Yes, HappyCow.org has been thanklessly guiding my gut for years now, but without smart phone or hotel internet in Des Moines I opted, over driving aimlessly back and forth across the river, to seek counsel of the phone book for dinner, heartrendingly missing HC’s recommendation of ‘A Dong’ for some vegetarian-friendly Chinese. What can I say, I can’t resist being a taker. Though Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure was revealed to me fortuitously on the drive up to the north side for a Bandit Burrito, it wasn’t until the soy chorizo bezoar began to coalesce dangerously on the car ride back that it became imperative for me to pay them a visit.
I was in Des Moines for about eighteen hours as the far bookend of a trip to Cedar Falls. My mental palate was blissfully vacant from the grand right angle drive of interstate and state highways through afternoon and after dropping my charge at the airport was liberated into plains dusk that threatened to swallow me but I didn’t care. It was palpable and delicious cooling my comfortably sweaty skin. Inside Zanzibar’s I took a few sips of my coffee to pulverize the soyrizoar, cast it loose, and sat outside on a little bench built into the window watching the sun go down far over Ingersoll so slowly that it was still up when I got back downtown, where, walking again around Chipperfield’s little glass library I was able to see it flip from a solid, the copper mesh nested into the glass panes prominent in any hint of daylight, to a shelled hollow as the interior lighting surmounted the twilight. Then as suddenly as that had been protracted the city sat completely in darkness.
Then I walked on fuel of postprandial coffee for hours. I jittered back and forth across the river inexplicably looping through the nightlife of the Court Center area repeatedly. On perhaps my fourth swing through the garish sidewalks where both men and women strode in striped blouses I saw a dollar bill idly lifting from the sidewalk. As I bent to retrieve it I noticed, folded into a thick wad, another deposit of cash just a few feet further down the street. Nobody was nearby at this edge of the district and I was not about to make the rounds of the knuckleheads who might keep loose cash folded in the silken breast pockets of their billowing blouses. The yield of my discovery was just over $30. Still manic from the coffee, though physically exhausted, I decided to leverage a bit of my windfall on downers at a decadent patio tequila bar where the fools whose pockets I fancied I had just picked, one and all, lounged on upholstered white settees and banquettes, and on over-sized wicker armchairs. I spent about a third of my cash on drink and, turned tepid inside and out, Zanzibar’s first slipped away then this place and these people in the cradle of warm midnight.
The next midday I drove out to the Des Moines Art Center with a baguette and tub of hummus. Trans-Europe Express came on the radio. The museum was nearly empty and I was moved alone amidst Robyn O’Neil‘s large pencil drawings recalling the youthful isolation, and the skills learned from Commander Mark‘s afternoon television drawing shows, that drove me to fill up little notebooks with cities and men on another planet called Flambenoi. I instantly regretted wasting the money I had found on tequila, bought O’Neil’s exhibition catalog (and a postcard of Bacon’s ‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X’) with my remaining funds, and sat in the drizzle eating an entire loaf of bread wondering why I hadn’t spent the evening in my hotel drawing.
Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure2723 Ingersoll Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312