A Song for Kansas Day

Happy Kansas Day, everyone!

Wandering children of Kansas away,
By mountain, by desert, or sea,
Feasting or fasting, at prayer or at play,
Whatever your fortunes may be,
Open the doors of your hearts to the breeze,
Prairie wind never are still,
Hark to the surf in the cottonwood trees,
The breakers that boom on the hill.
Open your soul’s windows–let in the sun–
The prairie sun gay with delight.
Where’er your wandering pathways have run,
Come home tonight.

Come home where Kansas lies under the stars
Twinkling back beauty and joy;
Come and let homely love poultice your scars,
Leave off your restless employ.
Come home where summer winds billow the wheat,
Where golden tides cover the sands;
Come–let your heart’s longings hasten your feet
And home love unfetter your hands.
Come where the tawny sunflower eagerly bends
A tawny frank face to the light,
So do our hearts seek the joy of old friends–
Come home tonight.
— William Allen White, “A Song for Kansas Day”

como se dice ‘grandma’s chicken salad’?

Because I come from a classic American family, I spent many Thursday nights of my childhood watching Friends, the only sitcom of which I have ever owned a DVD (Season Four Highlights, not that I know it by heart or anything).

Perhaps that is why my image of sexy was, from the time I stopped loving Full House’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas until Edward Norton stole my heart in Fight Club, constructed largely around Joey Tribbiani.

Joey could make anything naughty. Seriously, anything, as evidenced in my beloved Season Four, when he talks about Midwestern cooking. It’s about 2:30 into this clip:

Grandma’s chicken salad. Told you. As my celebrity crushes have shifted from movie stars to hip-hop moguls to scruffy travel writers, that phrase has stuck in my head as the epitome of sex.

Until now.

The Lawrence-based website BoomerGirl.com is marketed to boomer-aged women, currently in their mid-40s to early 60s. It won an EPpy award this year for Best Newspaper-Affiliated Web Site with fewer than 1 million unique monthly visitors. BoomerGirl’s popularity rests in its cheeky advice about love, looks and “living out loud,” but all these things pale when compared to Español con Ramon:

Meet Ramon. Ramon is BG’s “exclusive and oh-so-sexy Spanish teacher,” who is dedicated to teaching you, the middle-aged woman, one useful phrase each day. These phrases, posted with accompanying audio clips, include gems like “Este paquete es muy grande” (this package is very large) and “Dónde está la fotocopiadora?” (where is the photocopier?).

My favorite, though, comes from May 29, 2007: Un costal de papas.

I’m far from middle-aged, but Ramon’s sultry voice speaks to me. I’ve been playing it over and over this morning, the words evoking some deeper longing for sun-soaked beaches and illicit getaways with my garden boy.

“A sack of potatoes.”

Mmmm. Say it again, Ramon.

my inner dorothy

Lawrence KS Brick
Originally uploaded by lleugh

Last night, around 7:30 PM, I set foot in Kansas for the first time in 381 days (I checked). I like flying across the United States — I watch the cities break into checkerboard farmland and the greengoldbrown of the fields reminds me that even though I’m not a farmgirl, I’m definitely a Midwesterner.

Today was a lavish Lawrence-based binge: biking through my parents’ neighborhood, walking downtown, having lunch with an old friend at a new restaurant, being a rock star with my little brother.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Still, sometimes it’s just nice to be home.

so long, and thanks for all the matooke

Since I last wrote, I finished work, slept in a geodome, climbed a volcano, wore a tie to a goat race (where I met Andrew Mwenda) and left Uganda. Yikes.

I haven’t been home (by which I mean lovable Lawrence, KS, home of indie scenesters and dozens of locally owned coffee shops and more banks per capita than anywhere else in the United States*) yet because I’m hanging out with old friends on the East Coast. So far my culture shock has consisted of my amazement at drinkable tap water and skinny jeans.

Right now I’m sitting in the Edwin Ginn Library pretending to be a student at the Fletcher School. Fletcher is currently heading the list of graduate programs I’m considering, making this particular moment simultaneously exciting (I could be here in a year!) and terrifying (I could not be here in a year!).

The future for me consists of grad school applications, making espresso for thirsty, caffeine-addicted grocery shoppers, and traveling around the country catching up with people I haven’t seen for a year. I’ll be blogging, but it remains to be seen how much of Jackfruity will be dedicated to Uganda and how much will expand to include other parts of East Africa, general comments on technology and development, and the occasional cupcake recipe. I also hope to start a new blog focused on the former Soviet Union. (I’ve gotten as far as the name and the template, but content-wise, I’m a little short right now.)

I’ll be paying close attention to what happens to Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour at the end of this month — I hope someone else will make it near and dear to their heart and keep UBHH alive, but the dearth of Ugandan participants last month (27th Comrade being the lone exception) makes me doubtful.

The plan is to return to Uganda within a year, mostly to say hi to friends and chill out in the equatorial sunshine, but for now: so long, and thanks for all the matooke.

*So widely rumored to be true that I didn’t bother looking for a source.

your devoted fan

I’m feeling guilty. Martin Ssempa comments on my blog and gets an eleven-paragraph response, but Tom Bissell and Michael Maren get nothing.

It’s not that I don’t nurture a vast writercrush on admire you both. It’s more…well, what do you say to someone you idolize think highly of?

I could say, I guess, that the mid-airmail disappearance of Chasing the Sea, a gift from a like-minded friend in the States, hurled me into a week of literary despair, during which I read nothing but John Grisham novels and rarely brushed my hair. I could mention that I’ve been pushing The Road to Hell onto all of my friends and coworkers, as well as several strangers, as required reading. I might even reveal that your comments provoked several exclamation-point-riddled e-mails home and at least one change in Facebook status (Rebekah is…beside herself).

But that would ruin the elegant, mature, worldly self-image I’ve so painstakingly constructed, in which all my interactions with celebrities consist of witty remarks (on my part), offers of book deals (on theirs) and frequent consumption of designer sushi (mutual).

Lacking all of the above, I’m just going to say wow, and promise that if you ever happen to visit Lawrence, Kansas, I will a) place myself at your disposal as a tour guide, personal shopper, and/or dinner companion and b) try my best to keep the volume of my screams of excitement at a level that’s more “strangled” than “raucous.”