198 Kansas City, MO: Past and Future

I headed back to the Broadway café to reflect on my visit in Kansas City and chart the future as I headed back home after a summer full of travel. At one table sat a woman writing, and I decided to get one last interview. She wore a black dress decorated with pale roses. Her short auburn hair was swept to one side above high cheekbones, bright green eyes, and small lips. She looked like a TV actress, which she was. She also was working on a series of short stories, and she said her name was Glenn. I asked her, "Do you think people are as isolated as in Hopper's paintings?"

"Yes," she said unhesitatingly. "I have to work very hard not to feel that way. I've lived in other parts of the country: the south, Chicago, on the East Coast. Part of it is Kansas City not having things that other larger cities have, like light rail and water. So, yeah, I would say that it's a backwater. And a lot of people here aren't aware of that. I think they haven't had the opportunity to live in other places and make the comparison. I'm trying to be kind. But it's true.

"You know one thing I do like here in Kansas City? You see the cow statues around? That says to me that the people here know that they're isolated. They get defensive here about being referred to as a cow town. But the way I interpret the cows is like, 'Yeah! We're a cow town. And here are our cows. Aren't they great?' It's like taking ownership of it. And I think it's great.

"Still, I would like to move. It's a tough town to get around in. And, because people are from here and they grew up here and they keep their friends, it's hard for new people. And it's hard if you're not a mainstream person.

"Do you know Edward Hopper's paintings?" I asked.

"Enough to answer your question. And it's a good question. Our current president is going to make us more isolated. I rented from a British woman a couple years ago, and she said, 'You Americans are so naïve and so selfish.' And I said, 'I agree with you totally.' I don't perceive many Americans as enjoying their life. The news is really entertainment and shock news, all about pain and suffering. And we tolerate the idea that we're bigger and we're better. And that everything starts here."

With that, she got back to her writing. I headed out of town and back home to Chicago. Her words were still echoing in my ears a mere two weeks later on September 11, 2001-when the past and future seemed suddenly very far apart.

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