Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kansas City Symphony: Opening Concert

The opening concert of this season's Kansas City Symphony was designed to be a crowd pleaser. Judging from the reaction of the large audience on Saturday eve, it certainly fulfilled its mission. The three works, Jennifer Higdon's popular "blue cathedral", Chopin Piano Concerto # 2 and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" are not huge blockbuster works, however they worked well together taking us on a sometimes meditative, sometimes nostalgic and finally aurally thrilling journey.

"blue cathedral" is billed as one of the most often performed contemporary works in America. Beautiful, poignant, ephemeral, a drifting cloud of sound that was at the same time not just a directionless mass of chords and special effects. The piece is a life journey, in memoriam to her brother, evoking the passion and sense of urgency of a life too short, finally culminating in the same heavenly calmness from which it sprang.

Stern's well received performance was brisk, illuminating the more dramatic elements of the piece, such as the frenetic brass climax near the end. The soft, transparent closing pages were well conceived, drifting off into silence accompanied by the otherworldly sounds of Chinese jingling balls and the brass playing on water glasses, effects not as easily heard on a recording. A magical piece, concise and moving.

Chopin's two Concerti For Piano are far from flashy. Both early works, the evening's Concerto # 2 in F minor was actually written before # 1 but premiered later. Hailed as a masterpiece of expressive piano writing, the piece is at the same time criticized for its thin and sometimes uninteresting orchestral writing; illuminating Chopin's inexperience with the orchestra.

But of course, with Chopin, the piano is king and thus the orchestra does what it is supposed to do; set up the dramatic scene, punctuate the phrases, add heft to the climaxes and bring everything to a rousing close. The KCS did just that, providing the incomparable Garrick Ohlsson with the base needed to pull off an effortless yet luscious performance. Ohlsson's piano provided a warm, sustained sonority, a Dynaflow (people familiar with classic Buicks will understand that reference)sense of motion well serving the intent of the composer.

The Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Pictures" is of course the most well known of the many attempts to orchestrate the work originally for piano. Stern and the KCS pulled out all the stops in a grand performance, marred only by a lack of heft in the strings (oh... to have the budget for 3-4 more violins, a viola and cello or two...)causing them to be buried under the power of the brass and winds. The brass shone in this performance, especially noting the great execution of the killer trumpet solo in Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle. Especially fun was a skittering "Limoges-The Marketplace". The Great Gate of Kiev provided a thrilling conclusion with all the bells and well executed percussion.

The large crowd went home pleased, having enjoyed an evening of deservedly popular music played well.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Hero in My Book

This fellow is my absolute hero!

St Louis Motorist Turns to Camera for Safety (from police)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hate Crimes

Fascinating. The US Senate Passed a Hate Crimes bill, 60-39 or something like that.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crime bill passed the Senate on Thursday, thus making a battle with Bush and his hate lovers a certainty. The measure has already passed the House. The two versions of the bill must be reconciled before heading to Bush.

Of course, wanting to further be known as the most hard hearted ass ever to sit on the White House Throne, Bush threatened a veto. The Senate's chief sponsor, Sen. Ted Kennedy tacked the bill onto a Defense spending bill as an amendment, making a no win situation for the Asshole in Chief.

Orrin Hatch of Utah (duh) called a bill designed to uphold the rights of all citizens regardless of their sexual identity "unwise, unnecessary and unconstitutional".Hatch said that the term "gender identity" is ambiguous and unenforceable.

He wants to study the issue more, like Iranian Madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to study the reality of the Holocaust more.

They are all like.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Open Letter to Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua

Dear President Ortega:

Greetings from the USA, from someone who feels your country is one of the most beautiful on Earth, from someone who loves the stories and songs of your land, from someone who has taken his own time and money to come to your country not just to play and drink but to work side by side with your people on many occasions, from someone who loved to hear the stories from those who marched into Managua in July, 1979 (I still mark the Dia de la Revolucion in my calendar), from a "Gringo Pinolero".

Presidente, of all the world's sins, the one I hate the most is hypocrisy. If you have been a faithful reader of my ramblings, I am sure you have noticed that from time to time. Sadly, Dear Presidente, you have become one too.

Daniel, what are you thinking??

* Elected through a rigged, manipulated election. Come on, you know it is true, you have no mandate, and what really happened to Herty?

* Governing only through a vile and cynical pact with your opposition who raped and pillaged the country and you let go unpunished. After your term, will you let Aleman back to power? Is that part of the deal? To hell with the Revolucion and Sandismo? Is is all about you?

