Blow by blow

I’d heard about the tornadoes that hit Iowa City last week, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw photos of the damage. As soon as I saw that that some of the worst hit areas were in my old neighborhood–I lived just up the street from this sorority house–I began to look all over Flickr to see if I could find out what happened to my old place.

For three years I lived on the first floor of an old house a mile off campus. It was perched on a little bluff overlooking a quiet intersection with a brick street. It had two porches, one off each bedroom, and an old-fashioned metal roof. Right after we signed the lease, my roommate and I showed the place to her mother, who declared it a deathtrap for about fifteen different reasons, many of them stupid.

“How are you going to keep people from just climbing in your windows?” she asked. We’ll lock the windows, we told her. She wondered alound if the carpet had mold, the deadly kind. Probably not, we told her. “The bathroom is upstairs? You’re going to fall down those stairs in the middle of the night,” she said. No we won’t, we told her. She was sure the place was filled with mice or termites or radon gas. (It wasn’t.) The floorboards might warp. (So what?) The gasket seal on the refrigerator could be better (The hell?) When she’d finally run out of things to find fault with, she stepped outside with us and peered up at the beautiful old tree in the side yard.

“That tree is going to fall on the house,” she said.

But as it turned out, it fell the other way.


  1. says

    Ha ha… I’m glad the tree fell the other way, too. Your old roommate’s mom sounds exactly like my mom. Always finding the worst in everything!

  2. says

    Wow, that’s crazy. A couple of tree branches (4 ton tree branches – 2 of them) fell on my old apartment/house, but luckily, nothing went completely through the roof. That looks like a totally cute house, too!

  3. says

    My old place is right across the street from College Green Park, but luckily it survived with minor damage.
    I am shocked by the pictures of the hardest-hit places…..the perfect little city of my memories will never be the same.

  4. Becky says

    I used to live in Iowa City, too; still have friends there. It’s strange to think about how much damage tornadoes do in such a short amount of time.

    Am I evil for being just a little bit glad that a sorority house had that kind of damage done to it?

  5. says

    Well, I still AM here, and lemme tellya, it was intense. I rode my bike home at 1:30 that night, so quiet and so dark.
    The roof and steeple gone of St. Pat’s.. but, y’know, STILL A HORDE OF DRUNK F*CKERS FOR ME TO WEAVE THRU TO GET HOME.
    Only they were drunker than usual, and firing off bottle rockets from beer bottles in their hands as they stumbled along. Storm left SOME things intact.

  6. says

    I couldn’t believe the damage either – I go to ISU (although I am in Rome this semester) and have many friends at Iowa… I am so happy that no one was hurt! I heard the storms were slow and took 1.5 hours to destroy everything then leave!

  7. linsee says

    my best friend lives on clinton street, and her apartment building was directly hit. had her apartment been on the other side, she would not have much left. apparently cars were blown off the top of the parking garage across the street from them. thinking about that scares the hell out of me.

    i went up last week, and saw some of the damage. it was insane.

  8. says

    When I lived there (1985-1989) I had an electric stove. My mother (in Chicago, roger’s park) kept calling to say that she smelled gas. In my apartment, hundreds of miles away, emenating from an electric stove.

  9. Kelly says

    Hi Wendy:

    Just so you know–my mother still isn’t any better/saner(though she complains less, since I hang up on her when she gets too annoying. Helps to live 3,000 miles away.

    She did, however, e-mail me like 9 million picture of the storm damage from the various local newspapers she found online (as if I could not find them myself).

    Hope you are doing well–congrats on the book!