Kansas City: Little help?

I’m choking on childhood nostalgia, KCitians.

Does ANYBODY remember the mechanized dolls in the display windows at Harzfeld’s at Christmastime? And if you do, do you have a decent picture or, better yet, a line on where I can get one of those dolls or six?

There is a Harzfeld’s page and a Harzfeld’s blog, both created by historians with a book in the works, but neither has a search feature, and as far as I can tell, this is the only mention of the dolls:

A couple years ago a Dresden Doll (right), said to be from Harzfeld’s, was sold at a Kansas City area auction. This was a mechanical doll that may have been part of a Christmas window display.

(I want want want one of these dolls, even if I have to build one. I’m good at DIY! Promise!)

As an aside, I remember these chairs:

But a trip to the Harzfeld’s blog yielded something fabulous: Elle Decor featured an article on Kansas City (worth the read, even for non-Kansas Citians), and the picture gallery features the usual suspects, but gorgeous as always.

However, the ugly-ass addition to the Nelson-Atkins was extolled briefly:

“The marriage of the original neoclassical building and the stunning addition by architect Steven Holl . . . ”

I will not be happy until somebody takes a wrecking ball to that abomination. I would PAY MONEY to attend its destruction.

Settling for, settling in, moving up

June 19, 2009

A little while back, I posted on the sentimental value I hold of the 1960s ranch. Today, I’m rethinking 25 to 30 years’ worth of self-indoctrination.

Obviously the reason it holds so much appeal to me is that it was, in my teenage mind, the unattainable. I didn’t live in a house that nice, although I didn’t begrudge what I had. I liked it fine enough that I was proud to show it off to my friends, totally unable to see that what niceness I had was only that way because my mother worked so hard to make it nice with what little she had to work with. And on hindsight, I’m not sure my friends (from more chichi neighborhoods) were terribly impressed.

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(You can tell my obvious slant toward the steep-roofed “French Provincial” style ranch.) Anyway, what I was doing when I was a teenager was aspiring up. That’s good to do. But somewhere, the adult me got lost in my teenage wants and conflated that to the end-all and be-all of existence.

Lately, Dude and I have been despairing over the state of our house and its issues, almost all structural, almost all of which will suck money right out of our bank account, with nothing aesthetic to show for it. Now, I’m all for infrastructure, but geez, that still doesn’t make my lawn dandelion-less. It also doesn’t account for the innumerable walls covered with crayon drawings that I would have to continually repaint to make the spaces halfway decent.

Thus, I have come to hate my house. This is a very difficult admission to make, especially when one considers how ecstatic I was over it in the beginning, and we moved in with the intention that we weren’t moving again. EVER.

A few days ago, a friend told me about a party she went to in a chichi neighborhood of L.A. and described the splendor to me. It shocked me that my first thought was, “Real people live like that?”

Today I saw a post over at The Red Brick Store about readying a house for sale. It was a gorgeous 4,000 square foot house, and the post led to pictures, which led me to search myself for flaws in my thinking. I didn’t covet the house, but it did make me wonder if I should dare to desire it at all.

Then I went to realtor.com and put in my favorite zip code (not telling which one it is) because it embodies my best childhood memories. Let’s just say it’s a rundown little village-size town in a rundown corner of a rundown state (not Missouri), and for the first time, I saw through my own little bubble of childhood memories and thought, “Am I aspiring to this? It’s 100 times worse than what I’ve got.”

Then I thought about the 1960s ranch across the street from me which inspired that other post. It’s beautiful, with lush lawn, kept immaculate at all times and with great care (care that it takes time and energy to spend, which we don’t have). You know what? Even aspiring to that is aspiring too low at this point in my life.

That gets me to thinking about my mother and what she did with what she had.

Which she hated.

Every day of the 18 years we lived there.

Knowing that we could have had something better if she and my father weren’t sacrificing a good chunk of money every month to send us to a private school.

After I revisited my childhood memories, I looked up properties in my own zip code, and thought, “THAT is what I should be aspiring to.”

