Graffiti Marathon: The Mother Load

There is probably no area in Kansas City with a more varied mix of graffiti than the blocks extending from Oak to Cherry and from 19th Street to 16th.  IMG_3662

I suggest you get your walking shoes as you explore the neighborhood.  Some walls are in your face.

IMG_3641But there is graffiti everywhere.  It is in alleys, behind fences and almost completely hidden by automobiles and dumpsters.

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Every time I explore the area I find new treasurers I have missed in prior visits.

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Where In The World Is Sophia? The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Observing life through Sophia’s 3-year-old perspective is quite an experience.  This is one of my favorite pictures of her, because she seems so “in the moment” even though you can only see her feet.  For those unfamiliar with the Nelson, the last photo of her clearly reveals her location!

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Sophia loves to dance.  Constantly in motion, she seemed inspired by the  Rozelle Court fountain, as she did the fountains throughout the area.

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Lovers of art themselves, mom and dad ensured that Sophia actually toured at least the Nelson’s main gallery area.

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Here is Sophia standing beside–instead of hiding behind–the Nelson’s famous shuttlecock.

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Our visit was soon over, but we hop Sophia treasures her memories of Kansas City and family as we treasure her.

The First Day Of The Rest of My Life

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Yesterday I retired.  In 1972 I graduated from UMKC Law School and passed the Bar. 41 years later, I am retiring from the Bench.  It has been great.  Not always easy, but rich with memories and friendships.

Today, I continued my life with no orders to write, no trials and no probationers.  I had no need to get ready to work or to do–well–anything.  It felt strange, but in the way that you like to feel at the beginning of any adventure.

I can tell you my priorities for the next two weeks: visits with friends and family, work in the yard, non-profit commitments.  But for the first time in four decades, I cannot tell you my long-term plan for the future.  It is thrilling, really.  Do I want to write, or take photographs?  Do I want to travel, or save the world? How do I decide, after all these years, what will most give my life meaning?  It is a gift I give myself to figure it out.

I can compile my own bucket list!  I have all the time left to me to figure it out.

Are the Beaches the Solution to Cuba’s Poverty?

Is Cuba’s beauty the solution to bettering the lives of its citizens?

Just look at the water and the sand and the sun.  The island is long, and narrow.  The Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean flank Cuba, offering up some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

This is good, right?

Today, the Cuban people share this beauty with only a small number of sail boats and a few tourists in space nearly undisturbed by commerce.

Cuba is, in some respects, comparable to the Cancun of 40 years ago.  Having traveled there several times, I have watched the seashore change from open land with a scattering of 2 and 3 story hotels, (as pictured below adjacent to a Cuban beach) to high rise hotels that are packed one on top of another until only the tourists share the beauty.  Today, Cuba’s resort hotels are still lovely, small and in harmony with the sea.

The walkways to the sea draw you to the water and the sand.

As we were ending our trip to Cuba, we encountered a member of another tour that had just arrived.  This gentleman explained his theory that what Cuba needs is to open itself up to investors who could bring in casinos and “a Trump Tower like Panama” to provide jobs for poor workers.  Seriously?  Cubans should be excited to have its beauty snapped up by rich “Americans” [1] so that they can earn minimum wage.  Again, seriously?

I am no fan of Cuban’s economic or political system.  I would never wear a Che t-shirt or hat.  I remember the brutality of revolution.  But surely there is more to solving the challenges of the Cuban people than to provide tourists with luxury vacations.

I am grateful for the couple of hours we spent by the water because it was such a compelling visual statement to the true beauty of Cuba’s beaches and was a reminder of the role of the beaches in the challenges facing the island nation in the inevitable post-Castro era.

Swim anyone?

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[1]  I asked our guide why the Cubans speak of the United States as “America”.  He indicated that they have accepted the reality that the United States as the dominant nation in the Americas has essentially assumed the term America as its own.

