Friday, June 28, 2013

My Missouri: Union Station Kansas City

It seems like almost every big city has a Union Station. Have you ever wondered why that is?  I wish there was a more dramatic story behind this catchy name, but in reality all it is, is a commonly used name for any railroad station whose tracks, terminals and facilities are used by more than one railroad company. It's all about unity, people, unity.  Unity with a little bit of flare. All the the Union Stations that I have been in are fantastic historical landmarks. 

The Kansas City Union Station opened to the public in 1914, but like most of Kansas City history, the preface of the station has to do with the river, the Missouri River that is. The original rail station in the city was located in the West Bottoms area, which is a meeting place of the Missouri River and the Kansas River. This was prime location for industry and trade dating back before the Louisiana Purchase when French trappers actively traded with the Kansas Indians. All major industries, including the stockyards, which defines Kansas City, started and flourished in the West Bottoms and the easy access to the river and river transport.

But a river can also turn on the city.  In 1903 a devastating flood washed away most of the Bottoms including the railroad station.  In 1906 twelve railroad companies united to form the Kansas City Terminal and plans for a grand Union Station, at a new higher ground location were started. Three years and 6 million dollars later, the station was open to trains and the public and became a national railroad hub.

Many historical sites  have their own legends and fables, and our Union Station is no different. One of the most infamous days in the station's history is June 17, 1933 also known as the day of the Kansas City Massacre.  A team of FBI agents was transporting a convicted mobster, Frank Nash, back to the Leavenworth Penitentiary which he had escaped from in October of 1930.  He was caught (re-caught?) in Arkansas and put on a train to Kansas City along with an entourage of law enforcement. Additional FBI agents were to meet the train and drive Nash by car to Leavenworth. Upon exiting Union Station, Nash, the FBI agents and additional law enforcement officers walked right into an ambush orchestrated by Pretty Boy Floyd and other mobsters to free Nash. After the storm of bullets ended, Nash along with four officers were dead.  This bloody day led Congress to strengthen the FBI and agents  were armed from that time forth. 

There are marks on the outside walls of Union Station said to be bullet holes from that fateful day. In all reality and fact, these holes probably aren't from bullets, but they sure do add a sense to drama as you enter the station. 

Union Station, a heavy travelled station for most of the 20th century fell into disrepair and when Amtrak pulled their trains and services from Union Station in 1985, the station was for all purposes closed.  In the 1990's voters on both sides of the state line approved a tax to restore and reopen the station. Union Station restored in all it's glory was reopen in 1999 and Amtrak brought their trains back in 2002. A lot the station is now devoted to exhibits, shops and Science City, a science museum. 

The Grand Hall

I recently visited Union Station, not only to walk the halls like millions of travelers before, but also to see  Real Pirates, a National Geographic traveling exhibition. It tells the store of the Whydah, a slave ship that after being captured by Captain Sam Bellemy, was turned into a pirate ship. It only sailed  along the eastern coastline for 2 months under the pirate flag before it was sunk off the coast of Cape Cod due to a powerful storm. Only 2 survived (spoiler alert: they were captured and hanged), and the boat laid in a watery grave for 260 years until it was discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984. 

You can't take pictures inside the exhibit,  but picture it full of histories of the boat, the slave trade (the original purpose of the boat), Sam Bellemy, his crew and the generalities of the "Golden Age" of piracy. But the true stars of the exhibit are the artifacts from the actual ship; weapons (lots of guns and cannons), the bell (still immersed in salt water for preservation purposes) that rang the warnings of the dooming storm, the shoe (and leg bone) of the youngest crew member,  9 year old John King, and of course, a real live treasure chest filled with silver. There are also interactive stations aimed mainly at the younger folk and displays about underwater exploration, how they found the ship and how they remove and preserve all the artifacts. Tickets are a tad pricey, but I believe the exhibit is worth it,  as well as support of National Geographic and their work and mission.

