Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ghost Town

Kansas City is a ghost town. Or, moreover, a town of ghosts. Between the first travellers, the jazz prohibition revellers or many of those who fell foul of the mafia's bloody hands the city has been through a plethora of upheavels. We have arrived during one of its most recent resurgence, as one city of Power & Light. I can see the official red neon sign from our window. The new downtown area's Miltonesque title gives it an air of industrial triumph over adversity. The development is impressive and not unlike much of the architecture we observed over the developing UK cities we visited on The Producers tour. Metal abounds, funky colours, uber trendy watering holes all designed to attract the young professional. In line with this is a huge food market, (supermarket, Brits) minutes from our hotel that stocks everything from milk to toasted seaweed sheets, just in case you were in the mood for rolling your own sushi. Put me in a place like that and to buy just enough food for a week is a huge challenge. Especially with the Cory man giving me his raised eyebrow look every time I add a different herb or such into our over burdened trolley disguising itself as my aunt's larder (the one she stocked when she fed 100 people daily at the nursing home that is). Our first night in the new old place restored our weary souls with a fantastic night's sleep. On the second night however, after Cory left for work and the Sam man was ensconced in bed I started to get the hibbee jibees about the place. I attempted rational thinking, an uphill fight at the best of times. I dismissed my goosebumpy fidgets, attributing them to the cold blue light the shades give out from their unforgiving energy saving flouresence making us all look like we are all perpetually in a scene from a David Lynch movie. Didn't help that the only channel that held my attention was the one about ghost hunters and child psychics. The bumps, creaks, rumbles up from the street I tried to note without judgement. The way I kept looking over my shoulder as if I were being watched I chastised myself for. That was all, until Beth gave me a call this morning to borrow one of my P90X dvds having left hers at the theatre. She asks me what floor we are on and when I tell her she gives me an "...oh...".
"Oh?" I answer
"You guys are on the special floor."
"What are you on about?"
"You know..."
"Talk to me when you get here."
When she does comfy herself on our sun lit sofa with Sammy pottering around her feet with her trains, me sweaty from jumping about to dvd number 2 and Cory cosying about in his grey morning cardigan (its a deep held tradition) she relays the fact that our floor is the most haunted in the hotel and the one where the housekeeping team have had the most experiences of the paranormal sort. I don't prod for details, this is enough for the little hairs on the back of my neck to deal with. Add to this the fact that one of our troupe, James, the dance captain had felt someone hug him tightly in bed (not his room-mate either) so much so he could hardly breathe and my imagination and I are putting me through an uncomfortable rollercoaster. In fairness, James' mother had a similar experience last week and they both feel it may have been his late father contacting them. Either way it's got me spooked. When Cory texted me after the show asking me whether I'd preferred him to come home rather than go on to the opening party, I tried my best to text a nonchalant, "go on if you are feeling social if not head back and we'll have a cocktail. Either way cool." He was at the door with a singapore sling within 15 minutes. Turns out he had had the feeling I would have been a little antsy. I am not proud of this you must understand.

Anyhows, the feeling followed us through town today and was perfectly channelled during our visit to Union station, site of the massacre of 1933 in which four law enforcement officers were killed whilst gang members tried to free the prisoner they were transferring to the city prison. The building is grand as they come in that lofty marble gorgeousness of old stations. The ceilings intricate and bold, chandeliers hanging, echoes floating. Our eyes swept the space, and past the glory of the shafts of sunlight cutting across the expanse we quickly noticed the emptiness of it all. Underscored by the grand piano at its centre playing itself. Quite impressively I must add, the phantom pianist was giving it some serious musical interpretation I must admit. It entertained Sam no end. So there we were, drowning in the deserted-ness of it all and hunger struck. We opted for the retro diner rather than the Steak house, both harkening back to the station's hey day. In we stepped, its bright white triple height ceilings dwarfing the enormous booths. All around us on the walls were black and white prints of trains and the diner back in the day. Waiting rooms lined with well dressed travellers, some looking out at the camera and down towards us inhaling our sandwiches, begging to be unlocked from their historical freeze. Our effervescent waiter was a walking sit com. My personal favourite amongst the classic one liners bubbling off his lips was his throw away to a couple of blind people heading across the diner, "Long time no see!" Moments later he is complaining to someone sitting at the bar that the guide dog had attacked him without provocation and that the owner would do well to consider retiring him. Hmmmmm....

We take a stroll around one of the wider corridors at the centre after our lunch, marvelling at the stunningly preserved sliding deco doors to what woudl have been the platforms I assumed, some flanked by original signs for the 8.40pm Katy Flyer to Texas via Coffeyville and Waco or the daily 9.30pm Flying Crow to Pittsburg. We walk on by the waiting room, seemingly unchanged since the 30s, as was one of the three customers sat on the long wooden pews. After several visits to the marbled bathrooms with boy we take our leave of Kansas City's quiet spot (most likely a train arrived minutes after my observations and all the closed shops and coffee bars suddenly sprang into life) and head for the rink.

Once little fella heard about ice in the city he has been nagging us to hire a miniature set of boots to let him slip slide about. $10 later, big and small boy were doing the laps weaving in between a large group of exciteable teenagers, who, I noticed, flung themselves about the space in a similar way to the five year olds I had watched a couple of weeks back in East Lansing. Sam begun by clinging to the dad, but half an hour later was pushing his father's help away and sliding his way to self sufficiency. It was like watching him learn to walk all over again. I belly laughed with excitement from under my thick hat and sunglasses, wiggling myself into warmth. There were 3 year old tears when it was time to go. Up until hot chocolate was discovered at the cafe round the corner that is. We defrosted, headed back, had a family bimbo-meal (fresh pesto rotini thank you very much with bimbo-d turkey burgers, George Foreman'd for fat free delight), dad left for work, boy left for dreams and mum has olympics in the background and blog in the foreground.

Just little ole me now, and the light and power of the city that twinkles about me from the skyscrapers surrounding our twentieth floor.

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