The most wonderful place in the world.
All of my adult life, Iowa City has been the place to go for a good time.
If I was making the two-hour drive to the land of the Hawkeyes, it meant special things were in store. Perhaps I was going to a football game, or a basketball game. Maybe I was meeting old friends for good food and good drinks.
Or maybe I was going to a show or a concert. Once, I went to see one of my own shows, performed live, on stage in Iowa City, the Fine Arts Capitol of the Midwest.
Well, actually, it was more of a church basement than it was a stage. But it was my show, dammit! And it was damn good! Performed by a handful of those amazing Iowa City actors, live!
Perhaps I was making the trip to Iowa City to visit one or both of my daughters -- to help them move, or get them checked in, or even to cheer them on as they graduated.
Sometimes Iowa City was just a place to meet the entire family -- Mom and Dad, sis and brother-in-law and the nephews -- for some of that good Iowa City food in one of those great Iowa City restaurants.
It didn't matter why I was going to Iowa City, it only mattered that I was going to Iowa City. And if I was going to Iowa City, good things were about to happen. There's a little bit of Heaven in that sea of black and gold.
A few miles north of Mount Pleasant on highway 218, there's the "JESUS" sign. A big green billboard with big white letters, the signs screams "JESUS" at you.
For at least 12 years, it's been an excellent joke with my daughters. The first one who sees the billboard points and yells, "JESUS!" as if something astonishing just happened. Then we laugh and laugh and laugh.
We're funny people, my daughters and I.
Also on the way, right there on 218, there's a Swedish-American Museum, and the Birthplace of the Republican Party, and a casino that sometimes has bands like Styx and Tesla performing live, and the future birthplace of Captain Kirk, and a really pretty tree that my wife likes to sometimes stop and take a photo of, for some artistic experiment she's working on. Plus, an A and W Root Beer stand. Yes, all in the same 40-mile stretch. So that's fun.
Those trips to Iowa City have not been as perpetually joyful for the last couple of weeks, though there have been a lot of them.
My wife has been taking me to Iowa City so that we can deal with this cancer thing.
Two months ago, I found out I have colon cancer. When you have that, Iowa City is the place to go. They're the experts.
There have been tests, and consultations, and tests, and probes, and tests and tests and tests.
I especially disliked the one where they stuck some kind of video scope up my ass, and then casually talked about the inside of my asshole, as if they were chatting over coffee about how ripe their tomato plants were.
I was also not fond of the test where they backed my entire body into a giant steel tube for 45 minutes. They shook the tube up, accompanied with the sounds and smells of road construction, as I laid down in there, arms at my side, screaming as if Jason Vorhees was coming at me with an ice pick.
OK, I wasn't screaming, because I'm a man. I was whimpering.
My forehead itched, but I could not scratch it, because I couldn't move my arms. So then I started to think, "How the hell do I crawl out of here if something goes wrong, and this thing gets stuck or something, or there's a fire or a tornado or ISIS attack?"
After about a minute of claustrophobic panic, I realized that my legs were free. If I had to get out, I could use my legs to push myself out of there, kind of like toothpaste oozing out.
So I tried to forget about my itch and my panic and concentrate on the classic rock.
Oh, I forgot to mention -- before they put you into the giant steel Tube of Death and Discomfort, they put some old-fashioned headphones on you and ask you what kind of music you would like to listen to.
"Classic rock," I said.
It was quite possibly the worst mix of classic rock songs ever put together. Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Elton John, Journey, Eagles, and some song I had never heard before. And not the best songs by those artists, the awful songs they recorded that never made it onto albums until they did their "Lost Recordings" anthologies.
Next time, if there is a next time, I'm going to say, "Nothing but Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Waylon Jennings and Abba," just to see if they can pull that mix off.
Anyway, after all the tests and probes and unplugged versions of Philadelphia Freaking Freedom, they decided last week that my colon has to go. It's "betrayed" me.
Personally, I never trusted that colon anyway, so its betrayal -- while hurtful -- was not a surprise.
They're going to rip that back-stabbing bastard out of me in about 18 days.
They went over all the things that could go wrong, and there were quite a lot of them. Each of them has somewhere between a 1 percent and 15 percent chance of happening.
So I guess they have between an 85 and 99 percent chance of not happening, right?
Which sounds good, until you think about how often the weatherman gets it right when he says there's any chance of anything happening.
And one of the last things they did before they let me go was decide on where they're going to attach my bag. Because when you don't have a colon, you need a bag.
Because I don't have enough things to worry about, what with that jackass Trump actually polling above 40 percent. I've also got to have a bag attached to me for the rest of my life.
And so they used the high-tech measurement technique of thumbs and eyeballs to figure it out. Good Lord, I think I had a tape measure in the car, if that would have helped. The wife and I use more advanced technology when we hang a picture on the wall.
And then they took a Sharpie, and drew a great big black dot on my stomach, and told me not to wash it off.
So my job for the next three weeks is to not let the giant black dot on my stomach fade away.
It needs to be there, this big black dot, so they know what they're doing when they remove my colon.
So I've got quite a responsibility to handle until the next time I take a trip to Iowa City. Which will be September 23rd. The day my colon dies.
About a week in the hospital, if all goes well. And about 4-6 weeks of recovery after that, if all goes well.
And I don't want to think about if all doesn't go well.
That's why the trip to Iowa City is kind of a bummer these days.