Since I was already at Union Station, I had to go across the street and up the hill to the Liberty Memorial. The memorial was built to honor and remember those who fought, who were lost, and who survived World War I. Also located at the memorial is the National World War I Museum (an excellent museum).  The base of the Memorial provides my favorite view, not only of Union Station, but  of the Kansas City skyline.  

Trains! Pirates! Kansas City! Oh my. 

More Information and sources cited:
Union Station
Kansas City Massacre
Real Pirate Exhibition

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Song of the Week: Sean Rowe

This song.
This voice.
If your soul doesn't shake at least a little bit, I would question the existence of that soul of yours.

"Downwind" is on Sean Rowe's latest album The Salesman and the Shark, released earlier this year.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Art of the Mix Tape

Every few months or so, I talk/write/blog/dance around and clap my hands about a group of friends that I have and our music swapping adventures. Today on Miranda's blog we share some of our thoughts about creating that perfect mix tape and sharing music. 

One member of our little musical group recently accepted a job out of the country, so the fate of sending cds crisscrossing across the country may be in question, but hopefully we are sending her off with enough songs filled with hand claps and accordion solos to get her through whatever challenges she bravely faces on the other side of the seas.

I am ridiculously grateful for knowing and sharing with these fine friends and all the others that have joined in our parade now and then.  I have said it before and I will keep saying it until someone pulls out my tongue (not an invitation), music has a way to connect us, maybe deeper than a lot of other things in life. I don't know how or why, but it just does and I am grateful for that. 

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook

A look back at my music swap contributions:
A Mix Tape (September 2012)
Hipster Christmas 2012: A Mix Tape (December 2012)
A Spring Mix Tape (March 2013)
A Soundtrack to Summer Mix Tape (May 2013)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Super Moon!

There is a super moon in the night sky right now. A large beautiful full moon in the sky, at it's closest point to Earth as it will ever be this entire year. So far, no werewolves have been seen and the level of crazy in the world seems to be holding steady at the moment, but holy moly, it sure is a site to behold.


All pictures taken by me (with Clive) at various times tonight, no filter, no editing, just some moon magic

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Song of the Week: The Mr. T Experience

I hated my first semester of college. Let me use my usual dramatics to emphasize that point: I haaaaaaaated my first semester of college. I think that I called home every other day for a month or two and asked my parents to come and get me, I did not belong there. But there was no way that they were going to drive across the country again, so I stayed. I eventually figured out that the dorm cafeteria served pie on Sundays, I eventually found the surprisingly comfortable couches in the library bathrooms to take naps between classes and I eventually made friends with the kid in my Latin class with the Fugazi patch on his back pack (and other music friends). It other words, I found my life survival skills: pie, naps and music. Not always in that order.

And with these surivial skills, I survived and even had fun along the way.

I was going through a box the other day, not unpacking--that is too much of a an acknowledgement of staying-- and found  a couple of albums from the Mr. T Experience. This song, honestly named Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, held a golden spot on the soundtrack of my life during that whole higher education/finding myself time and still brings back all the good of that time.

My life 'til now has been filled with doubt
Here, I am, 'cause there's no other place I can go
But I can see you're a lot like me . . .

Now . . . .anyone up for some pie and a nap?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lately . . .

Some bits and pieces from life lately:

Scenes from a walk-about: 
A bird at a safe distance. 

These clouds are not what you want to see when are a good 20 --run for life-- minutes away from any shelter. 

I made a visit to The Better Cheddar cheese shop in Prairie Village, KS. I took home a chunk called "SeaHive." It is a cheese made in Utah and rubbed with Utah sea salt and honey. It was good by itself, but pair it with a crisp green apple, and the honey really comes out, and WOW. 

To yoga or nap. This debate happens a lot around here.

A postcard with flying pigs, summer music and chocolate from Europe in the mall, all the same day? Whaaat? Awesome, that is what. 

Thanks to you too, Ducky Boys!

I'm trying to grow a watermelon vertically, up the cage, instead of spreading out at ground level. It could work, right? Gravity. Whatevs. 

