186 Wichita, KS: Conference at Night

Wichita, Kansas: Conference at Night

"Dorothy told the Witch all her story: how the cyclone had brought her to the Land of Oz, how she had found her companions, and of the wonderful adventures they had met with."
- L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In my hometown Chicago, I have two friends from Wichita: sisters Debbie and Diana. Debbie had worked at Wichita State University's Ulrich Art Museum and was in graduate school at Chicago's Art Institute when I visited Wichita. She said about my look at isolation there, "How appropriate for Wichita, which is a brown and dry place out in the middle of nowhere. When we were back at Christmas one year and walking down Douglas, the main street, I wondered why someone would have decided that that was a great place to build a town."

Diana, her younger sister, is a writer and (like any good little sister) disagreed. "I'm not sure that folks who live there feel isolated. There is a sense of isolation there," she confessed. "But I've always wondered if that's left over from the personalities of the early settlers who sparsely populated vast areas, or if it's more a part of the general post-war development of the western U.S. which seems inherently to isolate people with sprawling towns that separate people in single houses with big yards in developments that are so spread out that cars are the only way to travel."

One thing both Dodge sisters agreed on was that, while I was in Wichita, I had to look up their friend Jim. And, so, amidst my whirlwind Great Plains drive, I landed at a house on an innocuous street lined with snoozy ranch houses.

No comments: