Marcia and I went up to Mason City, Iowa on Monday, about 115 miles north of Des Moines. She had some business meetings, so I puttered around, exploring a city known for its spectacular Prairie School and Craftsman architecture, including the newly-restored, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Park Inn Hotel and another well-restored, highly-regarded Wright work, The Stockman House. Mason City was also the home on Meredith Willson, who based the setting and some of the characters in his most famous creation, The Music Man, on the city where he was raised.
As I normally do, I shot some photos, and toward the end of the day, I found myself catty-corner from an immense and striking Victorian brick building with lovely wrought verdigris-coated metal panels. As I got my camera ready to frame a shot of the building, I was vaguely aware of a small, older woman shuffling (and I mean that literally) toward the corner of the block where the building stood. I snapped a few frames, when cars weren’t passing between the building and my vantage point, and then I realized that the little old lady in tennis shoes had actually stopped walking, had turned to face me, and was standing there, motionless, for a good 30 seconds, staring at me . . . so I raised the camera again and popped off a couple of more frames. Then she slowly turned left and moved on down the road.
The amazing thing about the moment was that it was almost as if she was looking through my viewfinder, because she stopped and stood in the perfect spot for the shot, faced directly into the camera, and was outfitted like some grocery imp or retail sprite, sent by the Gods of Holiday Cheer to brighten up my architectural studies. I could have spent an hour having a professional fluffer outfit and primp her, and then direct her to move this way and that while I fiddled with the lighting, and I never would have gotten her great bright red cap right on the axis where she placed it herself, nor captured the seriocomic expression on her face, nor gotten her scarf to drop just so.
Here’s the shot. Click on it to see it larger, and to better spot the Ghost of Chrismas Shopping Present:
While it certainly doesn’t have the same magic that the photo above does, my other favorite shot of the day was taken in the Skylight Room in the Park Inn Hotel, of the original Frank Lloyd Wright-designed glass skylights, which are truly, madly beautiful.
All in all, a great day trip. I look forward to traveling to the other corners of the state with Marcia as she visits her clients in different cities. Who know what spirits might lurk in Dubuque?