My dad an OG hipster
I am usually fine on holidays until someone reminds me that I should be sad. All this morning people kept reminding me that it is Father's Day and since my dad is high 5ing it up on the other side, I should be sad today. But I wasn't sad until they kept tell me I should be. Then I was sad. Then I realized I get to choose how to celebrate whatever holidays, however I want to, and I pick to still celebrate Father's Day. Anti-establishment to the bone.  

Today, I also choose to celebrate Bloomsday. A day to celebrate the Irish writer James Joyce, on the day, June 16, that the events in the novel Ulysses take place. I haven't read Ulysses all the way, I get intimidated a couple chapters in, but every now and then I pick it up and carry it around and think, one day, one day. However, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, changed my life the first time I read it in the 11th grade. And I've been to Dublin, so BOOM,  I'm totally qualified to celebrate any and all James Joyce related holidays. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Song of the Week: Wild Child

For a long time I held a grudge against the city of Austin, TX. It was the only place, out of the half dozen places I applied to graduate school that denied me. DENIED ME. Fine, Austin, I'll deny you too. But time, a tad bit of maturity, having a wild time in the place I ended up in, and the pull of the fantastic music scene, with bands such as Wild Child, have finally made me OK with that Texas town again. Ukuleles and soulful voices go along way building bridges, mending fences and all that stuff.

Wild Child will be in town jamming at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS, this Saturday (June 15) and The Riot Room in Kansas City, MO on Sunday (June 16) with Shakey Graves and Marmalakes, two other great Austin, TX acts. (Full tour details)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Picture of the Week: Black Flag

This show was a little odd. I don't know if it was me, the crowd, the fact that the show started a full hour late, but it just felt a little bit off. That is until Ron Reyes came on stage and grabbed the microphone, and then all was right in the world again. They sang 'Rise Above' near the end of their set, and it was like I had waited my entire life to hear that song performed live. Maybe I have been.

And because I just need to get one of my biggest concert pet peeves/superstitions out of my system: Don't wear the shirt of the band you are there to see. DON'T BE THAT GUY. 

In other punk rock legend music: did you hear that Rancid is coming to Kansas this Fall (September 21, to be exact)? Every time I see them, which has not been enough, I have a little hope in my heart and dream in my head that they will play their album  . . .And Out Come the Wolves, in full, start to finish. It hasn't happen yet, but I do believe in miracles and punk rock. 

Black Flag @ The Granada, Lawrence, KS, June 6, 2013

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Missouri: Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum

The Presidential Library Act was passed in 1955, but the idea of presidential libraries was really a brainchild of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1939 FDR, with the belief that papers of the president should be accessible to the American public, donated his personal papers to the Federal Government and the National Archives, which was also created under FDR's administration. Before this time, the papers and records of the US presidents were usually split between different libraries, museums, and private collections, or lost to the ages.  

FDR's successor, Harry S. Truman, pushed for the Presidential Library Act, which was passed in 1955, and set up the pattern that presidential libraries still follow today: private and non-federal funds are used to build the physical library, and then when completed the building is turned over to the US government and the National Archives to operate. 

Up until the late 1970's  the papers of the presidents were still considered to be property of the president, and it was their choice to donate their papers or not. In 1978, the Presidential Records Act of 1978 which states, "the constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial duties of the President are the property of the United States Government, "* was passed.  And to this day, when a US president leaves office, his papers (and "papers" includes all record types including electronic records, audio visual materials, photographs, memorabilia, etc) , are turned over to the National Archives and are set upon the road to being open to the public for research and study. This task is only always easy or smooth, but it, as well as the entire mission and scope of the National Archives, really is a bedrock of our democracy, the government's accountability to the American people, and the preservation of the American story. 

All this gets us to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library located in Independence, MO. Opened to the public since 1957, this library is dedicated to one of our favorite local heroes. You cannot throw a stone in Jackson County, MO and not hit something named after our 33rd president. But you really shouldn't be throwing stones.

