Friday, October 31, 2014

Shopping in West Bottoms

This historic area of Kansas City is going to be jumping this Halloween weekend.  These old brick warehouses of yore have been converted into haunted houses and pop-up entertainment venues.  Every first weekend, the streets explode with shoppers who come here to find unique gifts and great vintage bargains in clothing and home decor.  Food vendors line the street under the iconic 12th Street Bridge, the oldest standing bridge in the city.

Jump back into time a hundred years ago and these warehouses would have been filled with agricultural goods and industrial machines.  This was a hard-core working man's neighborhood.  With the second largest stockyard in the nation just around the corner, I imagine you must have been a manly man to tolerate the smell.

How things change!

My sister and I came here a few weeks ago to find a 70's costume for an office party.  There were still a few shops open on that Saturday, even though it wasn't a "first weekend".  I found so many cute upcycled clothes, it was actually a bit overwhelming.  I couldn't decide what to buy so ended up with nothing but regret.  Oh, why oh why, was I so hesitant??

My sister, too, got a bit distracted by all the coats and sweaters and dresses and hats.  She didn't hesitate, however, when she came across a gently used pair of black cowboy boots.  Never did find that 70's outfit, but she went home happy.
Well, I'll just have to go back.

On a first weekend.

With Mimi.

That girl stays focused!

Thursday, October 30, 2014


How could I possibly pick a favorite?  As I walked the streets of Solvang, California, last week, these cute little scarecrows welcomed me to every store (where, by the way, I found some amazing clothes).  Ballot boxes were placed throughout the town for visitors and locals to vote for a favorite. It's all part of the greater Santa Ynez Valley Scarecrow Fest, which celebrates the harvest and autumn season.

I couldn't pick just one, although Mimi did!
Mimi's Fave!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mimi Wears Royal Blue

While in Kansas City visiting family earlier this month, I caught the baseball fever.  Everywhere you went, people were sporting royal blue t-shirts in honor of their underdog team, the Kansas City Royals.  It was the one and only topic of conversation.  I (who never ever watch sports) found myself glued to the t.v. and gripped with anxiety.

Even when my sister took me to the ballet that first night of the Royals-Orioles game, the director kept us informed of the score, both before the ballet began and then during intermission.  "Now, please," he begged the audience, "Turn off your cell phones.  The Royals are winning."  The minute the curtain went down, however, little lights popped up all over the concert hall.

I had hoped the Royals would be playing against the Cardinals in the World Series because otherwise, my allegiance would be torn.  San Francisco is my favorite city in the whole world.  I lived there for five years and go back every year for my "fix", but I had never been to a Giants game.  Still . . .was it wrong to back a non-California team?

Mimi set me straight.  "Oh, for crying out loud," she said.  "Blue is so much prettier than orange!"

Go Royals!!! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Trapping a Ghost

I could feel her presence.  An ice-cold chill washed over me as I made my way through the bevy of rooms and down the stairs of this haunted hotel.  The rocking chair squeaked.  The chandelier swayed and the lamps flickered.

There will be no sleeping for you tonight, she whispered.  This is my room.  Not yours.

But I had a trick up my sleeve.  I know magic, you see.  I have searched the four corners of the world for it.  And so I slipped on my jester's mask, knowing she would respond to its tingling bells.  She followed me into the mirror and I trapped her.  The phantom within.

Sharing with Mis Papelicos.  Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Decline of the Silverswords

Haleakala National Park

"Where are all the silverswords?"  I wondered out loud as we neared the summit of Mt. Haleakala in Maui.  Thirty-five years ago the slopes were covered with these silver spiked plants.  I remember being so mesmerized by what looked like ice on red sand.   I couldn't wait to see it again.

But where were they?

And then at the Visitor's Center we saw one lonely specimen and then the poster.  Oh no.  We read further. These beautiful plants, found only on the slopes of Haleakala, are now endangered.  Climate change is the culprit.

Over the past 20 years, rainfall on this mountain has decreased and air temperatures have risen.  Immature plants are dying so seedlings are becoming rarer and rarer.  Once upon a time, thousands upon thousands of seeds would be dispersed by the wind from one single flower stalk.  These plants could live up to 50 years.  They flowered only once before dying, but spawned a whole new generation in the process.

No more.

At the summit, a sorry-looking garden nearly broke my heart.  Planted on an island surrounded by a concrete parking lot, these exotic plants can still be seen but not how Mother Earth intended.  I tried my best to pretend they were once again wild and free.  I took close-up photographs with no cars in the background.

When I returned from Hawaii I was browsing in my favorite bookstore (in the travel section, of course) and found an interesting book to add to my growing collection of travel guides:  500 Places to See Before They Disappear, and sure enough, on Page 219 was "The Slopes of Mount Haleakala."  There are more threatened species here than at any other U.S. National Park.  Evidently, the Silversword is just one of many.

Park rangers are trying hard to save the remaining plants and stabilize the population.  A restoration project is in full swing.  

It's easy to get depressed, but I'm trying hard not to.  Climate change is a fact.  Our world is changing right before our eyes.  Heat from burning fossil fuels is being trapped in the atmosphere.  Glaciers are melting.  South Pacific atolls are disappearing under a rising sea.  Many plant and animal species are struggling to live like Maui's Silversword.

It makes travel even that much more important.  We are witnesses to a world in transition.  I have no doubt we will adapt and meet the challenges ahead.  We are heading into exciting times.  Get your cameras out, people!  The world is changing.