triptych of recent travels through new york, the sand dunes and larned, kansas
With so many people checking out my old Zambezi Zinger post all of a sudden, I thought I’d link to another exploration of a bygone (yet still extant) Kansas City icon: the former Great Ape House at the Kansas City Zoo. Read the full piece here.
“What does interest me about Kansas City International Airport is its atmosphere — or lack thereof. With some level of renovation almost a certainty, I resolved to explore the airport’s vibe and personality before any big changes took place. The best way to do this, I decided, would be to try something few sane individuals have ever attempted. I wanted to go to the airport — not to catch a flight or pick someone up — but simply to hang out.”
Read all about my adventures at KCI over at Kawsmouth.
When it comes to sheer originality of correspondence, I have to hand it to my daughter, Ruby, who composed this letter the week she turned one year old. The marker was added by her mother, but the message itself is all hers. How she managed to summon those characters on my typewriter, I have no idea, but I’m impressed at the sophistication of the typography, the economy of language, the poetic repetition of the “c” key, the little star toward the end. Normally I would consider posting my child’s work slightly exploitative, but it was written on my machine, after all, and in lieu of a post of my own, I thought this might be more fun to read instead.
I have a real problem with segways. On the downtown sidewalks outside my office, public safety officers and security personnel are always zipping around on them like a paramilitary force, doing ridiculous figure eights in the park as they rendezvous with each other and talk into their walkie-talkies. The other day one of them almost ran into me as I turned to step into my building. I shot him a look that said, “why don’t you go ride that thing off a bridge?” and I think he got the message even if he didn’t heed it. I can’t blame him for that, though — those things cost more than a used car. Several times in the parking garage I’ve seen a segway plugged into the wall and have had to talk myself out of stealing it. I’d probably get fired over it, but sometimes you have to make a statement. I made a joke about segways on twitter which said the proper spelling of the device is to transpose the “w” and the “g.” That prompted dozens of response tweets from LGBT groups, most of which said that, although they usually don’t condone that kind of humor, in this case it was totally worth it. I made another joke comparing segways to fat girls, but that did not go over so well. I blame my lack of sensitivity on a bad case of PTSD (post-traumatic segway disorder) brought on by all those close brushes with calamity caused by wreckless segway pilots. Then again, who knows what the future holds. Perhaps in my old age I will form a gang of Hell’s Angels rejects called the Segway Saints, which will tool around picking up litter and robbing ATMs. Maybe I’ll get a segway for Christmas and/or my birthday and will be delighted. But that’s unlikely. In the meantime, I’m hoping the Kansas City Segway corps gets redeployed elsewhere. I can just imagine President Obama or Secretary Kerry’s next speech on Syria announcing that “there won’t be any boots on the ground, but there will be segways.”
On Wednesday over lunch I decided to walk east, a direction I almost never go, and for good reason — there’s pretty much nothing there. Once you get past city hall, the federal courthouse, and all the government buildings, you’ve got little else besides a highway, a few old churches, the Greyhound Station, and a bunch of industrial lots and increasingly bedraggled pedestrians. On the eastern edge of downtown, though, at 9th and McGee, is one of the city’s most interesting buildings, the former Pickwick Hotel and Union Bus Depot. The building is in pretty decent shape, except the clock has been stuck at 4:25 for as long as I can remember, reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s descriptions of time coming to a stop, a critical moment for the historical materialist “in which he himself is writing history.” My friend Nathan does a great job of describing Benjamin’s notions of history in his meticulously researched and thematically soundtracked podcast. In fact, it was Nathan who first told me about this unique Kansas City landmark, which I’m sure factored into his own writing and understanding of time, philosophy and the city. All I could think of while watching birds fly in and out of the broken clock face where the 7 used to be, is how surreal and gothic the former Pickwick Hotel looked even at noon on a bright summer weekday. With all plans to renovate it cast aside and no visible designation as a historical monument, the frozen clock tower stands as an intermediary between the commerce and bustle of downtown and the mostly vacant stage set of its eastern hinterlands. Its stately yet suspended-in-time presence manages to effortlessly embody a future that awaits its surroundings, and which awaits us all.
Received this SMS from Botschaftler last week:
Bitte beachten Sie auf das folgende Dispatch aus Bonn. Der infamous late-night Lokal und Konsulat unserer Organisation, “Blow Up”, macht künftig dicht, bzw., zieht um in eine gr?ere und bestimmt völlig beschissene Lokation, was deutlich auf das Ende unserer heiligen Tradition, nämlich “Explodieren,” hinweist.
Adam, thanks for the message and hope you drank at least one Kölsch and one Pils each for each of us. With those little .2 pours and a 5 a.m. curtain call, noch eins never hurt anybody.
Photo by Jennifer Wetzel, summer 2011
When is this heat wave gonna end? I’ve been indoors so much I finally decided to put up a blog post. There’s always plenty I could write about here, but I have been making more of an effort to catch up with people individually. The way we share information about our lives has changed so rapidly since I started blogging, and I’ve found it’s best to take a step back to assess what’s worth sharing and what lessons and events are best experienced more quietly.
