I have thought occasionally about mentioning this for over a month. I have decided that I shall for reasons I will explain in the end.
In December, Volume No. 16 of The Wapsipinicon Almanac hit the stores. A story that I wrote is included in this issue.
Tim Fay, the editor and publisher of The Wapsipinicon Almanac, lives in a large, rustic home heated by a wood-burner out on Shooting Star Road in the Iowa bush near Anamosa. The Wapsipinicon River meanders through Troy Mills and Paris on down over the dam in Central City, where I was raised, past Waubeek, past Anamosa and then downstream toward the Mississippi. Tim gathers contributions with a local slant and publishes them along with his own Ben Franklinish introduction called “Talk of the Township.” It is a regional journal, the region being eastern Iowa.
Tim prints the journal once a year, more or less, on an antique printing press in the shop attached to his home. Eldon Meeks is his Linotype operator extraordinaire. If you know what a Linotype is, then perhaps you will have some grasp of the nature of this operation. A Linotype machine feeds on molten lead. The operation is a delight to visit. Tim Fay relishes his solitude out there, but he is ever willing to show off his antique presses and his Linotype machine.
For many years long past, Tim played guitar in a rock 'n roll band. His band played gigs in dumps all over eastern Iowa and into Wisconsin and Illinois as well as the occasional outdoor “festival.” Now Tim is sure that he is going to die of lung cancer caused by all that cigarette smoke he inhaled even though he himself has never smoked. As an inevitable adjunct to that profession back then, this or that woman would at times magically appear at the place on Shooting Star Road and stay for a few days or sometimes for a few weeks. Every one of them eventually disappeared again just as magically. It is awfully quiet out there when the press is not running, and Tim does not talk much.
I am acquainted with many of the other contributors to this issue. I am more than acquainted with Mike Maddigan for example. Mike and I knocked back many a shot and a shell together in the old days at the bar in Xavier's Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, which is on the Cedar River. Mike, an Irish Democrat, and I enjoyed getting drunk together, holding court there, and bitching about Republicans. Then Mike's health failed. But he is still alive and still cantankerous. Mike's review of a book about the methamphetamine industry in Oelwein, his old hometown upriver, is included in this issue.
The Cedar River, by the way, is a Republican river filled with unregulated, capitalist effluvia from Waterloo upstream. It is an alien, cursed river that I never trusted, and eventually it proved my instincts to be correct. Waterloo is one of the more God forsaken places on earth. The shoulder of Interstate 380 heading south out of Waterloo is lined with pillars of salt.
The cover of Volume No. 6, printed in 1996, is my favorite, and not just because that issue included my essay recounting my attempt to land a bit part in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. I answered the casting call in Des Moines on August 9, 1994. It was my shot at breaking into the big time, and it was a narrow miss. I detest looking back, but I cannot help but think that if I had been sober during that casting call, I would now be one of Clint Eastwood's closest buddies. Maybe even have slept with Meryl Streep.
So if you happen to be in River Lights, 2nd Edition bookstore in Dubuque or Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, or if you happen to see some copies of The Wapsipinicon Almanac hanging on the side of the magazine rack in the odd grocery store here or there, buy one. I urge you to do that not necessarily because my story is included, although you are welcome to read it. Rather, I would like to keep that old press running and that old Linotype machine clacking away out there on Shooting Star Road in the middle of nowhere.
While we are on this general subject, my pal Ruthie's poetry continues to be published right and left. Ruthie lives in San Clemente, Calfornia, and posts a comment here now and again.
Recently, another three of hers were published in Verse Wisconsin. Finally, finally one of the publications in which her work has appeared determined to make a sample of her work available online.