A Sort Of Homecoming

In Friends & Neighbors, my father narrates my Iowa origin story thusly: “You were born Saturday morning, September the 4th, and Sunday at two o’clock I left for Maryland.”

Mom, Chris, and I followed three weeks later.

So when I say I’m from Iowa, it’s factually true. But I was raised in Maryland, Indianapolis, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Still, as Michael Stipe once sang, “We all go back to where we belong.”

A huge part of my heart belongs to Iowa; it feels like home.


The sight of the gleaming capitol dome, and shades of green spread across the impossibly expansive horizon. The sound of tires on a gravel road, and wind through the oak leaves. The taste of sweet corn, and fresh-baked cinnamon rolls.

Decades of friendship, conversation, and music.

Multiple “Helpers” in the film, from Senator Sarah McBride to Trauma Counselor Winden Rowe, describe the process of healing from trauma as “a homecoming”; trauma (and, arguably, much of Western culture) alienates us from our bodies.

Little wonder, then, that I wrote the “Crash Site” lyric, “Leave my body where it was found,” about my parents divorce just a few years after moving to New York City; between my adverse childhood experiences and my 24/7, go-go-go lifestyle, my feelings – pounding heart, heaving breath, sick stomach – were overwhelming. I wanted out of my body.

Work, drugs and alcohol were a steady but imperfect balm. Until they weren’t. There was no rock bottom, just strong signals (ie a sixteen stitch bike crash, marital discord) and diminishing returns. And so I began a journey of a thousand steps: sobriety, therapy, humility. And I caught much of it on camera.

I returned to Des Moines with Friends & Neighbors this week. It was the final date of my “Homecoming Tour,” a one-month preview window as a build momentum towards a potential 2025 PBS premiere.

My pal, Jason Walsmith, who lent me his band, mic, and Iowa State Fair Stage for a scene in the film, picked me up at the airport. The skies were grey-green as we drove west towards his new, 17-acre farm, talking the whole way.

Pacing the waist-high grass across his rural acreage, standing alongside Bear Creek’s swollen banks in the bright sky after the triple-tornado warning that wrecked havoc just twenty miles southwest, I felt that feeling I only feel in The Hawkeye State.

Stillness. Comfort. Embodiment.


It’s out there. It’s in here. And it’s worth the journey.

Stream “Friends & Neighbors” at www.friendsandneighbors.mov today.

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