On Getting out of Iowa, for All the Right Reasons

There’s a lovely essay in yesterday’s New York Times by our friend Joe Blair who coyly describes himself in the bio line as a pipe fitter from Iowa City. That Joe is modest is certainly a fine thing–we who have no modesty recognize that it is a virtue. As a person with a disability modesty might have killed me in days of yore. But I digress. Back to Joe’s essay. Joe’s son Michael is autistic and when Joe and his wife Deb discovered that Michael loved the ocean more than anything (and that’s a “real” “anything”) they decided to get out of Iowa and move to Massachusetts. They’re in the very process of the move having found a place in Newton, hence a 30 minute drive to the sea. Iowa City is a 30 minute drive away from the Mississippi if you drive like a state trooper with Montezuma’s Revenge.

The poet Hokusai had 947 changes of address during his life. (See the post below. I should add for the sake of full disclosure that Joe Blair, essayist, alum of the University of Iowa’s graduate workshop in nonfiction writing has made his living in Iowa these past years by running his own heating and cooling business. Pipe fitting is a part of that enterprise but if you’ve ever looked an electronic furnace in the eye and rearranged its petulant circuitry, well I rest my case. Joe, back in town for the purpose of “finishing up” following his family’s move came over and fixed my furnace on the day of first snow. May the gods of Vesuvius bless Joe for many reasons. But I digress.

Joe has moved to Newton, in effect taking a risk in a depression (for that’s what this is, let there be no mistake) and I know that such faith is the right stuff. To quote old Joe Campbell, it’s always best “to follow your bliss” and Lord knows the ocean is the greatest bliss factory on earth.

Out here in Iowa you can blindfold yourself and stand in a corn field and sometimes in the wind it sounds like Cape Cod.

But Joe’s son Michael knew the difference. And Joe and Deb did too. “Look! Toto got away! He got away!”

Take a look a Mr. Blair’s splendid piece on autism as a form of knowing.

Pipe fitter, indeed.



Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

0 thoughts on “On Getting out of Iowa, for All the Right Reasons”

  1. Hey Steve,
    I was wondering if you had any of Joe’s contact information. I’ve been searching and can only find his linked in profile & the phone number for his construction company, which is out of service.
    I work with Surfers Healing – A Foundation for Autism. We organize day surf camps for kids with Autism and their families. We have camps on both coasts, and just finished our East Coast dates which included NY, NJ and Rhode Island. We’d love to invite Joe, Deb, Mike & Lucy out next summer.
    Hope you can help put us in touch!


  2. Steve, I was wondering if you were the “some department head” he wrote about when I read his essay yesterday!
    Small, small world.
    I also really liked his “I will figure it out” attitude.
    Here’s hoping for wave upon wave of nothing but the absolute best for Michael and his family.


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