And now to some of the things I enjoy about Des Moines…
Varsity Theater: Locally owned, in the heart of the Drake campus, and often showing movies not mainstream enough to play in the cookie-cutter multiplexes. The best part is a visit to the concession stand. It’s downright jarring to find pop and candy less than half what you pay at Century Theatres or Wynnsong. The prices are actually reasonable. Imagine that. Plus, some selections of stuff you remember from your childhood but don’t find anywhere else (Snowcaps!). Bonus points to owner Bev Mahon (a man), for always telling me, “You look taller in person”. He’s the only one.
Cooney’s Tavern: Not quite like being in Ireland, but the next best thing in Des Moines. The bar feels authentic, albeit a little nicer than the actual pubs in Ireland. I’m not quite a “regular”—can’t be with kids—but I’ve been enough that when I found myself surprisingly low on cash—did I mention kids?—owner Brian Cooney told me to get him next time. I brought the money the next day. I hate owing anyone money.
The Irish Shoppe: This place in Valley Junction has some cool stuff, and the place gets bonus points for helping out my parents. They went in and said they wanted to buy a poster for their son that was hanging in the Cooney’s bathroom. They weren’t sure what it was, but it had something to do with old, dead Irish guys. The nice lady at the Shoppe went over to Cooney’s and checked out the poster and special ordered it for mom & dad. It hangs above the computer as I type. It’s called “Irish Writers” and shows pictures of 12 of the best along with a few lines of their famous works. For example, Samuel Beckett, “Perhaps my best years are gone… but I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.” Or George Bernard Shaw, “An Irishman’s heart is nothing but his imagination.” I like that. (Beckett to the left, Shaw below. Tell me there aren’t stories in those faces.)
The Des Moines Playhouse. Love this place. Cool building, great entertainment, nice people. I always enjoy the way kids respond to live theater when they’re used to movies and television. My two little ones, Cade 5 and Colin 2, loved the recent Stinky Cheese Man more than any movie they saw this year. The Graduate is up next (that’s nothing like Stinky Cheese Man).
(Hey, look at that! I’m finally putting pictures on my blog. I’m no Erin Kiernan, but it’s a start!)
95KGGO Arena: I can’t add much to what Andy said in one of his classic What’s Bugging Andys. I’m not sure I agree this is the best place to see a game in the state of Iowa, but it’s definitely top five. When you go watch the Des Moines Bucs, you are right on top of the ice, and the fans are knowledgeable, and really into it (some, perhaps, have a little too much spirit because they’ve had a little too much spirits). Colin, who you may recall from a previous paragraph is two years old, starts chanting “Let’s Go Bucs!” every time we drive by the Arena.
KXNO: I lived here a long time with no sports radio, really enjoyed the days when we had three choices for stations, and now listen frequently to the last one standing: KXNO.
Des Moines Register Sports: I hear a lot of grumbling about how the Register isn’t what it was in the good ol’ days, and perhaps that true, but it’s still part of daily breakfast for me. I haven’t changed since I was a kid. Pour a bowl of cereal, prop the sports section between the bowl and the jug of milk, eat. Repeat. I do miss the Big Peach though.
The Funny Bone: I’ve really missed the Funny Bone since it closed out the old location a few weeks back. Fortunately, the new one opens soon in West Des Moines and not only will it be a much nicer location and venue, it will be SMOKE FREE! Can’t wait. A good laugh is good for the soul.
Newton Drive-In: Closed for the winter, but always a fun night with the family. Feels like stepping back in time. Speaking of that…
Living History Farms: The old fashioned Family Halloween Nights is coming up, and it’s a can’t miss for us. We did feel a little silly the first time we went because two of the kids had on really scary Friday the 13th type costumes. This isn’t that kind of Halloween. We went home and changed. (Full disclosure: Channel 13 is a sponsor of this) . How ’bout another logo… I’m on a roll:
Cityview: It’s always good for a city to have an alternative newspaper that doesn’t answer to a corporate conglomerate. Sure, some of what passes for “news” is just mean-spirited gossip planted by sources with their own hidden agendas, and often flat our wrong, but Cityview gets a lot right too. The lengthy investigative stories showcase young journalists working really hard.
I often pick up a copy of Cityview. Heck, they’re everywhere. You can’t swing a dead cat without a hitting a Cityview stand. I especially enjoy the paper’s food, movie and TV reviews. I think they’re mostly right on target, although I disagree on Friday Night Lights. It’s a great show, but give the Cityview critic credit, apparently no one’s watching but me. Save this show! Oh yeah, and the “Think You’re Funny” picture caption contest. Classic.
More good things about Des Moines next time… Please let me know some of your favorites too.