Unsubmitted proposals, pt. 1

I finally saw Lawrence/KC artist Judith Levy’s 2013 film “NV in KC,” in which conceptual artist Lee. J. Ross (played by Levy) undertakes a quixotic quest to rank every visual artist and museum/gallery in Kansas City by order of importance, upsetting almost everyone she knows along the way. Even if “NV in KC’s” appeal is necessarily limited, it’s a delightful, professionally made little film that gently skewers the tempest-in-a-teapot that is the local arts scene (Kansas City, in this case, though it could just as easily be any mid-level metropolis).

Lee J.’s preoccupation with envy, jealousy and hierarchy in the arts feels a little misguided — even unhealthy — but Levy pokes fun at her protagonist through the comments of the other characters. The fact that there seems to be genuine curiosity behind the satire (both in the character and the writer/director) gives the film some depth and purpose. My favorite sequence is the support group that convenes by saying the serenity prayer as an actual prayer, then speaks exclusively in inspirational quotes (except for Lee J., who responds to their robotic platitudes as if it’s a totally normal conversation). I also enjoyed the interviews with the principals of the city’s arts organizations, which work in a scripted line or two while allowing them the chance to speak from their actual (and considerable) experiences, offering thoughtful insights and nuanced perspectives.

I also saw echoes of my slightly younger self in the spurned twin, Patricia, who only makes an appearance in the film’s final scene. Patricia, a middling ceramicist, is upset that she’s excluded from the list, and she lashes out with language in spite of her otherwise soft-spoken demeanor. I remember getting turned down from a handful of awards and grants for Kawsmouth and working through that frustration and disappointment through sarcasm and satire. One such expression came in the form of my list of fake award winners for Rocket Grants, a thinly veiled spoof of some of the past/perennial winners of awards in Kansas City (the title refers to my friend’s comment that local arts orgs support stuff that’s “weird, as long as it’s their kind of weird.”). I don’t know that it’s aged that well, but here it is. (Incidentally, Levy was a panelist the year my proposal got turned out, which kind of of brings this full circle).

In 2014, after unsuccessfully applying for a different grant for Kawsmouth (albeit with a helpful exchange with the administrator), I channeled it with a fake proposal of a different kind. This one was a response less to my own disappointment or envy as much as a sensation of burnout from reading “artspeak” in exhibition previews, the statements of peers, calls-for-entries, etc. I’m sure most everyone who has had any involvement with the arts feels this way at some point or another. I’ve cut and pasted a scan of this at the bottom of this post, as it was written by typewriter — an ideal medium for writing proposals you’ll never, ever turn in.

Fortunately, much like Patricia, who excitedly (and hilariously) remarks that she just got accepted to a group show, which “changes everything,” I’ve also had a few acceptances come through in the past few years, including a residency, several publications, readings, exhibits and a few more things I’ll share more about in early 2017. If I had to summarize my own experience with envy and the arts, I’d echo Sherry Leedy’s comments in the film about identifying and focusing on who you are as an individual rather than worrying about why others got something you didn’t. Sometimes your stuff just isn’t that good, but in other cases it’s just not the right fit for the project, or not the best expression of yourself and what you have to offer.

Anyway, here’s that “proposal.” As usual, thanks for reading and turn in for a follow-up in this 2-part series next week.


Kidspeak, 12/7/16

Last night while buckling Emil into the car I asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” realizing as I said the words that this was a ridiculous question to ask a 2-year-old. Still, he tried to answer. “I’m going to the hospital and be born,” he said, pronouncing it “bone,” so that his sister had to clarify to me what he meant. She then told him: “You silly, you already are born.” “Oh,” he said, and reconsidered. “I’m gonna be Simba from the Lion King.”


