Thursday, September 27, 2007

There and Back Again

I spent most of this week either sleeping, at work, or sleeping at work. (Nice work if you can get it.) I guess Kansas City was more exhausting than I thought, however receptive and rewarding it was, and it was. Maybe it was the heat, the four separate 60-minute flights, or the rapid-fire flurries of social interaction after so many months without. (Not that I minded the heat. In fact, after I saw the snow Monday morning, I spent the rest of the day in bed.) I got a great surprise when I touched down in Salt Lake City (no, not the snow): Mom was waiting with Morgan to pick me up and stayed the night once we got back to town.

Brent blogged a great synopsis of my visit, so I'll fill in the blanks.

I spent most of our time in the suburbs simultaneously impressed and disgusted. I will never again take urban life for granted; too long (almost seven years) have I languished without book stores, sushi, and coffee houses with free wi-fi. Brent's family and friends reside in charming neighborhoods with wide, winding streets and occasionally whimsical old world names (my favorite was Nottingham on the Green). But the new construction spilling out into the soft farmland around the city is a little disheartening, stacks of mustard-and-olive apartment complexes and pastel shopping centers so theatrically designed and perfectly maintained that they felt otherworldly.

Downtown was more like it. We only spent a few brief hours in the heart of the city on Saturday evening, and my eyes were on an intensely broad spectrum of art most of the time, but from what I saw, Kansas City is a surprisingly progressive urban space. It's unassumingly metropolitan, modest about its own beauty, impressively scaled, and unpretentiously classy. The original Spanish architecture has been cleverly preserved and updated, blending seamlessly with more modern structures and put to use in rather ingenious ways. K.C. might be the perfect poster child for Midwestern Urban Renewal.

Older residential areas border downtown, and most properties have been tastefully and skillfully renovated. I was glad to see that these surprisingly green (mostly oak and ash) and very pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods haven't been razed to make way for developments.

The art at the Plaza Art Fair made me want to run home and set up my studio in the living room. There were very few artists working solely in traditional media, which seems to be the trend currently, although I saw a few landscapes in oil and pastels and some watercolors of local landmarks that were done so faithfully they looked like photographs until you were right up close. There was a lot of glass and metal, including one woman who was twisting old silver spoons, arranging them with other found items in shadowbox frames, and engraving messages on them in long looping lines. Then there was the man who was using similar found metal to make crazy, occasionally anatomically correct robotic figurines. At least someone has found a good use for used spark plugs.

The media-du-jour I'm happiest to celebrate, however, is quilting. There were traditional quilts and wall hangings in gorgeous fabrics and designs so luxurious I'd never dare put them on a bed, but also something new that just zinged me: quilted landscapes, illustrations, portraits and signs with a satisfying layered, pieced complexity. Quilted art looks touchable, even behind glass. The possibilities seemed endless, with some artists embroidering text into and over designs, but no matter how complicated the construction of these pieces, they all exuded homemade charm, which made them all the more delightful.

I took hardly any photos during my stay. (I know, sacre bleu!) The only explanation I can come up with is that I was too busy holding Brent's hand. This may sound silly, and at one point or another I would find myself wondering if I was appearing too clingy, which I am generally not. But when you only see your other half every six weeks or so for a few days at a time, you don't waste time standing five feet apart.

His family and friends were as warm and engaging as advertised, and I think everyone was satisfied by the end of the brief visit that Brent has landed himself a pretty acceptable girl. I won't be the least bit upset if we wind up in Kansas City, but I'm going to have to get some intensive training from a qualified beautician. The moment I stepped off the plane into the humidity (and a spectacular thunderstorm) my hair exploded, and it was all I could do for the next five days to keep it from taking over the world. I've spent my entire life in desert climates. I don't know what to do with curls.

I'm not done yet. Subsequent posts will cover my observations of Midwestern college towns and Kansas City's bizarre obsession with food. But tonight is my Friday-on-a-Thursday, and I have some errands to run. Now that hunting season is officially in full swing and Jeff will be pretty much A.W.O.L. on weekends (there's a stack of hunting regulations on his desk about four inches thick, covering about eight different species and spanning several regions), I intend to catch up here. I know I say that a lot, but I always mean it.


Blogger mister anchovy said...

I think there is a rule that states that the more charming the name housing developers give to streets in a new subdivision (or in some cases for the subdivision itself), the nicer the landscape once was before they bull-dozed all the trees and leveled the hills and buried the creek.

September 30, 2007 at 4:51 AM  
Blogger A said...

Sad but true. It's happening in rashes all over Wyoming, I can tell you that.

October 1, 2007 at 11:27 PM  

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