Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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At Home With

Round two for Mark Godwin


Home sweet home isn’t déjà vu

The view from Mark Godwin’s south-side home is what sold him on the purchase of his home — twice.

The view from Mark Godwin’s south-side home is what sold him on the purchase of his home — twice.

The question catches Mark Godwin off guard. He stops to consider, reflect and contemplate: “What were the best 60 seconds of your life?”

Many 60-second spans are in the debate raging in his head, and he understands the caveat: He isn’t allowed to take the easy answer out, such as opting for the birth of a child.

“I was born in Washington D.C. I grew up in Miami. I went to college in Maine,” he says without taking a breath. “I lived in Alaska for a decade, and I’ve been here in Des Moines since 1982.”

His dad was an FBI agent. Godwin has worked as a sportswriter, working his way up to copy editor at the Anchorage Times.

Prep Iowa - Pride Month

“It was the biggest newspaper in the biggest city in the biggest state in the most powerful country in the world,” he feigns arrogance.

Psychology and history were his majors at the University of Maine. He has a law degree, also. Before attending law school, he worked for a company that built the Alaskan pipeline. He retired after that. Then he unretired to take a job as an air-traffic controller. But on Aug. 3, 1982, he walked off the job. The union demanded a strike, and President Ronald Reagan fired all the striking air traffic controllers. Godwin never looked back.

Des Moines eventually moved into his path, and Godwin was off to Drake Law School. After graduating, he worked as a city attorney.

He first purchased his current home in 2006. The ad said: “An older bungalow with great view of downtown,” and it was the view of the capitol and most of the rest of downtown, including the Principal building and the metro’s skyline, that put the sold sign in the yard.

The home was built in the early 1900s. It has been added onto since then. The basement is finished now as well, but the best part, by far, is the view. Godwin enjoys that sort of thing.

Thinking he was moving onto bigger and better things, he later sold the home to a coworker. But he missed the view, and in 2015 he reversed the transaction and bought the house back.

Godwin was “home sweet home” again.

Déjà vu is a delight. He says he won’t be leaving without a tag on his toe this time around. He’s decorated his walls with his history, life experiences and interesting conversations including:

• An autographed baseball by both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

• A license to hunt rattlesnakes — he’s hunted boa constrictors, too.

• A remnant of a mastodon (woolly mammoth).

• Autographs of Carl Yastrzemski (Yaz) and Brooks Robinson.

His favorite moments in the house are spent watching sunrises in the hot tub out on the deck. He swears it’s the best place in the entire city to witness the twilight.

The home’s backyard has a former walnut tree. It was giving him and his neighbor problems by dropping excessive nuts.

“I felt bad taking it down,” he says. “But it didn’t do anything but bomb the house with walnuts.”

A chainsaw artist carved a walnut tree into the shape of an eagle.

A chainsaw artist carved a walnut tree into the shape of an eagle.

He solved the problem by paying a chainsaw artist to carve it into an image of an eagle perched atop a stump, watching over the city, waiting for the next sunrise and poised to fly into another sunset.

“In 2006, I took a trip out west,” he says, settling on his answer as to his best 60 consecutive seconds.

In the back of his mind, he wondered if he could make it in Las Vegas as a professional poker player. He realized quickly that even if he could, he’d be bored stiff. He put the chips down and went to see the Grand Canyon.

“I was directed to Point Imperial, or Imperial Point. I can’t remember which one it was called,” he says. “I followed this little path and came to the North Rim.”

He thought his view would be obstructed by clouds hanging on the eastern skyline, but then he saw it.

“I sat on a little bench sitting due east, and here comes the sun,” Godwin says. “And the world turned red for a minute.”

And he saw that it was good.

The sunsets may not be as red in Des Moines as they were that morning atop the Grand Canyon, but at home he and his friend the eagle have a hot tub to sit in while soaking up the scene. These sun-ups come regularly on Des Moines’ south side, and they serve as everyday reminders of how spectacular 60 seconds can be.

“I’m not leaving,” Godwin says.

Not without a toe tag, anyway. And the eagle seems to agree. ♦


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