 The library is divided into 2 levels. The first level, in which visitors enter, is dedicated to Truman's presidency (1945-1953).  Right pass a large and colorful mural by the Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton and the famed "The Buck Stop Here" desk plaque, is a replica of Truman's presidential office. The office of the president in the White House has always been oval in shape, but calling it the Oval Office is a relatively new tradition (since the Nixon administration), and during Truman's time it was still called the President's Office. 

The tour, which visitors can do on their own, or with a free guided tour (allow yourself 1.5 to 2 hours), then continues with exhibits that document the years Truman was Commander and Chief. He was only vice-president for 88 days before he took the oath of office as president after the passing of FDR in 1945. The country was deeply involved in WWII and immediately Truman had to make some decisions that defined not his life, but also the country and the world, most notability, the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan. 

I think the library does a pretty fair job explaining why and how Truman made this decision, and others during his presidency, as well as show opinions of others that disagreed with the president. After passing a copy of the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" newspaper, visitors exit the main building to the courtyard, and can visit the eternal flame, the graves of President Truman, his wife Bess and the marker that rests above the ashes of their only child, Margaret Truman Daniel and her husband Clifton Daniel.  

Across the courtyard houses Truman's working office. From the time the library opened to his death in 1972, Truman had an office in the library where he worked on writing books, answered correspondence and at times, welcomed visitors and led tours himself. The office, viewed only from the other side of a glass window looks exactly how it was the day he died, December 26, 1972. 

And finally downstairs on the lower level of the museum is dedicated to the life of Harry. Exhibits tell the story of his farm upbringing, his extremely sweet courtship of his wife, their daughter Margaret, his military service during WWI, and his early career in local government.  Although the history of the upper level is interesting and important in understanding not only mid-century Truman, but also mid-century America, but it is really downstairs that you get to know Harry, the man. He was a farm boy, he was the only president of the 20th century to not have a college degree, but worked hard and read everything book that he could get his hands on, he loved music and played the piano, he wrote love letters to his wife, he loved his home state, and  he loved his country. 
The Library also houses Truman's presidential papers, his personal papers, as well as other collections that supplement and enrich the Truman papers. The archives are open to public for research (not tours).  

And in case you ever find yourself in a trivia challenge: the S. in Harry S. Truman, does not stand for anything, it's just an S. It is a nod to both his grandfathers: Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. 

More information on visiting the Library
More information on the other 12 presidential libraries

*source: NARA

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Three of My Favorite Letters

When I worked in Washington, DC I had the opportunity to go on special tours of many fantastic places, but one that was so near and dear to my little heart was NPR HQ. I love everything about NPR, I truly do, but their music programing tops the list 4-sure. And actually getting to see where all the magic comes from was pretty golden.  I have discovered and fallen in love with so much music via those three little letters.  

Recently NPR moved into a new building, and what better way to move than have the band Ok Go film a Tiny Desk Concert as they moved the actually Tiny Desk from one location to another.  This little video is so charming and got to my heart pitter and pattering a little seeing DC streets and buildings so familiar to me.  DC may be a crazy place to live and work, but it is always exciting and has one killer soundtrack.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

10 Things

1. This happens a lot in my life:
Waiting for geese to cross the street. Seems a little petty, I know, but add in the fact that I have a fear of birds (go ahead and make fun of me, everyone else does), and you have me rolling up all my windows, double checking that all my doors are locked and not making eye contact. I wouldn't put carjacking past those feathered hoodlums.

2. The other day I was at Walmart-- don't judge me, I really was shopping for cheap crap--and there was this army, or gang of really, really old people on motorized scooters, like maybe 10. They seemed to be in every aisle that I needed to be, and having them creep up behind you in  mass in their super slow scooters is kind of unnerving. So I hid out for awhile in the cat food aisle aisle.

3. I really should be banned from Web MD. The number of rare diseases that I have diagnosed myself with in the last 48 hours is alarming.

