We spent several more days outside of Guthrie at Deer Time Ranch. The Bobos held a BBQ in honor of Carrie’s trip (and perhaps to show us how they do it in OK: answer, deliciously). We took the opportunity of staying put for a while to leave the Subaru in the shop to fix a few badly behaving parts. While the Subie had some me time at the car spa, Terry and Lonnie volunteered to drive us around the state, showing remarkable patience and understanding as we repeatedly asked to stop and take pictures of an old shack or a roll of hay. When the Subie was finished we packed up and said our bittersweet farewells. Like with Carrie and Jason, the Bobos had made us feel warm, comfortable and at home — an unfamiliar yet highly pleasing sensation we’ve come to crave.
A heavy rain started over Kansas. Magda was hoping to squeeze in a few more photos of the Great Plains for the upcoming New Yorker Photobooth feature, but with an inky sky and the thump of the windshield wipers dampening our spirits, we mostly watched the prairie between Guthrie and Kansas City from behind rain beaded glass. We reached Kansas City after dark and splashed beneath big golden leafed trees bathed in the orange glow of street lights. It was two days before Halloween and the leaves had yet to fall in earnest. Jack o’ lanterns sat on porches, grinning in welcome through a thickening layer of fog.
We stayed with another ex-New Yorker, Chel O’Reilly. While she once lived like most New Yorkers in a series of spacially challenged apartments, Chel has landed on the top floor of a roomy carriage house that sits behind an elaborate gingerbread Victorian. Her welcome involved a big dinner prepared with another good friend visiting from back East, a small grey cat with three legs, and a seven foot Kansan she thought (correctly) we’d get along with. It was warm and dry inside (if you don’t count the quickly disappearing bottles of wine) in contrast to a thick damp fog that we hoped would lift by morning. As one does when one meets Chel O’Reilly after some years, we picked up precisely where we’d left off, delving into matters of social politics, music and some old fashioned gossip.
Chel’s become a big proponent of Kansas City and it was easy to see why. Big beautiful mansions sit comfortably on roomy lawns around her block, which is just one of many inside the city limits. I make note of the city limits because these neighborhoods don’t have the feel of suburbs, they feel very much connected with the city’s core. Like most Midwestern cities, Kansas City has had its share of post-industrial depression but it’s handled its revival better than most. Gleaming new public spaces are set like glass and aluminum jewels amongst the parking lots and aging brick downtown buildings.
First with Chel, then by ourselves, we toured the city hoping for a stray ray of sun to help light our way. We thudded over railroad tracks in the West Bottoms and drove Division Street, straddling the Kansas/Missouri border hoping to somehow capture Kansas City’s unique bi-state personality. When the sun finally did break through, the city proved small enough and easy enough to drive that we toured it again, this time stopping to take its portrait.
At one point in the industrial district of West Bottoms, Magda jumped out of the car to capture the late afternoon light warming the facades of century old warehouses. As she was shooting, a car failed to make a complete u-turn, backed up a little to try again, and then was t-boned with a boom by an oncoming vehicle. Magda jumped to one side but was clear of danger. Fortunately everyone was fine. As we left the scene the drivers were discussing the matter very cordially.
We took the opportunity of having a comfortable place to stay in a laid back city to catch a movie, the first in many months (Gravity, too cool), shop a little for my cousin’s wedding (a white undershirt at the Gap costs $20, next door it costs $5) and sample some of Kansas’ famous BBQ at Arthur Bryant’s. On Halloween we walked to a bar called Haus which was selling some of the best sausages I’ve eaten in America. Chel, Magda and I raised a stein of locally crafted beer toasting to a friendship repositioned, not displaced.