kansas city, again day 2

nlbm

One more day in Kansas City. One of my stops was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in the same building that also houses the American Jazz Museum. I paid $15 to see both, and thought it was money well spent. I stayed for several hours just looking and reading, especially in the baseball museum.

It’s packed with a lot of history, much of it made during my lifetime. I came across an entry for Hank Aaron (“Hammerin’ Hank”). He started playing for the Boston Braves a year before I was born. He came to Atlanta with the then Milwaukee Braves in 1966 (the Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves became the Atlanta Braves). From that point I kept up with him and the team.

the museums
the museums

The museum didn’t allow photography in the museum proper, and I understand that. My few photos are of the street exterior and the foyer.

After a few hours just soaking in the NLBM I meandered a bit around the city, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and the balmy 65° weather. And then I drove back to the hotel and supper.

kansas city, again

kansas skylineI’m on travel. This trip my job requires me to spend two weeks providing support at Ft. Leavenworth. When I’m not in Leavenworth I’m staying at a hotel next to KCI. This trip my weekend is free so I’m trying to spend some of that free time down in Kansas City proper.

Today started out rather dreary both weather-wise and personally. I woke up early, then crashed back into bed to put in an extra three hours of sleep. I was feeling a bit poorly, matching the overcast and drizzly morning. By the time I was feeling better the sun was out a bit as well. I grabbed my keys and my camera and headed downtown.

the tower
the lovers
I had no specific destination except to head south in the city. I drove surface roads as much as possible, looking for interesting places to stop. My first stop was The National WWI Museum and Memorial. It’s a big, somber structure dedicated “to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.” The skies had grown overcast again as the day progressed, so that by afternoon the sun was completely hidden. It was like the morning, but without rain. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I found the whole memorial disquieting and had no desire to visit the museum portion. I did climb to the top where the Liberty Memorial is located, and it was from that vantage I grabbed several photos of the Kansas City skyline.

kauffman center 1
After leaving the memorial I drove in a generally northern direction and happened upon the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It’s an odd, if interesting looking structure. I parked close enough to walk around it a bit, but wound up around what is ostensibly the back side of the structure. It does have a far more conventional front, but I wasn’t motivated to photograph it. Rather, I was drawn to the back side, especially the grassy area that’s allowed to grow around it. I kept imagining it was some alien structure in the middle of an alien prairie.

kauffman center 3My goal for Sunday is to wake up and stay up, and head back to downtown Kansas City. There’s a bit more I want to see, such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. And there’s the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. And some other structures around Kansas City that caught my eye today. I’m not planning on resting tomorrow.

a trip to denver, a trip to remember

old vs new energy

Somewhere in western Kansas, the old energy vs the new energy

It has literally been a week since I helped my youngest move to Denver, Colorado. For four days last week I drove a 20 foot U-Haul van from Tallahassee Florida to a small apartment in Aurora, a bedroom community of Denver. My wife and daughter were driving with me as well in a separate car. The days were long and the driving intense, at least for me. Here’s a quick blow-by-blow of that trip as I tend to remember it.

