Adventures in a Small Town in Kansas
Kansas may not be that far from Alberta, at least in absolute distance, but getting there from here on a plane takes longer, and costs more, than a flight to Paris. As a result, I don't see my dad's side of the family very often. But when my Grandma turned 90, my attendance was pretty much required.
Maybe I'm a horrible person, but I really, really didn't want to go. There were the issues of religion, politics, and sexuality, and whether I should pretend to be something I'm not to keep the peace in the house where I'd be staying. And privacy - there were going to be 20 people staying at my aunt's place, and the house is in a state of renovation where doors are a bit of a rarity. And boredom. I'd never noticed anything to do in that town except go to WalMart, or go to church, and since everybody drives everywhere, I had no idea if there was anything within walking distance that I could escape to for even a few minutes of alone time.
Instead of the horror that I was imagining, this trip turned out to be a really positive learning experience, and an overall pleasant surprise. In fact, I think I fell in love a bit with my Dad's home town.
I think the difference was being there as an adult instead of as a child, and having my brother to show me around. It turns out that practically everything is within walking distance, including a historic and picturesque main street, a beautiful park, the church (a historic site), the college's indoor pool, a fitness centre, and a fantastic coffee shop that I'm still missing. My brother has travelled to something like 13 countries and 30 states, and he says they served him the best latte he's ever had. He wasn't exaggerating. It was that good. And all fair-trade.
And although I didn't get a chance to check it out, apparently this town has an active music, theatre, and art scene too. And beautiful old houses and big trees along the streets. And nobody locks the doors to anything.
Just the town itself gave me a big reality check about America. My mind didn't change about the big political picture; I'm still as pissed off about that as ever. But I think it did me good to be around red-state Americans and interact with them as "just people" instead of some kind of amorphous Bush-voting monolith. And to walk around in a pretty American town and think about how, except for the fact that it's 68 degrees, it's not really that different from home. I think I needed that kind of a reminder.