* Allied with Chavez in Venezuela, who is rapidly becoming dictator for life, while nothing good comes to his people. Is that your plan?

* Allied with the crazy man from Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, Daniel, if you really look would kill your now devout Catholic ass in New York minute, you know.

* Slam the US and Allies in the UN with lines like "US leaders continued to dictate what was right or wrong "as if they were God", while poor countries were still afflicted by "oppression and violence and terror". Who is afflicting the countries with violence and terror? What are you doing to stop oppression of the poor, women and sick in Nicaragua Daniel? Jetting off to Tehran is not helping anyone. Where is all this promised money anyway? I have been hearing for 3 years now that Venezuela is building a new road to the coast. Last time I was there, it was still a dirt track.

I know, Daniel, that the US and the Europe are not without sin. But look at yourself sir. Are you not about empire, power and alliances, and feeling you are right and everyone who thinks different is wrong as well?? Are not your friends Mahmoud and Hugo using money and threats to get what they want? Is it all not the same, no matter which side of the fence you are on?

And when the Hurricane struck, who was first there? US based relief efforts. They didn't ask if the victims were left or right, Sandinista or PLC.

Daniel, what I want is to come to Nicaragua in March 2008 as I always do and see people with work. Healthcare for the poor, roads being built. Promised projects finished. A Justice system that works, I want to see Eric Volz free. See Union Frenosa out. Gringos and Nicas working together for the betterment of the people.

I had hopes, Senor Presidente, that you would come true to your promises, a country run on good solid principles of people power, solid investment leading to good jobs, healthcare a priority, raising the standard of living, ending corruption that drains your economy. Instead, we get ranting, raving and more corruption.

And still the Nicaraguan people pray for a better life and a leader that will make it happen.

Many pray that they will not die of disease and starvation today.

Who caused that? Not I, no one but Nicaraguan politicians who from Somosa on have raped and pillaged this lovely land of gentle people.

Be a new Sandino for them Daniel. Would not that be better than all the gold and riches from Cesar and Mahmoud?

Make me proud to say I am your friend.


Don Clark

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Sunday... been a bit busy today, but did get in some time to sit in the somewhat overcast sun and soak the last rays or a dying summer. In fact, it is not summer any longer as of early this AM.

All that aside, the news today of the passing of Marcel Marceau brought memories of my attending several of his shows in the past. His art was subtle and refined. Sadly, with his passing, I wonder if it will survive. He almost singlehandedly saved the art of mime from extinction.

I draw your attention to my friend Shannon's blog ClarkBarred on Myspace. He is no relation as far as I know, but has a lot to say about life behind bars in Arizona.

All for the day, day of rest you know... can't work too hard!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday NO Pancake Musings: Bacon and Eggs Edition

Ok not real bacon and eggs, fat-boy diabetic bacon and eggs: Turkey bacon and Eggbeaters. You get used to it.

1) I had a revelation about the recent Lyric Opera production of Aida. It works best if you think of it as a dream or fantasy of Radames. In the opening scene, one sees behind a sandy, wavy scrim curtain downtrodden people trekking through the sandy waste. A figure wanders and finally collapses by a rock. To the right is a gathering of nomads on their rugs, obviously better off than many of the wandering masses but still nomadic. The collapsed figure is Radames and he listens to the nomad leader talk of the invasion of their land by the Ethiopians. Radames is drawn in to the discussion and soon his mind is full of fantastic thoughts; he is the warrior savior of Egypt.

So this is why we have juxtaposed visions and traditions of Ancient Egypt, the worshiping of the ancient gods, sacrifices and so on, combined with images of Egypt as an occupied land, foreign soldiers, beating prisoners, the Triumphal March scene from the rear as the masses watch and dissenters are punished. That is why Amneris is seen walking through the burial tomb at the end. A lot is explained by looking at the production that way.

Still a bit contrived and the whole "it is just a dream" shtick is old. I still would have liked a traditional Aida.

The whole town is talking about it and the box is excellent so I guess it works.

2)I am so pissed at the Democrats in Congress who voted to condemn the ad about General Petraeus. "General Betray-Us" they called him. The Repubs went ballistic. Guess they can dish it out but can't take it. Some say the Dems were showing that they would not stoop as low as that to libel someone.

I say fight fire with fire.

3)Beautiful Day today in KC, low humidity, 80s for high. Rained last night so the grass is nice and green. Great day for the Plaza Art Fair.