Big news first: Jennifer and I successfully reproduced, and our daughter Ruby Celeste is 12 weeks old today. Figuring out how to be a parent has been lots of fun so far, and we’ve enjoyed introducing her to friends and family.
In our free time we also launched a literary website called Kawsmouth, which I encourage you to visit. The idea sprang from my longtime wish to create a print journal, but we decided to start by publishing online in order to build up a readership and a body of content. So far we’ve been really impressed with people’s contributions, and we’re already looking forward to the next few monthly additions. If you have any questions just write us at kawsmouth (at) gmail.
Speaking of writing, Robert Josiah Bingaman was kind enough to invite me to take part in “The Frontier,” Charlotte Street Foundation’s 15th anniversary multimedia exhibit at the Paragraph Gallery that just ended yesterday. My contribution was a mimeograph-resembling letter of sorts addressing the creative experience in Kansas City from both an insider and outsider’s perspective. It’s online, but I think it reads better in print, so let me know if you’d like a copy.
The image above is a zoom-in of a mangelexemplar I printed just before the show’s opening night. I almost like this one better than the more legible version, because the double exposure creates a level of obfuscation that I’m slightly more comfortable with.
I’m still working as an assistant editor at Universal Uclick, where I edit comics, text columns and puzzles and serve as a liaison between the creators and client newspapers. The main site we post content to is called GoComics.com, and while it’s free to check out, you can read the site ad-free and get an amazing variety of comics emailed to you each day for just $11.88 a year.
The picture at the very top was taken this week in Westwood, Kansas. We didn’t want to start any fires so we settled for some mammoth smoke cylinders to celebrate our independence, creating a misty, sylvan atmosphere similar to this Revolutionary War scene painted by Wyeth, which we saw this week at the Nelson.
The Wimbledon final has just resumed from a rain delay, so that does it for this installment. I feel super lucky to be living here and am enjoying watching my friends and family get older and start to take on new challenge and responsibilities, from the grandiose to the quotidian. Thanks for staying in touch, and hope to see you soon.
Dear ______ ,
One of the things I like the most about Easter is that it’s a floating holiday, a movable feast following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
Last year we followed the Paschal full moon through the Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh’s main square and one of the most lively, head-spinning places I’ve ever been. The square is home to all kinds of sensory stimulation, as described in the liner notes to this particularly sublime Sublime Frequencies release:
By day it serves as a venue where magicians, fortune tellers, herbalists, acrobats, monkey handlers, snake charmers, dentists, astrologers, numerologists, and sorcerers create intriguing displays of bewitching spectacle. By night, the square transforms into a symphony of mystical brotherhoods and night musicians…
We didn’t have near enough time to properly explore Morocco or join any mystical brotherhoods, but the walk to our Riad in the video above encapsulates the suspended mania and fleeting quiet moments that made up our week there, which preceded travels in Portugal, Spain, France, and Germany before moving back here last May.
This April, I’m joining Jennifer on a different kind of journey. As I may or may not have already told you (we’ve been trying to do so in person as much as possible), we’re expecting our first kid in just two weeks. Jenn has been feeling well and we are both excited.
Friends have asked me how expecting a child has changed my perspective, and the obvious answer is that I haven’t experienced anything yet. But on a small level, I do feel somehow reinvested in the species, as if re-attuned to the values and qualities of childhood, such as curiosity, openness and an appreciation for life.
(Of course, the spring weather plays a part in that as well.)
One of the biggest reasons we feel confident that we’ll be able to do a decent job parenting is the support, warmth and wisdom passed on to us by our family, friends and colleagues. For that we are extremely grateful.
The next two weeks will be interesting. We’ll be sure to keep in touch, and I look forward to seeing or hearing more from you soon.
Riding my bike into KCMO the day after I get back, taking stock of the city and how much and how little it has changed. The laundromat on 43rd street has finally closed, most likely remaining in operation right up until the last of its 50 washers and driers finally bit the dust. The tattooed crowd outside the tattoo shop have not died of nicotine poisoning just yet. Blockbuster Video is somehow still in business, and the Westport covered wagon looks as regal and ready-for-takeoff as ever. Streetside has closed down but the red neon lights above the door are still turned on, as if the building is not yet ready to relinquish the life it once contained. Bikers in KC are much less rigid than those in Germany, making lazy figure eights across Westport road before picking a side street to pedal down. Two fat women in floral print dresses waddle out of Rudy’s taqueria, shouting to each other in voices that have only grown more hoarse over the last three or four decades. Crooked sidewalks with grass and weeds growing between them, the smell of freshly mowed lawns and truck exhaust. When visiting friends you don’t have to search for people’s name plates or doorbells on apartment buildings, you just park your bike and walk right up to their front doors. Dropping by unannounced isn’t done very much anymore, but I have an excuse as long as I don’t have a cell phone. There aren’t any bike lanes, but if you cheat on the traffic signals you can break ahead of the traffic and for a few glorious moments glide down the middle of the smooth paved streets until your survival instincts prompt you to front wheelie it up onto the sidewalk.
