Friday, July 15, 2011

Daytripping Lawrence Kansas

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Lawrence Kansas... can we just call you Larry?

Ken wanted to take his grand-daughter to where she spent much of her life, so we all paid a visit to Lawrence Kansas.  Sometimes one persons trip down memory lane triggers your own -- especially when you visit areas you haven't been to in a long time.  I speak of the time when I worked in Lawrence driving reporters around for the Lawrence Report and shooting video.  Normally, when I visit Lawrence, I rarely venture to the western -- more suburbanized side.  However, and maybe this is a subjective rather than objective feeling, when you work in the news business, you seem to spend a large amount of time covering the burbs, and sort of ignoring the older poorer parts of town, unless, of course, something bad happens there.  Lawrence's divide, like so many cities in the US is quite a well marked one.  The east side of town is the poorer one, and the west side is the wealthier side.  Kansas city seems to have an east/west divide as does Topeka.  It takes effort to find stories in poorer areas.  People tend to keep to themselves and news crews usually bring bad tidings.  Wealthier areas tend to be more organized and have PR people writing releases for them, so it is easier for news people to be attracted to these areas.  I think too often, easy is the operative word.  With staffing being slashed to the bone at many news organizations often the low hanging fruit, as it is often referred to in the biz, is the stuff that is picked up. Anything that takes a little effort gets ignored.  Low hanging fruit would be the crime and punishment stories, or the good news stories that some PR person typed up nicely and sent out.  Unfortunately, the poorer areas of town become stigmatized, and thus, they become even poorer.  That is a general observation.  I could be wrong in my opinion.
We came to Lawrence mostly for Claidia. Claudia is Ken's grandaughter. She was born in, and spent much of her life in Lawrence before her family had to move away to Georgia for opportunities that seemed to evaporate in Lawrence. University towns are often really expensive places to be poor in. Claudia weanted to see old friends, like her next door neighbors who live in a KU student designed and built modern house, and her mom's former workplace in a veterinary clinic.
Lawrence in mid-summer is a different place than the hustling bustling university city that increaseses dramatically in population every late August.  Lawrence becomes a bit more like a small Kansas town in the summer, albiet, a much more liberal one.  If you can take the mid-summer heat, it is a great time to shop, eat out and visit some of the night spots.  In the summer of '97, I practically lived at the Replay Lounge.  I also got some of the last videos ever shot at the Outhouse, which reopened at a punk all ages dive after a 4 year hiatus due to flooding and a takeover as a frat party spot.  

Suyen, my wife, came with us this time.  I haven't been able to shake her love of places like the Gap, and Old Navy.  She made a bee line for north part of downtown, where corptocracy has tried to take over.  Check out this video of when a bunch of young anarchists decided to take over that part of Massachussetts street for a couple of hours on a hot summer night...  

Claudia, Ken and I went to another one of my favorite hangouts -- Henry's Coffeehouse on 8th.  I did a little video there too.

That little trip to the past didn't end in Lawrence.  As is our tradition on Thursdays, Ken and I made our way to YJ's Third World Snack Cafe in Kansas City to have a late breakfast.  He had the breakfast, I'm on a diet.  I was going to try to write up something clever on my phone, but instead engaged in a conversation about the creative/art scene in Kansas City.  We covered a lot of ground, as this guy was very knowledgable.  We talked about Mudhead, Mot-ly, Kill Whitey, Sin City Disciples, Magic Nose, Human Observation Lab, the Foundry, Java Gaia, Big Red Fish etc. etc. etc.  Invariably, such a conversation soon drifts to the city itself, and some recent comments by Louis C K and a sportswriter who used to live here.  A lot of poeple have found fault with putting Kansas City down and saying that KC is a cultural/creative wasteland.  I, personally know a lot of unique creative individuals here, but I find that the ground in Kansas City for creatives is poisoned by an establishment that would rather pay too much per month of taxpayer money to support outside developers on a scheme that has repeatedly failed this city over and over than would try to find ways to attract creative local enterprises and try to keep them here.  This city badly dis serves the common people of this city.  If you try to start a small local business, you will find a whole slew of local regulations that will make it prohibitively expensive and are often arcane intrusions rather than helpful regulations.  If you own your own home in this city, you will also find many people who try to tell you how to live, all the while letting criminals run the streets unchecked.  Factor that in with unfair competition, and you clearly get the picture.  Also, if you are a person of color, this city seems to come down even harder on you.  We have a lot of creative talent in this city.  However, unfortunately, instead of embracing these people and helping them to turn this city into a nice liveable place, they are often driven away to other places and more fertile ground.  KC is a creative place.  Unfortunately, that creative is started here, but manifests itself elsewhere.

Just to show off, here are some other videos...
Java Gaia

Sin City Disciples

The Catherines at the Human Observation Lab

Psychowelders at the Foundry

Kill Whitey

Oh, and here's the link to the photoset...

A Few Creative news links....

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