4)Happy Yom Kippur (can one have a happy day of atonement??)to my Jewish friends and readers. The synagogues will be packed today. In some temples, you have to pay to go the Yom Kippur service or demonstrate that you have been faithful in attendance to get the best seats for the service. Once I worked as an usher (bouncer more like it) at a Yom Kippur service to keep out the unworthy. Strange!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Aida, Kansas City Lyric Opera

Some things should just be left as they are. In the world of Opera, it is fashionable to take an opera and update it or change its locale and time. Often that works well. Bizet’s Carmen has been successfully done as an all black version, set in a dreary East European socialist factory and set in Mexico as well as Spain. Kansas City’s Lyric Opera set a "Die Fledermaus" in the 1920s and had period performers at Prince Orlofsky’s second act ball, it worked wonderfully.

But to me, Verdi’s Aida belongs to Ancient Egypt of the Pharaohs, of Memphis and Pyramids. The version being performed this month at Kansas City Lyric Opera floats in a space-time warp somewhere between Egypt, Turkey, Hollywood and Las Vegas and between 1500BC and 1871AD. It just doesn’t work.

For the Lyric’s 50th anniversary season, a highly anticipated production of the popular Aida was most welcome and opportune; a great way to kick off a celebratory season.

In an interview in the Kansas City Star, the producer Thaddeus Strassberger evoked such terms as “South Korean Olympics opening ceremony”, “Eyes Wide Shut” and “…very Mel Gibson ‘Apocalypto,’” to describe his production. Ok, fine… but the discrepancies and overall “look at me, I am making a statement here” mentality detracted from what was musically a stellar performance. Strassberger just can’t let the opera tell its own story; he has to interject twists (like the strange but more effective Hamlet by Thomas that he directed last season) and all the latest controversial clichés to muddy the water.

The costumes looked more Turkish than Egyptian, burkas and hoods prevailed. Not a glitter of gold to be seen. Instead of amusing herself with the Moorish Slave Dance in Act II scene I, Amneris cavorted on a big bed with a couple of men in string bikinis, looking as if she had just picked them up from Craigslist. And WTF is with a virgin sacrifice, complete with a beating, bleeding heart displayed to all, doing in Aida? Especially one set in 1871?? Did the Egyptians still do that in 1871AD, did they still worship the ancient gods?? Done for shock purposes only, it made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Also contributing an absurd, sadistic atmosphere was the focus on the beating of the slaves during the triumphal March (!), complete with an Abu Garib-like pyramid of prisoners and a dog on a leash. We saw the seedy back side of the march; the soldiers (dressed in British Military uniforms and carrying rifles with bayonets) marched in back almost in shadow. A nice touch was the trumpets in the balcony providing a wonderful, yet sadly incongruous, celebratory tone to the music. Methinks producer Strassberger emulates his buddy Mel a bit too much. I hate Mel Gibson movies thus a Mel Gibson opera is just too much.

Fortunately, the singing was beyond reproach, some of the best I have yet heard at the Lyric and on par with many productions of larger companies. Jane Dutton as Amneris was wonderful, perfectly haughty and even a tad naughty like a spoiled daughter of a King. Luis Ledesma had a deep commanding voice and provided a sympathetic and ultimately tragic performance of Amonasro. Arnold Rawls as Radames was in fine voice but ultimately was undone by the bizarre staging, such as his almost limping, sullen march across the stage in the Triumphal March and his wandering across the stage and laying beside a huge rock in the opening scene. Karen Slack as Aida was not as strong a voice as was needed, but it fit well with an almost too quiet and subdued staging of her role.

The orchestra under Ward Holmquist was beyond reproach, continuing to show the growth of the orchestra that also doubles for the most part as the Kansas City Symphony.

I desperately wanted to like this adventurous production of Aida, but the incongruity, absurdity and dark, lifeless staging did it in. Go see it, but keep your eyes closed, that is the key.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Land of the Free??

What were we, as kids, always taught about the USA? Land of the free? Free speech??


Regardless if he did it before, wanted to confront, was seeking attention, it is 1,000,000% inexcusable to subdue and taser a kid for wanting to speak. PERIOD, PARAGRAPH.

Free? USA has the highest percent of people incarcerated in the world.
Free? According to a study I saw and unfortunately can not find again, the USA is about 83% free, with restrictions on press, incarcerations and restrictions on travel higher than most of Europe and Canada.

I mourn for our country. And mourn more that I fear the electorate will not make a bold move and break the cycle of right wing dictators we have had the past 8 years.

