As a liberal from this ultra-conservative red state, I have often asked myself that question. In recent times, Kansas has made national news for having a winning college basketball team, for pulling evolution from the state education standards and for the dog breeder who cut the baby from a Missouri woman’s womb.
Most people think of Kansas as some comical, mythological place. Unlike Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri — which all border Kansas and are fairly similar — Kansas has been immortalized by the Wizard of Oz. When I meet someone at a party or a bar, he never fails to smirk at his friend or point to the piles of snow outside and quip, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” In sober settings, when I tell people where I’m from, they usually ask, “Really?” or “No shit?”
No, dumbass, I just thought it’d be funny to say I was from Kansas.
If the conversation persists, they always ask, “So what’s there to do in Kansas?”
I like to glamorize the few “Dazed and Confused”-type stories I have from high school, but in general growing up in Lawrence, Ks was probably no different than growing up in most midwestern cities.
I like to call Lawrence the Ann Arbor of Kansas. The University of Kansas, which takes over the town during the year, attracts more diversity than you might expect. The town and college are both liberal: My county was the only one in Kansas to vote Democratic in the past few elections. We let our first Starbucks into town only a few years ago, but the downtown is crowded with local coffee shops. Massachusetts Street, like Ann Arbor’s Main Street, is shaded by trees and populated by trendy bars and restaurants. But in addition to the dining couples, bar-hopping college kids and bored teenagers, some of Lawrence’s rural youth come out of the woodwork on the weekends. They drive their trucks from Tonganoxie or Baldwin and park along Mass. Street at night to sit on the back of their tailgates and people-watch. In their boots and tight jeans, they add a quaint sense of community, our equivalent to the smokers that sit in front of Rendez-Vous caf