Forty Eight Hours in Rural Cuba

Forty-eight hours isn’t much time to get a sense of a nation and its rural challenges.  The poverty is overwhelming.  If there is relief from the poverty it is the fact that Cubans have little opportunity to experience the frustration that results from observing others who do not live in poverty.  But there is no question that Cuba has seemed to work tirelessly to prevent the development of a middle class.

One of the questions raised with regard to rural Cuba was why there are no tractors.  The answer was that by sharing the land among the rural families, individual plots were small enough to be worked relying solely on horses and oxen.  As a result, there is no need for tractors.  So there are none.  Wow.

Not only is the land tilled by animals, they are a primary means of transportation.  Riders on horses, wagons used for transporting people and materials.

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Visiting a country in which we were surrounded by horses and oxen is an exciting, beautiful and exotic and experience. But it is no less a step back into history for most visitors.

The housing is both humble and primitive.  Many homes had only three walls, with the open end of the house facing against the roads, giving families some element of privacy.

We never saw any evidence of affluence in rural Cuba.

And everywhere along the road we saw laborers, walking with their hats, their bags of unknown purpose, following paths through the countryside, symbolic of the lifestyle that has been chosen for them.

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Where old cars and young horses collide

Terry and I are home.  We had a wonderful week.  Terry wanted me to ask you to guess where we went, based on that which has long identified this island nation: old U.S. made cars.  More particularly, cars from the 50’s and into 1960 just a smidge.  Visiting this nation is truly like taking a step–well several steps–back in time!

You will find Chevrolets, Buick’s and Fords serving as taxis standing in front of tourist hotels and in the yards of farmers who have inherited them from their parents.

These ageless automobiles are generally filled with passengers.  No seat is left vacant.  Gasoline is far too precious to assume that anyone would drive alone for long.

But U.S. made automobiles aren’t the only means of transportation–there are horse and oxen drawn carts; as well as Chinese, Korean and Soviet Block cars.

Years ago the Chinese apparently provided a bicycle for nearly every resident of the island.  They are rarely seen in the cities.  They are everywhere in the countryside.  At least as important, these bicycles, old motorcycles and wagons have been altered into shapes and combinations never anticipated by their manufacturers.

Somehow, the horses, oxen, antiques automobiles all seem to share the road in harmony.  Can you guess the country where we visited?  Of course you can.  But I will share more about our experiences in my next post.

Oneida Community–Where Giants Walked

“Where giants walked”.  Those are the words our tour guide, the curator of the Mansion House in Oneida, New York, used to describe the Oneida Community.  Disbanded more than 120 years ago, the community grounds still emit a feeling both vibrant and tranquil.

I didn’t know what to expect when the “cousins trip” arrived in Oneida.  What we found far exceeded even my enthusiastic expectations.  We spent a night in the Mansion House where our rooms were simple but lovely.  The environment was so much more.

The Oneida Community was founded in the belief that individuals can become free from sin while still here on earth.  Beyond their religious aspirations, their practical reality involved a focus on hard community labor, culture, music, art and literature.  These values resonated throughout the community.  Beautification of the grounds of the Mansion House and of the surrounding community are evident today.

While much of the Mansion House is plain, befitting a society based on de-emphasizing private property, there was an emphasis on beauty of the common areas.  The great hall that was a central meeting area demonstrates the community’s commitment to perfection in its culture and art.

The grounds are lovely, incorporating gardens, simple fountains and open areas surrounded by trees.


Artistic endeavors were encouraged.  The museum displays beautiful art such as this unique braided rug that are  wonderful works of craftsmanship.

The library was a focal point of daily life, filled with books that were identified as incorporating all of the knowledge important to a learned community.  It remains a great place to visit and study.

While long disbanded as a religious community, descendants of community members continue to live in the shadow of the Mansion House.  While their homes are not elegant, they are as graceful, well-groomed and inviting as the people who live there.

Welcome to “Utopia”.