Preface: I’m bummed I’ve been such a bum and haven’t jotted down the blogs I’ve written in my head while driving through Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri…so catching up the best I can.
Monday/Tuesday Feb 18/19
Oklahoma bleeds as I leave, and Kansas washes the sunset into a startling, saturated oil painting. My own private art show has me forgetting I’m driving, so I swerve a few times to miss potholes and snap photos.
Driving into Wichita in the dark, I stalk the University, thinking there must be night life. It’s a no-go. So I swing into 2 convenience stores, asking directions to a down-town, or community of bars and eventually discover the Delano district. “Brewing Company” catches my eye and I soon discover a gem of a coffee shop-cafe-bar with free wi-fi. Two hot toddies later, I nearly leave for my hotel without any conversation before I spot an open bar stool and meet the men who would introduce me to this city. (See Karaoke Kansas.)
The following day, I have time to adventure on my own and discover more about the enterprising and creative youth centered here (and take a much-too-short ride on a motorcycle). The maker of the fresh, home-made pizzas, the raw-food chef and dj bartender, and vintage store owner remind me of a nursery rhyme and college town Lincoln.
In his early 20’s, Adam (for the sake of this writing) opened a pizza shop off the main strip. For some (skeptic) reasons including shady inspections and tough codes, he closed the store but continues making fresh, frozen pizzas for local bars and cafes. All ingredients are local (and organic?), all the way to the Kansas wheat. Without knowing it, I sample one and think it superior to the frozen bar pizza I had expected.
A Vagabond bartender, Andrea carries her 5’10” frame with confidence and a charisma that says while she’ll give everyone a chance and has an innate sweet nature, she won’t take any shit. As she hands my new friend Joe a CD, which he hands to me for my road trip, I know it’s going to be technically suave and innovative. (And it turns out to be enjoyable – a fresh and fun break from the CDs I’ve been rotating.) She’s been DJ’ing for 8 years and hypes up a recent KC show … the electronic scene here is growing. Joe and Myspace confirm the word across the street that Andrea is also an excellent raw food chef. Not having a store yet, she hosts classes and, one can only imagine, some tasty dinners. » MySpace: DJ Primmitiv (and Andrea the Raw Food Chef)
Across the street, Harmonious Posh Vintage catches my eye, and as I rustle through the racks I think of Lisa, my fashion maven from Portland. (Portland is so saturated with fake Vintage, this is a diamond in the rough. And then I think of all the estates likely filled to the brim with forgotten jewel’s.) The owner, Heather, works the counter and enjoys filling me on how long she’s had the store (a year in this location) and a recent fashion show. Her brown eyes share optimism and excitement for fashion in the center of America. She doesn’t share her age, but I guess she’s my age, which she wears well with smiles and vintage-modern print scarfs playing up her dark hair in pony tails. Not only has she established herself in a hip fashion scene, she contributes to it’s growth and appeal. So she’s playful and lets me pose her for some old-fashion black and white portraits. » Harmonious Posh web site
On the west side of town, I meet up with my best friend from childhood through high school, who works as an ER nurse. I’m glad the auditions for the Darwin Awards concluded yesterday, as it gives us ample time to catch up. She’s 6 months pregnant and not loving it (the “being” pregnant – she’s certainly excited for the family). I do my best to swap stories of my close friends who’ve gone through it, as I have not made any decision towards having children yet. She still has the beautiful grey-tinted eyes, one blue, one green, and homecoming queen smile that had (and likely still have) all the boys crazy for her. A sweet nostalgia wafts in as I remind her of my favorite birthday (she gathered the gang with a cake and candles on a country road) and her knack for story telling. Something settles in her, she contemplates her creative counterpart and foreshadows giving thought to writing a children’s book. (I know some great illustrators, I offer.) Wow, it’s difficult for me to leave, but I know she has work to do and lives to save.
Thanks people and places of Wichita – I remember why I love the midwest.