Sunday, October 6, 1985

1985 Kansas City, MO (10/4-6/1985)

Friday, October 4, 1985
I drove Kent’s car to the airport (he had left yesterday) and parked in the usual north lot. Checked in for the 10:40 flight to Chicago that left 15 minutes late, but arrived on time at 11:55. I then went to check in for my flight to Kansas City, which did leave on time at 12:57. It was clear enough to look down on the patchwork farmland and areas with lots of dots of cattle. The woman sitting next to me was also from Providence and was going to coordinate the bus service at the Water Pollution Control Federation Conference that Kent was attending. Arrived on time at 14:13 and Kent was there to pick me up in his little rented Mercury Topaz. We drove directly to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and at 15:00 we paid our $2 each. We realized how large the place was despite having two hours, so we took the map and suggestions of the man at information, and headed for the elevator to start on the second floor. We began in Chinese Decorative Arts with some wonderful pieces; raised tea tables and cushions, a tiny bed, and some musical instruments. We peeked in at the porcelain and continued to Chinese sculpture. We found that there were not great quantities, but there was quality and the displays were usually very appropriate. We went round and round the Japanese screen room where Kent knew many of the stories being depicted. Up on the mezzanine were some Japanese decorative arts including samurai armor and weapons. There was a room of Persian art, especially porcelains. Towards one end was tribal art from Africa, South America, Mexico, the U.S., and Alaska. Back down on the second floor was the Impressionist room with an excellent representation. We found ourselves in modern art with various styles of paintings and sculpture. We were especially taken with the plaster and polyester museum guard whom I thought was real until I noticed he never changed position, even when I approached him! Kent recognized one of the sculptures made from old tools. We passed the antique silver and looked in the dark medieval-looking Oak Hall, which was part of the mansion that was on the site of the present museum, and belonged to either Nelson or Atkins! (William Rockhill Nelson!)
In the American Wing were representative rooms of American architecture from early colonial to Cape Cod. In the next rooms we saw works of American artists, including the local Thomas Hart Benton, who did many portraits, American life paintings, and historical paintings with large bold figures. A corner room had Chinese artifacts, and then bronzes. We found ourselves in the area of the temple guard sculptures, old doors, and a Buddhist temple at one end. Across from that area were the Indian sculptures and a Hindu temple. There was a climate-controlled room of Chinese paintings, and then we were back with Thomas Hart Benton, or is it Thomas Benton Hart! (Thomas Hart Benton!)
We went down to the first floor to the special exhibit of Jennifer Bartlett, with a boy at a pool done a hundred different ways in almost a hundred different media. (I guess the boy is actually urinating into the swimming pool.) Large scale paintings in a variety of color combinations, tile works, chalk, pen and ink, etc. Thousands of tiles in different patterns, and land and seascapes on the wall, and a three dimensional plastic sculpture on the floor. There were also models of walls she had done in various architectural buildings, such as the Volvo Headquarters in Sweden.
We started on the European painters when the museum closed and we had to leave. We drove to the Muehlebacke Hotel to get ready for the baseball game. We got directions from the porter to get to Bryant’s, famous in Kansas City for barbecue. We drove into what looked like the projects, and noted a police car across the street from Arthur Bryant’s restaurant. We went through the screen door into a very small and smoky place with linoleum-topped tables and vinyl chairs. We joined a line at the front counter behind glass. We could see the huge oven for barbecuing over a wood fire. We decided to each get the $5 barbecue beef sandwich and one order of fries. We picked up an old chipped china plate, and when our turn came, the cook slapped a piece of Wonder bread-type bread on the plate. Then he put a handful, and his hands were huge, of sliced beef on the bread. It had to have been 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of meat! He ladled barbecue sauce over the beef, then slapped on another slice of bread, cut it in half, and voilà! The French fries drowned the huge sandwich, and were very dark, as if fried in oil being used over and over again. But boy, was it good! We sat by the window next to a two-foot tall jar full of barbecue sauce. There were also loaves of bread out so that you could take extra slices, but we didn’t know that at the time! We could only eat half our sandwiches. We noticed one couple who shared one sandwich, and took extra bread to make two sandwiches out of it. One could have easily made up to four sandwiches out of one! No wonder the porter claimed he went there and took leftovers home to the wife and kids! We also watched others to learn what to do with our leftovers, and Kent went to the counter to get a couple pieces of deli meat paper and a paper bag. We wrapped up our half sandwiches and left to drive to the Harry S Truman Sports Complex.
It was windy and nippy outside, and although we had put on every layer of clothing possible, we knew we were in for a tough night. We also took care to make note of where we parked the car, because Kent had lost his the night before and had to wait for nearly every one to leave before finding it. We were in time for batting practice of the game with the Kansas City Royals vs the Oakland As.
Royals vs Athletics ticket
We were impressed by the clockwork and organization of an army of the grounds crew. Our seats were in the second row behind the railing overlooking right field. Next to us sat a fellow we nicknamed “Faded Genes” and his plump cousin. He was as old as we were, but acted juvenile, and Kent doubted that he would be able to sit next to him for the whole game.
Our teeth chattered as the wind blew right through us. We stayed through the 8th inning, and the final score was 4-1, with KC finally clinching the division lead over the Angels. We saw George Brett get a home run on errors. We found the car, and finally stopped shivering by the time we reached the hotel for a nice hot bubble bath.