We live in a neighborhood that retains its property values no matter what because A) Kansas City seems to weather recessions/depressions fairly well, even without Boss Tom, and B) the elementary school we have is one of the best in the state. People move into this neighborhood and within the school boundaries expressly for their children to attend that school. Believe me, we aren’t going to have to send our kids to private school for an excellent education, so there’s one obstacle conquered.

This has led me to some conclusions.

1) I’m far more happy with what I have right now. (That may wax and wane.)

2) We need to work on making it as good as it can be within our limitations.

3) We need to build a plan to get out of here and move up once we have accomplished #2. And I want a swimming pool.

Whether we attain #3 or not . . . well, I just don’t know. I’m still somewhat dubious of our ability to do that.

However, if we don’t make the attempt, it most assuredly will not happen at all.

The 1960s ranch

I have really fond memories of the house I grew up in, which does not exist anymore. I mean, well, there’s a HOUSE there, where I grew up, but it’s morphed and changed so much (not in a good way) that it might as well not exist. I think it burned somewhat at one time and was um, “remodeled,” or else it was, er, “rebuilt,” but MY house is gone.

Still, when I was a kid, I’d go to my grandma’s house and it was in what I thought was a chichi neighborhood (I don’t know, maybe it was, but now it’s a tad rundown). I would go sell my school wares around HER neighborhood cuz none of my neighbors had any money.

Now, I love architecture anyway. If I’d been more focused in school (ha!) and a little more in touch with my creative/analytical abilities, I’d have known to go to school for that, but, well, hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway, I’d go around my g’ma’s neighborhood and see all these NEAT houses of mostly the same style: 1960s ranch, with a mid-century modern (which I did NOT like as a kid, but have come to appreciate more as an adult) mixed in here and there. I wanted to live in that neighborhood so badly. To me, living in a 1960s ranch represented having “made it,” but I was 12 and didn’t dare dream any higher (even though I knew there were far more grand neighborhoods in existence and had drooled).

So fast forward a couple of years and here I am with husband and tax deductions and 2 cats, in want of a house and we moved into…a 1960s housing development with…1960s ranch types (albeit no mid-century moderns). Some are more georgian (which here means, ranch with a second story) and a couple are split ranch (of both types) and ours is a raised ranch (finished, walk-out basement).

Friday I did some yard work, which involved going outdoors. (Shocker, I know.) Once I collapsed on my front porch to rest, I looked out over my neighborhood with the old, well-kept houses, the pristine lawns, and somewhat 1960s-ish landscaping (well, hell, I planted arborvitae, so who am I to talk, right?).

This morning, my door is wide open and I can see one old 1960s ranch with the brick veneer facade and the diamond-mullioned windows and the immaculate emerald lawn. The only sound in the neighborhood are the birds and the 3-year-old Tax Deduction.

My inner 12-year-old is very happy right now.

Kansas City: The Shuttlecocks

The New York Times reports that Coosje van Bruggen, the wife portion of the husband-and-wife sculpture team who designed them, died of breast cancer at age 66 (hat tip: Pitch).

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Okay, I’ll admit I didn’t like them at first, but they’ve grown on me. But! Don’t think the construction trailer Bloch Addition will grow on me in a similar fashion.

Godspeed, Artist.

(OH HO!!!! What’s this? Now 24 hours after I wrote the above post and slotted it for publication):

So Tony reports that the Star reports that the Nelson-Atkins is laying off 20-25 people because their endowment income is down (well, shit, everybody’s investments are down—wanna look at our 401(k) stats? I thought not).

No, really. It’s not that the endowment is down. For Pete’s sake, the thing got built during the effing Depression (well, like everything else in Kansas City). Your problem is your light bill, which you knew back in October, if not before. So gallery CEO Marc Wilson says to the Star, he says,

“These figures are impacted by museum attendance,” Wilson said. “The public is not responding to the expanded museum the way past indicators suggest.”

Gee, ya think?

