Kansas City

Y’know, if the weather in KC didn’t really suck, it might be on my short list of potential new homes. What a great place; last time I was here, I must have managed to miss everything good about it.


In my short visit, I was treated to an amazing tour of the city, courtesy of Bernie, a photo exhibit on urban decay (always a favorite pet obsession) courtesy of Bentley, the aforementioned photographer, barbecue at Gates, quality time in an abandoned reservoir, beer bust at the Dixie Belle, my first White Castle in almost a year, and the grand opening of the KC Jazz Museum. Oh yeah…I forgot the Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch…


I lucked into lodgings with some people who are both very proud of their city and very well-versed in its mysteries. It’s not often I find myself sitting in a gallery after hours drinking beer and discussing urban form. I was pleased.


Biggies on the tour included the first Russell Stover candy store ever, a few roadside gems,North Kansas City, the President Hotel, and an industrial area (the West Bottoms?) which I want very much to colonize. KC has a tremendous number of great old buildings downtown — more than most cities of a similar size — and this is probably a result of the fact that the 80’s building boom largely bypassed the city. But I see signs that development may finally be threatening some of these gems. It’s a shame.



The Jazz Museum opening was a lucky coincidence, especially because I was thus spared the $6 admission fee. Having seen it, though, I would have probably paid it anyway. Great material, excellent presentation. the reservoir was a much cooler thing than you might imagine, although it worries me that it’s completely open to the world.


The only down sides to the visit were the unbelievable heat (SF tends to make one a bit of a weather wimp) and the fact that I was unable to connect with Gary or with Shane.


Random observations on Kansas City:

This is where I more or less started feeling like I was in the south again, despite the fact that it’s really in the midwest. The attitudes were similar, the accents were familiar. The bar scene was a mirror image of North Carolina, in that it seems very pervasive to the local “gay culture” (quotation marks directed at the term, not at Kansas City).

This was also the first place I began to see the urban blight and decay which seems to be hitting many midwestern cities very hard. A pattern of inner city abandonment and a lack of many “successfully” revitalized (read: “gentrified”) areas was a pattern which would become even more evident in St. Louis and Detroit. The abundant supply of land seems to make it easier simply to abandon the old and move outward rather than repair the perfectly usable buildings which already exist, and it’s a trend which seems even more pronounced in the midwest than on the coasts. Look for a separate piece on this soon.

Another odd midwestern pattern I first noticed around Kansas City: the practice of soliciting employment applications through radio ads, which even mention hourly pay rates for places like McDonald’s, etc. It seems usually to be low-status jobs who advertise this way. I’m not sure if it’s due to a low unemployment rate or a high one.


As Bernie mentioned, Kansas City has elevated the concept of “white trash” to an art form. I kinda liked it…