Stockholm as seen from SkyView (video)

One thing I would recommend to anyone visiting Stockholm (aside from anyone with an intense fear of heights) is to ride the SkyView to the top of the tallest spherical building in the world, the Ericsson Globe.  The view is spectacular.

This is a video of the trip from the top of the Globe back to to ground recorded on May 16, 2016, two days after the Eurovision final.

Travel Photobook: Princetown, England

Just after graduating from The University of Kansas in 2001, I took a poorly-planned trip to England for a month that left me flat broke.  Needless to say, every other trip I’ve taken has been well-budgeted.  Perhaps the greatest lessons in life are learned outside of the classroom.

After spending entirely too much money in London (some of which went to new clothes after the airport lost my luggage) and enjoying the lower cost of living in Exeter (where I found a couple of great pairs of pants), I spent a few days wandering about Princetown in Dartmoor, collecting my thoughts and bracing myself for the job search I’d inevitably have to engage in when I returned to Kansas.

Here are some of the photos I took while spending next to no money in Princetown:

The Plume of Feathers Inn.  The oldest building in Princetown.  I stayed in the bunkhouse for just a few pounds a night.Processed with VSCOcam with s4 preset

Dartmoor Prison.  Processed with VSCOcam with s4 preset

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The Railway Inn.Processed with VSCOcam with s4 preset

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Photos taken while walking around the village (which costs nothing to do, by the way).Processed with VSCOcam with n3 preset

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What It’s Like Being Stranded in Your Hometown

9 am.  Sitting on the foot-tall brick wall outside my apartment.  The last full cigarette I had was at 1:30 am just before getting locked out.  The locksmith’s on his way.

The things you think about at times like this.  A shower, for instance.  Sleeping in a bed.  The weather.  It’s not hot out yet.  A locked apartment.  The coffee I put on is probably no good after 7.5 hours.  A coffee sounds great, just not that one.  The events leading up to this moment in time.  An alley in Goussainville.  The people who help you out.  Roughly in that order.

The only thing on your mind just after getting locked out of your apartment is getting back into your apartment.  Who do I know that lives near me?  A couple of people, but I don’t know exactly where.  Jamie just moved to . . . I forget.  Jennifer’s place on Tennessee is within walking distance, but which building was it again?  How do I know so many people and not know where they live?  Maybe I could make it down to Harbour Lights before they close?  Probably not.  The Kwik Shop on 9th and Mississippi is just down the street and is open 24 hours.  I’m sure I could use the phone.  Get ahold of a locksmith.

Nothing.  Now what?  Oh yeah, Frank lives nearby.  I know where.  I’ll walk there.  Lights are off.  I could knock on the door anyway.  No, there are kids in the house.  Probably a bad idea.

Maybe the police station?  Why not walk down there?  Apparently, there are people hanging out on Mass. St. at all hours of the night (on a Wednesday? what are they doing?), but the police station is closed.  Not sure what the police could have done for me anyway.  My wallet and ID are inside my apartment.  How could I prove I live there?

Back up 9th.  People walk their dogs in Lawrence, KS at four in the morning, I guess.  The things you learn.  I find a couple of wires near some street work.  Everyone in the world can rest easier knowing that I cannot pick a lock to save my life.  It looks so easy in the movies.  You even try wiggling the doorknob hoping that it will fall off or come unlocked if you keep at it.  Finding out this doesn’t work, you realize that you’re locked out for the night.  And resign yourself to it.

You roll up the doormat to use as a pillow and sleep on your balcony.  The night’s still hot with that awful Kansas humidity that takes everything out of you.  You get some sleep (maybe 1.5 hours?) and wake up freezing.  It’s probably 5:30 or 6 am, before sunrise.  You switch out your doormat pillow for a shoe pillow and use the doormat as a blanket to stay warm.  You manage maybe an hour more of sleep to be wakened by the bizarre screeching of some animal (perhaps some angry squirrel?) and simultaneously by a hungry mosquito that has bitten your left arm three times, aiming for the vein, and then got the knuckle, apparently wanting to shake hands and be friendly.

At this point, you arise to greet the sun, scrounging around in your ash tray for mostly smoked cigarettes that may have a few drags left on them and manage to find a few.  At least you still have your lighter on you.

Frank just got new office space downtown on Vermont.  What time does he get in?  Not sure, but, without a better idea, you decide to go down there and find out.  There’s little foot traffic at this hour, but cars have taken over the streets.  Some cars have personality.  Everyone knows their own.  But when people are rushing to work or to take their kids to school, all of them seem the same somehow.

“Is Frank here?”  “No, not yet.”  “Do you know what time he gets in?”  His coworker Jeff texts Frank, who replies shortly that he probably won’t be in until around ten.  I explain the situation.  Jeff does a search on the internet for a locksmith.  Lets me use his phone.  I try Reuschoff.  No luck.  I do a quick search on Jeff’s phone.  Find a 24-hour service.  Everything’s set.  The locksmith will be at my apartment in an hour.  I thank Jeff and head back home after having three or four glasses of water.  After nothing to drink for eight hours and walking for miles in the humid night, water is the best thing in the world.

