Category Archives: Travel

No Context For You – January 25th

Here’s where I am, despite what some hotel hosting a convention I would love to be at might think. Whoever Divina is, she’s all over that social media / customer service interaction protocol. She just has my account mixed up with someone else’s.

I’m here.

Like, really, REALLY here.

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No Context For You – January 19th

The location stamp on the picture (aren’t pocket-sized supercomputers with GPS, phones, and cameras great inventions?!) says that I was having a really good time when this was taken.

I wish I were back there tonight, for many reasons. (I didn’t realize how true that was until I typed it – some part of my brain is smarter than I am, apparently.)

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2018 – The Year Without Christmas

In what I will almost certainly always remember as one of the most bizarre and chaotic years of my life, above all 2018 for me will be The Year Without Christmas.

I understand that there are whole cultures on the planet which include billions of people to whom “Christmas” is only an abstract idea and commercial construct from a distant Western culture, something that gets rammed down their throats as they make their living in June making cheap toys for under our trees in December.

But I’m not a member of any of those cultures. And while I may have rejected the religious basis for the holiday when I rejected the religion, and while I may be incredibly cynical about the commercial aspects of the holiday, there’s still plenty left to “Christmas” that is warm and comforting and familiar. (And, no, I’m not talking about the damn Hallmark Christmas movies.)

Childhood memories of Christmas are happy ones. (Not all other childhood memories can say the same.) Even as a young, single, college student, going home to my parents’ house at Christmas was something to look forward to. When I got married and had kids, making Christmas special for the kids made it special for me. And for decades as my kids grew up, a significant family tradition of putting up enough Christmas lights to become a hazard to local air traffic.

In 2018…

After everything else that went on in that God-forsaken year, we had the opportunity to go away for almost two weeks, to Seattle and Kansas Cityto see some football and a whole slew of museums and other sights. The kids are grown. The pets are gone. The office is closed. Why not? Wasn’t this exactly the sort of opportunity we’ve been waiting for all these years?

The trip was a lot of fun and I don’t regret a moment of it. But there was a tiny side effect, which wasn’t completely unexpected, but I misjudged the magnitude of it.

There was no “Christmas.”

We were flying from Seattle to Kansas City on Christmas Day. As expected we found KC to be pretty much shut down on Christmas Day, not a fast-food joint to be found open and most of the regular restaurants shut down as well. We ended up scrambling just to find a place to have dinner.

The hotel was festive and decorated to the nines with a huge Christmas tree in the lobby – but it wasn’t home. We had put up our tree before we left, but in all of the chaos and being gone, this is the first year in several decades that I don’t have a picture of it.

There was never a single gift put under the tree – the trip was our gift to ourselves. And since we were gone, the gifts for the kids and others were just gift cards delivered by email and FedEx and UPS.

Mostly as a result of the new, smaller house, but also as the result of 2018’s time pressure on me and the chaos that seemed to fill the year, the number of lights put up was less than 20% of what we normally put up.

New Year’s didn’t do much better than Christmas. We were flying back home on New Year’s Eve and our big “celebration” for the evening was finding an open grocery store and getting enough staples to make it through New Year’s Eve and Day without needing to go find an open McDonalds. With the jet lag and the early wake up call to make our return flight, staying up to midnight wasn’t quite the thrill that you see on TV.

Overlaying it all was the “trip mentality” where I was completely unanchored from my usual routine, leaving me constantly trying to remember what day of the week it was and what the date was. On Christmas Day I literally forgot a dozen times that it was Christmas Day, leaving me wondering where everyone was on the freeways in KC and why there weren’t any stores open. If you want to feel stupid, have that dazed and confused “what planet are you from?” look on your face when you say to some Hertz rental car clerk, “Wait, you mean TODAY is Christmas??!”

Now we’re already a week into 2019 and the routine is being re-established. But there’s a hole in the end of 2018. Where normally there would be memories of presents and family celebrations and college football bowl games and a big turkey dinner, we now have memories of museums, BBQ, and freezing our butts off at Arrowhead.

The new memories aren’t bad in any way. For the most part they’re all wonderful. But they’re not “Christmas.”

So where do we go next year for “Christmas?” London? Hawaii? Rome?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Family, Travel

Mission Secondary Objective #10 Achieved!

To wind up for now, let’s go back to where this trip started.

On our previous trip to Seattle, I got a brief glimpse of Mt. Rainier through clouds and haze. This trip was a bit more generous with its views. Not much, but a bit.

Nice looking mountain you’ve got there!

On our last evening there the clouds and rain cleared just enough to see it, while the setting sun (off on the right) started peeking under the cloud deck to make the most marvelous sunset.

Pink to the west, tall and white to the east.

Until it all turned a bit pink at the end.

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Mission Secondary Objective #9 Achieved!