In 2010, after moving away from Kansas City for a year, I said goodbye to my old blogspot page — a hodgepodge of local color, music links, commentary, photos and creative writing, some of which has gone viral in or after its time — in favor of what I hoped would be a more “professional” portfolio-ish site. That hasn’t really happened, though. I already had a job and several steady side gigs, so there wasn’t too much incentive to market myself. Add to that a 4-year stint running a lit site, a two-year writing residency from 2014-2016, and co-raising two little kids (now 2 and 4), and I didn’t do a lot of “brand management.” In fact, as Instagram took off and posting on Facebook became more and more a proxy for interacting with the world / other human beings, the whole notion of self-promotion seemed more and more absurd. Why post about my own interests and thoughts when everyone else is already doing the same? What makes me so special? I can hardly even decide on what my first name is  (Lucas? Luke? Luc? Lukas?), much less try and get it out there.

Still… I miss writing about random bullshit. Not least because what I choose to write about isn’t really all that random, and also because even the most trivial subjects can be interesting and worth reading or writing about (i.e. the trivial within the essential). The remaining local reporters do their best, but there are often things of local (or universal) interest that no one seems to be writing about. So here we go … another flurry of activity, probably a site revamp of some kind, and probably a lot of links and screeds and questions and updates on actual real-world published/exhibited work. If you know me, live in Kansas City, or are interested in odd or experimental writing, there might be something for you here. There’s probably some link or button you can click to follow and get updates, or you can just bookmark the page and check back in whenever you feel like it. Either way, I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading + see you around. – LW

‘Sincerely Yours’

Paragraph - July 2016-8038

For the past month, some of my writing has been featured in a group show at Paragraph gallery along with visual artists Neil Goss and Monica Dixon. I tried something a little unusual for this show, which is titled “Sincerely Yours.” Instead of standard wall text or a booklet, I constructed writing panels that look almost like kitchen cabinetry, with titles on the outside and continued text within. To fit with the theme and title of the show, I called it “Cover Letters.” The pieces are short — only about 500 words total. The goal was to address personal/intimate topics to create short moments of communication with the reader. I like the way the show turned out. The expansive fabric, varied textures and colors of Neil’s and Monica’s work creates a pleasant, slightly dreamlike atmosphere, and the writing is presented in a more interactive fashion than past shows I’ve been a part of. If you’d like to see it in person, drop by Paragraph on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 1 p.m. We’ll be giving a short talk (30 minutes total) and answering questions, along with curator Michael Krueger, a visual arts professor at the University of Kansas. There will also be coffee.

For further reading, here’s Annie Raab’s review in The Pitch.

And here’s some background about my portion from the Charlotte Street blog.


366 days in pursuit of the ridiculous

The most recent project I’ve got going over at the Charlotte Street studios. Will keep you posted once it’s wrapped up and available to read in some form. In the meantime, I’d be happy to show anyone around that would like to see the work in progress.


Hello, friends. With Open Studios only hours away, I thought I would share a sneak peek at a project I’ve been working on this past few months. It will be on display for a while, so stop by and check it out sometime. A short statement is included below this photo.


How many different ideas, observations or stories do we come up with every day?
How many of them are worth remembering, or writing down?
What does a year’s worth of these thoughts look like at a single glance?

These questions are at the heart of the Multicolored Story Calendar, an ongoing series of observations, questions, theories, statements, mythologies, meditations, microfictions and mini-epiphanies I’ve been chronicling throughout my Charlotte Street Residency.

Inspired by daily comic strips, the pictorial calendars of Plains Indians, the annual notebooks of Joseph Joubert, the heteronymns of Fernando Pessoa, the aphorisms of James Richardson, the wit…

View original post 216 more words

Turkey Creek hijinx

Last year I saw this video, which was filmed by the music ensemble Quadrigarum at the mouth of the Turkey Creek tunnel, and I made it my mission to find out what this challenging, fascinating piece of art was all about. A few months later, I published this feature in the Pitch. Thanks to Tim for showing me around, Ashley for the musical/philosophical insight, the folks at Mid America Regional Council for the numbers/perspective, and to Scott at the Pitch for the helpful editing. You can read the whole thing here.



