Travel Diary #2953: Ames, Iowa!

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There isn’t much to say about Ames, Iowa…Except, that towns that are sleepy, sparse, and quaint often yield the fullest harvests. A stuck-up traveler might overlook some of the more hidden gems in a secluded little area like this, in favor of a chocolate “shoppe” or an overpriced craft store consisting of “found art” or even worse abstract expressionist paintings *shudders*. My first stop was an aging and somewhat haggard hobby store.

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This was the highlight of my visit. I will go into what made this stop my favorite at the end (can’t give away the money-shot in the second paragraph; ask any second-rate magician or pornographer and they will tell you the same…probably; this is all purely speculative). Anyway, this particular store had all the right signs of being amazing: the musty smell of a forgotten garage full of comics and books or the intense joy of finding that book/toy/movie that had been thought lost all those years ago. After I walked in, there was a moment in which I was inclined to mark the store up as a waste of time, I was dead wrong.

Even though I was planning on leaving, I usually make a sweep regardless of the initial quality. The Hobby Shop was mostly model trains and supplies as well as model tanks and planes and the like, but as I rounded the last corner I saw a rack that would’ve made The Grinch‘s heart grow way more than 3 sizes…we’re talking 10 sizes minimum. It was a regular rack, light blue, substantial, and older just like the store as well as its contents. That’s enough about it for now, on to more Ames!

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Just case you were looking to pick one up. I hear the Baptists are buy one get one free. Be sure to get your Christ-fax first I hear a lot of them have water damage.

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This was a very interesting store, but it had obviously been closed for sometime. The most intriguing aspect about this place, was that I wasn’t sure exactly what Roy was selling while he was open. The “…” leads me to believe I was supposed to know what was for sale, but based on what was in the window…

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I can’t decide whether Roy was playing a horrible joke on the tourists and townspeople of Ames, or if he was selling expired electronics, wooden motorcycles and hotel style art prints legitimately. If the latter is the case then it’s no surprise he went out of business, but if he was pulling some huge prank then…

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They better just be glad I was in a good mood from the Hobby Shop earlier, “Duck Worth Wearing” look at the duck forced to hold the sign so the happy-go-lucky human children can play away the day; all the while the put-upon waterfowl’s chicks are without their guardian. This derogatory display is the equivalent of Aunt Jemima or Uncle Remus. Disgusting.

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I heard a song about this place not making it. (FZ)

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Awww yeah I am about to have some fun!

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Son of a Bitch!!! Well, I suppose most of my luck was used up on the Hobby Shop. That’s OK, there has got to be something else interesting to do here.

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Well, well, well. What have we here? A drug store you say? Is this a chain or an upscale privately owned business, I wonder? Looks fairly cookie cutter, but Ames has surprised me before. I think its worth a look or two. Lets go shall we?

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Wow, a whole new brand of stuff to look through! This place is an interesting collaboration of a pharmacy, grocery store, liquor store, and convenience store. Impressive to say the least. Look at all the varieties of chips alone! Oh what a good idea!

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Cheese Flavored Pop Fresh! What an interesting name. Generic enough to warrant a picture and off-putting enough to get me to purchase them. (They were not very good at all) Perhaps I should have gone with the Cheese Balls. Next time, I believe I will.

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OK, here we have deliberate knock offs of name-brand chips. Normal, nothing special here except the price! Good gravy, the kind of markup the Lays people have pushed on us is astounding. If these chips are available or such low prices, its no wonder HyVee stores are not all across America. Come on HyVee, get your self straight before heading to the big leagues!!

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Now you are just being ridiculous. Your own salsa as well? Come on here, you can’t eat generic brand salsa with generic brand kettle chips!!

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However, you can eat generic brand salsa with generic “Select” tortilla chips. Oh HyVee, I am so sorry I doubted you. I wonder just how “Select” these chips must be. If these are the best pickins, then that must mean the regular kinds of tortilla chips are swept up in big piles on a warehouse floor and loaded into bags with a secondhand backhoe.

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Well I’ll be damned. If you thought the “Selects” were the creme De la creme of the HyVee chip world, one shelf over would prove you wrong six ways from Sunday! Organic generic chips! So that’s how they sell the normal chips for such a low price. These sly devils.

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They have thought of everything it seems, I bet they don’t have cereal though.

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Well, shut my mouth. I love anything generic or bootleg, but cereal and toys are some of my most favorite finds. Whether its Crispy Rice, Fruit Rings,

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these things,

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I love it when products describe exactly what is in the box, it’s almost like they think people will buy them because it’s in our vernacular. “Honey, will you run to the store to get me some Crispy Rice and Frosted Shredded wheat?”

