Friday, March 21, 2008

the day i met sylvester stallone was an unusual day- one of those days that iowa snuck up on you, reminded you that there was truly no place like it on earth. even in the grayest, dullest march, the cornfields would be beginning to sprout and show life; the rich soil, you knew, would soon be sprouting something.

i'd grown weary of iowa city- a college town where everyone was a lot like me- and attracted to dubuque, an old, pretty but very conservative river town, with steep river bluffs, brick streets and an incline, like pittsburgh, where i grew up. i didn't mind the lack of jobs- iowa city had that problem too- and thought, if i tried hard enough, i'd find something. i thought maybe i'd investigate it. i had a friend in iowa city, a bit of a hustler, who said he had a job on sylvester stallone's movie, Fist- a minor part, but an important one nevertheless, he said. stallone was a personal friend of his, he maintained, and, he was going up there tomorrow, would i like a ride? of course i agreed. he explained that they were making most of the movie in the warehouse district, down by the river, and they had fixed it up to be like the depression, when the movie was set. sure enough, when we got there, after a morning's drive up from iowa city, it was very much like the depression. actors hung around wearing 20's costumes, leaning on walls of very old buildings, smoking cigarettes.

my friend the hustler changed a little, got nervous, as if he owed everyone money. i wanted to hang around a little, meet the actors, see the place where they were getting their clothes. but he was not eager to hang around; he agreed to take me to the red stone inn, a redecorated house that was now dubuque's best coffee shop. we drove up through the center of town while i noticed how different dubuque was from iowa city. the red stone inn was up against the bluffs, on the other side of downtown, but it was easy enough to find; we parked and walked in. and there was sylvester stallone, getting his coffee from the cashier, and turning around to face me.

he was relaxed, confident, and friendly, and said hello to me. my friend had disappeared, completely; I was alone. so i said, welcome to iowa. in my own way, i felt confident too- this town was so much like the one i grew up in; though i wasn't familiar with either the town, or the red stone inn, still, i was at home, that was easy for me to say. and he walked away; he took his coffees to the table. it was a mystery what happened to my friend- i'm not sure i ever caught up with him. he must have owed stallone money too, was all i could figure- or worse. years later i actually watched the movie, which i liked- didn't see the friend anywhere. stallone, whatever else you could say, was at least good at what he did; iowa was better off, for having him for a while. i myself went back to iowa city though- there were no jobs in dubuque for strangers- and i guess i figured that out pretty quickly. the corn peeked out of the ground in the afternoon sun on the way back- it wasn't hard to get a ride, as usual, and i got home by nightfall- didn't see the friend for a long time after that, and by then, i'd more or less forgotten. he'd at least given me a ride though. who knows what else i'd stumbled into?


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