The sun may be setting on this site. I’m not sure yet. I’m still writing, still busy, still enjoying life. But I don’t want to spend much more time in the shifting sands of WordPress, which in addition to adding video ads seems to have stripped the formatting and sidebars in the most recent update. You get what you pay for, I guess. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch by email, or phone, or by saying hello.

praise and prose for ‘Until It’s All You See’




A few months ago, my good friend Robert Bingaman asked if I would be interested in writing something for his upcoming painting show at Studios Inc. He told me to just come by the studio once in a while to observe and chat, and we’d take it from there. We spent the following weeks talking about art, watching the World Series, playing ping pong and working on our respective projects. On the day of the parade, I sent Rob a text expressing my uncertainty about how to approach the project. He replied:

Don’t beat yourself up. This is all about doing something good and worth doing and beyond our grasp and beyond our ability to always succeed or find it. Trust the process.

I wound up writing an essay about the exhibit, and also made 100 prints of the prose poem above. I’m not sure I pulled it off, but I learned a lot in the process, and I’m happy Robert took me along for the ride. If you get the chance to visit the exhibit or check it out online, I encourage you to do so.

“Until It’s All You See” is on display at the Studios Inc exhibit space at 1708 Campbell through Dec. 18. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday,  10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 p.m.) and Saturday from. noon to 4 p.m.

The Subways of Kansas City

It was a stormy Sunday night and I was out too late, hours later than I meant to be. Nothing had been open for hours, but I’d managed to drink and drug my way into the early morning. I didn’t want to call a taxi and there was no one I could ask for a ride, at least not without angering or embarrassing my family. I’d fallen asleep on a bus or something and didn’t know where I was in the city except that it was far from home. The late hour and the impending storm had all but cleared the streets, so I decided to look underground. Surely there was a subway line that could get me close to where I needed to go. I found a cellar door with a stairwell that led into a station, which was almost pitch black. It looked like a service depot, with hardly any signage except for a dusty electronic ticket booth which I swiped my debit card on and which spit out a ticket from a dot-matrix printer with perforated margins. The ticket cost me $16.17, but the route numbers listed on the ticket were unfamiliar. I looked at a map on the wall, but it appeared to be of an island, and everything was in German. The stops along the route were neighborhoods or municipalities I had never heard of before, including one — possibly the station I was at — called Abaddon. I saw no other passengers, and on the tracks different trains went by without stopping. Box cars, wooden crates, steel rail cars with no engines attached. I walked to the far end of the platform where a man behind a murky bulletproof glass window offered to help. I showed him my ticket, which he collected under the counter and looked at with confusion, shaking his head. He sold me a new ticket for $7 and asked where I needed to go. I felt foolish asking for help since I had never seen a subway station anywhere near my house before, or anywhere in the city for that matter (except of course the Amtrak station downtown, and this was clearly something much older, more surreal and subterranean than our nation’s official subsidized rail service). But when I told him I needed to get to Westwood, he nodded and pointed to a stop on the line that would let me out at Southwest Boulevard, a low-lying urban thoroughfare near the railroad tracks. The train should be down there in just a few minutes, he said, nodding toward the dark end of the platform. Would there be a sign? I asked. No, but you will see the other passengers. A minute later, an engine with a single cattle car attached pulled up, but no one else was on the train or waiting to board. It slowed down long enough for me to jump on, but sped up again before I could make my move. It must have been almost light outside by now, but it was hard to tell since the station did not have any clocks. I began to doubt whether I would ever get home. The other trains and train fragments continued to race past at increasingly faster speeds. A few moments later I was woken up by a particularly loud peal of thunder. The faint smell of soot and axle grease lingered in the morning darkness.

Spring time

Hi friends. I have not posted much in 2015 so I wanted to share a few links to recent projects. My piece, “15 Reasons We Didn’t Respond To Your Email” was included in the summer edition of The Artist Catalogue, based in NYC. Not sure if/when a print version is available, but you can read it in PDF form here. My selection is all the way toward the end but there is a lot of great stuff to look at before you get there.