4. Favorite flavor combination of the week: ultra thin rosemary crackers, raspberry key lime jam and topped with brie. Sounds like a lot of things going on in that mouthful, but so, so heavenly. Speaking of cheese, a friend sent me a link to this chart of cheese, and all I see is a new bucket list.

5. I have never wanted a tattoo so much in my life. (Spoiler alert:  NPR tats)

6. I've seen a lot of people posting about summer reading lists. My goal for summer reading is to read A book. That's it, just one, all the way to the last page.

7.  The Universe is hilarious. Let's just leave it at that for now, but you can go ahead and picture me throwing my hands up very dramatically and saying REALLY? like four times in a row. If I survive this summer, I am going to have some great stories.

8.  Me and The General were talking about starting a band. The position of hype-girl is already filled, but all others are open.

9. The tornado sirens went off this afternoon for their monthly (weekly?) test, and I swear, about 4 of us at work almost dove under our desks. I guess that the down side of being one of the most awesome places on the planet (The American Mid-west) is that you have to be the only place on said planet to have an active tornado season every year.

10. This week PBS aired Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center. I was there in house for that show and it was pretty much one of the more remarkable things ever witnessed (I wrote about it here). This clip of all the performers singing "This Land is Your Land," still gives me goosebumps:

Watch Woody Guthrie at 100 - Preview on PBS. See more from pbs.

And you can barely even hear me yelling CRRRITTTTTTTER! Just kidding, I didn't, but I was tempted.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Song of the Week: Dead End Streets/The Ducky Boys (A Collective Music Review)

There is a seemingly constant discussion going on with music folks about how to discover new music. For me, 99% of the time it is through personal interaction. Topping the list is recommendations from friends and the occasional mixed tape we still slip to each other.  And I've learned if you want to make a best friend for life, ask a record store clerk what they are listening to or would recommend.

Technology has made this grassroots approach to sharing music even easier, through social media, bands can share directly with their supportors and the fans can share with each other without the big orchestrated marketing mediums of days of yore. And by "sharing" I mean legally and with all the excitement and enthusiasm of a kindergarten class during show and tell. I'll admit I log on to Facebook 49.9% of the time to see pictures of your adorable kids and latest vacations, and 50.1% of the time to talk about what we all are listening to in music discussion groups. But your kids are still pretty darn adorable.

 Music blogs of all sizes have popped up over the years fueling the discussion of why we need music in our lives. Internet radio and sites (totally wrong word, but I'm using it) like Pandora and Spotify and their magic music equations are also widening listening audiences to more than just the cool kids that live near a good college radio station. Never in the history of the world (yep, I am saying it boldly), have we had so much access to the music of the world. But with all this flash and glam of the future, there is nothing more desired than five very beautiful words from a friend: "You've got to hear this."

I keep a running (or slow jog) list of music that I hear that I like or was recommended to me, or new music coming out from old favorites. My 'Song of the Week', usually comes from this list. Some songs I have deep connections to, other times, they are just a song that completely fits my mood at the time of posting. Last week, while scanning over this little long list, and maybe feeling the lack of some discussion of the music variety in my life, I decided to do something a little different.

In the dark late night/early morning hours, where ideas usually run the risk of either being brilliant or ridiculous,  I emailed the link to the bandcamp page for the new Ducky Boys' album Dead End Streets to a seemingly random group of my friends. Some quick stats about this fine little group: they live all across the States,  have a wide range of jobs from a member of the military, to office/desk jobs to stay at home parents to please let us not discuss my employment status. Their personal tastes in music are wider than then Mississippi, but they all have an appreciation of and are always open minded to all types of music. I knew one or two might have heard of the Ducky Boys, but most of them probably haven't. I told them really nothing about the band or songs, just take a listen and let me know me what you think.  Feeling like a mad scientist, I wanted those first raw reactions to hearing a new song, but understanding that sometimes it takes more than a first impression of song to really connect to it. 

