Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What I thought Kansas was like before we moved here

     Just like some people think that locals in NJ are running around with bowls of spaghetti in one hand and a machine gun in the other, (or freaks with low hairlines who go around picking fights and flipping tables)  I had some misconceptions about Kansas before we moved here.

This is what I thought every square inch of the state looked like:

This is partially true, only the reality looks more like this:

This is the big secret about Kansas: it's gorgeous. You can't believe how beautiful it is.  I've never seen sunrises and sunsets like this anywhere I've lived. And the air smells so good. It's better than perfume. After living in NJ and playing in the City all the time, the Kansas air is such a happy surprise.

Here's what I thought the schools would be like:

Here's the reality:

The high school is huge. It's even got an Olympic sized swimming pool inside. The middle school is huge too, and both schools have an insane number of students. The schools here are good, really good. Beyond the academics, there are so many clubs, special interest groups, and sophisticated social policies.

The other thing that surprised me about this college town is how young most everybody is. There are many more people on the lower end of thirty than people over forty and above.  I'm delighted to be 42 (or 43, I never remember), and I still don't consider myself one of the aged infirm. But holy cow there seem to be a lot of young and youngish types here.

This town makes me feel like this:
Looking Good!
(I owe it all to clean living and Olay Regenerist)

Here's a typical Lawrence, Kansas citizen:

The graduating class of Free State H.S. 2012.  Self fertilizing. 

Because we've already established that I'm clueless and judgy, here's what I thought the average Kansasiananianan looked like:

They DO look exactly like this, they just don't wear sports coats over their overalls. 
That would be tacky.

Actually, Lawrence-ites are hip. Even, dare I say, hipster. It's like little Williamsburg here sometimes. It's awful. The hipsters, I mean. How much longer can this trend hang on? It was funny when skinny, bearded guys in the Burgh wore My Little Pony t-shirts. It was. The verynextminute it stopped being funny, but they were off and running. It's not ironic anymore, it's gross. Last week there were swarms of hipsters holding hands with other hipsters, cuddling in the parks, making the world an ickier place, and you know what's next, right? Right. Hipster babies. Kill me now.

This is wrong. 

Don't you dare tell your child that Kipper the Dog is ironic. You don't make enough money for your child's eventual therapy. Worse than that, when they rebel as teens, they are going to turn into republican stockbrokers. You couldn't see this coming? Idiot hipster.

Here's another thing that surprised me about Lawrence: 

There are a lot of pot smokers here. It's surprising the places you can smell it.  I'd like to blame it all on the hipsters, they certainly deserve to be blamed as much as possible, for anything possible, but it's as likely to be the (cheerful) farmer as well as a (cheerful) neighbor or the (cheerful) college professor. There was even a pot plant growing in my flower garden. I thought it was a stray native plant so I left it alone. It was one foot tall one day, and after a week of rain and sun, it was four feet tall. I saw the leaves and thought, no, couldn't be. But I looked it up online, and it surely was; my very own not so little pot plant.  Turns out you can't compost it, because it grows like a weed, and takes over the other plants. I put it in my garbage disposal to get rid of it. I don't know how it got in my flowers. The guy across the street from me smokes on his front porch during thunder storms. Maybe a seed got blown away from him. On the other hand, there were quite a few renters before we bought the house. I haven't discovered any other illegal greenery lurking in my garden, just an endless parade of rabbits bent on eating everything in the yard (voraciously hungry bunnies... maybe they're "disposing" of the pot plants before I can find them and working out their munchies on my yard).

 Lawrence is a little oasis of liberalism surrounded by a sea of bible belt conservatism. It's unusual, to say the least. There's a town called Liberal, Kansas, but it's not, really. Lawrence is the best kind of liberal. There are gay-straight alliance clubs in the schools, and a sort of straightforward innocent activism that is taken for granted. The parents come to school meetings, the neighbors go to the city meetings, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities, there's a big, active, library that goes out of its way to welcome kids, teens, even homeless people. There is an unspoken attitude that if you care, you take action, you don't just talk about it. It goes without saying that I LOVE THAT.


And now, something I don't love 

The police here have it out for me. No I'm not stoned and paranoid. I don't smoke or drink. What I do, is I  drive. And sometimes, I park. The cops here have a standing policy against both of these.  I got a TWO HUNDRED dollar ticket for going ten miles over the speed limit. That's it. Not weaving, not tailgating. Just ten miles over. On a fast thoroughfare.  I'm sorry, but in Jersey that was considered going under the limit, and irritating to everyone else on the road. In the City? If they had time, the cops would have given me an award for such thoughtful, awesome driving. I also have three parking tickets now, in one year,  after 25 years of never getting one.  They were for the meter running out. Oh, you say, how could you leave your car in one of the few and precious parking spaces here in Kansas (because space is precious here in Kansas...oh, wait, a minute)  for hours and hours past the meter so that other desperate drivers were left circling endlessly? Well, I say, I freaking didn't. I was five minutes past the meter. No, I'm not exaggerating. The parking cops here stand and WAIT for a meter that's about to run out so they can ticket it. I watched it happen, and LAUGHED and of course when I got to my car, it had a ticket (I should have expected that).  The other parking ticket was for skillfully inserting a minivan into an impossible but actual parking space at the eye Dr, and coming back to find a fifty dollar parking ticket because one of my wheels was TOUCHING, not ON not OVER, TOUCHING the white line. When, again, they should have given me a damn medal for amazing parking while maneuvering between two giant trucks that were over their lines. They didn't get tickets. Yes, I'm bitter. Come park here, you'll be bitter too. 

Here's another picture of how pretty Kansas is (and there are no parking meters in the pic, bonus)

This is in the country obviously, but there are roads in Lawrence with shops and businesses on one side, and fields like this on the other side. Like a Van Gogh painting. That's the thing about Kansas; it looks like a painting, or a movie.  It doesn't look real in places. Happy, happy surprise. 

See? As pretty as a painting.

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