We had the smoothest, most mouth-pleasing banana cream pie at the Toddle House.... We had the most vividly delicious neon-colored ice creams at Reed’s, a parlor of cool opulence near Ashworth Swimming Pool (itself the handsomest, most elegant public swimming pool in the world, with the slimmest, tannest female lifeguards) in Greenwood Park (best tennis courts, most decorous lagoon, comeliest drives). Driving home from Ashworth Pool through Greenwood Park, under a flying canopy of green leaves, nicely basted in chlorine and knowing that you would shortly be plunging your face into three gooey scoops of Reed’s ice cream is the finest feeling of well-being a human can have.I've read this book many times, mostly in the audiobook version. (It's my favorite falling-asleep book.) I'm searching the Kindle version today, looking for the most intense tributes to Des Moines, a city where we sojourned for 2 hours yesterday. It's not the 1950s anymore — Bill Bryson, like me, was born in 1951 — but, still, if you were looking for the best of America, could you find another place?
We had the tastiest baked goods at Barbara’s Bake Shoppe; the meatiest, most face-smearing ribs and crispiest fried chicken at a restaurant called the Country Gentleman; the best junk food at a drive-in called George the Chilli King. (And the best farts afterward; a George’s chilli burger was gone in minutes, but the farts, it was said, went on forever.) We had our own department stores, restaurants, clothing stores, supermarkets, drugstores, florists, hardware stores, movie theaters, hamburger joints, you name it—every one of them the best of its kind. Well, actually, who could say if they were the best of their kind? To know that, you’d have had to visit thousands of other towns and cities across the nation and tasted all their ice cream and chocolate pie and so on because every place was different then. That was the glory of living in a world that was still largely free of global chains. Every community was special and nowhere was like everywhere else.
August 18, 2013
Wrote Bill Bryson in his memoir "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid":