Greetings from Kansas City, where in the span of a few weeks, my wife Robin and I have experienced some significant life changes.
It all began a few months ago, when we decided it was time to sell our suburban KC home. We’re here only a few months a year, and between taxes, utilities, and upkeep, it will be more reasonable to rent a place when we come back from Florida each year to see family and friends.
Our house sold in one day.
Great, but our plans were to stay in town through September. On July 13, our third grandchild, Milo Matthew was born, and we want to get to know him, so we decided to rent a furnished home or apartment for a couple months. One thing led to another, and we are spending August and September in a tiny loft apartment in Kansas City’s garment district. Maybe you’ve seen this kind of place. Exposed brick and huge windows. Kitchen and living room combined into one tiny space that is separated from the bedroom by a partial wall. It’s cool and hip and close to everything. We’re not cool or hip, but we’ve decided to learn.
So here we go.
Saturday evening, our first night downtown, we hopped on KC’s beautiful streetcar for our maiden voyage. We felt cool and hip. There was a jazz and rock festival in the street below our loft. We listened from our IKEA sofa… until ten-thirty, when it was time to go to bed and the jazz and rock continued to make the walls vibrate.
We’ve decided that we can only be cool and hip until ten pm.
There’s a learning curve involved with being hip loft-dwellers. First, you have to give up your privacy if you want any natural light. The ten-foot high windows of our loft overlook a narrow street of similar buildings. Some tenants keep their shades pulled, while others go about their day unconcerned that their every move can be seen by scores of other people. We’ve watched people iron their clothes, play with their dogs, and become engrossed in their phones and laptops. Some will see us looking and wave. Others pull the shades. Most don’t care.
And then, there’s my morning walk, four or five miles most days. Out in the suburbs or in our Florida neighborhood, I don’t have to worry about traffic lights or the rush of oncoming traffic. The surroundings blend into the background.
Not so in downtown. This morning, I dodged a bus and a tow-truck, tripped numerous times over crumbling curbs, and nearly caved in to the tempting smells of cinnamon rolls from a street bakery. I passed abandoned storefronts, hookah bars, and a place with a bright sign screaming TOTALLY NUDE. Also on my route was a secluded building that serves as a retreat for cancer victims and their caregivers, and a half-dozen homeless people. I’m making light of life in the city, but there’s no humor in cancer or sleeping on a bench in a dog park. You see homeless people differently when you pass within three feet of them and they say hello, especially when you’ve had someone close to you experience life on the street.
Like most hipsters, Robin and I work from home. The problem now is, there’s only room for one desk. Robin gets that. My writing desk, a beautiful antique that belonged to my grandfather, is temporarily in storage. My new workspace is the Kansas City Public Library. Today is my first day working from the library’s second floor. I felt cool and hip as I walked the four blocks to the library this morning. It’s a grand facility, as you can see from the photo, but I have to confess that it’s hard to get anything done with all those books around. Hipsters are good at multitasking, though, so I’ll persevere until it’s time to go home and decide which hip restaurant we want to blow our diets on.
Oh yeah, we don’t have cable TV anymore. Like most hipsters, we cut the cord. I felt pretty good about it, until I realized that Jeopardy isn’t available from Hulu or Netflix. There’s also the issue that I don’t really know how to turn the cord-cut TV on or off. When Robin goes to China for work in a few weeks, I’ll be limited to books and the movie theater around the corner.
We don’t have a washer and dryer anymore, either. There is a coin-laundry in the building, where people dump their clothes and leave them for hours on end. I’ll never do that. The thought of someone rummaging through my laundry makes me squeamish, so I’ll probably sit nearby while our stuff agitates and spins. Maybe I can use that time to figure out which cool, hip new play to see at one of the nearby theaters. Or perhaps I’ll run to Jimmy John’s for an Italian sub. Jimmy John’s might not be hip and cool, but they’re freaky fast.
Well, that’s about all for now. It’s time to go home. We need to go to the grocery store, as Robin wants to make cabbage soup. I’m wondering how our neighbors will feel about the smell of cooked cabbage. It doesn’t sound cool or hip, and if I encounter someone in the hallway complaining about the smell, I’ll probably just commiserate with them and never mention that the cabbage is ours.