When I say Kansas City, most people think Kansas. But the real deal is in Missouri. The turn of the century classic across the river from it’s younger sibling that spawned generations of blues and world famous barbeque. The other place is called KCK and you’d know that if you were from Missouri. Kansas City is full of wonderful memories for me. It’s where I was born and raised. My work ethic, moral code and “show me” attitude were all grounded in the Midwest.
When I traveled there for Kristen’s wedding, I extended my trip a few days to visit my father. He is the third owner of a jewelry store that’s been in Richmond, Missouri since 1850. Since my trip, he’s sold the store and retired to continue his personal work in South Africa. My father was a minister and that’s how I fell in love with the Northwest, as we traveled across the country to a congregation in Seattle. He’s remained active in the ministry, even while running his jewelry store for decades. He’s now free to focus on his passion of helping South Africans set up small businesses and churches.
The first thing I did when I arrived in town was eat lunch at the original Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque in Kansas City, Missouri. There are four regions in our country famous for different styles of barbeque and trust me, the Northwest is not one of them! My friend, blues musician Mark DuFresne and I literally grew up just down the road from each other. Kansas City barbeque is always a topic of conversation for us. Arthur Bryant’s may not be the best in town, but it’s the most well known. Presidents, celebrities and regular folk all have sat down together at this world famous joint. It’s a Kansas City institution.
Sitting at Arthur Bryant’s, I thought the neighborhood felt familiar. I called my dad who reminded me that I grew up just down the street, so I drove past the old house and the church where he was a minister. I learned to ride a bike in that church parking lot. Remembered the stone wall like it was yesterday, where I scrapped the skin off my knuckles because I was afraid to turn the bike handles in fear of falling over. And Askew Elementary, which three generations of our family attended school. Lots of history there for me.
While taking pictures with my Lensbaby for my dad, the minister pulled up. I thought I was in trouble for taking photos of the church, but that was not the story this time. It was sheer coincidence. The nicest man— I shared with him my memories of growing up in that church. He was very interested in the history and opened up the church and let me step inside the memories of my childhood. As I left, he warmly embraced me and told me to thank my father for keeping the ground. I had to ask my dad what he meant. Ended up being preacher speak. An inner code.
My father wore me out keeping up with his busy schedule. We drove to Carrollton, Missouri and recorded a couple of father and son radio ads for the retirement sale, ate more barbeque and drove back for a city council meeting. My beloved aunt works for my dad, so I spent time with her as well. It was strange being home. Felt comfortable, as if I’d never left.
Just outside where my dad lives is another famous barbeque joint in the old Wabash train station called Wabash BBQ in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. I had to stop and compare their short ribs to Arthur Bryant’s. Purely for scientific reasons, of course. If I’d had more time, I would have sampled a lot more barbeque.
I also spent a weekend with my friend Mark Kegans in Des Moines, Iowa. Everyone who knows Mark loves him and his witty, sarcastic, dry sense of humor. A unique and talented photographer who’s roots go back to the Dallas Morning Tribune in Texas. I got to meet the Des Moines crew (who tried to hurt me with alcoholic drinks) and photograph a 12 hour wedding alongside this wedding legend who may actually be better then me.
Thanks for sharing in this personal journey of my humble beginnings. I feel that knowing the personal history of any artist is valuable insight into what motivates them. I promise to get back to business with my next post. There is a long list of things to share with you. So tell me gentle reader… what’s the best BBQ you’ve ever had?