Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kansas Kraziness

Just recently returned from a great trip out west/down south to perform and visit old friends in Kansas. It's funny: we travelled a significant distance BOTH west AND south...and yet Kansas is neither of those places. It's not "out west" in the way, say, New Mexico is, since it looks lush and verdant and, well, pretty much like Michigan does in the summer, with lots of gently rolling landscape and huge...tracts of land! (Kudos if you said that last bit in a flagrant Monty Python accent.) And it certainly ain't "down south" in the way Georgia is, since Kansas advocated freedom for slaves during the War Between the States, and most people I talked to spoke with a very recognizable, very flat Midwestern non-accent. Add to that the fact that Steph & Eric, the old friends we stayed with, live in Lawrence - believably the sister city to our own fair Ann Arbor in terms of laid-back college coolness and fiery liberalism - and in many ways it hardly felt like leaving home!

Until the heat set in, of course. I just...I just don't do well with heat. For that matter, I don't do well with extreme cold either, but I can really bundle up and grow my beard and store fat and pretty much ward off sub-zero temps. Heat, though...heat's really a betch. Maybe that knitted-cap-equivalent I call a hairdo doesn't help things any, but still...yecchhh. I don't like being sweaty, I don't like being sticky, and I hate - HATE - swampass, which I am all too prone to having even on a GOOD day. I suppose, for the sake of honesty, I'd have to admit that it wasn't SOOO much hotter there than in mid-Michigan. The heat really felt like it had a WEIGHT, though. Sort of...a presence, if you will. Heavy, humid, and really not all that pleasant. Ah well. Steph & Eric might have avoided replacing their broken-down dishwasher, but thankfully their air-conditioner was in fine working order!

So, the trip was ostensibly to perform at the National Flute Convention in Kansas City with our friends Andy & Carmen. (Side note: Carm & Andy tour extensively as the duo Folias, and Andy does ALL of the driving. He's a machine, and got us from Grand Rapids to Lawrence in something like 11 hours. Thanks, dude!) We recently recorded a CD of our Latin Dance Project, and this was kind of the culminating experience with the tunes we've been playing for some 18 months. The gig was a blast: we performed for more people at this one show than all our OTHER gigs combined! It was a big conference room in the hosting hotel, and Carmen estimated there could have been as many as 150 people there. Sweet.

The rest of the time was spent hanging out with Steph & Eric. Carmen & Miss Tessmacher went into KC every day for the convention, at least for a little while. And, the four of us did rehearse on Thursday & Friday. But, really, there was a lot of free time for me & Andy. Steph was a gracious host, taking me record shopping at a great Lawrence store called Love Garden Sounds. Don't go to Lawrence without stopping there! Indulgent acquisistions included two Randy Newman LPs, Sweet's 1977 effort Off the Record, and a Shy album from early 1990 that's getting harder to find. Reasonable prices all around, and I was a happy camper. I kept pressing Eric to buy a turntable, extolling the virtues and superior sound of inexpensive used vinyl. He was intrigued...but I'm not sure I sold him on it. You kinda gotta really EMBRACE the whole LP culture, if you know what I mean.

Nights were spent in a flurry of cooking and drinking. Steph and Carmen are veg-heads, which pretty much means the rest of us were as well. Inasmuch as my cholesterol would like LESS meat in my diet anyway, it was an eye-opener to find that there were so many creative things to do WITHOUT meat. In a really memorable lunch experience, this simply came down to eating LESS, which is also something I'm after. Steph prepared corn, tomatoes, and delicious bread...and that's it! I would have had all of those as SIDES, plus a burger or something. Know what? The burger was totally unnecessary. I was full, everything tasted great...PLUS I didn't eat an extra 300 or so calories! Nice.

Of course, lots of those meat calories were replaced with nutritionally useless (but psychologically required) booze calories. Eric is a brewer, so I enjoyed several quarts of his beer, plus we all drank our body weight in wine...especially since Andy is, like, our resident wine guru and will tolerate no crap whatsoever. Then, when we were BUYING wine, Eric found Absenthe that he just HAD to try. So we brought THAT home and did the whole pour-water-over-sugar into the booze, and drank it, and it was the most deliciously intense licorice flavor I've ever had. VERY good, and very, VERY boozy. Like, 110 proof, compared to a typical 80 proof for whiskey or vodka. And you drink it straight, so there's no mixer aside from a few trickles of water to melt the sugar cube.

Good times, good people, great conversations, and a superb performance on top of it all. The only regret is that we eventually had to leave. Steph & Eric are great kindred spirits, and it's depressing to think of them being so far away. I tried to convince Eric to get a job in Michigan, which prompted much laughter and eye-rolling. So, I guess not. Still, they are missed, and now I'm trying to figure out how to convince them to "come home" for an extended visit. The doors are open!

A man & his's a beautiful thing.

Waiting for food...

A man & his's a scary thing.

After too much Absenthe, crazy things can happen...

The only photo of me from the trip, and I feel about as hung-over as I look.

Impromptu tango dancing breaks out after dinner.

Everyone cooks!

Parting shot...


Blogger Steph said...

Oh, I've been waiting for this post all week! We had SUCH a good time. Man, you thought that was hot? And here I was thinking we got a nice, cool, balmy week for your visit! I'm glad you didn't come the week before!

I'm glad we could show off our particularly lush and verdant and hipster-y corner of Kansas to you. Most of this state is dry and brown and flat as a pancake.

In all seriousness, we really, really want to come back to Michigan for a visit before too long, if not, alas, to live.

Miss you guys already.

12:40 PM  

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