  1. Wednesday morning 29 April. My wife and I drive to Tallahassee to meet up with my youngest daughter. The trip is between three and four hours. When we arrive my daughter is still getting the van packed with goods from the apartment. She’s hired two local guys to help her get packed. We still have to clean out what’s left behind (not going to Denver) by making trips to the local dumpster in the apartment complex, and she has to turn in the keys to the apartment. The last thing we do is donate the old 1994 Volvo 940 to Goodwill in Tallahassee. Once all that’s done we hit the road again. It’s between two and three in the afternoon. We are in two vehicles; a car has my wife, my daughter, and her two cats Molly and Ashe and me in the 20 foot long U-Haul truck.
  2. Wednesday evening, sometime around 8pm. We finally pull into a La Quinta in Mobile, Alabama. It has to be the worst place I’ve ever stayed. Even though we’ve asked for no smoking, I can smell the smoke in our third floor hallway. What’s more all the rooms on the third floor have broken electronic locks. The front desk clerk has to let us in our room with a master key. One of us then stays in the room while the other two go and unload the car, bringing in the cats for the night.
  3. Thursday morning, we try to find somewhere for breakfast. My daughter sleeps in late because she’d just finished finals at FSU the day before. We finally get back on the road late morning. We drive through all of Alabama through Meridian and Tupelo, finally stopping in Memphis in the evening for a meal of BBQ at Central BBQ. When we’re done it’s still daylight. Gas up and head outside to Arkansas just across the Mississippi River. We spend the night in Blytheville.
  4. Friday is even harder driving than Thursday. We’re trying to make up time from the two days before, so we drive up the Mississippi on I-55, through St. Louis, then pick up 70 and drive through Kansas City and on into Kansas to Topeka where we stop for the night. We would have gotten farther but for the two-lane bridge that is currently one late while the Missouri DOT works on it. That caused a complete 45-minute stop of traffic (for whatever reason) somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City, close to Kansas City.
  5. Saturday, our last day of driving. We drive across the rest of Kansas, past huge wind farms. The wind is so strong I’ve got the van’s steering wheel wrapped pretty far to the left trying to compensate and keep the van going between 60 and 70mph. We stop at a Conoco somewhere around Hays where a guy by the name of Bill gives us a bit of the history of the area. And when I say history, I’m talking geological. We find out that the undulating portion of Kansas was the part that was under water when North America had an inland sea during the mid- to late Cretaceous period. The flatter areas further west were once the beaches to that inland sea. We gas up yet again, and start back out.
  6. We pass into Colorado mid-day. I need to go to the bathroom, and make the decision to stop at Vona, Colorado, just over the boarder and a bit west of Burlington. Big mistake. What was once the town business center is completely boarded up. It looks like a set piece for The Walking Dead. We finish our impromptu tour and head back out to I-70. We finally make it to the apartment in Aurora by 4pm local time, and meet up with my daughter’s partner. He’s been there for some weeks working an engineering job he found after he graduated (a second time, in electrical) from FSU. We unload the cats and begin to help unload the van a bit. My wife and I then leave to find a place to stay for the night. We end our evening by eating at Joe’s Crab Shack. Yes, the same chain you’ll find here in Orlando near I-Drive and Disney. Those guys.

There wasn’t much time to stop and sight-see. The very few photos I made were at places to get gas, eat, or go to the bathroom. I was in a continuous state of testiness due to trying to maintain a reasonable rate of travel, and more importantly, because of how my wife and daughter would drive through traffic. A car is a car and a U-Haul van is not. Lane changes that a car can make with impunity have to be planned and then execute carefully with a large truck. More than once I seriously through I was going to have an accident trying to keep up. To add even more hilarity to the situation, my daughter was using a Garmin GPS tracker and it was giving out verbal directions my daughter would mis-interpret from time to time. The worst example of this was in St. Louis and Kansas City. Especially Kansas City.

My daughter is still mad at me over my testiness, and probably will be for some time to come.

But we got to Denver in one piece and I caught a flight back to Orlando on Southwest. The final insult from the trip was paying $51 for a cab ride from Orlando International to my home near Universal Studios.

"grumpy" bill

“Grumpy” Bill, impromptu Kansan geologist and historian

nightly dining

A nice place for BBQ in Memphis

 

longford, kansas

bethel evangelical united brethren church

I drove to the small town of Longford Kansas on Saturday to help my wife complete a part of her family story. Her father was born in Longford in 1905, and lived there until he was four, moving to Pennsylvania along with his older sister and mother when he was four. The circumstances surrounding their move back to Pennsylvania is heartbreaking.

In 1909 a third child, a daughter, was born into the family. While she was an infant, she became ill. A local doctor diagnosed the problem and a method of treatment that required medicine. The husband took the money and went off, ostensibly to buy the medicine. Instead he went off and got drunk. He didn’t buy the medicine, and the daughter died. Rather than go back and face his wife, he instead traveled to Reno, Nevada, and got a quick divorce with some of the money he had left. The mother, distraught over the loss of her baby, now had to deal with being a single parent with two young children, two children she refused to abandon. She wired back to her sister in Pennsylvania, and had the sister wire some money back to her to bury the child and then travel back east. They passed through Harrisburg, settling in Williamsport, where the mother became a school teacher and remained a school teacher for the rest of her life.

The four year old boy grew up to become a Methodist minister and the father of my wife, who was the youngest of his three daughters. He spent the majority of his ministry in the Harrisburg area, eventually moving to Emporium, his last charge.

Longford played a part in my father-in-law’s life even after he’d grown up and was a minister. He needed to travel to Oxford, England, as an outstanding Methodist minister in 1967 (the 200th anniversary of John Westley’s establishment of the Methodist church) and he needed a passport. Then, as now, you needed a birth certificate. But back then, in 1905, in Longford, you didn’t get a birth certificate, your birth was registered at the local church through baptism. Sure enough church records recorded his birth and baptism as well as who his mother and father were. With that information wired back east, he was able to give credible evidence of his birth as an American citizen and get his passport.

I drove out, looking around the town, took some photographs, and then tried to find the spot where the young infant might be buried. Unfortunately the church was closed, and I couldn’t find the parsonage where I might have spoken with minister. I found a close-by cemetery, but didn’t find anything that might have been a children’s section or even anything that might have been her final resting place. And I didn’t expect to. I believe that the mother barely had enough money to cover the cost of a funeral, let alone a marker for the grave. And even if she had, I can imagine it being simple, so simple that it either would have worn down, or completely disappeared after a century of exposure to the elements in Kansas. I’m still looking through other means to see if I can at least track down the cemetery where she might have been laid to rest. I don’t believe I’ll ever find the grave site.

My father-in-law (who has long since passed away) and his family’s story is not the only one, I’m sure. Turn of the 20th century life in America was still harsh (and in many ways, still is), and this story played out innumerable times across the west. Women had a hard time of it, particularly mothers with children. Although Kansas would pass full suffrage in 1912, and the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote would be passed in 1920, this was the first decade of the 20th century and out in the rural farmlands of Kansas. There was no structure in place to go after the wayward husband, neither for child support or the greater charge of manslaughter. To add insult to injury, a divorced woman at that time was considered a pariah, regardless of the circumstances. What husband would be so selfish to abandon his wife to such a fate, or a father so inhuman to allow their child to die?

chruch cornerstone

infant angel

city hall

edge of town

gathering of hay

For a town that was so small, I still managed to spend nearly three hours there, walking around. I spent a good portion of that time at one of the local cemeteries about three miles north of the town. While I was there in town it was totally quiet. No urban noises to be heard anywhere. The single spot in the business center of town consisted of a gas station, a bank, the town hall, and a place to eat. I grabbed a “beef sandwich” while I was there, which consisted of a bit of roast between two large pieces of white bread, with mashed potatoes on top and all of that slathered in gravy. I ate some of the mashed potatoes, and then dug through the bread to eat the beef. It was a short meal, with one of the patrons deciding to sit next to me to chat. I’m no chatterer, which made for long periods of silence at my table. I was quickly finished and left cash at my table, the cost of the meal plus a tip.

I mention the lack of noise, but it wasn’t silent. What I did hear was birdsong and the constantly blowing Kansas wind. It was strong enough at one point to push forcefully against me, up on a hill in the cemetery. I can’t even begin to imagine what it might be like to live with constantly blowing wind like that. And yet, in spite of it, I find a strong spiritual pull to the land.

