Until the summer of my eleventh birthday, in 1973, I lived in a house near 70th and Holmes in Kansas City. That neighborhood is called Waldo, and I’ve been hanging out there the last two days.

Waldo COMBAT sign KC Oct 2009Waldo’s center is 75th and Wornall, so our old house is perhaps a mile away. I try to drive by it every time I visit, but I didn’t take a picture because bushes and one of those huge Kansas City trees obscure the front. I wonder if the current owners covered up the “Jesus Loves You” and “The Beatles” signs that my sisters painted on our bedroom wall? Or could they still be concealed by the 36-year-old wallpaper my father put up right before we moved?

When I planned this trip I thought I would start in central Kansas City and move north, but I forgot about Waldo and started in Brookside, which is at 63rd and Wornall.

I really like this neighborhood. It’s at least 100 years old, having been annexed to Kansas City in 1909, and in my opinion it’s the last urban neighborhood before the strip malls take over in south Kansas City. Wonderful Waldo car wash KC Oct 2009I’m writing this post in the Sweet Shop, a couple of doors down from Kokoro Maki House where I had edamame and a New York roll for lunch.

To give you an idea of the scale of Kansas City, let me explain that 75th Street is about 150 blocks south of downtown (each number has a street and a terrace). If I were to superimpose a map of Kansas City on a map of Denver, with the downtowns overlapping and south KC pointing north of Denver (where I live), I would guess this area is roughly comparable to, say, Highway 7 (Baseline and Arapahoe) where it runs through Lafayette. The second house I lived in, near Wornall and Red Bridge Road, is in the 110th block. I’m not even sure where 220 blocks would be north of Denver. Longmont? Niwot? So when I was growing up, downtown was a rumor where my father had his law office, and I seldom went there.

Another thing I noticed in this neighborhood: “South Side” signs. In the 1930s, when my father was a boy, his father was a minor political boss for the South Side Democrats. That was the Prendergast era, but my grandfather worked for a rival politico named Shannon. In those days, the South Side was the white neighborhood and African Americans lived farther north (for example, around 18th and Vine). My father lived near Troost, a north-south street that today is the dividing line between white and black neighborhoods.

I don’t remember my paternal grandfather, who died when I was five. He was notorious for having run off with another woman while still married to my grandmother. Because of his political connections and because he took “mortgaged property” (a ring) across state lines, he was arrested and dragged back. The story made the paper, and I have been told that my grandmother learned of his bigamy that way. Whether that’s true or not, that abandonment certainly shaped my father’s life, and the lives of his siblings.

I was driving around in Kansas today, just west of State Line Road, and meditating on the vast distances in Kansas City. I didn’t realize it when I was growing up, but I know now I’m just not cut out for suburban life. Especially in a town with all these huge houses on even bigger lots on street after street of suburbia.

When I’m not here, I miss my family, and I miss the trees. But really, that’s about it.

Though I do hope to discover some new things to miss on this trip.

Leave A Comment

  1. Mary October 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    I missed the part of the story that explains why you are home visiting. It’s fun to see you apply your writing talents to another city, one where I have never been.
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..Where was BlogDog Wednesday? =-.

  2. Beth Partin October 23, 2009 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Thanks, Mary. I’m home to work on the first installment in what I hope will be a book about spending 1 month each in 12 different cities. I thought I would begin with KC and possibly do one other city and then write a book proposal.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..Thursday in Waldo: Visiting Old Haunts and New in Kansas City =-.

  3. Todd Bradley October 23, 2009 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t believe KC was that much bigger than Denver, so I did some playing with Google Maps and a little research online. Here’s what I found.

    In the more modern parts of Denver, the numbered east-west streets are a consistent 8 per mile. So in Denver, it’s exactly 2.0 miles between 120th and Colorado Blvd and 104th and Colorado Blvd. And it’s roughly 15 miles from 1st and Colorado to 120th and Colorado.

    Kansas City supposedly was designed on the same plan – 8 streets per mile. But it’s less consistent. For example, it’s exactly 5.0 miles between 20th and Troost and 70th and Troost (10 numbered blocks per mile).

    KC definitely doesn’t have half the street density, though. It’s about 15 miles as the crow flies from Wornall and Red Bridge Road to the river, not 30 miles.

    And if you overlay maps of the two metro areas from Google at the same scale, they’re roughly the same. KC is a bit “wider” east and west, and Denver is a bit “taller” north and south.

    On a totally different subject, how was the Kokoro Maki House? It sounds good, just from the name. Why don’t more people name restaurants with the word “house”?
    .-= Todd Bradley´s last blog ..Joseph Wiseman Dies: ‘Dr No’ Dead At 91 =-.

  4. Beth Partin October 24, 2009 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Kokoro Maki House was a fast-casual place that was pretty good. My New York roll had smoked salmon, cream cheese, and apple, in a sushi attempt at a bagel with lox, I guess. I didn’t like the fact that the apple was in one huge chunk. It was weird to encounter that huge piece of apple among the soft stuff. The edamame was OK.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..The Bistro Versus the Grill =-.

  5. Mary October 26, 2009 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Beth, That sounds like a great book — both to read and to write!
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..You haven’t lived in Denver until… =-.