Puggles, would you like to be Queen of Canada?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Queen Mary

September 1987, Wixom, Michigan. Fall was in the air I would assume. In a sprawling factory just south of Wixom along Interstate 96, pieces of metal, plastic, fabric and glass would slowly work its way down the assembly line. Craftsmen and women would bolt, weld and fasten parts to the frame as it passed. Finally emerging as a 1988 Lincoln Town Car Signature series 4 door sedan. She would be given the VIN # 1LNMB82F6JY669370. 69,369 others had preceded her down the line.

This one was special; she's now mine. I celebrated her birthday this week, as do not know the exact build date, but do know from the data plate that she was built in 9/87.

20 years is not really special for a car, it is too soon to be an antique and is beyond being a new car or even a reasonably new car. But when you think about it, a lot of her sisters didn't make it this far, although you still see a lot of them on the road. But these cars were well built, reliable and still somewhat simple. Easily fixed with parts a plenty, they will be around for a long time to come.

My Lincoln, which I quickly named the "Queen Mary" as a nod to her size and nautical bearing, is still a beauty despite the blemishes of time. She has some scratches, some dings, even some rust that is well hidden by the wide chrome rocker panel covers that are a sign that she is a top line Signature Series and the paint is getting thin. But damn she turns heads still with her graceful crisp lines and dark deep "Cabernet" wine-red color. Her velour interior (how 80's!) is a matching Cabernet as is her vinyl coach roof. The white wall tires (getting hard to find these days) are fitted to stylish turbine spoke wheels, she used to have the optional aluminum wire wheels, but they were in sad shape and missing their caps. She sported an optional leather wrapped steering wheel and automatic load leveling so as not to scrape her bottom when loaded (I hate when that happens). I would have loved to have seen her fresh from the factory, she must have been a stunningly beautiful machine.

Her first owner treated her pretty well, but the rigors of snowy central Illinois took a toll on her undercarriage and she has some rust issues. When I got her, I was the 3rd owner, a 2nd owner had her for a short time. I found her in Bloomington, Il on ebay and bought her to her new home in Kansas City in July 2005.

She has had work done, like many older ladies. New exhaust, shocks, various engine parts, gas tank, fuel pump, drive shaft, alternator, and valve cover gaskets; all the things that wear with age in these beauties. Since a lot of those parts were from junk yards, my cash outlay has been little actually. I would love to get her painted, but the rust precludes a paint job, it would be a waste of cash I do not have.

Starts every time, comfortable (like driving your couch down the highway), powerful and not really all that fuel thirsty, she is a wonderful car.

That is the Queen Mary in the middle with her sister 1989 Town Car on the right and 1987 on the left.

Happy Birthday Queen Mary! Long live the Queen!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More on Vince Greer

I received a note from a member of Vincent Greer's family in response to my earlier entry of September 12th. Sometimes comments to posts get buried and never read, but this one deserved more visibility.

I am a (relation) to Vince Greer, and as close and supportive as our family is, it's nice to see someone who didn't even know him with a true unbiased opinion.

What we have been told is that Vince's hands were bound and he was lethally injected with drugs. His cell mate is being held in solitary for most likely another murder charge if the prison doesn't just sweep it under the rug. However the real issue is now how did the drugs and needle get in through confined prison doors? That's all being investigated now.

I had not heard of this case until I saw an article in the St Louis paper. It is obvious the system and society failed this young man. His family supported him throughout this whole thing, never judging him, never angry with him. They saw a sick boy, one who needed to be treated, not condemned.

We live in the dark ages.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Foreign Language??


Accident investigators believe a motorist a tire in the roadway and that may have caused an eight-vehicle crash on Interstate 435 Thursday morning.

Actual headline from the online news page of the Kansas City Star.

What has happened to writing?? Spelling?? Grammar???

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Show Won't Go On

In the world of opera and to a lesser extent orchestras and instrumentalists, everyone seems to be sick these days:

Tenor Rolando Villazón Cancels Performances Through Year's End, Including Met, Covent Garden, Carnegie Hall

Nathan Gunn Pulls Out of September and October Performances at Met

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Taken Ill, Cancels Two Major Engagements

Conductor Claudio Abbado Withdraws from Carnegie Hall Season Openers Next Month

Soprano Dorothea Röschmann Cancels All Engagements for Three Months

Bryn Terfel Withdraws from Covent Garden Ring

Horacio Gutiérrez Cancels Performances Through January 2008

Another Cancellation at Salzburg: Diana Damrau Pulls Out of Tonight's Figaro

In Latest of Several Cancellations, Tenor Rolando Villazón Pulls Out of Salzburg Festival

Anna Netrebko Cancels Salzburg Festival Appearances

Most of these were colds, stress, sore throat, sneezes, sniffles and stress. Only Gutiérrez and Abbado have serious illnesses.