The trip to Longford was nearly three hours one way, from Lansing just south of Leavenworth, west on I-70 through Topeka, and further west out to Longford. I’m a product of my American culture, from the mid-twentieth century, and one of the things we like to do is drive. And drive I did. The speed limit on I-70 is 75, and I was driving even faster, between 80 and 85. I have a Ford Fiesta rental this time, and its gas mileage, regardless of speed, averages 32MPG. If I’d had my Prius I’d have done at least 15MPG better.

I drove through a lot of Kansas history on the way to Longford. I expect to be coming back out to Leavenworth later in the year, so I’ll be headed back out to spend more time at some of those historical spots. Although Kansas City is a lot closer, and has a lot more conventional activities, I’d rather spend my time studying the “real Kansas.” Life’s too short to let those kind of opportunities pass by.

Camera

It’s been a very long time since I wrote about the camera I used when I posted an entry with photographs. But perhaps not this time. I’m in Kansas with my Olympus E-M5 and three primes; the Olympus 1.8/17mm, the Pan-Leica 1.4/25mm, and the Olympus 1.8/45mm. It’s the 17mm that’s the latest, and for all practical purposes, last addition.

This is the third 17mm I’ve purchased, the first two being the 2.8/17mm pancake lenses. The first was sold, the second given away. This third was bought the Saturday before I flew out to Leavenworth, with funds I got from KEH on the E-PL3 I traded in at Colonial Photo and Hobby in Orlando. I got pretty much all the money back I originally spent on the E-PL3, and Olympus had an additional $100 off sale on the 1.8/17mm at the time, so I picked up that lens.

It’s a very nice lens, all metal. I got the silver version, and to be honest, it looks good on the all-black E-M5. It’s not a true silver, but more a champagne color. I don’t care about lens colors any more. The lens is totally silent in operation and very quick to auto focus. The results are quite good to my eyes, especially the lack of chromatic aberrations. I pixel peeped the raw files a bit, and didn’t see any, especially in the branches. It was all over on the 2.8/17mm, especially in bright back lighting. But I had a lot of fun with the 2.8, and I’m having fun with this latest version.

the final four from kansas, via florida

orange and white
blue wall
train wreck
missouri river bank
I recovered these from my Samsung S4 tonight, after VSCO Cam had undergone at least two updates. These were actually some of the first photos I made while in Kansas, in Leavenworth, next to the Missouri River, while there was still snow on the ground from the earlier storms. I was excited to get these, and I liked the VSCO treatment on them. When I got back to the hotel room that evening, my excitement evaporated in the face of an obstinate phone and application that refused to give me the images. In particular the images were rotated 90 degrees to the right, and the phone/software refused to allow me to rotate them back. Unlike the majority of smartphone photographers I do know how to use the phone/camera in landscape mode. And one other note, it’s in 4:3rds aspect ratio, to match what I get from my Olympus and Panasonic cameras.

When I finally gave up trying to unload my camera photos I tweeted that the experiment with the smartphone had ended. And for the time it had. I went on to concentrate using just the E-M5 and the two primes I’d brought with me, the Panasonic 25mm and the Olympus 45mm. I got what I consider a lot of good photos out of that combination.

Then today I got a email from VSCO about four more new “analogue” effects, all for free. I love free. I downloaded them, then thought maybe I should give the S4/VSCO combo another go. And then I found these photos still on the phone. I went back in and discovered I could rotate them back to normal view, and then pulled them off the S4 and on my notebook. They’re now up on my Flickr stream.

It’s hard to pick an individual favorite. But if I had to, it would probably be the third, “train wreck.” Except they were all taken together, and trying to break them up just won’t work. They were taken at the same time of the evening, on the same day, in the same evening cold. That deep, deep Kansas cold.

Now that the combination of smartphone and software are behaving again, I’ll probably give it another go. But just as I’m not one to suffer fools gladly, neither am I one to suffer screwy tools either. And I’m speaking more of the smartphone than I am of VSCO Cam. I can certainly see the creative potential of the two together, but I consider the camera on the Galaxy S4 to be almost fatally flawed. What pulls me back to trying again is VSCO Cam.