As part of my inclusion in the Charlotte Street Studio Residency Program, I started an interview series with other artists and writers in the program, called “Pavilionaires” (since most of our studios are in the Town Pavilion building). You can read those here.

And consider coming out on Thursday, May 21 to “Displacement/Thisplacemeant,” a group show curated by Israel Alejandro Garcia Garcia, which opens at Paragraph Gallery (12th st. between Walnut and Main). The opening runs that evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be open into early July. I’ll be featuring an installation of typewriters pedestals featuring writing composed on site.


Thanks for following along the daily posts these pasts 7 weeks or so. I’m still writing each day and wrapping up a few personal projects, but I want to start out 2015 by following up on some interviews and write-ups of other people’s work. Feel free to send me a message in the meantime. Or just check back in later this month. Happy New Year.


In April 2012, Jennifer and I started a literary & arts website called Kawsmouth, which highlights writing, artwork and photography from writers and artists primarily in the Kansas City region. We currently publish new issues. on a quarterly schedule. The following are my own written contributions.

Coney Island Wintertide (Issue 1, April 2012)

Palace of the Apes (Issue 3, June 2012)

 Crumblecake Metropolis (Issue 7, October 2012)

 A salute to the Rockhill Theater ruins (Issue 8, December 2012)

Waiting For Devin: A pre-mortem for a retrofitted airport (Issue 13, Fall 2013)

12 on 12th (Issue 16, Summer 2014)

Little Red Flags

Right now Google Fiber contractors are digging a hole in the front yard. Little red, yellow and blue flags dot the neighborhood, marking gas lines and dig sites. Tree limbs are truncated to make way for new telephone polls installed by convoys of trucks with generic sounding company names on the side. My midnight bike rides are interrupted by men standing around drilling holes in the sidewalk, surrounded by flood lights and orange traffic barriers. The irony of Google Fiber’s rainbow bunny mascot is the installation work has scared all the neighborhood’s actual rabbits into flight. During my evening stroll I see entire warrens on the move. It is what it is, even if we mostly use that expression to mean I’d rather it were something else. I hope it’s not being too dramatic to say the whole Snowden thing threw a little cold water on the Fiber project for me. By tracking your digital breadcrumbs and analyzing your text messages and email drafts as you write them, Snowden alleges, the NSA can see into your thought process and analyze your “pattern of life.” This all sounds paranoid, the kind of thinking most often associated with drugs, secrecy or treason. But as these guys point out, “These days you don’t need drugs to be paranoid. You can just be paranoid and be totally correct.” So the Web and telecom networks secretly turn over data to the government — not a big surprise. But do we really want them burrowing directly into our homes? I guess it depends on what you’re willing to give up to be able to digitally record eight TV shows at once.

A Valediction Forbidding E-Cigs

aka “Red Says We’re Too Old For This Shit”

punk rock kids still smoke real cigs they flick the light they breathe the smoke and tilt their heads back when they blow big clouds and jets and streams and plumes and tap their feet to three chord songs they smoke their cigs and bob their heads and shake their hair from side to side their clothes are black and old but fine to look at in the light of amps and bulbs in rooms with floors of wood and crowds of kids and chairs where you can sit and smoke some more if you run out just ask a friend if you can bum one more the kids all shout play one more song and turn it up my cig’s still lit and I’m still young

Mississippi Blockbuster Blues

Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 12.31.46 AM

Chris was one of the most interesting people I met during my month in Mississippi. He showed up the day before our fireworks stand opened, asking about work. He helped out at the carnival that set up in town every summer, he said, but they usually stiffed him, paying him only $20 for two full days of hauling stuff around. Sears and I told him we weren’t taking on any extra employees, but that didn’t stop him from coming by and talking with us almost every day. Being in Mississippi and all, it would be tempting to refer to Chris in Faulknerian terms, but a more polite description would be to say he was simpleminded.