Whatever happened to the show must go on??

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Short, Sad Life of Vince Greer

Vince Greer died in prison this week, he was 24. Early reports suggest he was killed, or was a suicide. For Vince and his family, the main question always will be whether he should have been there at all.

There is no disputing that in November 1997, 15 year old Vince shot and killed his mother with a rifle. His father wrestled the gun from him and held him until police arrived.

Vince was diagnosed as schizophrenic. After a first conviction was overturned, he was retried and convicted again. Sent to prison for life. No treatment.

Bottom line, Vince got screwed. The defense made a blunder and held fast to the hope of an insanity acquittal. He should have realized that juries are a crap shoot at best. The juries opted for the easy way out, doesn't hurt them to put him away. The prosecutor is saying he would have compromised, but that is hotly debated. He could have stepped up to the plate and looked hard at the evidence that Vince was insane and also 15 years old (have I said that enough??) at the time and not prosecuted for first degree murder. It is also such a bullshit double standard that 15 year olds are liable for killing someone, but when they seduce and have sex with someone older, they can't be held accountable. The State wanted Vince put away, they wanted him to die in prison.

They got their wish.

Everyone happy now?

RIP Vince.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Remembering Pavarotti

I don't remember the exact date or even year, but it must have been 1976 or 1977 when I saw the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti perform. He was doing an opera and song recital at the University of Illinois' Krannert Center for Performing Arts and somehow I got a ticket.

Pavarotti died September 6th of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71.

Pavarotti possessed a magnificent voice and a commanding stage presence. Always present was his trademark white handkerchief and a big infectious smile. His performances were never dull but rather earthy, fun, exciting and always true to the art of opera.

To the enduring horror of opera snobs, Pavarotti would sing just about anything including commercials, huge outdoor concerts, TV, and with pop stars. His Three Tenors performances with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, were also panned by critics but adored by many and sold millions of CDs and videos.

Sadly, as happens to many singers, his voice faded and was not as clear and strong by the end of his career, but that of course did not stop him. Back when I saw him, he was at the top of his game. Fresh, exciting, already popular. He won over audiences with his charm and superb musicianship. Example:

At the concert I saw, I scored one of the worse seats in the house. For sold out performances, the center also sold seats that were behind the stage, also used for a choir loft. The sound was not as good and you saw the performer's backside a lot.

But Pavarotti was different. He knew we were behind him and he was just as happy to see us as he was those who paid more for the prime seats in front. Almost every song he turned and sang to us. At one point, he turned to the main audience and said "Scusilo" Italian for excuse me. He turned to us and sang 3 selections just to us. Even the main audience applauded his magnanimous gesture.

A true artist. RIP Luciano. Grazie.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Going Home Pt 2

One sad fact of life is that you don't get to choose where you are born and are raised. If so, I doubt I would have chosen my home, Decatur, IL., a blue collar berg smack in the middle the Illinois corn and soybean fields. Do give me some points; I got out as soon as I could. If my sister was not there, I doubt I would go back at all.

Decatur has about 81,860 people according to the 2000 census. When I lived there the population was always listed as around 78,000. 1990 it was 83,000 some people. So, since the statistics rarely lie, it is clear that Decatur is far from a boom town.

Shabby. That was my impression this time around. Shabby and declining. Sad really. Even my son Daniel noted it was getting a bit ragged. “Decatur was never all that exciting, but I remember at least the buildings were kept up and were open, there were stores and restaurants and things looked nice”, he opined as I met with him in St Louis on my way home. He observed well.

The yards and neighborhoods are beginning to look unkempt. Even my old neighborhood is getting frayed around the edges. A dry summer didn’t help, but it seemed lawn care was not high on anyone’s priority.

So many businesses that had been there forever were gone. I wrote about the two car dealerships that had passed on, both buildings were empty and deteriorating. The old shopping center near our home had tenants, but some shops that had closed last year were still empty. An old grocery store sat empty, as did many businesses along Pershing Rd, the old main shopping drag to the north. Some of the businesses still there looked shabby and barely hanging on. They used to shine.

Downtown used to have some department stores, a Carson Pirie Scott, K's Merchandise Mart, Myers Brothers that became a Bergner's and lots of small shops and busy streets. Now a lot of it is a big empty lot. It used to be a big hole, but the mosquitoes took over and they finally got the big idea to fill it in. Only a few diehards and a one block area of small boutiques hang on for dear life.