Saturday, October 5, 1985
First we had to stop at the Convention Center for Kent to do some business, and then drove to the stockyards to check out the Golden Ox restaurant for a business dinner. At 9:30 we left to drive to Independence, MO, arriving at 10:00 at the Truman Memorial Library. The entry fee was only $1. We were sent to the auditorium to catch the end of a film presentation on President Harry S Truman, and about the conception and realization of the library. We wandered through the museum, seeing photographs and mementos from the Truman homes and of his ancestry. In the lobby was a large mural by Thomas Hart Benton in his bold WPA-style. It portrayed the town of Independence and the “Opening of the West.” We passed through the gift shop and were able to view some gifts of state, including oriental carpets and furniture, etc. Next was the Presidential Room which depicted the time of swearing-in until the final end of World War II. Very educating, to say the least. In the garden area were smaller gifts given to the Trumans, plus the walls were lined with paintings of historical buildings and places. We continued through the hall of Truman portraits and in the Special Exhibit Gallery were items from the life of Truman’s wife, Bess. Next door was a replica of the Oval Office as it was during Truman’s term. Truman’s taped voice explained the room. We made our way to the East Gallery displaying a vast collection of political campaign buttons, posters, and other memorabilia. Also shown was the Truman family car and the Presidential limousine. We exited to the courtyard to see the Truman gravesite and then to peek into what was Truman’s office until he died, where he continued to work and receive visitors until the end.
President and Mrs. Truman's graves
Back inside, we went downstairs to see tributes from the public that included handcrafted items depicting the President. Drawings, paintings, sculptures, rugs, quilts, etc. Next was a room of presidential coins. There were gifts from foreign states, and the set of china from the White House and a yacht. There was an exhibit titled “Whistle Stop” relating to the 1948 Presidential campaign with photographs and political cartoons. Lastly, we saw a room of items from Truman’s service as a captain in the Army’s 35th Division. It was all nicely presented and interesting. We weren’t at all overwhelmed into boredom.
Truman Memorial Library
We then drove into the town of Independence to see the Truman home, and to pass “his” courthouse downtown.
Truman home
Truman Courthouse
We returned to Kansas City where Kent checked for messages at the hotel and we picked up our leftover barbecue sandwiches for lunch.
Plaza across from the Muehlebach Hotel
Kent also had to check at the Westin Hotel in the Crown Center (a Hallmark Card concern, since Hallmark is headquaurtered in Kansas City).
Union Station
Waterfall in the Westin Hotel
We drove to the Liberty Memorial (1926, dedicated to those who served during WWI, designed by H Van Buren Magonigle) for our picnic lunch, and ended up eating in the car because it was so cold.
Liberty Memorial Tower
 We then climbed the Memorial Tower for a view of the city.
View on Kansas City
There are two sand-covered Assyrian sphinxes that guard the south entrance of the Liberty Memorial.
Assyrian sphinx
“Memory” faces east toward the battlefields of France, shielding its eyes from the horrors of war. “Future” faces west, shielding its eyes from an unknown future. We drove around Penn Valley Park to see the statues of the Indian Scout (1915, by Cyrus E Dallin) and Pioneer Mother (1927, by Alexander Phimister Proctor portraying Howard Vanderslice being carried as a baby to Kansas City).
Pioneer Mother
We drove north into an affluent area and found Thomas Hart Benton’s house.
Thomas Hart Benton's house
We crossed the state line into Mission Hills, also old and exclusive, in Kansas.
We decided to return to the Nelson-Atkins Institute of Art, and this time spent a little more time with the Jennifer Bartlett exhibit.
Nelson-Atkins Institute of Art
Next were the European artists, organized by country; mostly paintings, but also some furniture and other artifacts. We continued to Renaissance sculpture, a room of Chinese porcelain, Louis XIII Room, and medieval sculpture. Next was a cloister and a Spanish chapel. Back through Egyptian, then Greek and Roman sculpture before ending our tour. We even went in the basement, only to find education offices, an auditorium, and a junior gallery. Outside was a sculpture garden with only a few pieces, but representing artists from Alexander Calder to Auguste Rodin.
We drove farther north, looking for a plantation house that played a role in the Civil War, and it was pretty small. We found the magical Country Club Plaza, a whole neighborhood of Spanish Mediterranean style buildings of orange brick and mosaics, with tile roofs, towers, turrets, wrought-iron fences, and fountains. Most were commercial buildings housing stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Gucci’s, and many fine restaurants. There were also residential buildings.
We returned to the hotel, and were able to get an early reservation at the Savoy Grill, a turn of the century establishment, dark with high ceilings and booths, white tablecloths, etc. We were seated in the middle of the room, and I noticed coat hooks on the column behind us. I started with a very good clam chowder, and Kent had creamed herring. Kent had a bottle of wine with his complete dinner that included a salad. He had the Choice sirloin strip, and I had a regular entrée of a Prime sirloin strip. According to the waiter, Choice and Prime meant the same thing. The steaks were perfectly done, grilled on the outside and juicy on the inside. We also had a baked potato and sautéed yellow squash. I couldn’t finish my steak, and we passed on dessert and coffee. As we ate, several elegant couples arrived, and then a group of rangy-looking guys (from the stockyards?). They were put in a corner!