I had no expectations with this little experiment, but as replies to my email came rolling in, it was interesting to see what songs people gravitated towards and how these songs choices and their comments reflect what they are dealing with in their own lives. 

So without any further long winded words of introduction here is a collective music review of the Ducky Boys' new album (released today!) Dead End Streets:

(Ok, a few more words and a note on organization, which may or may not be needed: Depending on when they clicked over to the bandcamp page, our friendly little focus group could stream a couple of songs or the whole album. They had complete freedom with their responses, how many songs they listened to and commented on.  I grouped their responses by song, in the order that they appear on the album, and their responses and names are used with permission. And just like everything else on the internets the song clips can go away/stop working at anytime, that's how the machines control us. I only included clips of three of songs. I didn't want it to feel like I was streaming the whole album on this site. You can however, listen to and purchase all the songs here. )

You Don't Wanna Know Me

(Jacob) My first introduction to the Ducky Boys occurred a few years ago when a friend presented me with a mix aptly titled "Music That is Good for You". First song on that mix was Pass You By. And so happened the discovery of another great band. 

You Don't Wanna Know Me is one heck of a way to kick-off the album. Super catchy tune. Upbeat, energetic, and definitely something I would blast on a road trip, especially at 3am when I need something to keep me awake and alive. So, you might even could say that this song may save lives.

(SSH) This song reminds me of an impromptu road trip.  Not the kind of road trip that you have planned for a while, or that you have saved up for, or even scheduled time off of work for, but the kind where you decide at the very last minute that you just have to get away from it all.  Even if the 'get away' location is just an hour away and you end up at a dive where you have never been before.  While listening to this, I pictured myself in my car drumming my fingers on my steering wheel. Road trips are essential to the soul, even if it is just to the next town!

{{Editor's note: in other words, add this song to all your road trip mixes}}

Enough of My Time
(SSH) I would vote this song the Ultimate Social Revolution song of the year.  Everyone has at least one of these kinds of epiphany's in their life.  They recognize where no progress is being made, and a change needs to happen.  The reasons differ from job titles, bad relationships, or even walls that we build around ourselves that limit us, but the passion and anger we feel at ourselves and or others is the same.  When we do realize this, we are ready to say it (or in this case sing it) out loud

(Brenda) So I listened to a bunch of songs, they were great for drowning out my annoying neighbors and their really loud dinner party. I think Enough of My Time was my favorite since it seems like a great "Kiss Off" Song and I could use one of those right now.

Nothin' About You
(SSH) This song would get the Karaoke award in my book.  The voice reflects pain, heartbreak, and anger, however, the tone and sound is too relaxed to be a fresh wound.  It is something that I feel most can relate to.  The pain is remembered, but the wounds have healed just enough to be able to call in reinforcements to drown your sorrows in a sing off with good friends

Live Forever

(Katherine: me, your lovely host!) I discovered the Ducky Boys around the time that their album Three Chords and the Truth came out, so I can't claim original gangster status, but I have embraced each new release. Looking at Dead End Streets as a piece in their entire music catalog, they seem to have found that magic balance between being consistent  with their songs, yet still evolving. More than on any other of their albums, band members are sharing lead vocals and songwriting duties, which adds layers of differing points of views, and they are experimenting with instrumentation and yet, all these song are still Ducky Boys songs through and through. 

Live Forever, clocking in at a cool 1 minute and 17 seconds, is an early stand out for me. My teenage years were not the greatest years of my life, but it was during those years that I found music as saving grace and this song takes me back there: Do you remember being free and young? 17 and in love with a song?

The Time We're Given
(Miranda The Time We're Given has a late '70s vibe to it, made more complex with overhead jet vibrations, ambient party sounds, and some dead-on lyrics. Of the three songs I previewed, this one had me pressing repeat.  

Dead End Streets
(Jacob) I like the mellow, easygoing guitar. Nothing complicated, just a really nice, slow jam.

