August 25, 2021. KC, MO. Walking through downtown as depressed as can be, FOR RENT signs in the former Paragraph Gallery space, and across the street, a big sign in tribute to the founder of our company, who died in June. The Kaldi’s Coffee where I once traded employees art prints and poems for free coffee has been replaced by a Bank of America that no one needs or asked for. Everything feels dead, or over. The bright spot is a row of gingko trees on Main Street, a sidewalk so congested with scooters, signs, and pedestrians that it normally feels unwalkable, but is completely free of humans now, and also covered in leaves.
Inside the club we are treated to free yard beers and smoked pickled deviled eggs. A new bar in the basement of a restored hotel. It feels ancient and familiar. Maybe there is life yet. It feels like the last “urban renaissance” is finally over, if it ever really happened, I can hardly remember now. The Royals will not make the playoffs and my best friends have gotten divorced and moved away. This city feels small but is still big enough where you can disappear without even moving. Maybe that’s what happened to me. I don’t have a frame of reference, nor a presence on any platform of contemporary relevance. Isn’t that how it always is? People are briefly almost something and then they are old.
The show almost made me weep. The band’s first performance in over a year, the band members so deprived of applause, it was like seeing a starving person eat and try to remain polite. They played some of the old songs they normally pretend not to remember, and some of their parents were there. I drank one beer and then another. Others drank even more than me. There were shy and elegant people who I vaguely remembered meeting years ago and was reintroduced to, made polite conversation with. C0ntractors, scientists, muralists. The lights were turned down and someone said the light fixtures were from 60 years ago.
And that, my friends, is the end of my notes. The club has since officially opened. I haven’t been back, but I hope to return, maybe as a once-a-month DJ, if they’ll have me. An indie disco, or tour of other genres of Americana, soul, and folk music. I just have to work up the courage. If you’re reading this, and it hasn’t happened yet, please remind me. At the very least I’ll buy you a drink. And some deviled eggs, too, beneath the lights and local memorabilia. I am old enough that I can imagine one day becoming a fixture, too.