Topping The Hill
Topping the hill, gaze shifts to oblique, scanning the vista before me as I sink towards its bosom. The City. Viewed from atop the high side of the slide to north riverfront, flowing to the source. It was here, just upon the opposite shore that the Town of Kansas first put root to dockside and the slow crawl to sprawl began. Here I now root – denizen of the Riverfront, wanderer of the alleyways, streets shadowed by architecture of vastly varied style and states of disrepair/repair/destruction and/or restoration – inevitable encroachment of the developer (an unfortunate leech upon the carcass of the city. One that tries to insinuate its influence through moneyed power – bring its facile sickly imitation of life and absorb all vital essence of City and the deep culture engendered by its very nature) – amidst evidence of this foul presence, we struggle, keeping faith that the knowledgeable citizen will eventually overcome the parasitic, or at the very least, keep tickling its ass.
Crossing the unfortunately named “Heart of America Bridge”; Unfortunate in the association foisted upon this structure of purpose and pointed intent (the penetration of North to South and vice-versa), that of location based on ideal, a geographically impertinent assertion of centrality based not on cross-hairs upon a map but the generalization only possible through the lazy connections of a human brain unfettered by deterministic geometry, instead solely judged by eye – general, not specific.
Exit right. The base of the overpass flanked by the massive Cold Storage Building circa 1922, now “renovated” into “Loft” status (a means for “developers” to destroy a structure with the full cooperation and subsidy of the atrophied local governing toadies at the expense of those who DO pay taxes) and the underside of the bridge, at whose sloped height, just below the buzz of untold numbers of vehicle in transit – mere six feet above, lies a ledge – but not just a ledge; A home for those with none. On cold winter nights the heights flicker with the reflection of microscopic campfires (large enough to warm dumpster pickins, yet small enough to avoid drawing any well intentioned minstrels of the law). I see it as a gateway – my grand entrance to the inner sanctum.
Escape from normal (probably a contagious condition…I don’t want it. There are drugs to induce it; Helps those that live in a fantasy world to remain in the hallucinatory version of the “past” that only exists in their small minds. This is also referred to as “The good old days” – yet another version of the past that bears little on reality.)…to extraordinary.
At least in my own mind. A firm belief that experience is as malleable as you make it – shape your life by applying intelligence to form an acceptable pool of data from which to emerge to a condition of enlightened and continual blasphemy. Fart in the face of destiny as a life not his to control. Anyway, back to the gateway. A quick dodge cross Third Street and up the arched merge and right onto Fifth. Gotta watch that corner. Occupied by a brick blockhouse 20’x20’. Just one of many neighborhood Vietnamese Markets with microscopic parking accommodation and patrons with a tendency to bolt back to Fifth with nary a glance at what may be rightfully transiting said space.
Safely passed, light green, cross the tracks n’ roll upon sacred ground. Past & present home to trains, whore houses, haberdasheries (even one owned (and bankrupted) by Harry S. Truman), KC Cash Register Repair (another story), various markets both farmers & retail, mafia wars, sordid alleyways, Jack Black… and all associated with the long history thereof. Home.
Image: Downtown KC in 1940 from the River Market looking south before the North Loop freeway was constructed. In this photo, one can see several old buildings that are gone now: Midland Exchange Hotel building; the Produce Exchange Bank at Missouri and Walnut; the Nelson Building at Missouri and Main; WalSix Building; Old YMCA building; Schuyler and Densmore hotels, Studio-Pepper Building; Victoria and Frederick Hotels at 9th between McGee and Oak; and Manhattan Building on Main near 8th.
-Source: Kansas City Public Library Special Collections