Napping… without any church bells to mark the hours. Waking up and hitting the wordpress after seven months in Chateau D’If.
Now I’m back in Kansas and it’s time to get back to business. I have not posted here in the last few months for two main reasons. One, I did not have routine Internet access. Two, I was not sure exactly what to post in the first place.
In the past I have written about my life and travels in an amusing and somewhat journalistic fashion. This is what I did, this is something you should listen to, here are some photos and captions. All the time writing what are likely much more interesting or at least experimental things in various notebooks, loose sheets of paper, the walls of my sequestered, high-security compound.
It’s time to come out of the closet.
What I mean is there is no point in posting personal writing if it’s not going to be somewhat personal, no point in squirreling away the only nuts that might be worth hatching. But personal as in what I had for lunch is quite boring, and you can always get that on twitter. Persona as in the various modes and moods we all pass through each day, the in-between states in which actually interesting writing arises.
Of course blogging is all an experiment, and I must admit to being currently under the heavy, heady influence of the likes of Bernard Soares (whose city and dream states I just visited) and Joe Joubert (whose writing and nasal bridge I admire). I plan to vary the length of my posts but remain consistent in the frequency with which I post — daily, at least during the week, and sometimes probably more. The photos of Natalya Bond aka Jennifer Wetzel will still play a big part.
Please post comments, and feel free to be as contentious, uncomplimentary or long-winded as you like. I’m not posting on behalf of my ego, so you don’t need to comment just to tell me something is well-written if you don’t feel like it. On the other hand, I’m posting almost entirely on behalf of my ego, so I plan to be as arty and pretentious as possible when the occasion arises.
In conclusion, it’s good to be back in the Midwest, to be working in newspapers and publishing again, to have a high-speed connection between the inside and the outside worlds. I’ve always compared blogging to peering into and looking out of windows, so I’ll most likely be talking and linking back to you as well.
Love from Westwood, and good to see you again.
My home state celebrated a big birthday today. Kansas is now one-hundred and fifty years young. Even though I suspect it has been around a lot longer than that. Just ask Juan de Oñates, who in the early 1600s referred to the native Kansans Escansaques, “the troublesome people.” Not much changes, I suspect. And also thank Case Seward for this centennial illustration of the opportunities that await you once you make that decision to don a garland of sunflowers.
See you all in Kansas sometime soon. Meanwhile, more vintage KS postcards here.
Where you been?
It’s a question I’ve gotten a lot in the past several months. People pulling up my old blog on their browsers only to find stagnant posts quietly filling up with spam comments. Ever since I started working on kcfreepress last year I let my own blog drift until I finally had enough of the web in general and decided to get into the alternate career options of fireworks selling, editing manuscripts and teaching English.
But I’m not going to lie. I miss blogging. Posting. Writing. Whatever you want to call it. Keeping a blog kept me connected to Kansas City and the places I traveled in between. The challenge of coming up with interesting material was always made easier and more fun by having other friends’ posts to link to and comments + art + music to share.
That dialogue is what’s inspired me to open up this site on WordPress. It will serve as a portfolio of sorts but mostly a blog including the usual observations, photos, conversations, inanities, links, things of that sort. Longer essays and published pieces will be viewable in the “writing” tab on the main page, which I’ll link to when something new goes up.
In the meantime, Jennifer and I have moved back to Germany while I do my teacher certification course and some freelance work. Been fun so far, and there’s lots of creative types here in Berlin. Already met one guy near the Admiralbruecke who was up for some harping. You can view our somewhat one-sided duet below. Cheers and thanks for checking out the new site. LW
Jenny and I are headed to Berlin, Germany next week. The move is a step toward something different, not better or worse, though we hope for the best. I will be taking a class through the month of November to become certified to teach English as a second language abroad through a program called CELTA, which stands for the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. Jenny will be continuing her photography through new and similar means as she practiced in Kansas City. We both view this move as a progression, and a step toward honing our creative impulses into a logical outcome. Me with my writing and Jenny with her photographs. Feel free to drop us a line or an email at lucashwetzel(at)gmail.com and jennywetz(at)gmail.com. We will also have an online number (local to KC) that we can send you via email. We want to extend a warm thank you to all of our friends in the Kansas City and Lawrence area. We would not be what we are without your encouragement.
The beginning of a new blog, by Lucas Wetzel
This is where I will continue where my blog, lucubrations.net, left off.
Who among us does not harbor the suspicion that maybe the most beautiful things we’ve seen in our lives have been already (and perhaps were almost instantly) forgotten? The impressions made so delicately they did not create the friction needed to make an imprint. Maybe all of our stories — poems, memories — emerge from a darkness that we at all times (silently, unknowingly) have access to. The act of shining a light requires both inspiration and courage. Uncover what you may, while you are able.