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If you feel your world has turned inside out, you have company. Plenty of company.

Last Thursday morning, March 19, Des Moines City Council members met — online — for our first work session since our meeting Monday, March 9. Since then, coronavirus/COVID-19 has altered our lives as has nothing in most of our memories. Each day feels like we’re being whipsawed through new developments. It’s complex, financially painful and socially stressful.

Saturday afternoon, Mayor Frank Cownie urged residents to impose a strict practice of “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” for the next two weeks.

“To ensure we are doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the pandemic, it is my strong recommendation that Des Moines residents stay home for at least 14 days,” Cownie said. “We know from health officials that the single, best way to control the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid unnecessary contact with others, it is vital we as a community begin voluntarily to take that action as quickly as possible.”

Here is a smattering of details I gleaned from last Thursday morning’s update by city department heads. The city of Des Moines, in concert with others, will:

  • extend dates of scheduled public hearings; 

  • extend deadlines for payment of fines (parking tickets, for example);

  • impose a 90-day moratorium on evictions;

  • work with Des Moines Water Works to temporarily suspend service termination for delinquent accounts;

  • work with MidAmerican Energy for relief on shut-offs;

  • work on general assistance for the collection of rents in Des Moines Public Housing;

  • relocate some people in homeless shelters to apartments;

  • Postpone the dog license renewal deadline to June 30 and encourage dog owners to file electronically; and

  • consider new guidelines for homeless camps.

In addition, while the Des Moines Public Library remains closed, including to drive-up service, we can expect an uptick of digital offerings. On Friday, the library hosted its first virtual storytime. There will be more! Details about upcoming events:

Also, residents can access free Wi-Fi outside of each public library branch.


Here are nine good reasons to pump up the tires on that bike hanging in your garage. From Cosmic Bikes in Chicago:

  • Avoid crowded spaces = Ride Bicycles

  • Keep a safe distance from people who sneeze and cough = Ride Bicycles

  • Do not use public transit = Ride Bicycles

  • Expose yourself to sunshine = Ride Bicycles

  • Avoid recirculated air = Ride Bicycles

  • Boost immunity with fresh air = Ride Bicycles

  • Missing your exercise class or gym? = Ride Bicycles

  • Staying home from work or school? = Ride Bicycles

  • Maintain a positive and prudent attitude = Ride Bicycles


Puzzles, Board Games, and Cards

New Yorker Magazine - March 9th, 2020

You can’t sit there all day watching Law and Order reruns! We’ll need a bunch of activities to keep the family busy. Here are five favorites:

  1. Cribbage—“15-2, 15-4, 15-6, and a pair is 8.” Harold Lamb, Susan’s dad, played cribbage in the back room at B & R Drug Store in Fairfield at the end of nearly every weekday. All cribbage requires is a standard deck of playing cards and a cribbage board (available at some local shops and online). Cribbage is a terrific game to build math skills. Here’s a link to teaching cribbage to a third grader: Happy pegging!

  2. Dominoes—Every time I’ve stopped at the ML King Senior Center on Garfield Avenue, Dominoes appears to be the game of choice. There might be a box around your house, with a set of 28 tiles (double six). Can’t find a complete set? Ask around in your neighborhood, check local retail shops, or do an online search.

  3. Card games—What’s your game of choice? Hearts, Euchre, War, Kings in the Corner come to mind. And of course, Five-Card Draw. Google details.

  4. Puzzles—Whether it’s simple 24-piece puzzles for preschoolers or massive 1,000-piece challenges for the entire family, completing a puzzle is a rewarding accomplishment. Terrific for conversation, too.

  5. Learn to play the guitar—Touring musicians are feeling the pinch. Over the last three years, a favorite group of ours, Danika and The Jeb, have played three of our Home Ditty house concerts. Jeb has a six-month online program to learn how to play the guitar. Check it out! And consider attending one of their online shows (details, next section)


Get your fix of live music

Susan and I have put our house concerts on hold. But one of our favorite groups—Danika and The Jeb—are staging online shows. The duo hosted their first concerts was Saturday with follow-up events on Tuesday, March 24. Get your front-row seat here.

