by ROBIN SCOTT PETERS
Me and My Canon 550D
|This is from the 4th floor outdoor deck. I am using a 40mm lens.|
|Ground level. I love the massiveness. The color saturation is delicious and creamy to my eyes. The solitude compliments the enormity.|
|From 4th Floor roof deck at the Westin. Another angle creating the sense of the enormity of the subject. The full expanse of the building captured.|
|Just after 1:00 am. I was angry because just 10 minutes prior the Western Auto sign was fully lit. On the left side of the photo two buildings had colorful light shows and adverts glowing. This is sleepy Kansas City.|
Walking the Walk
|I wanted to grab that dark cloud tried to get as much texture/depth as I could with the sky.|
Feels a bit surreal.
I stumbled down the drive past the taxi cabs. I liked how the mustard yellow grabbed my rather sensitive early-morning orbs. "Stop that" one of the cabbies called out to me. I burst forth my hearty Ha, Ha, Ha laugh, but he wasn't too happy. "Don't take my picture!" But I kept clicking and offered "you hiding from the FBI?" His cohort cab driver showed his true colors as he joined me in the laughter.
|Look at his friend to the right, big smiles.|
|The Link walkway leading to Union Station. You can see the reflection of Union Station in the glass.|
|The day I returned to California I saw this sign in a commercial on TV....fate!! lol.|
I am not sure how long it took me to get those two miles plus? But as if an oasis appeared the cool sea blue fencing pulled my attention. Its straight line leading my gaze to the 18th & Vine sign atop a four story building 150 yards straight ahead.
The video below is a collection of the shots I took as I walked to 18th & Vine.
Danny's Big Easy: Part 1
|Love the Ladies! Sista in the middle getting her sweet smell on. Kicking it at Danny's Big Easy.|
The Negro Leagues Baseball MuseumI walked passed Danny's Big Easy waving to the very nice ladies. I headed east another 100 yards passing the Gem Theater and just to my left, there it was. 18th Street & Vine Museums - American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The exterior adorned with figures of great African-Americans quintessential to jazz and baseball.
As you walk along first base line there are a series of "rooms" where the heart of the exhibit resides. These "rooms" created with old wood fencing from the outfield of some long disappeared diamond. The exhibit is very layered. A smart design to allow all levels of access to the information. From the novice to the history buff one can walk away from this exhibit satisfied indeed. The display started along a time line based on your level and depth of interest. You could follow a timeline of detail based on either shape or color. The history was contextualized. So you didn't learn about Negro baseball without knowing what were the larger political, cultural influences at play. I took about two hours just wandering the outfield fence full of history unknown to me. Please take your time when you visit to really read and understand the fluctuations the Negro Leagues went through. Accent on plural of League...Leagues. The very last display as you exit the outfield fencing has a most poignant conclusion. Bittersweet. How in achievement sometimes loss still prevails.
After completing the outfield tour you find yourself in the locker room. This exhibit is powerful. The Hall of Fame of the Negro Leagues. Plaques for each man...and woman whom loved the game and sacrificed for it. The artistry of the plaques rival Canton's Hall of Fame busts. Enjoy reading the credentials listed under each Bass relief. After looking at each and every plaque and enjoying the renditions of the team jersey and hats I thought there couldn't be much more. I was happily full. So I thought. As you round out of the locker room you come upon a display that contains hundreds of baseballs all signed by the players, or coaches or owners all part of the Negro Leagues. I read ball after ball thinking yes their hands, the same sweaty hands that swung that bat and hit that home run, had their hands here.
the Blue Room
|The exterior entrance into the Blue Room. You can enter it through the Museum. Sweet option indeed.|
Eric Moore was still there. And so was the beautiful young woman whom walked me down the ramp to the bar. Somehow we got to talking about where we were from. I fessed up, Los Angeles and the flood gates opened. By the time I finished my second beer we all found out that we had spent significant time in similar locations at similar times. It was like we knew each others neighborhood like it was ours. I mentioned how I really wanted to play my harmonicas. You know, being in Kansas City and all the birthplace of the best of the Blues. My new friend Andrea said "Open mic around here is usually Monday nights." Eric Moore concurred. "You should try Danny's Big Easy they might be doing something like that." Eric Moore finally spoke "Get the catfish. Get the catfish. You'll thank me for damn sure." The band was setting up, a fusion jazz blend. No chance to play with these guys. I sipped my beer and waited for the band to start. A slick young brotha pulled his trumpet out and began to play a sweet soft melody.
|The Blue Room. The band "Diverse" is setting up. Taken with my Iphone cause my 550d batteries were dead.|
I finished my beer lapping down almost half. I was really feeling hungry and time was flying. I started the morning at 9 am. I got to the museum at around 2:30 pm and it was now close to 8 pm.
Danny's Big Easy: Part 2
|Danny's Big Easy. A MUST stop if you visit Kansas City and 18th & Vine Historic District. Don't let the plainness fool you. Step inside into a wonderful world.|
|Millage Gilbert Blues. The band in full swing when I walked in. Taken with my Iphone.|
My drinks arrived and Jean introduced herself. "Hi I am Robin", I offered. "How bout that catfish Po'Boy." "You get a side with that." I looked at the selection, "Jambalaya sounds perfect." And Jean with her bright eyes and big smile disappeared as fast as she appeared. I realized I had all my gear still wrapped around me and I stripped down and stacked everything under my bar stool. Lots of money in the camera equipment. I took my harmonica case (it carries 12) and placed it on the bar. I was here to play somewhere. I have one night and it's almost 9 pm. I have some time. And I know just what to do with it. I reached back to the bar and grabbed my Jack.