Kansas City.

We moved there in 1960, left in 1967, over fifty years ago. But those are some formative years.

This was my third time back, all in the last twelve years. Last year we were there for a couple of days, but while we did some sightseeing, the focus was on the total solar eclipse. This time we had almost a whole week with the focus being the football game on Sunday, so we got to get much more familiar with the city as it exists today.

I really liked what I found. Aside from the museums, the art, the BBQ, and the hotel, I got time to wander a bit.

Downtown, near the Power & Light District, is full of construction on new, modern skyscrapers, mixed with block after block of restored historic buildings. For example, the Hotel President (another of the Hilton Curio Collection) was built in 1926 and was the site of the 1928 Republican National Convention.

All over the place are these monuments of Art Deco brickwork, right next to fancy glass & steel. I love the juxtaposition.

The Convention Center is huge and a cornerstone of Downtown. Just beyond it on the right a block or two is the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts, a world-class concert venue.

The city was decked out in its finest for the holidays.

In that vein, some of what I remember most are things I wasn’t able to take pictures of at the time. Shocking, I know – the very concept of me seeing something really neat and not taking a picture is horrifying, but in this case I was always driving so I chose the safe course. (Even more shocking!)

In this case, one thing that stood out was a large shopping area near the art museum. It was lit up for the holiday for blocks and blocks and seemed familiar. It was only after I got home that I stumbled across a series of photos from the early 1960s when the holiday lighting of the area was first started. Seeing the pictures from over 55 years ago, I recognized many of the buildings that I had seen last week. Since we were living in the area at the time I’m sure that we would have come down there as a family to look at the lights.

The city lights up beautifully at night and you can still see that dichotomy between the old and the new architecture. From our room at the Hotel Phillips we also had a great view of the downtown airport (seen here between the skyscrapers). When I was a kid this was the main airport and I remember many trips down there to pick up or drop off my dad when he was traveling for work.

On “Red Friday” through game day on Sunday, almost every flagpole in town was carrying a “Chiefs Kingdom” flag, just like the one we fly in our living room.

Another thing I saw but didn’t get to photograph was the way the city and skyscrapers lit up with red spotlights at night prior to the Chiefs game. Union Station, below the WWI Museum (which we saw last year) was lit up all in crimson. As you cross back the tracks and climb back toward Downtown, many of the big buildings, both old and new, are similarly lit.

I felt at home, a part of the community, in a way I’ve never felt in Los Angeles.

Finally, in weather I haven’t experienced in a long time (25°F with a 25 knot wind gusting to 35) I went and found “The Scout” statue, an iconic symbol of the city.

Needless to say, I had the park to myself. The locals are smart enough to be someplace warm. I was glad to be wearing more than a loincloth…

With Downtown in the distance, the Convention Center and Kaufmann Center clearly visible, the WWI museum nearby, this must be a wonderful park to hang out in during the warm summer months.

Maybe if this is where we pick to retire to we’ll find out. I could see that happening.

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Mission Secondary Objective #8 Achieved!

Kansas City has many great old buildings downtown that have been restored to fantastic condition, so I made a conscious decision to look for someplace unique. We’ve stayed at plenty of Marriotts and Sheratons and Crown Plazas and so on, and there’s a lovely Marriott right next to the convention center and next to where we stayed. But we went for unique and stayed at the Hotel Phillips, a 20-story hotel build in 1931 and recently restored by Hilton.

It’s freaking gorgeous!

From the outside, the brickwork is exquisite.

Plenty of big glass skyscrapers around, but also plenty of stunning old brick buildings. (Don’t these people ever worry about earthquakes?)

The lobby is marble and polished wood and brass, all decked out for Christmas.

There’s a second-story mezzanine that’s full of more comfy chairs and quiet spots.

The double staircase is Art Deco made of wrought iron and dark wood and nickel filigree.

Then there’s that statue overlooking it all. (By the way, the building is on the National Historic Register.)

When I win the lottery and design my own 20,000 square foot mansion, I want THIS in the main foyer!

“The Goddess of The Dawn” was created in 1931 by Kansas City sculptor Jorgen Dryer.

If you get a chance to stay at the Phillips in KC, take it!!

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Mission Secondary Objective #7 Achieved!

One thing I loved about this trip was our ability to be flexible & take advantage of opportunities that came up.

For example, I didn’t know that Kansas City had a great theater which hosted a series of touring Broadway plays and other productions. I most certainly didn’t know that it was only three blocks from our hotel. And until we got there and checked in, I didn’t know that for five days only, while we were there, it was showing a play we had wanted to see for years.

Once again, serendipity reared its ugly head!!

 

“The Book of Mormon” was a ton of fun, if decidedly NOT for the easily offended!

 

The KC Music Center theater is a great venue!

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