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 Summer Weather, Work, and Travel 

Submitted by Carlo Becker on Sat, 06/21/2014 - 21:04

Last Monday, around 8 p.m., I thought I would experience my first tornado. All of a sudden, two or three different sirens went off, howling through the thick humid evening air. Someone blaring through a speaker was warning me and everyone else from something that I could not understand because the voice was heavily distorted. It was dark outside; this distinct darkness that is caused by oodles of heavy and fat dark clouds. Not sure what to do (I was home alone and our apartments do not have basements) I left the house and talked to my neighbors who were enjoying the cool winds that the approaching storm was sending ahead. They told me that nothing's gonna happen, they'd never had a tornado really close in Cedar Falls. That was reassuring. Also, oddly enough, there were people on the streets just walking casually around, enjoying the rain that was only gradually getting stronger. The sirens were still wailing. By now, my roommates had joined us, and we just stood there under our roof looking at the rain which was now strong enough to make people actually run home except for this one guy who was already soaked all over, so he just walked. The rain was really heavy now, of a quality that you do not experience every day, and the grey sky behind us was almost clear except for one long band of thick clouds that seemed to circle around us swiftly. We knew by now that the tornado was passing Cedar Falls at a distance, and I think it caused some damage in a town close by, but no people were hurt or killed there. Rain, lightning and thunder, and even some hail, continued into the night, but that was it. The next day I heard that two people were killed by a tornado (or was it even a twin tornado?) in Nebraska. 

Aside from this one storm, the summer is pretty benign so far. Temperatures are mostly high and the air humid, but it's by no means extreme. I spend a lot of my time reading now that I am not only working in the office of the North American Review, but also taking this class on the history of the magazine. We—not more than a dozen people—mostly read and discuss selected publications from as early as 1815 up to the present, from some of the NAR's most prominent contributors such as William Cullen Bryant, Walt Whitman, Amy Lowell, Sara Taesdale, John Steinbeck, T.C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood. Next week, the class will participate in the staff's poetry meeting, and we'll help select poems for publication. My final project will (tentatively) look at the way that selected essays, poems, and stories in the NAR relate to American nature writing in general, and how concepts like 'wilderness' have developed over time.












I also managed to do some travelling twice in the past few weeks. First I rented a car and bought some camping equipment to spend a weekend in the Badlands National Park and the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. It was a really great weekend in the midst of some very impressive nature. Seeing the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore was interesting, too, but nothing manmade could match to the natural beauty of the Badlands prairie and the lakes and woods of the Black Hills. If you are interested in that trip, there are currently three posts about it on my blog, and I’ll write one or two more.










Then, two or three weeks later, two of my roommates and a friend from Athens visited me! They were returning from a big road trip out West, and we had a great night out on Main Street and College Hill (which is where most Cedar Falls restaurants and bars are located), and they had the great idea that I should just join them the next day for Chicago. It was no problem to get the next two days off, so I asked a friend if she could pick me up in Iowa City on Sunday, because that’s where the Megabus would drop me off, and she agreed to do that, so I said yes, let’s go to Chicago. We spent the first night there together, had probably the best tapas of our lives, and then hit the bars a little. They left the next morning to go back home to Ohio, and I could stay at one of their brother’s apartment the entire weekend which saved me a lot of money. The first day, I walked around the city quite a bit and then went out with the two guys I stayed with. On day two, I visited the Chicago History Museum and explored downtown a little bit more before going to a free hardcore concert with some rather weird bands, but it was still pretty cool. I'll let you know if that weekend gets its own blog post.

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