A RAYGUN Enthusiast Returns to DSM USA
Being an Iowan in a neighboring state can be tedious at times. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about our state and capital city. You can hear the slight hitch of confusion in coworker’s voices when casually mentioning the latest “Best of” or “Top City” list that includes Greater Des Moines (DSM). Maybe you give a polite chuckle when they jokingly ask whether you’re from the corn state or the potato state. You try to overlook it when they tout their state fair as the best in the nation. Those things you can let go. But, one day, listening to a co-worker praising RAYGUN as a locally-grown, Kansas City-based store while showing off her “Patrick is Mahomey” t-shirt proved to be a bridge too far for me.
I’m not exactly why sure that one sent me over the edge. Maybe it’s because, as a DSM native, I remember when the store first opened, as well as its original name. Or perhaps it was due to my love of the initial “Periodic Table of Des Moines” t-shirt. It could also be that the store provided me with the “IDAWAHIO!” t-shirt I wore at conferences around the country to tease colleagues for constantly getting my home state wrong. Whatever the reason, I didn’t ignore this conversation. I had to say something. I had to explain that DSM was the actual birthplace of RAYGUN. Which I did in a patient voice and sincere hometown pride.
Two weeks later, in the spirit of Christmas, I bought my coworkers “The Midwest: A Map” coasters from the RAYGUN flagship store. I bought myself an “Iowans: The Few, The Proud, The EXTREMELY Attractive” mug and drank from it around the office so there was no confusion as to where I was from. But I had no clue that just one year later, that same hometown pride would bring me back.
Change was beginning in DSM when RAYGUN first opened in 2005. But that growth has been exponential since I moved to Missouri in 2011. I gradually witnessed the changes over the years when I returned for holidays, graduations, weddings, the birth of my niece and to say goodbye to my grandmother. Each time I came, I saw the evolution of the city. But I didn’t fully appreciate who DSM had become until November of 2019 when I pulled the ultimate millennial move and found myself temporarily living with my parents in order to accept a job with the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) as their new Business Partnerships Coordinator.
In a short three months, change has become the theme of my new life here. Whether it’s learning the responsibilities of a new position, moving into a new place or preparing for the arrival of a nephew, I can identify with the evolution of our city. The person I am today looks much different from the person who left almost a decade ago. The same is true of DSM. We’re both in the midst of learning, moving forward and preparing for what’s next. Yet, even with the progress, the character has stayed true to itself.
Each night when I leave DART Central Station and head to my new place in Johnston, I take time to explore a different part of the city. And for every old haunt I discover something new. The Station on Ingersoll brings a great addition to the neighborhood, while Jesse’s Embers still anchors the block. I love the variety of a Locust Tap across from Up-Down. What was once a singular venture on 4th and Locust has expanded into multiple locations across the Midwest. Isn’t that the essence of DSM and Iowa? Innovation with a foundation of tradition.
I am proud to have been raised here and even prouder to return. I’m excited to learn about the new additions to the city, enjoy the new addition to my family and look forward to my triumphant return to fellow native sibling, RAYGUN. I already have two shirts picked out. One is innovative, reminding us that “Iowa Needs Public Transportation” and the other? It’s an oldie but a goodie: “Des Moines – Hell YES!”
Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods and shopping to parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!
Ebonee Woods Nelson
Ebonee Woods Nelson is the business partnerships coordinator for Des Moines Area Transit Authority (DART). A Des Moines native, she graduated from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO.