Thursday, October 02, 2003

So, Kansas.

I went out there to meet and hang out with a (heretofore online) friend, Joe, and had a great time. The flights were fine, though I wish that 3 of the 4 planes I was on hadn't been teeny-tiny ComAir planes - damn, you get more room on a Greyhound bus! Flight inspires awe in me; I hadn't flown since 1977 (Boston to Ft. Wayne, IN, on United - it was just before my 7th birthday), and that sensation when you realize you're no longer touching the earth is pretty damned cool. Like a roller coaster, only less scary (don't go there). Went through Atlanta on my way out (big and a little crazy - the airport, that is) and Cincinnati on my way back (nice, easily navigable, excellent food court). The airport in Wichita is small, but really well-arranged, and the absence of smoking lounges means you go outside to smoke, which I prefer immensely - friendly, helpful people, too.

The city of Wichita is interesting... very spread-out, very sleepy, but full of charm and manners (really). Not a big going-out town, I gathered - at least 3 gay bars (out of about 7) were closed Monday night. Fortunately, one bar which was open was the lovely and charming J's Lounge, which a) is the cleanest gay bar I've ever set foot in, b) has a blissfully mixed crowd of fags and dykes, c) has a gorgeous patio, and d) has karaoke on Monday nights. And yes, I in fact made my d├ębut - where better than in a city where no one knows you, the night before you're leaving town? I got good 'n sloshed on Jack Daniels and, in part to stem the tide of drippy balladeering ("Faithfully"? "I'll Be" [Edwin McCain, not Foxy Brown]? Fucking "Renegade" by Styx?!) - and in part because I wanted a song which I both knew fairly well, and could shout more than sing - karoaked my drunken lungs out on "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. It rocked. I'm not so sure I did, but the experience was excellent.

Last weekend, we went out Thursday and Friday to a bar called The Link, a vaguely bears-and-leather kinda place with an excellent jukebox and a backroom! I know they still make bars with backrooms, thanks to BJ (and thanks for the reminder, Johnny), but I still don't expect to see 'em in Wichita, KS. But this place did, complete with a "jail," a cross (suitable for, um, you can figure it out for yourself), and a throne-type chair fitted with numerous, er, bindings (ditto). It's said that the most repressed places often have the seamiest undersides, and perhaps that's the case here. Met a sexy guy there Friday night. Had a three-way back at the hotel.

Worth noting is the fact that Wichita seems to be quite a jukebox town, which makes it (to an extent) my kinda town. [And no, this does most emphatically not mean I'll be moving there.] The Link, J's, and another bar we stopped at, Side Street, all had jukeboxes running all night (no too-loud boom-boom-room DJs!), and each of them had surprisingly splendid selections, from Bjork and Grace Jones to Romeo Void and ABC to Stevie Ray Vaughan (his double-disc Essential set!). I heart a well-stocked jukebox.

The weekend proper I spent at Joe's place in Larned, a town of about 4500 people deep in the heart of Kansas. It's a sweet, sleepy town which reminds me somewhat of my hometown, minus the influence of my alma mater. Kansas is full of lots of grain elevators, lots of Dairy Queens, lots of fields, and lots of fields-as-pasture full of Black Angus cattle. Did some sightseeing, too, including a trip to Fort Larned, built in 1859 to protect persons and property transversing the Santa Fe Trail and still in remarkable condition. The skies for most of my Kansas stay were a brilliant, cloudless blue, and the temperatures were perfection, with highs the last two days in the 50s and lows near 40 degrees - jeans-and-hooded-sweatshirt weather, hurrah! Changes of scenery and pace are good. Travel is good. It was a fine trip.

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