Sunday, October 6, 1985
We checked out of the hotel and drove to Country Club Plaza to Fedora’s Restaurant. Even though it was très chic, we entered and were seated in a booth. We were given sheets of paper, as the only fare was a Sunday Brunch for $10.95. Freshly made apple-raisin muffins were placed on the table, and we ordered fruit juices and Kent got coffee. First the cold buffet with tiers of fresh fruit, both whole and sliced: honeydew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries and pineapple. There were a variety of cold salads, and julienned roast beef, julienned ham, rotini pasta, tricolored shell pasta, and a marinated mushroom salad. Also a choice of pâtés and several different cold cuts. Accompanying these one could have miniature fruit jam Danishes, mini bagels, mini croissants, slices of nut bread, and cheeses: goat cheese, cheddar, an orange-flavored cheese spread, and a brie topped with kiwi.
We took a small break, then tackled the hot buffet with fruit fritters, and country French toast that could be topped with bananas Foster or a berry sauce, or hot maple syrup. Two kinds of eggs: Fedora (poached on an English muffin) and scrambled with red and green peppers (confetti). There was Canadian bacon, small boneless “camp” pork chops, and sausages. Little maple and mustard glazed hens, a stir-fried vegetable medley, and seafood jamabalaya with cajun rice. Also a grits casserole and home fries.
From the desserts we chose a mini cream puff with chocolate sauce and a chocolate mousse with bits of finely ground chocolate in it. As we ate, a harpist played familiar tunes to which we could not place a name.
After eating, we went out to see the fountains in the plaza, and saw a sign pointing to the sister cities of Kansas City.
Country Club Plaza
More Country Club Plaza
Sister city signs
The apartment buildings were in several stages of urban renewal, from vacant, being restored, to occupied. We went window shopping in the Seville Square Mall.
Seville Square mall
Country Club Plaza parking lot
Kent went to check into the Westin Hotel and check on the hospitality suite supplies. We then went to the mall there and saw a quilt show. They had an auction where 2-square foot quilts were going for a few hundred dollars!
Eventually Kent drove me to the airport. My 17:55 flight to Chicago left a half hour late, arriving at 19:30. The flight to Providence was also delayed 15 minutes, leaving at 20:20. We arrived at 23:00 local time. While I was gone, our usual long term parking lot had become a daily short-term lot, and I was charged $16! I was too tired to argue.

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