It’s not until you know the problem’s resolved that your mind can finally relax and wander and think about Goussainville.  The last time you were in Paris.  Took the wrong train in the Metro.  Locked out of Paris for the night.  Stranded in Goussainville.  No hotel near the station.  Almost had to sleep in an alley.  Two seedy-looking Frenchmen walked by and asked for a cigarette.  I gave them one, happy they didn’t take my suitcase as well.  The Metro had closed just after I stepped off the train.

I remember hearing trains still going and went back to the station to double check.  A Metro worker was just ending his shift.  He asked me if I needed help.  I said I did.  He offered to drive me to a hotel for fifty francs to cover gas.  I accepted his offer.  He took me to a nearby hotel, spoke to the front desk, helped me get checked in, and told me how to get back to the station in the morning.  The next day, I found the hostel.  It was a two-minute walk from the Louvre.  Miles away from the suburbs.  And much more beautiful.  I wouldn’t say Goussainville is ghastly, but it’s not much to look at.

In travel or at home, it’s the people who help you out along the way you never forget.  At times, you think of them and hope they’re doing well.  It’s the hotel and the locksmith you’ll forget about after a while.  But, either way, after a night like this, there’s nothing better than taking a nice, long shower and sleeping in a bed.

A Day Out: Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza

When thinking of The Plaza, the first thing that comes to my mind is Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”  To walk along the beautiful streets passing by high-end retailers like Armani and Burberry!  Ah, compare that to our peasant shops here in Lawrence, KS, which are mainly locally owned, where people toil their lives away to eke out a humble living.  Sure we have The Gap and Urban Outfitters on our little Mass. St., but Gucci?  No, sir, we’ve none of that ‘ere in Larryville.  Just an abundance of PBR and used (I mean “vintage”) clothes.

Sometimes it’s nice to see how the other half lives, however, to break free from the poor little village to which you’ve grown accustomed, to walk in luxury, surrounded by luxurious streets and buildings which contain luxurious things and to pretend, even if for one moment, that you could ever afford a pin-striped Gucci suit.  It’s the ancient art of window shopping.  To catch a glimpse at a life you could only dream of.

If Barnes and Noble is indicative of any other shop on The Plaza, they’re all impressive inside.  Three stories of books, notebooks, magazines, one story of music and movies, a cafe.  I bought a copy of Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and went on my way to brush shoulders with the glamour and luxury etched on every stone of The Plaza.

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At this point, I was famished.  Glamour and luxury is all well and good, but, when it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a mediocre doughnut you picked up at the grocery store (precisely, Dillon’s on 6th St.), your mind starts turning to other things.

On the advice of a dear friend of mine, I’d set out to eat at The Cheesecake Factory.  You can always tell a true friend by how acutely their advice strikes you.  Cheesecake is high on my list of things I could not do without.  Perhaps it was because I was in a daze of hunger, but I couldn’t find The Cheesecake Factory to save my life.  I did, however, come upon Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.

When in Rome, they say, do as the Romans.  When in Kansas City, eat barbecue.  Seriously.  It doesn’t matter which one.  Everybody’s got their favorite.  Mine is Gates.  Other people acknowledge that Gates is a good one but argue that Arthur Bryant’s is better.  There’s Oklahoma Joe’s.  There’s Danny Edward’s.  There’s about as many barbecue restaurants in Kansas City as there are cathedrals in Rome.  And, no matter which you go to, you won’t be disappointed.  When on The Plaza, go to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.  You won’t be disappointed.

And then you might discover, as I did, that The Cheesecake Factory is just around the corner.  And you might also, as I did, discover that, no matter how full you thought you were after eating a massive helping of barbecue, there is always enough room for cheesecake.  And you, as I did, might very well discover that, no matter how good the description on the menu of the dulce de leche caramel cheesecake may sound, seeing it in front of you dispels any doubt in your mind on the matter.

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The cheesecake put up a good fight.  Ultimately I couldn’t finish the entire thing.

Oh, and there’s an impressive fountain on the patio.  By the way.

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Across the street is the J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.

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Geese and people with cameras just love this fountain.  Sometimes the geese will pose for you.

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Even the geese are glamorous at The Plaza.

You would think that seeing the most impressive fountain in Kansas City would make all the others pale in comparison, but I noticed more fountains on my way to Scooter’s for coffee than I had earlier, and they all seemed more impressive somehow.

Neptune, God of the Sea:

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This cat face:

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And there are some lovely statues.

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I read around 30 pages of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S on the patio outside Scooter’s.

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During this time, a drummer was setting up a drum kit.  Later, he would be joined by a DJ, a front man, a couple of female vocalists, and a small entourage of supporters.  They’d perform, alternating between the DJ spinning tracks with live percussion and performances of original songs, trying to raise funds for their first professional project.  A dance party would ensue, everyone having good times.  All ages of people, young kids, teenagers, elderly, different races, different lives, together dancing.

I finished my coffee and went for one more walk around The Plaza before returning to Scooter’s.  Every restaurant was full of people, large windows open, blurring the lines between the people dining al fresco and the people dining inside.  It was dusk, and it all seemed so beautiful, as if nothing could ever go wrong there.  Like being at Tiffany’s, perhaps.

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