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What also intrigues me, is when they give a generic product a fancy or “fun” name to attract a kid or me apparently.

“…and get some CocoaRageous and acetaminophen.”

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Seriously HyVee, Heee Haw soda? I assume this is a Mountain Dew type drink, and if that’s the case; then I would be right.

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Mmmm, love that genericy…yeah it’s a word…that I just made up. Eat your heart out Shakespeare!!

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Jesus, they even have frozen waffles! And french toast…sticks? Apparently there has been some trouble selling these waffles, as I have never seen an advertisement suggesting you decline the price posted. Only in the magical state of Iowa i guess.

Now for the reason Iowa is amazing:

In the Hobby Shop as I said, there wasn’t anything pinging my radar, until I came across a rack with lots of books on it. I thought they were train/hobby books and I almost got by them until something crossed my eye. They were hobby books, but of a very interesting kind. They were tabletop game books! Dungeons & Dragons-esque independent game-books!!! Many, many game-books!! I didn’t know where to start. I hadn’t gotten my hopes up yet for anything too big, but I trudged through the all the books and made a few discoveries.

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OK, not bad a Gamemaster’s Guide, which contains the rules and allows you to understand the processes of the game. It’s unwrapped which is cool and I recognize the artist so this is a pretty good find. I’m sure I wont ever actually play the game but it’s still nice to have it. If this was my only purchase I would have been happy with it.

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A swamp thing sourcebook?? There wasn’t anything else I needed from this store at this point. Again, I will never play any of these, but I am a fan of swamp thing and who knows maybe I will marry someone who has the rest of the game and has been only missing this sourcebook to complete their collection and play the game…..right? Even so, finding it in this particular store is amazing.

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Wow, there was a Ghostbusters Tabletop?!?!?!? And it looks like Gozer’s stepping out of the picture!!!! Wow, completely unwrapped and everything. It even comes with a “Ghostmaster Screen” woooooo! spooky! It doesn’t get much better than this folks. I began to wonder about other tabletop games I had seen over the years, and chuckled to myself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if this place had one of the Ninja Turtles books I had remembered seeing on eBay? There’s not much chance of that happening I’m sure”

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What!!! So freaking cool! You couldn’t have even asked for a more absurd title or cover art. Now, I was sure that I had emptied the reserves of all the cool shit, but no…..there was something left that was the farthest from my thoughts. Somewhere in the colossal machinations of the universe, however many parsecs away, something clicked. It could have been years ago, it could have been before I was DNA, before the store was opened, before the very origins of the basis of these next two things came to be, but it didn’t and still doesn’t matter when the tremendous event occurred, I only need know that it did.

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Get. The Fuck. Out. There had to be sound in the store but for the life of me I couldn’t have pointed it out to you, I can’t even tell you how long I was standing there holding these two books. Explosions could have been going off under my feet and the sun could have plummeted to the Earth, and I would not have budged. To give you a little back-story on these books, I will take you back to 1977 at a movie theater. I wasn’t born yet so I missed out on the opportunity to see a certain film entitled Wizards by Ralph Bakshi. You may not know it, mostly due to the fact that, that same year a low-budget film was released called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Which completely shadowed anything else in the theaters at that time. It was an animated film, and unfortunately for the most part animation is reserved to children’s fare. This movie was/is more than that. The plot line essentially, was a good vs. evil, technology vs. nature progression. Twin wizards were born to an elf queen, and one was full of good and joy (Avatar: Top picture) the other hideous and drafted towards the dark (Blackwolf: Bottom picture). I saw the movie on VHS years and years ago. For some reason I was drawn to it and it always remained an important part of my life. To this day I regard it as my favorite movie of all time. Several years ago I found out that there was a Role Playing Game or tabletop RPG, based on the film. Again eBay and random pages on the internet allowed me to see the various books and pages from the game. I never held an actual version of it in my hands until that day. The best part about all this was the sign on the shelving said 50% off. So that’s what you were waiting for if you made it this far without blacklisting or furiously closing my page. I’m sorry there isn’t more for you but it’s late and I have been trying to finish this for two days now.

I do think it’s it funny, that going to the city of Ames named for the now defunct department store (more speculation), where I remember picking out Ninja Turtles and other random things from my childhood; would be the spot where a small piece of happiness would be pushed back into place. Now if I could only get that damn Ninja Turtle blimp I would be set!

Thanks for reading.

Until nest time,

-Ace

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