(Noah)  I've been a fan of the Ducky Boys for awhile, and usually associate them with the song, "I'll Rise Up." Probably not exactly what a band wants to hear since that song was recorded so long ago and life has moved on since then, but sometimes a song just freezes a moment of your life and that is that.  But I have always admired the stark honesty in their songs. Because of this, the title track of the new album, Dead End Streets is a favorite.  From at least my ears,  it is a very personal account of being not only a songwriter, but sharing those songs with the masses and acknowledging and embracing the connection that is formed between them and the listener. 

'Till the Wheels Fall Off

(Jacob) The album starts off with a bang and ends the same way. 

(Katherine) If you could sum up the entire music community into one song, this would be it. I would love to see this song performed live, you can tell it would be one those numbers that the whole crowd would burst into a massive sing-a-long free for all.  "So long ago, but it still feels like yesterday, I heard a song that gave my life a needed change." 

{{As of today, 'Till the Wheels Fall Off is available for free download}}

And then came a comment from my friend LJ:
This {album} didn't end up being something that really spoke to me, but I do admire the energy in it.

Now, LJ is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world and I think there is something to this comment. There is a lot of music out there, a lot. Not of all it is going to connect to us at every given point in our lives, but there is still room to admire it for the energy and expression behind it all. 

And fade to black.  

Thank you all for playing along. We all live in our own corners of the world, it's nice to know we can still connect and talk about the things that matter. 

Words: Wisdom

“I’m grateful for anything that reminds me of what’s possible in this life. Books can do that. Films can do that. Music can do that. School can do that. It’s so easy to allow one day to simply follow into the next, but every once in a while we encounter something that shows us that anything is possible, that dramatic change is possible, that something new can be made, that laughter can be shared.”
--Jonathan Safran Foer

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Missouri

The last couple days I have been roaming around the state, visiting friends, seeing things, eating things, unwillingly chasing or being chased by storms, singing under the stars, embracing memories, not standing still, and eating more stuff. Holy cow, why does road tripping make you ravenous? But these last couple days have also been probably some of happiest that I have had since I moved back to the Show Me State. These days and hours and moments allowed me to get outside of my head. I wish that I had some great epiphany on what I am suppose to do with my life, or had that one moment where my life changed, but I didn't. However I feel like I may have gotten a couple inches closer, but I'm definitely not there yet.

 I don't take my vagabond days lightly. I know that at some point they will come to an end and I will have to rejoin the masses and structured society. And in some ways I look forward to that, contributing, being part of something, paying my dues once again, finding a "why" and a "how" to stand still, and oh yeah, a steady source of income never hurts.  My life has always been a game of trial and error.  Maybe that is how life in general works. Sometimes my life plans work and sometimes they don't.  But I have to believe that the "trial" part of the equation, the keep trying, the bouncing back, is worth way more than the "error" part.  I haven't hit the point of no return yet, where all my second chances and nine lives are all up, and that, hopefully, means I am still in the game.  I'm just hoping that the game always, always, includes stopping for milkshakes in the middle of nowhere. 

"You may be lost in more ways than one. But I've a feeling that it's more fun, than knowing exactly where you are." (Passenger/Keep On Walking)

Some little travel notes:
First, before it gets lost in all the words and pictures, a huge thank you to all the friends that joined me at various points on my little travels. You guys are rad.

Second, this is how I "pack":
Cheese, sunglasses, a notebook. Only the necessaries. There is also two apples and 3 chapsticks in there somewhere. By the end of the weekend, the cheese and apples were gone, I lost one of the chapsticks, left my sunglasses in someone's car and ended up with about 6 packets of sweet and sour sauce. 