Chris wore the same over-sized orange t-shirt every time I saw him, and had a bowl cut with long bangs he would constantly shake out of his face. He could have been 27 or 41 — it was impossible to tell. His mom was a morbidly obese lady who sat in a window booth at the Subway for hours on end, smiling at everyone who passed by. I think she appreciated that we were kind to her son, even playing frisbee with him one windy afternoon in the parking lot of the strip mall where our tent was set up. Chris had never played frisbee before, but he had a pretty good arm, even though the wind gave him trouble. We went from being initially wary to looking forward to his visits, and if they occurred late enough that we already had a good beer buzz going, we’d yell his name in unison as he approached. When we did that he’d just scrunch up his face and look at us like we were crazy.

The one thing we could count on each time we saw Chris was that he would tell us about his “plan.” The “plan” involved emptying out the large cake fireworks we had for sale and using them to blow up a port-a-potty. There were little variations in the logistics each time he told us about it, but every single one resulted in an exploding toilet. Eventually I used my primitive Nokia phone to record our conversation, for posterity’s sake (and, I suppose, as potential criminal evidence should anyone in Wayne County meet an untimely end that brutally hot summer).

When I recorded Chris’s story, however, something unexpected happened. After discussing the details of the toilet-bomb (along with a curious, rather alarming warning to “never smoke”), he launched into an impromptu and surprisingly serious elegy for the nearby Movie Gallery, which the Blockbuster Video corporation was “fixin’ to get.” Naturally, I found it amazing that there were still places in America in mid-2010 where Blockbuster was still opening new stores.

Of course, that was three and a half years ago, and by now even the Waynesboro Blockbuster appears to have closed, as has the one in Westport, Missouri, that I grew up going to (brilliantly photographed above by Robert Josiah).

I haven’t gone back to Waynesboro since 2011, and I don’t know that I ever will. If you do happen to visit, be sure to try both kinds of potato salad at the Huff-N-Puff Smokehouse. And if you need a WiFi hookup or clean bathroom, the Waynesboro McDonalds is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen (the previous McDonalds having burned down several years earlier). But for Chrissakes, whatever you do, don’t go anywhere near them pretty potties.

24 Things I Did Today

Today, at the Kansas City Library, I met a man who tried to sell me a piece of meteorite. At least that’s what he said it was. It was small and black; obsidian-like with fragments of what looked like petrified bubble bath. Do you collect meteorites? I asked him. He said yeah, I’m kind of a stargazer. He said he didn’t know if you could like sell them or not. I don’t know, I said, though I wished I had a few dollars to give him for it just so I could say I bought a meteorite from a soft-spoken dude at the library wearing earbuds and a basketball jersey. Instead I just said “keep stargazing” as he walked away, waved and smiled.

Today I read comic strips and horoscopes.

Today I ran until I was tired.

Today I drove home through the mists of Lee Blvd. listening to the prelude to Tristan and Isolde.

Today I called my wife on her parent’s landline and asked her what the homework assignment was. Her dad answered and it took a minute for her to come to the phone. When we started talking I remembered how less clear landlines are. How you have to really listen.

Today I tried to help a friend decide whether or not he and his family should buy a new home.

Today I emailed a stranger and wound up having coffee with an old friend. We talked ever so briefly about the last days of Schumann in beautiful Bonn-Endenich, which we’d both visited, though in different eras.

Today I ate some food, namely a ham and pepper jack sandwich on french bread with a side of red hot blues. I still have a bag of Haribo Smurfs open, but they gum up my insides.

Today, while marveling at the weight of a friend’s accidentally disembodied Aurelien Collin bobblehead, I remembered one of the most impressive and (perhaps understandably) overlooked moments in the career of the White Puma — being struck by an Omar Bravo bobblehead head thrown by a miscreant in the home stands. The projectile cut a gash above the KC keeper’s eye, but he patched things up and finished out the game, a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers.

