176 Des Moines, IA: Java Joe's

[Java Joe's]

When I asked a museum employee if she could recommend an artsy café where I might interview locals or artists, she asked airily, "What kind of artists?"

"People who, if you asked them about Hopper, wouldn't say, 'Who?'"

"Ah, I see what your problem is," she nodded, and then recommended Java Joe's.

If you're different in any way in Des Moines, you eventually end up at Java Joe's. Out front sat a woman with thick textbooks, grading a series of papers. Inside, a large girl with dyed pink hair, pierced nose, and big black glasses sat alone, while in the back of the long dark room, a rock and roll band performed on a small raised stage with a faux stained glass window backdrop. The girl working the long wooden counter up front was petite with dark eyes, short dark hair, and olive skin.

"Des Moines is filled with white bread people with no culture," she informed me when I asked her about the town. "I can't wait to get out. But I have a family support net. I'm only here to get my education. Studying Music. That," she said, flinging an impatient look at the young singer jumping around the stage in back. "is NOT music. Those guys play here all the time. I'm sick of it. Why are you here?"

I told her about my project, and a man waiting in line for coffee interjected, "I'm from Omaha. Is there a Hopper painting in Omaha?"

"No," I said, "but I'll be stopping there on my way to Lincoln, Nebraska, which does have one."

"Omaha has way more culture than Des Moines," he said. "It definitely does." He fished out a business card from his wallet and handed it to me. "When you're in town, give me a call. I'll show you around."

He left, and I looked at the card. It had a rainbow on it (though he was in banking). I showed the woman behind the counter.

"Omaha has a big gay community," she said matter-of-factly. "Des Moines does too. We're the one big city in Iowa. If you're gay and live on a farm, you have to make your way here."

No comments: