” James asked, as my Scottish friend smoked a cigarette.

“Like I went to Jerusalem.”

“I thought you would, now how about going back to your hotel for some serious drinking?”

“You got it.” James lived out here most of the year. He didn’t speak to outsiders much. His wife would hate him tomorrow, but none of that mattered because he had brought a Trekkie to the Holy Grail.

Live long and prosper.

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