Today I found out someone had been talking shit. For a few moments, I thought about getting angry. This is the kind of thing people get angry over. Confront people about. But what good is it to read Marcus Aurelius paperbacks if you can’t take a few knocks, especially from folks who actually know you, folks who might even be right. Though maybe they only have part of the story, or aren’t entirely sympatico. How many times have you thought you had someone figured out only to realize, you don’t know their story. You don’t know their story at all.

Today, 16 years ago, it was my high school girlfriend’s and my first date. OK Computer had just come out a few months before and we listened to it a lot that winter, driving long distances across the metro to find cool places to drink coffee.

Today I looked at a half-collapsed stack of old notebooks and asked myself how much I really need my old words. Won’t the ones still living rise up unbidden at the needed moment, just as soon as the daydream wears on?

Today I resolved to tell my friend not to be so hard on himself. I’m only one grade older and because of that always think I should be able to give advice. But I can’t, really. All I can truthfully say is I’m confident you’ll figure it out. I’ll help however I can.

Today I got a save-the-date postcard from my brother and his fiancée. Over pizza, my grandfather explained the difference between a fiancé and a fiancée, though I think he might be wrong about pronouncing them differently.

Today I jumped over piles of snow on the curbside while crossing the downtown bus depot hobocluster. The fountain isn’t running but the buses are all more or less on time, which is to say, not really.

Today I can still think of half a dozen emails I need to write, not that I’m super important or anything like that, just always a tiny bit behind the beat when it comes to being in touch with friends, family and colleagues. I try to keep this in mind when waiting for my own unrequited emails to be returned, but the more time passes, the more I begin seeing them as badminton birdies that have flown far out of bounds and are now lapping in the surf at the nearest beach.

Today I need to go to bed because it isn’t today anymore, but my wife and child are away and I want to listen to music and type until I pass out on the couch. I put hot water on for tea half an hour ago and my friend’s soundcoud has long since passed aurally overhead, but I’m still locked to the keyboard.

Today I’m writing to tell you I might not see you for a while, or at least I won’t be making any appearances here anytime soon, and why should I? There are so many lists to look at; so many books to read. I’ve got projects to work on and people to see.

Today I drove down a street that said No Outlet but actually there was one.

Today I plugged in the Christmas Lights a final time.

Today I contemplated staying up all night, then quickly decided against it.

Today I tried hard to find the post-it note I mentally wrote to myself before I last fell asleep. They can’t always be recovered, but sometimes I get them to stick.

Today I wrote a poem by convincing myself I was just writing a list of what happened today. Though whether it’s actually a poem probably depends more on the reader.

Tonight I’m writing to let you know I’ll keep trying as long as you keep reading. It’s foggy out there, but that won’t stop me from signaling.

* * *

Like • Comment • Share

Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 4.46.20 PM

Rather than post one of those confessional essays about why I’m quitting Facebook (which would probably only last a short while), I chopped up my notes and turned them into the poem above. I don’t have any grand points to make about society or modern communication, but I wanted to somehow give voice to the general social media anxiety I’ve been feeling lately.

somnambulance dispatch, vol. two-hundred twenty-two

Last night I slept for almost 11 hours, albeit with frequent interruption. At one point, I’m not sure when, the baby fussed. At 5 in the morning, we woke up to a rattling at the bathroom window. Jenny got up to check it out and saw a cardinal had become trapped in the bamboo. Eventually it flapped its way free, but by that point we were both awake. Jenny told me a new baby name idea. I told her the exact coordinates of my dream at the moment I’d been woken up by the bird. We were all sitting around a table, I think at Harry’s in Westport, and I was beatboxing the 8-bit underworld theme music from Super Mario Bros 3. In my dream I was impressed with my abilities, and I’m pretty sure those around me were, too. But in the non-light of day it all seemed a little ridiculous. We went back to bed for a bit, and before it was light I heard the three owls. They’ve been hanging around our backyards for weeks now. When one hoots, the others follow, and a circular dialogue ensues that’s soothing to lie and listen to. Still only half-awake this morning, I imagined they were the Strigiformation of past, future and present. Wise, but not judgmental. Only attentive, soft, poetic.

MCI > ???


“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.