SOLUTION! Tear it down. Then you could create jobs and your attendance would go back up again. After all, the people who love and adore the construction trailer Bloch Addition don’t actually live here.

Oh, and donate the materials to Habitat for Humanity. I love those people.

Jukeboxes and libraries

I have a bunch of beautiful books. They’re mostly in hardback because I don’t see paperbacks as objets d’art the way I do my hardback books. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I read hardbacks, certainly. If I have it, I read it. But there’s just something substantial about a hardback book. Specifically, I’m thinking of my faux leatherbound books, but no matter.

As I go around the ebook blogs like Teleread and The Book is Dead, a bunch of dissociated rememberies from my childhood plague me. They’re always the same ones, played in different order, but in a loop:

Remembery #1.

The mp3 player was only a Wish when I was a child (think 1970s) with my little panda transistor radio barely capable of tuning in the jazz station, but playing disco just fine and dandy. Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat, baby. Rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over.

I had my Wish in my mind like a jukebox, playing all the songs I loved and none of the songs I didn’t love, all in one place, in the palm of my hand. Even as I got older, I couldn’t afford to buy albums and then, once I got a “boom box,” couldn’t afford to buy cassettes, either. I taped random songs off the radio and tried my best to come up with as clean a version as a K-Tel compilation cassette as I could. It didn’t work and my wish became a longing so intense sometimes I couldn’t bear it. Then I got a Walkman, which was a step up, but my ADD/OCD could not be happy. Why, oh why, was there no way to buy a song at a time? What would that look like? How could it be done?

My Wish: a jukebox in my hand, with all the songs I loved and none of the songs I hated, with the ability to purchase one song at a time.

Remembery #2.

Dark house post family bedtime. Flashlight. Book. Covers. You all know this routine. For my mother, it was hiding in the back of a closet. With a flashlight. And a book. Why didn’t my book come with a light? You know, something handy, that I could clip onto it? That way I didn’t have to give my flashlight a blow job every time I had to turn the page.

Remembery #3.

Jean-Luc Picard sitting in his cabin reading a hardback book. To me, this was nothing until a crew member questioned him. Wesley, maybe? I can’t remember. Too young to know what a hardback book with paper pages was. To Picard, it was an antique. To Wesley, it was a novelty.

DISCLAIMER: I didn’t watch Star Trek much. Not the original, not the Next Generation, not Voyager, or many of the spinoffs (although I actually enjoyed Deep Space 9 because everybody on that show had serious faults and weren’t a bunch of Mary Sues and Gary Stus running around knowing how to deal with every situation). This is why my remembering an STNG episode is so…exceptional. And it had to do with a book and what must have happened to books to evoke the reaction Picard’s hardback paper book evoked.

Something that could store a library in one spot? Like my dream of a jukebox in my hand. Could it be? A library in my hand?

Don’t get me wrong. At that point, I was old enough to know it could be done, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up because the jukebox in my hand hadn’t materialized yet or if it had, I didn’t know about it.

You have to know something about me that makes my need for such things a compulsion (you know, besides my mental disorders): I am an anti-packrat. I hate Stuff. I have Stuff I don’t hate, really, but if it can be condensed, packed, and stored out of sight until I need it, so I can have SPACE, I am more kindly disposed toward Stuff. (Oh, Space Bags, how I would love thee if every blanket we own weren’t in use because it’s as cold as a witch’s tit outside.) I don’t like knickknacks, either. And as I get older, the Mies van der Rohe school of architecture (mid-century modern) gets more and more attractive to me.

The only things I collect and store without driving my OCD/ADD batty is data. And mp3s. And now, ebooks.

(I like lots of art, though, so as soon as the Tax Deductions stop coloring on the walls, I’ll paint and put up my art. It’s difficult to deal with the child who writes her name on the wall and then blames her little brother, who doesn’t know how to read, much less write.)

I haven’t quite figured out how to go completely minimalist, given the life of a family and its needs for Stuff.

But the jukebox-and-library in hand is a good start.