Kansas City, 2017

To this day, "In Cold Blood" is still my favourite book. It's gripping, tense and completely haunting. I must have read through it close to six times, and though I know exactly what to expect on each page and how to predict the rising surges of emotion and adrenaline for the characters, and moreover myself, I rip through it in three days with wide eyes and hunger. 

That same chill that comes creeping down my spine when I hear about Perry's bowed-legs and total lack of remorse or Dick's unsettling femininity, sneaks up on me when I drive into Kansas City. To clarify: the crimes that pique my peculiar interest were committed in Holcomb, Kansas state. Kansas City is next door, in the neighbouring State of Missouri. One of the country's largest correctional facilities is in the town of Lansing, Kansas State. 

The midwest is an odd convergence of familiarity and emptiness. It can be so reminiscent of my prairie home, yet the mountains that comfort me are nowhere to be found. Littered around the century-old architectural delights are strangely located farm houses: some abandoned, some never updated but still very inhabited.

The city isn't set like a grid at all. I took an Uber to run some errands yesterday and chatted with Thomas, who says this isn't his full-time gig but that he's become quite the welcome wagon. There are diagonals, one ways where there should be no one ways, and a shitload of dual or triple turning lanes that seemingly turn you right back around.

I know full well to keep my political opinions quiet and my please's and thank you's close by in this part of the country. Thomas told me he hailed from Colorado and made a comment about the legal and medicinal benefits of marijuana. I saw an opportunity.

"I've been told that Missouri and Kansas are red states." I left very little around the statement for interpretation. 
"Yeah, in large part. The West district of Kansas City is progressive, young. It's where the artists live and there's a river market. You gals might like that. I'd suggest going on a Sunday."

A moment passed. I felt as though I had spoken out of turn.

"This country's freakshow knows no bounds. I thought all of this bullshit had ended with Nixon. Just embarrassing. But, try to stay positive I guess. Can I come to Canada?"

In the midst of a "Forbidden Folk Music" Conference we were still surrounded by the theoretical eggshells of the locals. I always feel the same guilted excitement when buying my $20 case of Miller Lite inside the Walmart, watching Rascal scooters disappear up and down the aisles. Plastic cheese, plastic fruit and BBQ gas stations. Am I completely pious of my country's advantages? Do I posture Canadian privilege in a country of almost six times the population? Does anybody give a fuck at all what moral dilemma's I might be having? I still buy the beer, and the BBQ is out of control. Ribs are the specialty in KC, I'm told.

The conference centre was teeming with an energy unlike any I'd ever felt. The ego so typically offered by songwriters was masked by an unearthly low buzz of excitement, truth and connection. I hardly hid in my room at all this year. If I was between showcases or preparing, I'd venture to the Colorado room, Oklahoma, Wisconsin. I fell in love with craft beers from every state, beautiful people and songwriters from every city. I shook hands and made friends. I felt alive, I felt a part of something bigger than myself. 

Highlights: Linda McRae offering me a generous invite to write with her in Nashville, Heather Rankin giving one hell of a fist bump, John Fullbright's inimitable voice and songs, David Onley, Tim Easton, Terra Lightfoot's generosity and trouble making, Maria Dunn's poignant traditional folk music and Nora Guthrie.


The view from Benton's private suite. Beautiful showcase room, 360 view of Kansas City downtown. That's Union Station all lit up in blue. 

The view from Benton's private suite. Beautiful showcase room, 360 view of Kansas City downtown. That's Union Station all lit up in blue.