Monday, June 8, 2015

"...and back again."

I don't know what's wrong with me, folks.

Instead of eagerly devouring the top songs on iTunes or schlepping out money for some big arena tour I'm supposed to want to attend, there I was: at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, taking in exhibits about some of the genre's most notable luminaries and the city's indelible effect upon both the artists themselves and the music they created.

Kansas City, a retro take
Truth be told, I've never liked the cool kids' table. I've never felt welcome or comfortable there and it seems that I am still managing to find ways to extricate myself from the transient nuisance that is the majority of popular music by surrounding myself with things that are still beautiful and awe-inspiring half a century (or more) after they've been released.

So, hold on... Let's back up a step.

My wife and I had decided on a quick weekend excursion to the City of Fountains (more than any other in the world with the exception of Rome) for more reasons than just jazz history. We took in a baseball game at the home field of my all-time favorite team, sauntered through a number of museums (not just the one dedicated to American Jazz, but the national World War I and Negro Leagues Baseball Museums, as well), ate some fantastic local cuisine, and spent time with family.

Architecture a la KC

You see, a sort of revelation occurred to us a little while ago when we journeyed up to Seattle to meet Harry Connick, Jr.: namely, that there are a lot of fascinating, beautiful, and memorable experiences waiting to be had within just a short drive of most of us... and yet most of us never take advantage of the fact. Here we are, living in one of the most wondrous times in all of human history, when a simple day-or-two-long drive or the purchase of a train or plane ticket can get you to some of the world's most interesting places and many of us seem all-too-willing to let the opportunities pass us by over and over again. It is easy to open yourself up to the wonders of history and art and music and food and architecture... it remains even easier to close yourself off from them, apparently. So the Family Burns has decided to become a bit more deliberate with its free time. When schedules allow and work doesn't interfere, we've agreed to spend the money and invest the time necessary in order to try and see what we can see, one piece at a time, of this great world we find ourselves in.

Kansas City became one of our first targets, and we were able to get quite a lot accomplished in two unplanned days.

Kauffman Stadium

The National Jazz Museum provided some welcome reminders in regards to the history and beauty of 20th century music, the struggle that is the artistic life (one exhibit displays a work order for Charlie Parker and his band that paid the five of them just $161 for seven full hours of performance), and the undeniable timelessness of some of the art form's great masters. In a relatively small room, space is dedicated to Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Count Basie, and more. It's good to know that their music is still beloved and treasured in an era of instant downloads, 15-second fame, and ridiculous chart toppers.

Some sights from the American Jazz Museum
And, as you can no doubt see, the trip provided me with the opportunity and incentive to fire up the ol' blog yet again. I definitely have more things to post about than I've let on in the past few months, so here's hoping I keep on top of things for awhile.

Anyway.... remember, my friends: The world is out there. There is so much to be learned and experienced beyond the bounds of your smartphone or DVR. If you're willing to take the time to actually step out and go see or learn about something new, the memories might just affect you more than you realize. Don't let industries which are only interested in your attention and allegiance as long as it results in getting your money determine for you what life is supposed to be like. Live like you were meant to live; learn and grow and celebrate and experience - even if none of it's not what the cool kids sanction as worthwhile.

They're too stuck at their table to venture out, anyway. Let them have it.


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