One of Decatur’s big problems is that the town has an inferiority complex, some say rightly so. Springfield to the west has a steady base as the state capitol. Springfield always gets the new stores and services before Decatur. The twin cities of Champaign-Urbana boast the University of Illinois campus and a much more active and vibrant community. Bloomington-Normal, also a pair of cities, have Illinois State University and the base of State Farm Insurance to keep them afloat. Their growth in the last decade has made them a power house in the area. Decatur just never seems to measure up, like a small kid being compared to his genius or athletic siblings. Bragging about the city strikes me as empty rah rah, cheering loudly and foolishly for the losing team.

Decatur was built on blue collar industry. Much of it struggling or gone. Firestone tires, GE, Borg Warner, Essex Wire, all left. The two big factories devoted to soybean processing and agribusiness, ADM and Tate and Lyle (nee A. E. Staley) are doing well but not enough to make up for other losses. Caterpillar tractor has seen some hard times but still hangs on. Nothing big ever seems to come in and absorb the losses.

Decatur has also tried hard to kill itself with a long history of political blunders. The most famous locally and the one that has enduring effects to this day was the blunder involving the annexation of the Hickory Point Mall. Like the surrounding cities, Decatur was ripe for an enclosed shopping mall. But the city powers that be at the time wanted to preserve downtown. Admirable in intention, but the developer had the land, was going to do it no matter what and wanted the city to annex the property for services. After a long debate, they said no to annexation. So the small village of Forsyth said sure, and they got the land... and the tax revenue, and more development. Decatur saw the downtown stores move out anyway, businesses move to the bustling new area and saw tax revenue plummet. They tried to starve it by not having bus service to the mall and faced an uproar. Decatur has made a lot of decisions like that; a failed water park never built even after street and light improvements were made, buying the Holiday Inn and watching it die, again a victim of bad location. Guess what? A new one is planned for Forsyth.

So, home gets more shabby, poorer and older. My generation moved out and many of the later ones did too. There are some who like it there, boosters to the end. Maybe they have more loyalty than I, maybe something is there I do not see.

Decatur has a motto: “Decatur, We Like it Here”. (I think the alternative was “Decatur: Better Here Than Nowhere”

My Motto: Kansas City, I love it here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Going Home Pt 1

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. Or so the sentimental old song says. The long holiday weekend allowed me some time to visit my home town of Decatur Il and the house I grew up in. My sister sill lives in it and is doing her best to wreck it. My home town is showing its age too, and just like my sister, the city management has done a good job of wrecking the place. I'll deal with that later.

Despite the fact that the house and the neighborhood is getting old and needs some work, I loved going home. My neighborhood on Gregory Ct was unique. We got along, we shared, we played and partied. Every night when we were through with supper and the dishes done some one would pull a lawn chair out and sit out on their driveway. Soon someone else would be there and then another and another. Soon all the neighbors would be gathered in lively conversation, a cooler of beer or soda, snacks and such would appear and the world's problems solved, or at least discussed in length. Us kids would play hide and seek, circle ball, ride our bikes or whatever else was in vogue. The parties did not go too late, usually around 9:30-10PM or when the mosquitoes became annoying. Weekends there was always a cookout somewhere, food and drinks would fly.

Even in 2007, some of the same neighbors are there. Every Sunday, my sister goes to across the street to the Middens like she has for years for brunch. It is just assumed. Several other neighbors from the 60's still live there, though some have moved and some have passed on. It does give one a sense of stability, of belonging. It may not be the ritziest neighborhood in the world, but there is a certain "front porch" mentality that survives there, not the hide in back on the private deck mentality of newer places and younger lives.

We told the Middens we were going to cook out on Sunday PM. My sister said the grill would be hot and come and grill with us. Since we were fixing tuna steaks, Ann and her mom brought hamburgers as mom does not like fish. Potato salad, grilled romaine salad, tuna steaks, fresh tomatoes, pitchers of margaritas, apple pie, it was all there to share. Used to be there were more of us at the parties, but mom and dad are gone, Mr Midden is in a nursing home, the Perks and Sullivans are gone, Mrs Hopkins is gone and her husband was not home, Mr Mickels is gone and Mrs Mickels is down in Texas now, so the cast was a bit smaller.

The spirit of these people were there, watching as we carried on the tradition of a front porch neighborhood that shared, looked out for each other and had a lot of fun.