Down in Dallas County, MO in a little populated area (it's not even a city or town) called Tunas there is a little Mennonite bakery called Ozark Winds Bake Shop. Every time I am down in that part of the state, this teeny tiny bake shop is always on my itinerary. It is not open all the time, and closes when it is sold out, which happens pretty quick, I have yet to get my hands on one of their homemade pretzels.  My little entourage and I stopped by about noon on a Thursday and basically bought what was left of the slim, but oh so delicious, pickings:

Ha Ha Tonka has been on my Missouri bucket list for awhile now, and it can officially be crossed off! Ha Ha Tonka, other than being extremely fun to say, is a state park with ruins of a castle in it. A castle. In Missouri. It was the brain child of wealthy Kansas City businessman, Robert Snyder. He wanted to build a resort to rival the fancy pants ones in Europe. When completed the complex consised of a 3 story castle, a stone stable, nine greenhouses and an eighty foot water tower. Construction started in 1905 and was completed in the 1920's. Sadly, the castle burned down in 1942 and the area became a state park in 1978.

I don't know if you can read the sign but, the path up to the castle is only 521 feet, paved and only an extremely slight incline. Also noted, there are 6 rest areas between here and there. SIX.

It is pretty clear why Mr. Snyder picked this location for his castle, it as has a pretty amazing view of the Lake of the Ozarks.

Another one of my favorite populated areas is Pumpkin Center, it used to be a town, but now it is basically just a road, an intersection, a gas station and an adorable name.

So. When  you see "Middle Earth," clearly labeled on a map, you have to go see it, right? RIGHT. A trail to the mythical Middle Earth, right here in Missouri? Can you beat that, other 49 other states?  I actually have no idea where the trail goes. The second I got out of the car to take the picture, dark clouds advanced and a sudden downpour happened and I had to retreat. Chance? Whatever, I'm blaming Sauron.

Speaking of dark clouds, at least once a day I had to seek shelter from storms. Thank goodness no tornadoes made an appearance, but the dark clouds were menacing and majestic.

I also made a quick trip to Columbia, MO. I used to live in that fine city for about 5 years. I can honestly say it was one of the hardest times in my life, but also a huge turning point in my life.

The city has really changed since I lived there, a lot of my old haunts are gone or changed and I am actually OK with that. It is kind of like a physical reminder that those times, good and bad are in past and gone and cannot be repeated. I have tendency to get stuck in the past and thinking why isn't life like it used to be. But life itself keeps chugging down the road. Change happens, places change, things are knocked down and rebuilt. So sorry folks, no more late nights at the Great Wall. 

And then this happened:
A Batman boat. Or Batboat. I guess the secret that the Dark Knight likes to vacation in Missouri is out.

This also happened:

And last but certainly not least, there was Saturday, a music themed day. I caught up with The Third Man Rolling Record Store (outside of Mills Record Company, a great locally owned record store in the Westport area of Kansas City) and got a special and oh so pretty blue vinyl of Pokey LaFarge's new album, as well as a Shovels and Ropes 7 inch.  I highly recommend anything and everything by both these groups.
Don't worry, you don't have to have a coordinating outfit to shop at the record store.

My days of fun ended in Kansas listening to the Lumineers under a starry sky. Man alive, I love seeing this band, even from a million feet away. I caught them in a smaller venue last year and was blown away by their live show then. I was a little worried that seeing them in such a bigger place and audience would dim the joy and energy of their performance. It didn't one bit.

During "Hey Ho," their most popular song, Wesley, the vocalist, asked the crowd to put down their cell phones and recording devices and just live in the moment. Most of the audience, at least around us, didn't actually follow this request. But we did, and as we turned off our phones and slipped them into our bags, I made a mental note to do this more often. I had been waiting a while for a -summer is here- moment, and when the band played "Big Parade" as their final song, and I clapped my hands raw and threw my head back because I was singing along so loud into the starry night, I felt that summer has indeed arrived.

The Lumineers at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater, Bonner Springs, KS, June 1, 2013
I Ain't Nobody's Problem
Flowers in  Your Hair
Hey Ho
Classy Girls
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan cover)
Dead Sea
Slow It Down
New unnamed song, "Falling"
Charlie Boy
Gun Song
Stubborn Love
Flapper Girl
Morning Song
This Must Be the Place (Talking Heads cover)
Big Parade