The music was top notch all the classics. A trio. Guitar, bass and drums. Seasoned group of skilled artists. Millage Gilbert Blues, was the name. Well known in the Kansas City area. The crowd loved it. Everyone was dancing, well except me. Jean appeared with a plate full of food. She placed it down and I looked at her. "Anything else you need?" I shook my head transfixed on the huge piece of deep fried catfish curving up into the sky. Stuffed next to it was a bowl of Jambalaya crowding out the tartar sauce and the freshly sliced tomatoes, pickles and lettuce.
|Okay the food was beyond delicious. $8.95. I know, I wanted to buy another to take back to the hotel!!! Iphone shot does it again. Oh, that's my friend Jack in the upper right corner of the picture. Purrfect!!|
During my devouring of dinner Jean and I got to talking and I relayed that I fancied myself a budding harmonica player (harp player) and I was hoping to play. She asked me if I was any good and I said that's what I came here to find out. Jean said she was going to ask the band if I could sit in. I, in all my humbleness I could muster, thanked her profusely. To get even a little time playing with these guys heck yea! I finished my dinner as the band finished their first set. Jean and I were chatting about all sorts of things in between her appearing and disappearing to assist others patrons. During one of her appearances she quickly dropped that the band said yea it was cool for me to sit in, and one of the guys would come up and chat with me. I waited patiently as the break between the first set seem to be forever long.
"Hey, I hear you wanna sit in and play harp, you any good?" It took me a moment to realize I was looking into the face of the drummer for the band. "Jean says you play?" "I think I can, that's what I am here to find out...maybe get some schooling?" "We're about to start, if you wanna play." I looked to Jean "I owe you big time!" Grabbed my set and walked up to the front to join Millage Gilbert Blues. Nirvana right? The lead guitarist hit me with " do you sing?" I mumbled something like "oh, ah, yea I sing, like back up." Yikes dude, you love to sing. But I am still not real strong on lyrics so I felt stick to what you know--well, I don't know much of anything! That's why I came. To learn.
The lead guitarist looked so like BB King to me. I knew I was hallucinating. I asked him to tell me what key they were in and off we went. He called out the key, like for the first few songs and then he just played and I picked up the key. Classic after classic they played. I listened intently following their rhythm and pace watching their interplay. I found myself staring at the guitarist fingers as I listened to the notes emanate throughout Danny's Big Easy. This nether-world I was engaged in fascinating. Tables occupied by business folk, travelers, young lovers and old as dirt grandma and grandpa. Each jumped up at some point and made it to the dance floor. They would sit and chat, but you could always see their engagement as a foot or a hand or a head was keeping time with the Blues. Another song and then another. Then the so famous and apropos song "Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come..." poured our from our drummers seasoned voice. I stopped and watched the band from my little corner and I thanked the Lord Jesus for letting me have such a fun moment. When you live a dream you have had the best part about it is trying to take it in and step outside it so you can remember exactly how it was. Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and then it is almost like a blur. You know it happened, but man you wish you could have grabbed the moment fully.
There was this one older gentleman, who was all dressed to the nines. He had a sweet hat on, like one of those Cubana type. He would get up and dance by himself. As the song was playing he would mouth the lyrics and spin and act as conductor and he knew the tunes. Just the right time to bring in the drum solo, or the power of the bass line even the wailing of the harp, pulling me into his own little orchestra. And on cue, the languid conversation thanking all those who stayed to enjoy the good times, at least with the band, was about to end. After, I went up to each member shook their hand and thanked them for letting a rookie sit in on their set and live a little dream out loud.
When I got back to my spot at the bar I had a few crazy revelations. One, my very expensive camera gear was left on the floor next to my stool, sat there looking rather peeved at me. 550d doesn't like to be ignored. Two: we had played for 1.5 hours. I looked at the clock to see the time. We started about 9:30 pm and it was way past 11 pm. I had no idea we had gone at it that long. Time certainly stood still for me. Three: Eric Moore was sitting in the stool next to me talking to Jean. This Mr. Moore knows all happening people and was there to hear me tell him so. "Eric, you were right. Danny's Big Easy is the bomb place!" A big grin went across his face. Jean jumped in and asked me how I knew "Eric Moore." And we recounted the story of how we met. Jean looked me in the eye and asked "did that work for you?" "Hell yes it worked for me. I can't thank you enough for hooking me up with the band." "You wanna celebrate your coming out?" Jean called to Eric Moore, "you wanna do a shot?" "My specialty shot--Tequila and pickle juice!!!"
|Picture worth a thousand words? Tequila first, pickle juice second. Right after I played with the band. Another Iphone classic pic.|
I gave everyone a hug. People I just met. A night of conversation based on the love of an art form. It took us all over. Religion to politics. I know people say don't go there. But, I want to know about folks. That's why I sit at the bar rather than at a table. Get into the mix. You wanna really find what is happening take your dinner at the bar and extend yourself to the person to your right or left. As I walked out to the cab, I could hear everyone calling out my name, wishing me well.
The taxi ride back was quiet. Only a few miles. I thought about where I started today. And how I was blessed to actually achieve what I set out to accomplish. Get to know Kansas City. Get to know this little bit of community, its flavor and pulse. Great Art. Great History. Great People. Great Music. All blended in a two mile stretch. When you go to Kansas City, follow my footsteps and I guarantee you will feel the glow!!!