Monday, June 6, 2011

The Saga Continues: Day 3

It feels like ages since that last travel post; so hard, after ten days or so, to go back and recollect what all we've done. But here goes:

After a restful night (I assume; actually, I can't even remember where we stayed, except that it was in southwestern Nebraska, in a town called McCook), we were up and off, first to an excellent and inexpensive breakfast in a little cafe in a depressed little farming community called Bartley, to eavesdrop on the local kafe klatchers as they traded reminiscences about the pranks they pulled when they were in high school; then to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.
This shrine was built by a priest who had been a prisoner of war, and who swore he would build the shrine if he survived the German camp. He did, and he built it. It is mundane in many ways, but lifted above the mundane by the presence of beautiful gardening all around, and an excellent bronze of Rachel. What her connection is to the B.V.M. I couldn't say, except that both were women and both figured in the Bible. That seems sufficient for the good Catholics of Arapahoe, Nebraska, and I'm disinclined to grouse about it any more than I've just done.

Heading east from there, we came to the small burg of Superior, just above the Kansas line, where the draw is an entire building at the Nuckolls County Museum dedicated to the work of a single man: one Marvin Marquart, a bachelor farmer who, lacking the distractions imposed on us more worldly men, carved, assembled, and painted over three thousand model airplanes in the space of about fifty years. Some hang from the acoustical-tile cieling, but most are displayed crowded together in glass cases, wingtip to wingtip, arranged by nationality. While Mr Marquart's painting skills were rough at the outset, they got much better, although his hands apparently started to shake with age and the detail suffered slightly toward the end. Still, it is a most impressive display, and as a life's work it is far, far more than most of us can point to. It makes me glad for television and the Internet, and at the same time sad for those same things in my own life. (It also makes me very glad to have married, especially someone who likes soccer.) (And that reminds me: my special someone, playing forward for a new team, scored a goal yesterday. Congratulations, and I hope it's just the first of many.)

After that it was straight in to Kansas City, as the two odd sights I'd picked out along the way ended up not seeming worth getting off the highway for. This impression seems justified, in hindsight, as it pertains to one site, but I wish now that I had stopped to see the other. Fortunately, there are still counties in nearby southern Nebraska that I haven't been to yet, and it'll be just a short side-trip to visit Belleville, Kansas.

That got us in to Kansas City; we spent the weekend there, having dinner with friends at Accurso's Italian Restaurant, and visiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, one of the most impressive public collections I've seen, and watching, at perhaps the least inviting sports bar in the entire world, Barcelona beat Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final. Boooo! Hisss!

overpriced ceiling
It being Memorial Day weekend, we stayed through Sunday to attend the annual concert and fireworks show at the Liberty Memorial. After a short tour of the city between home and show, we got there early enough to get a reasonably good parking place and a reasonably good spot on the lawn, where we were eventually joined by sixty-six thousand of our closest friends in the town. Ahead of the show, David and I toured the refurbished Union Station, which is now part Amtrak-station, part entertainment venue. I heard that the price tag for the restoration was $250,000,000, which smacks of snouts in the public trough and leads me to think we should be able to require absolute transparency for public works, or the right to sue for recovery of excess costs -- and sue not only the beneficiaries of the unrighteous public largesse, but the political creatures that made it happen.

Anyway. So the Air Force sent a band to perform a warm-up act, and then the KC Symphony took the stage, with a couple of overfed specialty acts. I was expecting a concert of familiar patriotic tunes, but what I got instead was a medley of familiar patriotic tunes interspersed with new music of a purportedly patriotic flavour, not perhaps coincidentally written or arranged by the performers, who get royalties for music that likely would never otherwise be performed. I won't go so far as to say it was bad music; just that it was not as good, not as entertaining, as a rousing string of Sousa marches would have been. And I'm wondering what rock I was sleeping under while Amazing Grace became an appropriate tribute to our fallen warriors.

One other thing I noted: at the start of the show, the audience rose, as requested, for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Later in the show, the audience rose, unrequested, and as one, for the playing of God Bless America.

The concert ended on a definite high, with a marvelous performance of Tchaikovskiy's 1812 Overture, complete with the requisite actual cannons, followed by, at last, the Sousa march I craved; in this case, The Stars and Stripes Forever. And by one of the better fireworks shows I've seen.


  1. Out of curiosity, do you recall the name of the sludge sculpture picture?

    1. The sculpture is part of a series called "Scumaks and Dendroids," by an artist called Roxy Paine. The individual sculptures don't have names, so far as I know: they are produced by a machine slowly extruding melted plastic. The artistry involved, such as it is, is in the programming of the machine and the operation of physics.


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