Local scene: Susan and I joined a Noce concert Friday night via Facebook Livestream featuring Max Wellman, Steve Charlson, and Tina Haase Findlay. And one point, more than 300 were logged in. Supportive emojis showered the screen.

Support your neighborhood restaurants

Eatery owners are getting creative to offset the lack of dine-in service. Here’s what a few of our favorite restaurants have created for carryout dining:

  • Aposto, Sherman Hill — Tony Lemmo’s “Italian Family Meal” package, feeds 6 to 8 adults. I wish I could email a “scratch and sniff” of the baked cavatelli we picked up Wednesday evening. Heavenly! And it’s not complete without Tony’s fabulous homemade dressing and salad. Order here

  • St. Kilda Surf & Turf, East Village — Alex Hall will have his place open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for curbside pickup, or FREE delivery on orders of $25 or more. Folded eggs are my go-to breakfast choice, chicken souvlaki for lunch. Order here.

  • Baratta’s, South Side — Joe’s Gatto’s restaurant on South Union Street has eight pasta dinners available for carryout or delivery. We’re fans of the Southwest pasta with Italian sausage. Order here.

  • Full Court Press, various locations — Most of the 12 restaurants in Jeff Bruning’s group now offer curbside service for carryout orders. “We believe that as this goes on, will see an uptick in the desire for curbside service and are adjusting accordingly,” Jeff says. Order here.

Plus, this is a perfect time to share your neighborhood restaurant with others! Why not check with your favorites? We’ll start a listing you can reference anytime. Be sure to get note:

  • kitchen hours

  • whether or not they deliver and how much they charge

  • a favorite or two of yours or a friend

  • their preferred means of ordering such as a website or phone number.

Virtual 5k Race—a first

The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick moved forward with plans for Saturday’s 5k race—with a few spins to comply with health and safety guidelines. Instead of a 9 a.m. gun signaling the start at the Sands Volleyball Club, this year’s runners will be on their honor to email or text their times. Your course, your start, your finish, your timing. Supply your own bananas, yogurt, or cookies at the finish.

Al Gross and I ran at 7 am and finished in 29:18. Jim Lawson served as our course marshal, starter, timer, and SDE (social distance enforcer).


Update: Sustainability Program Manager

In February, the Des Moines Civil Service and the Des Moines City Council approved 40 candidates for this new city position. The selection process remains underway. Filling this position was a recommendation of the Citizens Taskforce on Sustainability. 

The walking/biking trail from Gray’s Lake to Mullet’s is undergoing a $7.8 million relining of nearly 4,000 feet of a sewer line between the Southwest 9th Street viaduct to the confluence with the Des Moines River (near Mullet’s). In Phase I, underway since late last year, Maryland-based Spiniello Companies employees have worked about 16 feet beneath the trail throughout the winter. When completed in another four or six weeks, the 78-inch-diameter storm sewer will have a new 1 ½-inch-thick geopolymer lining. The process—far cheaper than installing a new sewer line—requires specialty equipment. Follow progress here. Work on Division II is scheduled to begin this summer.


On our weekend runs, Ron Ricker’s Running Club (RRRC) solves most of the world’s problems—or so we think. But in our collective wisdom, we’ve yet to land on an explanation to hoarding toilet paper.

I’m reminded of our Nana’s household on South Governor Street in Iowa City, where she single-handedly raised five children (no Social Security, no ADC) following our grandfather’s early death in 1928. Toilet paper was at a premium then, too—and not always in the budget. Second choice: dress patterns! “Is it okay to use a FRONT on my back?” Uncle Joe was reported to have shouted from the bathroom.

Keep calm, and wipe on!

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